5 Problems with Painting Cabinets and How to Avoid Them

A modern kitchen with stainless steel appliances and gray cabinetry, featuring marble countertops and ample natural light.

Are you a homeowner, DIY enthusiast, or interior designer thinking about painting your kitchen cabinets? It’s a popular home improvement project that promises a fresh new look without the cost of replacing your entire kitchen. But before you grab your paintbrush, there are some challenges you should be aware of. In this blog, we’ll explore the top five problems with painting cabinets and how to address them, so you can make an informed decision.

A modern kitchen with stainless steel appliances and gray cabinetry, featuring marble countertops and ample natural light.

1. Expect touch-ups

The kitchen is by far the most used room in your home and it is only a matter of time before an impact to you cabinet finish happens. The most common areas where damage is likely are:

  • Around Handles and Knobs: Constant touching, pulling, and pushing can lead to paint chipping or wearing off around hardware.

  • Edges and Corners: The edges and corners of cabinet doors and drawers are prone to impacts and abrasions, making them common spots for paint damage.

  • Under the Sink: Cabinets under the sink are exposed to moisture from leaks and spills, which can cause the paint to crack or even worse, fail completely.

  • Near Cooking Areas: Cabinets located close to stoves, ovens, and other heat sources may experience paint discoloration and failure due to heat exposure. This is particularly common when range hoods are non existant or recirculate back onto the cabinets.

  • Lower Cabinets: These are more likely to be kicked or bumped into by people or objects, leading to scratches and chips in the paint.

Although these issues are not exclusive to painted cabinets, they are more visible on painted over stained surfaces. This is the reason we only use cabinet grade polyurethanes and offer a Five year touch-up program to keep your kitchen looking it’s best. Things can and will happen, especially with children in the home. Follow the link to learn how durable your painted cabinet finish will be.

2. Water

Water is the cabinet finish killer. It doesn’t matter if it is stained or painted, it can cause major finish failures. If you look at the majority of the cabinets we finish, in almost all cases. the panels below the sink have some type of finish failure. Even though we use cabinet grade paints that are incredibly resistant to moisture, if water is allowed to sit on a surface repeatedly, or seeps into the joints, it will get behind the finish and can lift or crack the finish. Here’s a few tips to prevent this from occurring:

  • Keep them clean and dry to prevent damage. When you are done using the sink, use a dry microfiber cloth to dry the surfaces.
  • Routinely inspect the sink plumbing to ensure there are no leaks.
  • Inspect the finish for hairline cracks, seal these as soon as possible
  • Range hoods should vent to the exterior of the home to prevent heat and moisture from sitting on the surfaces.

For this reason, we will leave you with a cabinet cleaning and maintenance kit upon completion of a project. It has everything you need to dry, clean and touch up your project.  Learn more on How to care for your professionaly painted cabinets.

3. Painting alone will not solve your problem if your cabinets are in poor shape

Two men working on a kitchen in a blue shirt.

When considering painting your cabinets, the condition of the surfaces should weigh heavily on your decision. The key to a durable, long lasting and professional job lies in the prep. Here are a few things to look out for when making your decision.

  • Surface Imperfections: Cabinets with dents, scratches, or gouges will show these imperfections after painting. Fill any holes or gaps with wood filler and sand smooth before painting.

  • Failing Finishes: If old paint is peeling or flaking, the new coat may not adhere properly and will likely peel off. Scrape off loose paint and sand the surface to ensure a smooth, clean base for the new paint.
  • Warped Wood: Warped or swollen cabinet doors and frames can cause an uneven surface, leading to an unattractive finish.
  • Water Damage: Water-damaged wood can be spongy, discolored, and weak, causing paint to adhere poorly and flake off. Replace severely damaged areas or treat mild water damage with a wood hardener before painting.
  • Damaged Hardware: Loose hinges, handles, and other hardware can make cabinets difficult to use and affect the paint job. Tighten or replace any loose or damaged hardware before starting the painting process.
  • Uneven Surfaces: Old cabinets may have uneven surfaces due to wear and tear, making it difficult for paint to cover uniformly. Sand the entire surface to level out any bumps and provide a smooth canvas for the paint.


By addressing these issues before painting, you can achieve a more durable and visually appealing finish on your cabinets.

4. It is a permanent decision

Returning to stained cabinets after they have been painted is often not economical due to several factors:

Labor-Intensive Process

  • Paint Removal: Stripping paint from cabinets is a time-consuming and labor-intensive process. It requires strong chemicals or intensive sanding to remove all the layers of paint, which can be costly in terms of both labor and materials.
  • Sanding: After stripping the paint, extensive sanding is needed to smooth the surface and remove any residual paint, which adds to the labor cost.

