Survey Results and the Fall Agenda

Posted by John on September 4th, 2015

Happy Labor Day weekend to all of our American friends and hello to all of our readers wherever you are!  I hope you’ve all been having a safe and enjoyable summer.  As much as I love this time of year in New Jersey, I’m ready for slightly cooler weather.  And football.  And hockey.  And Doctor Who Season 9.  :)

blog survey results

In today’s post I’m going to briefly discuss the results of our reader survey and talk about what our plans are for the rest of this calendar year.

First, a big thank you to everyone who took a few minutes to take the survey and give us their feedback.  My number one goal is to build a community of enthusiastic home improvers and DIYers and we’d be no where without your help.  So a big high-five, guys.

This summer has been crazy.  Life with three kids is hectic… add to that the occasional work trip, a full-time job, vacations, and it’s a wonder I can keep my head above water.  I’ve got a few “extra-curricular” projects that I’ve been developing and they’ve been consuming a ton of my time as well.  Consequently, my content creation for the blog has been slower than I’d like.  This entire summer, I only finished one home improvement project, our shadow box trim.  That’s major weak-sauce.  I hope to pick up the pace again this fall.

Content Strategy

One of the most striking results of the survey was in regards to the type of content you enjoy seeing on our site.  The results were just about evenly split between the videos and tutorial style blog posts, with the free plans a close third.  Awesome.  Message received.

Going forward I’m going to commit to one post a week and ideally, one video a week as well.  And by commit, I mean give it a good effort.  I don’t want to waste your time, but I’m pretty sure we can find things to write and talk about.

Oh and since we’re talking about blog posts and videos, your favorite topic is woodworking, by far.  No love for the landscaping posts!  That’s good.  I hate landscaping.  Major PIA.

To Podcast or Not to Podcast

For some time now, I’ve been kicking around the idea of hosting a home improvement style podcast.  It’s a fun medium… and boy can I talk.  While you were generally receptive to that idea, with a little over half suggesting that you would listen to it, I’m going to pass.  Home improvement is such a visual activity and video is a far more effective tool for teaching and learning new skills.  Trying to discuss cabinet building and some other construction style topics on a podcast would be a challenge.  There are some really good home improvement podcasts out there (check out Doug’s Thumb and Hammer Podcast, for example), but I think video will be better for what I’m trying to do here.

Ideally, I’d like to produce a more regular stream of videos so you can tune in weekly for new topics and discussions.  I’ll probably start transitioning to a slightly different video format in the coming weeks to match that goal.

Cabinet Course

The other big idea I’ve been considering is an online kitchen cabinet and built-in course.  Thanks to your feedback, this is definitely going to happen.  I’m planning to start filming it next month with the goal of getting it available before the end of the year.  My goal is to make it comprehensive and very detailed so you’ll know exactly how to build either your own set of kitchen cabinets or your own custom built-ins.

The format for the course will be video instruction with some added software tools.  I’m probably going to make it a monthly subscription type website, but I’m still figuring that stuff out.  I promise to make the course available early to all of our newsletter subscribers at a substantial discount.

Cabinet building is by far my favorite topic to discuss with folks and I think this will be a lot of fun.

Website Updates

Another change you’ll see soon is to our website.  While I like this design, I’m going to make some updates to it to make it easier for new and current readers to explore and find content.  I’ll also fix that annoying pop-up so you don’t see it as often.

I’ve got a LOT of work to do.

Have a great weekend!


Posted in Blogging. Tagged in ,, , ,

Matt’s Fireplace Built-Ins

Posted by John on August 3rd, 2015

In today’s post, we’re talking to one of readers, Matt from Virginia.  Matt recently finished his own fireplace built-ins using our Large Built-in Plans and we’re talking to him about his experience.  There’s a few nuggets of wisdom here.

Matt ended up taking our free plans and making some modifications to the dimensions to accommodate his living room.  Along the way he painted the fireplace, added floating shelves and mounted his flat screen tv.

