If you are a beginner looking for a tutorial on painting bathroom cabinets, you are in the right place! Those of you that are wondering if you should tackle a similar project – you are going to LOVE this post!
Are you questioning whether you can handle painting bathroom cabinets- if you should just hire it out or avoid painting all together?
YES YOU CAN do it yourself! I just finished painting our bathroom cabinets with a fresh coat of Benjamin Moore’s Hale Navy- and I had these questions myself. I have a strong dislike for anything complicated. It also feels important that any changes made in our home be done the right way, to maintain our home’s value.
But you don’t need to be an expert to paint your bathroom cabinets. You just need to follow the steps listed here. It’s fairly simple, super affordable (I bought the expensive paint and it was still less than $100), and doesn’t even take that long.
Painting Our Bathroom Cabinets Benjamin Moore Hale Navy
Our downstairs powder room is our most used bathroom by our family. This room is a cute, non offensive all white bathroom, and only 2 years old. It looked nice, very neutral- perhaps to the point of being described as vanilla.
Nothing exciting but it is pretty, bright and clean. The white on white trend is still going strong – but I was ready for some interest in here. I wanted something that stood out!
The budget for this bathroom refresh was small since it is basically new – so I thought I would try my hand at painting the bathroom cabinets myself!
I LOVE how it turned out! I was able to do this paint job in just a two days time – and I was only working mornings while my youngest was in preschool.
The new darker Hale Navy painted cabinetry feels more on trend with 2020. Don’t you love the long handles on the vanity? I’ve seen this trend being done in other places lately and wanted to get in on it. This was a perfect spot to take a small risk like that.
Scroll To Shop My Finished Bathroom:
You Will Need:
- primer (I bought a quart, used about a third of the can)
- paint (I bought a quart, used about a third of the can)
- brush (small, angled or flat)
- mini foam roller and mini paint tray
- Optional: Krud Kudder spray, Wood Filler
What kind of paint to use for bathroom cabinets?
You will want to use a high quality primer first. I recommend buying the best primer your budget allows, as this plays an important factor in how durable your paint will be. Ask to have the primer tinted close to the color of the paint you are using, unless they already match closely. (A white primer isn’t ideal if your paint is dark- as you may have to put on extra coats of paint later, just to cover the white primer underneath!).
As far as paint, oil based paints are going out of favor. These days, latex paints are made just as well and are much easier to work with! Less clean up, faster dry time and less chemical smell make latex paints the ideal paint for bathroom cabinets. Go with a satin or semi-gloss sheen, as it is easy to wipe down!
Whatever brand you buy, paints have various tiers of quality. For a long lasting and professional looking job, use your brand of choice’s better quality tiers, especially for cabinets that are used frequently!
This is the primer and paint I personally used, both from Benjamin Moore:
As far as paint colors, Benjamin Moore Hale Navy and Old Navy were my favorite paint choices for the bathroom cabinet. Make swatches on paper and tape them up to the bathroom cabinet to help yourself envision the final look!
Once I put these swatches up, I could immediately see Hale Navy was the look I was going for.
(If you are considering a blue or navy paint too, you HAVE to read this post on why Hale Navy literally goes with everything!)
I went into my local Benjamin Moore store, and chatted up the owner about the best way to go about this project. In little mom and pop paint stores I always ask the owner/manager painting questions. Those people are a wealth of knowledge and always drop nuggets of painting wisdom. (I’ve had different experiences in the bigger box stores, where some of the people really know their paint, but some do not).
1: Prep BEFORE Painting Bathroom Cabinets
I know you just want to start. But bad prep leads to sloppy work that you’ll pay for later!
Take off all your doors and drawers, and all of the hardware. Put the screws and hardware into a zip lock bag, and store inside the vanity for safe keeping. Do NOT try painting bathroom cabinets with the doors on!
Tape where you don’t want to inadvertently paint. I will admit- I skipped the taping part. But I have gotten pretty good with the brush so I was confident in my abilities. Unless you feel similarly, do as I say, not as I do!
Lay old towels/sheets down around the bathroom cabinet to protect the floor.
What do I clean my bathroom cabinets with before painting?
My vanity looked pretty clean, but I knew it wasn’t. Dirt, mildew and grease, even if unseen, will cause the paint to not stick.
For a heavy clean, you should use Krud Kudder spray, a heavy duty prepaint cleaner that is well known and available on Amazon.
But if you don’t have this product or your cabinets are fairly new, you could also make your own cleaner. In a bowl, mix up half vinegar and half warm water. Put in just a few drops of liquid dish soap. Dip a rag into the mixture and wipe down the cabinets throughly. Do not allow the mixture to dry on its own- dry the cabinet well with a separate rag.