Potential Damage to Wood

  • Surface Damage: The process of stripping and sanding can damage the wood surface, especially if done improperly. This can result in the need for additional repairs or replacement of damaged sections.
  • Wood Grain: Paint can sometimes seep into the wood grain, making it difficult to completely remove and achieve a uniform stain finish.

Material Costs

  • Chemical Strippers and Sandpaper: High-quality chemical strippers and sandpapers are necessary for effective paint removal, adding to the overall cost.
  • Staining Supplies: Staining also requires high-quality stains, sealers, and applicators to ensure a good finish.

Time Investment

  • Extended Project Duration: Converting painted cabinets back to stained ones takes significantly more time than simply repainting or touching up cabinets, leading to higher labor costs if hiring professionals.

Inconsistent Results

  • Blotchy Finish: Even with meticulous preparation, the final stained finish may be inconsistent due to previous paint residues or uneven sanding, potentially necessitating even more work to correct.
  • Color Matching: Achieving the desired stain color can be challenging, especially if the wood has been altered by paint or chemicals during the stripping process.

Professional Costs

  • Expertise Required: If you opt to hire professionals, their expertise in restoring stained finishes will come at a higher price due to the complexity of the task.

Alternative Solutions

  • Refacing or Replacement: In some cases, refacing the cabinets (replacing the doors and drawer fronts) or entirely replacing the cabinets might be more economical and provide better results compared to trying to revert to a stained finish.


Considering these factors, it’s clear that switching back to stained cabinets from painted ones is often not cost-effective. Instead, investing in high-quality paint and proper maintenance of painted cabinets might be a more economical long-term solution.

Decorative cabinets with black accent hardware.

5. It will not fix your layout

If you don’t like your kitchen layout, painting the cabinets alone will not address the underlying issues related to the functionality and flow of the space. Here are some considerations and potential solutions:

Functionality and Space Utilization

  • Problem: If your kitchen layout doesn’t meet your needs in terms of workflow, storage, or accessibility, painting the cabinets won’t resolve these issues.
  • Solution: Consider a more extensive renovation that involves reconfiguring the layout, such as relocating appliances, adding an island, or changing the position of cabinets.

Structural Changes

  • Problem: Challenges with the physical layout, such as insufficient counter space, awkward positioning of appliances, or poor traffic flow, will persist regardless of the cabinet color.
  • Solution: You might need to consult with a kitchen designer or contractor to explore options for a more functional and aesthetically pleasing layout. This could include removing or adding walls, relocating plumbing and electrical fixtures, or installing new cabinetry.

Budget Constraints

  • Problem: A full kitchen remodel can be expensive.
  • Solution: If budget is a concern, consider a phased approach where you start with critical structural changes first and then proceed to cosmetic updates like painting cabinets. Alternatively, you could focus on high-impact changes that improve both functionality and appearance without a complete overhaul.

Temporary Solutions

  • Problem: If a full remodel is not immediately feasible, you’re still stuck with a layout you dislike.
  • Solution: In the interim, painting the cabinets can refresh the look of your kitchen and make it more enjoyable while you plan for a larger renovation. Additionally, you could implement temporary fixes such as adding movable storage units, installing new lighting, or using organizational tools to maximize existing space.

Comprehensive Renovation

  • Problem: Cosmetic changes alone won’t solve layout issues.
  • Solution: A comprehensive renovation may involve:
    • Reconfiguring: Moving cabinets and appliances to create a better workflow.
    • Upgrading: Installing additional cabinets or shelving for more storage.
    • Modernizing: Updating countertops, backsplashes, and flooring to enhance both functionality and aesthetics.

Professional Advice

  • Problem: It can be challenging to determine the best course of action.
  • Solution: Consult with a kitchen designer or remodeler to assess your current layout and discuss options that fit your budget and goals. They can provide valuable insights and creative solutions to optimize your kitchen space.

In summary, while painting cabinets can improve the look of your kitchen, it won’t solve fundamental layout problems. For a kitchen that functions well and looks great, consider a broader renovation that addresses both aesthetic and structural elements. If you’re unsure where to start, professional consultation can help guide your decisions. This Cost Guide will help you break down remodeling costs to see where your money is best utilized.

A kitchen with a island and chairs.

Elevate Your Kitchen’s Charm with Clean Cut Painting’s Expert Touch!

Revamping your kitchen cabinets can be a game-changer for your home’s aesthetic and value.

Whether you choose to paint, reface, or replace, each option offers unique benefits that cater to different needs and preferences.

Clean Cut Painting specializes in giving kitchen cabinets a fresh, new look with our professional painting services.

We ensure a flawless finish that rejuvenates your kitchen, enhancing both its appearance and value.

Ready to transform your kitchen?

Fill out our contact form today, or give us a call, and let Clean Cut Painting elevate your home’s heart to the next level.