Here’s what Matt’s living room looked like before the project:

fireplace built-ins before


Now here’s the after.  Looks killer!

fireplace built-ins


1. You based your cabinets on the Large Built-In cabinet plans. Did you have to make many changes to the design or the dimensions to get them to work in your space? Was that difficult to do?

I had to change the plans to accommodate two different sized cabinets. The left hand cabinet is 48″ with the right hand cabinet being 51″. It was not difficult to change the plans.  A little time consuming to verify measurements and check over everything twice, but rather easy. Having the plans actually saved time, because I had something to reference and/or use as a guide.

built-ins 2

2. What was the hardest part of the project?

Hardest part of the project was the amount of time it took to finish.  The first problem was the plywood was cut to the wrong size at the big box store that I went to, so I had to further modify the plans versus returning the wood to the store.  This only set me back and added additional time to the project.  Secondly, I cut the face frame short on both cabinets – this proved to be challenging as it made hinge selection difficult. I ended up using 3/8″ hinges and hollowing out the sides of the cabinets to accommodate the hinge. Finally – I have never made inset doors. This for me was by far the hardest part of the project. By nature I am a perfectionist and getting the gap to line up without having a jointer or planer was very difficult. The gaps on the doors to this day are not a perfect 1/8″ all the way around

built-ins 5

3. How long did it take you?

It took 8-9 months to finish the project. I worked mostly on weekends or in the mornings before work to get the project done. This was building the cabinets, painting the fireplace, running cables through the wall to mount the TV above the fireplace, installation of floating shelves and repainting the living room.

built-ins 7

4. What kind of finishing process did you follow? What primer and paint?

I sprayed the finished using a HomeRight Finish Max Fine HVLP Paint Sprayer – Behr Premium Plus Paint in classic white and Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Primer.  In total, it took two coats of primer and two coats of paint. The process also included tips from your site on painting cabinets.  I used 150 girt and 220 grit sand paper initially on an orbital sander to get everything smooth prior to painting, with a light 220 grit sanding between coats of paint and primer. The top was stained with American General Java Gel Stain and finished in Min-Wax Polyurethane – I sprayed this from a can for a satin finish.

built-ins 6

5. What are you using the cabinets for?

The cabinets are mostly for housing the cable box and electronics along with my kids puzzles and board games, pull-ups, etc.

6. What are future projects are you planning around your home?

Future projects are bathroom remodels – one which is already complete. I have two more bathrooms to finish out. The two remaining will get new floors, vanities, mirrors, etc.

7. If you had to do the project over again, what would you have done differently?

If I had to do the project over again, I would have used pocket holes to put the carcass of the cabinets together. I ended buying a dado blade set off of Ebay that came in handy, but I already had a pocket hole jig and that may have saved me some time. I would have also opted for overlay doors vs inset, as I think overlay doors would be more forgiving.

Great advice from Matt after his cabinet build.  You can see the reflection in his countertops from across the room.  Nice!  Thanks for sharing your project with us, Matt.  

Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects. Tagged in ,, , ,

DIY Cabinet Door Calculator

Posted by John on July 21st, 2015

In today’s post, I wanted to let you know about a new, free tool I’ve added to our Plans page, a Cabinet Door Calculator.  It allows you to input the dimensions of a cabinet door opening and it outputs the dimensions of the individual parts to make that door.

cabinet door calculator

If you’re thinking about replacing your current kitchen cabinet doors, this tool will take the trouble out of figuring out the dimensions for the door parts.  You can select between Inset or Full Overlay doors and you can even adjust the number of doors you are building.

To get access to this free tool, you just need to subscribe to our free newsletter using the form below.  As soon as you subscribe, you’ll receive an email with a link to the calculator and all my other woodworking plans.

Get the Free Calculator
You'll also have access to all of our free woodworking plans.

This is the same type of calculator I’ve used for all of my cabinet projects including my home office remodel and both of our built-in projects.  Actually, every time I’ve planned and built my own cabinets, I’ve used a spreadsheet like this one to make the project easier.  It allows me to make minor changes to the design or dimensions without much of headache.

