Common Mistakes DIY Painting Mistakes

Avoiding Common DIY Cabinet Painting Mistakes?

Ready to paint your own cabinets, but want to make to sure to skip the most common mistakes that DIY cabinet painters often make? Good!  You’re in the right spot.  Have you ever worked diligently on a do-it-yourself project, only to be disappointed by the paint job in the end? It’s easier than you might think to make mistakes when painting cabinets, repainting furniture or putting the last coat on any DIY project, and you’re not alone.

It’s better to research what typically could go wrong before you begin.  Leaning about them will help ensure that your do it yourself cabinet or furniture painting job is the best it can be. Here are the top four easy-to-fix mistakes we most commonly see:

1.) Skimping on preparation.

diycabinetpaintingclass-1One of the most detrimental mistakes people make is forgetting (or ignoring) to prepare the surface to be painted! Paint will only stick to a good surface. That means it’s clean. There’s no grease, no sticky substances and no residue of any kind. If you’re repainting kitchen cabinets, for example, there could be a lot of junk on there just from being in the kitchen.

My favorite was to clean is with a mixture of 50/50 denatured alcohol and a scrubbing pad.  You run the risk of paint not sticking properly to  piece or furniture or cabinet that has grease or other dirt on it.  This is why taking the time to clean makes sense.  Is it boring? Yes.  However, it is worth the time!

Yes, it takes time, and a lot of DIYers will skip the prep to save the time on the front end. Unfortunately, those DIYers typically end up spending more time at the end of the project when they have to repaint. Do the prep work now and it will save you heartache in the end. I promise.

Risks of not cleaning first include bleed through from wood tannins and other liquids invisibly trapped inside the wood surface.  Cleaning, lightly scuff sanding and then cleaning again are helpful. Priming your surface is a really good idea.  Priming keeps the junk that you can’t remove from bleeding through and gives the paint a wonderful surface to adhere.

2.) Using cheap paint.

All paint is not created equal. Typically, one paint costs more than another for good reason. Still, one of the benefits of a DIY project is saving money, so it’s tempting to buy the cheapest possible paint. I’m here to tell you this is not an area you want to pinch pennies.

Paint has a shelf life. Using cheap paint or paint that’s been sitting in the garage for a while will not be as effective as using quality, fresh paint. I’ve never been shy about my affinity for General Finishes paint, which costs a little more but is well worth it.  However, there are a lot of great choices for paint on the market!

Also, make sure to use the right paint that adheres to wood surfaces. Generic wall paint is easy to find in the store but is usually not the right choice when painting wood furniture, repainting kitchen cupboards or whatever your project may be.

Rachel teaching cabinet painting at the Maricopa County Home Show

3.) Painting in extreme temperatures.

Don’t paint when it’s too hot or too cold. Use this simple rule: if the temperature is making you miserable, it’s also making your paint miserable. If you’re out in the garage painting bathroom cabinets in 140-degree heat, your paint is not flowing well. Likewise, if you’re painting old furniture in below-freezing temperatures, your paint is not flowing well.

Work on your projects within reasonable temperatures and you’ll get better results. Being in Arizona ourselves, we are definitely well acquainted with this challenge, but know it is critical to getting a quality, durable finish. If you’re using water based paint you’ll know that it dries fast in heat. Consider working inside and turning the air cooler while you paint.  Cooler air helps good paint flow out better, leading to a better result.

4.) Overworking paint.

greatdiyphotoIn professional cabinet painting, this is almost a non-issue, but for DIYers, it’s extremely easy to get caught up in overworking the paint. When there’s a drip on the surface, the natural tendency is to keep brushing until the drip is gone.  It is much smarter to walk away and sand the mistake later. While if you keep messing with a drip or missed spot, you can see immediate results in that the drip goes away, too much brushing and overworking of the paint can lead to an inconsistent surface, detracting from the aesthetics of the project.

Basically, what I’m trying to say that is if you make a mistake just let it be for the moment.  Walk away and revisit the issue after it dries.  If you keep messing with it the finish could get cloudy and or streaky.  It’s better to let a mistake dry and then go back a lightly sand it before repainting.  Why do I know?  Sometimes, I don’t take my own advice.

These are four of the most common mistakes we see from DIYers, and thankfully they’re also four of the easiest to avoid making, once you’re aware they exist. Do your prep work, stock up on the right product and take care to do the job right, and you’ll be painting like a pro in no time.  If you’d like to see some of my on line tutorials be sure to check them out here.

I’d love to hear what other things you wished you knew before you started painted your own cabinets or furniture! Also, to stay in touch with all things Restyle Junkie, I’d love to have you join be on Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest.

Thank you,



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