2: Fill Holes / Scratches
Any scratches, gouges, or dents in the wood you can quickly fill with Wood Filler. That little $5 tube I bought off Amazon works wonders! I love that stuff. If you change out the hardware on your cabinets and have holes from the old knobs, you can also use wood filler to fill in the holes!
This is a super easy step you don’t want to miss. Just smush the wood filler into the hole with your finger, and wait for it to dry. You want an excess rather than not enough. It doesn’t take long to dry- then sand off the excess wood filler quickly, and later you will paint right over it. Amazing!
3: Do I have to sand before painting?
Sanding your entire vanity down is necessary for maximum primer adhesion. This is especially important if you have a shiny finish. BUT – and this is a big but – this step DOES NOT have to be a big deal! There is no need to get out an electric sander or make this time consuming. I think people hear “sand” and imagine this to be a big drawn out thing.
Just run a fine sanding block (like these!) over the cabinets, doors and drawers. Do your best to get into the nooks and crannies a few times. Your goal isn’t to take off the finish completely – it’s to just rough it up. If your vanity is large and you have lots of cabinets and drawers, set up a table in a different room with an old sheet underneath and sand there.
The cabinetry will be covered in dust when you are done. Clean the dust off thoroughly with a tact cloth. Dust in the paint will turn into pieces of dirt you can see, stuck in the paint. You could even use another quick wipe down of the Krud Kudder spray you used earlier.
What did I do? Well, my cabinets were previously unpainted – this was a factory finish. Nothing shiny, and remember, they were only 2 years old. I felt okay spending money on a high quality primer and just running a sandpaper block across the finish one time briefly. I didn’t spend a lot of time sanding, and since my vanity is small I did it right here in the bathroom. I used Krud Kudder spray and a tact cloth again to grab any dust left behind.
4: Prime Time!
I approached the cabinetry one piece at a time. I poured primer into a small painting bin, then used a 2″ brush to brush the primer into the parts of the surfaces that weren’t flat. I immediately followed up with the mini foam roller for the larger, flat spots and the entire side of the vanity.
I like the foam rollers best for glossy paints, rather than nap rollers! They are less likely to leave lap marks. You wouldn’t want your primer to start drying before you start in with the foam roller, so make sure to just work on one section at a time.
5: Painting Your Bathroom Cabinets
On the second morning after getting my daughter off to preschool, I sanded the dry primer coat very lightly, one time. You just want to remove anything extra. Gently remove the sand left behind with a microfiber cloth. This part is important for a smooth finish!
Then, paint the cabinet just the same way you primed. Use the brush, followed by your foam roller. Paint both sides of the cabinet door for a nice finished look. Of course don’t paint inside the vanity itself.
When it’s completely dry, not tacky to the touch, you will want to repeat it all again. Lightly sand, remove dust, and give it one more coat. If you have used good quality paint then at this point you should have a nice, durable finish!
6: Wait Time.
Although the paint will feel dry to the touch within a few hours, cure time is much longer than dry time.
What does cure mean for paint?
Cure means the actual paint solvent has fully evaporated from the pigment. All that will be left behind will be the pigment coating. It can take about a week (or longer!) for the paint to fully cure.
However, if you must – you could reattach your drawers and cabinet fronts onto the vanity after 3 days. I really wouldn’t recommend it any sooner- unless you want to be at risk for having your freshly painted bathroom cabinets stick and peel. I waited a full week before I reattached cabinetry, and even then I was sure to be gentle with the cabinet fronts.
At this time I installed the new hardware (I used these 8″ Aubrey Pulls in polished nickel).
7: Accessories? New Mirror, Art
I thought the old mirror was just okay, so I brought in this fabulous mirror from our dining room. (See our old dining room here). Honestly, I feel like this Bar Harbor Bone Inlay Mirror from Serena & Lily is an heirloom piece. It is huge, heavy, and dazzling to look at. As soon as I brought it in “just to see”, I knew it was the one.
Because it is so big (and our light was installed so low), I did need to move that bendable light up by a few inches. Luckily, you can pop out a piece of shiplap and put a new piece in, and then caulk and paint the edges. I had our handyman do this part for me, as I didn’t want to screw it up.
The framed nautical flag art above the toilet was from my son’s room (see his adorable teen room here!). It felt like it was perfect for the nautical vibe that was happening in here. I hung it up using command strips. And just like that, the bathroom refresh was done!
Shop The Finished Bathroom:
Create A White and Black Bathroom
In my boys’ bathroom that they share upstairs, we did a full on white and black theme, and on a budget too. We had the cabinet installed and used black mirrors and black tile with black grout as contrast agains the white vanity. Take a peek at our fun kids bathroom here – as seen in Country Living.
Pin This Tutorial Now, Find Again Later:
You might also like: Proof That Hale Navy is the Best Paint, or all about how we used Sherwin Williams Extra White and Ice Cube in our Home, or Two Toned Walls In Our Son’s Room