This tool will help with the planning, but if you want to see how to build the doors, you can watch how I’ve built a couple in two of my YouTube videos:

1.  How to Build an Inset Style Shaker Cabinet Door


2.  DIY Shaker Cabinet Doors

The spreadsheet includes instructions on how to use it, but if you have any questions, you can always email me (John(at)Ourhomefromscratch.com).  Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel and you’ll see the latest videos as they are released.  At the moment, I’m planning on filming at least one more cabinet door instructional video.


Posted in Carpentry. Tagged in ,, , ,

Home Office Remodeled

Posted by John on November 12th, 2014

Well, the time has finally arrived.  We’ve crossed the finish line and are now ready to give you a tour of our home office.  It’s been nearly a year since we first started and boy has this room changed.  Even though we’re saying it’s done, the room still needs to be dressed up with some decor, but we’ll get to that later.  For now, here’s our home office remodeled.

We’ll start our tour with a quick flashback to what the room looked like LAST November.


After ripping out the carpet, we installed some new hardwood flooring and tied it into the hardwood in the foyer without a transition.  It looks like it was installed when the house was built.

With the new floor down, I shifted gears and started on the coffered ceiling.  The ceiling ended up being the most time consuming part of the job, but it was totally worth it.

After the ceiling was done and the crown molding installed, I started building the cabinets.  There are three cabinets in total: two built-ins and a single filing cabinet.  The center desk section is just a large piece of stained oak plywood.  It’s large enough for two people to work side by side, but for now we only have the one chair.

Let’s get to the finished photos…

Here’s a picture of the room from the very same angle as the Before photo.

home office remodel

The ceiling:

office coffered ceiling 2

The filing cabinet:

office filing cabinet

The left built-in:

office built in

The center desk:

office desk

The right side built-in:

office built in 3

Here’s a closer look at the molding on the wall and ceiling…

office coffered ceiling

We also added some recessed lights.  There are three overhead and a single light over the work desk.

office with lights

I’ll be sharing some of the more minor upgrades we still have planned for this room.  I think you’ll like our ideas.

Since no room overhaul would be complete without a project list, here’s the complete run down of all the steps/posts we shared in completion this project from start to finish.  If you’re interested in renovating a room in your own home and would like results similar to what you are seeing here, then this list of posts will walk you through exactly how I remodeled this room.  You may also find my Custom TV Stand Recap post helpful if you are interested in designing cabinets for yourself.

1. The Before
2. Brainstorming Home Office Ideas
3. Hardwood Floor Installation
4. The Home Remodeling Process
5. Layout Options
6. Coffered Ceiling Concept Design
7. Home Office Detail Design
8. Coffered Ceiling Framing
9. Wiring for the Office Lights
10. Tips for Hanging Drywall
11. How to Finish Drywall (Video)
12. How to Install Recessed Lights
13. 5 Tips for Better Crown Molding Installation
14. 6 Cabinet Building Challenges
15. Cabinet Painting 101
16. How to Scribe a Cabinet
17. My Countertop Approach
18. How to Build Your Own Shaker Doors (Video)
19. Making Built-in Cabinets (Video)
20. How to Install Cabinet Hardware without a Jig
21. Hinges and Drawer Slides (Video)

Thanks for reading and if you think this office came out awesome, please share it on Facebook, Twitter and pin the living crap out of it for me.  That would really help!  Thanks!

Posted in DIY Projects,House Tour. Tagged in ,, ,

How to Install Cabinet Hardware Without a Jig

Posted by John on October 27th, 2014

In this post, you’ll learn:

– a simple method for installing cabinet hardware

It seems that the closer I get to finishing this home office project, more small tasks keep popping up and they’re taking much longer than I anticipated.  Case in point: the cabinet hardware.  It took me a good two and a half hours to get two cabinets done.  Killer.  Still have to add the hardware to the filing cabinet.  At this rate, our office should be completely done by the time our 3 year old heads to college.

Let’s talk cabinet hardware for a second.  Lisa picked our gear out.  I was completely hands off on this one, although I let her know which ones I definitely didn’t like.  It’s pretty much the exact same conversation we have when we’re trying to pick a restaurant for dinner, except slightly more expensive.  Although.. you can return hardware if you don’t like it even after you’ve taken it home.  Can’t do that at a restaurant.

We were originally thinking some shell pulls, but we didn’t see any we liked.  We ended up with a basic 3.5″ nickel pull from Lowes.  Instead of using a jig for this job, like the one I made for our Large Built-in cabinet, I went old-school and just drew some lines and drilled some holes.  Not quite as fast, but just as effective.  Here’s how it went.

How to Install Cabinet Hardware without a Jig

Here’s the cabinet before we got started.

built in cabinet

I started by applying some blue painters tape across the drawer front.  I roughly aimed for the middle, but it wasn’t terribly important at this point.  Once the tape was on, I measured down from the top of the drawer edge to the middle of the drawer front.  I did that on both sides of the drawer front and used a straight edge to connect the dots.  I now had a straight line across the drawer front that marked the center line.

I also applied some painters tape vertically to coincide with the center of the doors below.  I marked those vertical tape pieces at the same dimension as half the width of the door.

painters tape on cabinet

Now I was ready to use my hardware for the next step.

I lined up the hardware on the center line of the drawer front and positioned it over the mark for the door centers.  That way the screw holes will both be in the same line and the middle of the piece will be directly over the middle of the door.  If this sounds confusing, just take a look at the pictures, it’s a bit cumbersome to describe.

cabinet hardware install

While I was holding the hardware in place, I traced around the hardware where it sat against the drawer front.

Now I had my drill marks.

tape cabinet

The first hole I drilled was a small pilot hole just to get through the drawer.  I then went up to a drill bit diameter that was slightly larger than the screw for the drawer pull.  I repeated this same basic process for the door pulls.  Just tape it, draw a center line and then position it where you want it.  Drill twice and you’re done.  The painters tape helps keep the wood from tearing and you can draw right on it without having to worry about touching up your cabinet’s paint job.

cabinet hardware installed

We were originally going to go with just one pull on the drawer fronts, but I think it looks more substantial with the two.

Here’s what’s left for this room:

1.  Paint the new baseboards, window sills and inside of the door.

2.  Install quarter round trim

3.  Clean up and touch up

4.  New window shades

5.  Drill some access holes for computer power cord, printer cable, etc.

6.   Finish decor and wall hangings
Oh and I’m also repairing a few nail pops, because you know… I didn’t have enough to do in here already.


Later this week I’m going to be starting to configure our new forum section.  Keep your fingers crossed!  Hoping to setup an area on our site where everyone can share their own projects, show off their results and ask for help with home projects!  I’ve also commissioned a new blog theme, so our look is going to dramatically change.  Hoping to get that in place before the holidays.  I won’t be coding it myself this time, so it should go fairly quick.  We have some big, big changes headed your way over the next few months… if this office doesn’t kill me first.

Posted in DIY Projects,Kitchen. Tagged in ,, , ,

New Video: Making Built-In Cabinets

Posted by John on October 20th, 2014

In today’s post, you’ll learn:

– How to make built-in cabinets

– How to make a beaded face frame

– What the build process for a cabinet looks like


After spending the better part of a week and a half painting our home office, I’m finally down to the last couple of detail jobs.  Although the office isn’t officially finished quite yet, it’s done enough to take our video camera in there and film some shots of the new furniture.  I also managed to film all of the important aspects of the cabinet build, so you get to see both the (mostly) finished project and the how-to’s that go along with it.

Here’s the video:

If you don’t see the video window, you can click this link to be redirected to YouTube.

Just to be clear, this isn’t a “reveal” post.  Once the room is totally finished with all the bells and whistles, we’ll share a ton of photos with you.

There’s a lot to talk about after building these cabinets, but I realize the video is pretty long (~19 minutes), so I’d rather circle back with you in a follow-up post to discuss more lessons learned.  For now, just check out the video.  If you make it to the end, you can catch my wife and I goofing off.

Here are the router bits (affiliate links) I used in the video:

1.  The 1/8″ beading bit

2.  The 1-1/2″ notching bit

If you don’t have a router table, you can download our free router table plans and if you don’t have a router, you can check out my tool recommendation page for suggestions.

If you have any questions about anything you see in the video, or if you think I’ve totally botched it up, please fire away in the comments!


Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects,Videos. Tagged in ,, , ,

How to Build Shaker Cabinet Doors with a Router

Posted by John on October 9th, 2014

In this post, you’ll learn

– How to build shaker cabinet doors with a router

– How to inset the doors into a face frame for a high end look

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, then you’ve probably seen me write about building shaker cabinet doors before.  I’ve built them for both my large built-in cabinet, the TV stand and they were the same style doors I built for our first home.  Last year, I filmed one of my first how-to videos on how to make them.  To date, that video has over 140,000 views and is by far my most popular.  In that video, which you can see here, I primarily used a table saw to cut the tongue and groove joints for the doors.   Even the center panel was machined using a table saw.

In this new version, I’m only using a router table for the tongue and groove joints and the center panel.  I thought it would be worth trying something new and see what works better.  I’ll probably put together a third video at some point to illustrate what combination of tools and techniques are easiest and provide the best results.

Since these doors are also inset into the face frame, I also used this opportunity to try a new technique for setting the inset gap.  In the first video, I just built the doors to the finished dimensions, which was a challenge.  In this new version, I built the doors a bit larger and shaved them down to the final size.  It ended up being much easier than I thought.

So here’s the video.  Let me know if you have any comments or questions!

Oh and by the way, if you don’t want the doors inset and instead you just want them to be full overlay, that’s much easier.  Just build the doors 1-1/2″ wider and longer than the door opening.  You also won’t need to trim them once you’re done.

If you can’t see the video window, you can click this link to take you right to YouTube.

Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects,Videos. Tagged in ,, , , , , ,

Office Countertops

Posted by John on October 5th, 2014

In this post, you’ll learn:

– How to configure a cabinet for installation and counters

– How do get a deep, rich stain

Well, we’re down to the wire in our home office project.  Officially, all I have left to do is add some trim beneath the crown molding, install the baseboard trim and do some painting.  Keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll be done everything by the end of next week.  Then it’s just setup and decorating.  So thrilled to wrapping this room up.

I’ve got a bunch of new videos coming your way soon.  Hopefully later this week I’ll be publishing my second video on Inset Cabinet Doors.  May actually put together a third door film at some point.  I’m going to release a video on building the built-in cabinets, so you get a more continuous perspective on the work.  I also owe you more videos on my workshop tools, including the miter saw and the jointer.  Thanks for your patience on those!

Now let’s talk about some features I added to my cabinets to both make them easier to install AND easier to top with counters.

Here’s a top view of the inside of the base cabinets.

top brace

Couple things worth pointing out.  There is a plywood brace on top that spans from one side of the box to the other.  It’s secured in place with a couple of pocket screws.  There’s also a second brace along the back.  That’s also a plywood piece that supports the drawer slides and gives me something to secure the cabinet to wall.

Let’s take a look at how I install the cabinet to the wall using the back brace.

First I use a studfinder and mark the walls.  Since my brace is set back into the cabinet by a 1/4″, I use a couple of shims and pre-drill my hole.  Then I drive a 2-1/2″ long drywall screw through both the shims and the brace until snug.  I make sure to use a finish washer for both a better look and it also prevents the screw from digging into the brace.

back brace


Once the screw is tight, I’ll score the shims with a box cutter and just snap them off.

scored shims

The uppers will install the same way, except their back braces are exposed and painted.

The brace that spans the top of the cabinet is for attaching the countertop.  I can just drive a couple screws from below and the counter will be snug.

Office Countertops

Now for the counters.  I used 3/4″ thick oak plywood and the edges are wrapped with oak hardwood to hide the plywood edge.  Since the walls aren’t perfectly square, I used a technique that granite installers often employ.  I took some cardboard strips (granite guys use luan, which is stiffer) and hot glued them to trace out the footprint of the tops.  I then dropped the cardboard outlines onto the plywood sheet and just cut along the lines.  After the plywood parts were cut out, I used a brad nailer and some wood glue to attach the oak strips to the plywood.

Our home office also features a center desk section.  This is just a large piece of plywood with the same edge banding.  Since it’s not sitting on top of a cabinet, it’s actually lower than the built-in counters, it needs to be supported in a different manner.  In this case, I’ve attached a few strips of oak hardwood to the cabinets and the wall it butts up against.  In the front, to reduce flexing, I’ve screwed in a piece of angle iron that rests on the oak strips.  It’s also screwed into the plywood from below.

desk top brace

Here’s a shot of the completed counters.

stained desk top

It took me a few days to get that deep, rich color.  Here’s how I did it.

I used three different stain colors.  I started out with Varathane’s Black Cherry.  I applied it with a sponge applicator and let it set it overnight.  I never wiped it off at any point.  In fact, I never wiped off any of the stains.  Next up I applied a coat of Minwax’s Cherry stain.  After letting that set all day, I finished with a coat of Minwax Red Oak.  After around 12 hours of drying time, I sprayed on three coats of satin polyurethane using a regular spray can.  In between coats of poly, I sanded with 600 grit sandpaper.

I went with the three different stains method to get a more complex look.  I’ve never liked the results I get from applying one color and then wiping.  I also much prefer spraying on the poly as opposed to brushing or sponging it on since the sponge tends to drag the stain around with it.  If you spray the poly, it just layers on without causing much of a mess.  Although you do have to watch out for overspray.

So, that’s a sneak peek of our office counters.  If you’re interested in the latest photos, you can check them out on our Instagram account.

Any questions?


Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects,Staining and Painting. Tagged in ,, ,

How to Scribe a Cabinet

Posted by John on September 25th, 2014

In today’s post you’ll learn:

– How to Scribe a Cabinet

In an ideal world, all walls and floors would be square and true (and all mortgages paid off).  Since that never seems to be the case, you need to know how to modify your cabinets or built-ins to account for uneven walls.  If you want a professional look to your work, this is a must read.  Luckily, this process is fairly simple and only requires a circular saw and one of those compasses you used in grade school art class.  Whoever thought you’d need one of those again?

Let’s start with reality.  Here’s one of our home office cabinets pushed tight into the corner.

cabinet gap

You can see it’s tight against the bottom of the cabinet, but open along the top.  No bueno.  Could you caulk that seam?  Sure you could.  I actually plan on caulking it.  However, you shouldn’t caulk anything wider than 1/4″ or it will look sloppy.  That opening at the top is around 5/16″ wide so it’s much too wide for caulk.

Here’s what we’ll do to fix it.

First, we’ll take a look at the top of the cabinet to see what kind of overhang I have on the face frame.


In this photo you can see that the face frame overhangs the side of the cabinet by about 1/4″.  If I was smart and better prepared, I would’ve designed in a larger overhang, say 3/8″, to allow for scribing as-is.  Alas, I only gave myself around 1/4″ (probably closer to 3/16″).

Since I don’t have enough “meat” overhanging the side, I’ll just add some more wood and make it work.

I start by measuring the gap between the edge of face frame and the wall.  It’s about 5/16″.  I then cut a strip of wood 5/16″ wide and I glue and nail it to the side of the cabinet.

cabinet scribe strip

Now I have plenty of overhang on that side of the cabinet.

Next, I shove the cabinet back in the corner.  The gap will be identical before I tacked on the wood strip, since the wall is still curving away from the cabinet.

Now I take my compass and I set the distance between the needle and the pencil to the same distance as the gap between the cabinet and the wall.

how to scribe a cabinet

Then I just run the compass down the curve of the wall with the pencil on the cabinet.  The compass will mark out a line on the cabinet that matches the curvature of the wall.

strip marked


The last part is easy.  Just take your circular saw and cut along the line.  You’ll be removing material from the strip so it will then match the wall.

After the cut has been made, the cabinet gets shoved back into the corner and we can see that the gap is pretty much gone.  Any open seam can be filled in with a much smaller amount of painter’s caulk.

scribe cabinet


To finish the project, I’ll just make sure I fill in any gap between the wood strip and the cabinet with wood putty and I’ll sand and paint it.

I’ll have to repeat this process for the top cabinet that sits above this lower unit.

If you can’t tell, I’m intentionally trying to keep the reveal of this project as hush hush as possible.  Thus, the lack of pictures of all the cabinets.

Now that you know how to scribe, do you think you’ll use this trick?

P. S. I also had to use this technique for my raised panel wainscoting.


Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects. Tagged in ,, , , ,

Cabinet Painting 101

Posted by John on September 21st, 2014

Happy Monday!

In today’s post you’ll learn:

– The best way to paint cabinets

– The approach I’m taking to paint my cabinets

Before I get started with today’s post, I want to remind you that we are running a survey to collect your feedback regarding our blog.  I’m going to keep it open until the end of this week and then I’ll discuss the results in a follow up post.  Overall, the feedback so far has been positive and supremely helpful.  I’ve gotten a few comments that recommend I make some changes to the way we operate and I’ll address those suggestions as well.  All the comments have been respectful and for that I’m grateful.  I’m very happy to have you all as readers and I’d like to keep you engaged and reading, but I realize I have to continue earning that privilege.  Changes are a’comin and I think you’ll be happy with the direction we’ll be taking.  Before I implement any of those changes however, I need to finish our home office and prep another room (details to follow).

Here’s a link to the survey if you haven’t taken it yet:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/6JB56NM

Now let’s get back to home stuff…

Cabinet Painting 101

Cabinet Painting 101

In the past week or so, I’ve made a lot of progress with our office cabinets.  I’m in the middle of painting them and pretty soon I’ll be installing them, working on the countertops, drawers and room trim.  I’m intentionally withholding a lot of details so as to make a comprehensive 30-40 minute long video where I demonstrate the entire build process.  While waiting for that video may be a little annoying for you, I think you’ll have a better understanding of the entire process from start to finish.  It’s either that or I give you a dozen posts on cabinet building, which I’ve already done with our TV stand and large built-in project.  The general approach I’m taking to building these cabinets is similar to those two projects, so if you’re itching to read about cabinet building and you can’t wait for the video, check out those two series.  I’m trying hard not to be repetitive.

In this post I want to go over the approach I take to painting cabinets.  My process is always evolving and improving so every time I attempt a new cabinet build, I’m switching something up and this project is no different.  But before I get into the specifics, here’s my philosophy on painting cabinets and furniture in general.

The Absolute Best Method.  The best way to paint cabinets involves spraying two coats of primer followed by spraying two coats of a high quality acrylic paint or lacquer using an HVLP system.  If you spray the paint, you won’t get brush marks.  You should get an even, smooth finish.  It’s how almost all professional furniture is finished.  Multiple coats of lacquer will give you that candy coating like finish similar to something you’d see at Ikea.  Your car is probably painted with some sort of two part lacquer paint.  Acrylic paint is sort of like nail polish.  It’s smelly, but gives you a smooth durable finish that will hold up really well over time.  You should probably avoid using a latex based paint or primer since they are not designed for furniture, they’re designed for your plaster or drywall.

The Better Method.  If you aren’t equipped to spray on four coats of paint or primer, then an alternative method you could attempt is maybe spraying on just the primer or just the finish coats.  If you don’t have a professional spray system like an HVLP gun, you can use spray cans.  You can spray paint the primer using spray cans and then brush on an acrylic finish paint.  Lacquer isn’t typically applied with a brush, so you should probably just skip that stuff.  Avoid brushing on all four coats of primer and paint.  If your goal is to avoid brush marks, then brush on as few as possible.

Keep in mind that I’m just talking about the paint here, not the prep work on the in-between work.  Also, I’m working with unfinished or bare wood, not wood or cabinets that have already been painted or poly’d.

So now that we’ve talked about the possible approaches, let me tell you how I’m finishing my cabinets.

Here’s a shot of the cabinets after the primer.

cabinet painting


1.  Prep work.  After the cabinets were built, I filled in any small brad nail holes with white wood filler.  I then sanded each cabinet with a 120 grit sandpaper using my random orbital sander.  I avoided rounding over any corners or edges with the sander.  I want all of my edges to be fairly crisp at this point.  Once every piece had been sanded at 120 grit, I switched to 220 and repeated the same process.  Afterwards I used a compressed air nozzle to blow off any sawdust.  Some people absolutely avoid using compressed air to do this, but I think it works fine.

2.  Staging.  Since I’m going to be spraying on the primer, I moved all of the cabinets, doors and shelves into the garage.  I used plastic painters tarp and covered the entire floor with plastic.  I also draped plastic over our shoe rack and our daughters strollers and toys.

3.  Corners.  I used a block of wood with some 220 grit sand paper and knocked down all of the corners on every piece.  I apply very little force as I run the sandpaper block across all the edges.  Again, not looking to round over the edges, just slightly dull them.  A corner that gets knocked down will hold the paint better than a sharp edge.

4.  More air.  I use my compressed air hose that I have piped into my garage and blow off any additional dust that may have built up from moving the cabinets up and rounding over the edges.

5.  Raising the grain.  Since I’ll be using a waterborne primer, I’ll need to raise the grain.  When wood grain absorbs water after it’s been sanded, the wood grains will rise and cause the finish to feel rough.  So to make the process easier, you intentionally raise them by getting them wet and then you sand them back down by hand.  After they’ve been knocked back down, they won’t rise again.  Sounds crazy, but that’s just how it is.  To raise the grain, I fill up my HVLP gun with warm water and blast all the cabinets with a light coating of water mist.  After an hour of drying time, I lightly sand the cabinets with some 220 grit sandpaper by hand and then blew off any dust with the compressed air.

6.  Primer.  I used Benjamin Moore’s Fresh Start latex primer.  I used it because it’s low-odor, low-VOC and is sprayable.  As I mentioned, latex isn’t ideal and it came out just okay.  It sprayed a bit chunky from the HVLP system I use, but ended up leveling out ok and seemed to get the job done.  In the past, I’ve used a shellac based primer from Zinsser, specifically the BIN primer, which sprayed absolutely perfectly.  Thought I’d try something different this time.  I’ll probably go back to the BIN for my next project.

7.  Sand.  After the primer dried, I went back and sanded all the cabinets again using a 220 grit sandpaper by hand.  Using a power tool for this may remove too much paint.

8.  Finish Paint.  For the finish coat, I’m using two coats of Sherwin Williams Pro Classic in Ultra White.  It’s the same color as the rest of the trim in the office so it will match the baseboard and crown molding.  I bought it in satin instead of semi-gloss though, since I don’t want the cabinets to be too shiny.  The crown and baseboard molding WILL be semi-gloss, however.  The Pro Classic is an acrylic enamel that it designed for cabinet and trim work.  Since it’s an enamel, it will harden and will resist pulling off if I set a book or computer down on it for example (a characteristic referred to as “blocking”).  Instead of spraying it, I’m brushing it on.  This is also intentional.  First off, it’s much easier then spraying.  Secondly, it will have a more built-in look if it isn’t perfectly smooth.  If this were a stand alone kitchen cabinet set, then I would probably try spraying all the coats.  This high quality paint levels very well so you are much less likely to see brush marks.  I believe it’s equivalent to Benjamin Moore’s Satin Impervo, which I used on my first house and also loved.

Here’s a sneak peak of a horizontal divider after the first coat.  Can you see any brush marks?  No?  Me neither!

painted cabinet

So that’s where I’m at with the cabinets.  I’m hoping to wrap them up SOON!  Second coat of finish paint is going on tomorrow.

Now I’d love to hear about your experience painting cabinets.  Have any tips or experience you’d like to share?  

Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects,Staining and Painting. Tagged in ,, , , ,

Popular Post