Painting Bathroom Cabinets: A Beginner's Guide

If you're a beginner looking for a tutorial on painting bathroom cabinets, you've come to the right place! And if you're wondering whether you should tackle a similar project or hire it out, trust me,...

If you're a beginner looking for a tutorial on painting bathroom cabinets, you've come to the right place! And if you're wondering whether you should tackle a similar project or hire it out, trust me, you're going to love this post!

pinterest image that reads how to paint bathroom cabinets like the pros

Are you questioning whether you can handle painting bathroom cabinets? Are you unsure if you should just hire someone or avoid painting altogether? Well, let me tell you, YES YOU CAN do it yourself! I recently painted our bathroom cabinets with a fresh coat of Benjamin Moore's Hale Navy, and I had these questions myself. As someone who dislikes complicated tasks and values maintaining our home's value, I wanted to make sure any changes we made were done right.

But here's the thing—you don't need to be an expert to paint your bathroom cabinets. You just need to follow the steps listed here. It's a fairly simple and affordable project that doesn't take up too much time.

Painting Our Bathroom Cabinets Benjamin Moore Hale Navy

Our downstairs powder room is the most frequently used bathroom in our home. It's a cute, non-offensive all-white bathroom cabinet that's only two years old. It looks nice and very neutral, but I was ready for something with more interest. So, I said goodbye to our white bathroom vanity.

painting bathroom cabinets - the before photo of a white bathroom

The budget for this bathroom refresh was small since the vanity was relatively new. So, I decided to take matters into my own hands and paint the bathroom cabinets myself!

bathroom with hale navy painted vanity and bone inlay mirror

I absolutely love how it turned out! I was able to complete this paint job in just two days, working in the mornings while my youngest was in preschool. The new darker Hale Navy painted cabinetry feels more on-trend with 2020. And don't you just adore the long handles on the vanity? It's a small risk that perfectly complements the overall look.

Quick Note On The Basics of Painting Bathroom Cabinets

Painting bathroom cabinets is an excellent way to enhance the look of your space without breaking the bank on expensive upgrades. Wood is an easy surface to paint and typically produces satisfying results. When painting wood bathroom cabinets, you can use various materials, including latex, oil-based enamels, and even specialty paints. However, sticking to similar materials is usually the best course of action for this project.

For the smoothest finish possible, consider removing the cabinets entirely. If that's not possible, at least remove the doors and drawer fronts to treat them separately. Take care to protect surrounding surfaces with tarps and painter's tape to prevent accidental brush strokes outside the designated area.

What Is The Best Primer For Cabinets?

Choosing a high-quality primer is crucial for a durable paint job. Primers help your paint adhere better and can save you money in the long run. Ask your local paint store to tint the primer to the color of the paint you're using, unless they're already similar. This will prevent the need for extra coats.

If you're working with unfinished cabinets, such as unfinished wood, it's essential to use a primer that blocks wood tannins from bleeding through. Zinsser Smart Prime is an excellent example of a primer you can use.

For pre-painted vanities, I recommend Benjamin Moore Fresh Start Latex Primer.

What Is The Best Paint For Bathroom Cabinets?

When it comes to choosing the best paint for bathroom cabinets, opt for an alkyd-based paint. Benjamin Moore's Advanced Satin Latex Paint is a popular choice because it cures to a super hard finish, ideal for high-traffic areas. However, there are other alkyd-based paints available, such as Behr.

Avoid using oil-based paints as they are falling out of favor. Latex paints are just as good, if not better, and are easier to work with. They offer faster drying times, less chemical odor, and easier cleanup. For the best results, choose a satin or semi-gloss sheen, as they are easy to wipe down and maintain.

pinterest image of paint that says best paint for painting bathroom cabinets

I used Benjamin Moore's Advanced paint for this project, and I found it to be quick-drying and leaving no visible brush strokes. As for the color, I made swatches on paper of my favorite colors and taped them up to the bathroom cabinet to help me envision the final look. After considering various options, I chose Hale Navy as my color of choice.

For Painting Bathroom Cabinets You Will Need:

  • Primer
  • Paint
  • Small, angled brush (Pro tip: Use a life-changing shortcut angle brush for easier edging!)
  • Mini foam roller and mini paint tray
  • Optional: Krud Kudder spray, Wood Filler

1: Prep BEFORE Painting Bathroom Cabinets

Preparation is key to a successful paint job. Start by taking off all your cabinet doors and drawers, as well as the hardware. Keep the screws and hardware in a zip lock bag and store them inside the vanity for safekeeping. It's essential to remove the doors before you start painting.

Tape off any areas you don't want to accidentally paint. Lay old towels or sheets around the bathroom cabinet to protect the floor.

Clean your cabinets thoroughly before painting. Use a heavy-duty pre-paint cleaner like Krud Kudder spray, or make your own cleaner by mixing vinegar, warm water, and a few drops of liquid dish soap. Wipe down the cabinets with the mixture and dry them well.

Time to Set Up a Painting Station

Finding a well-ventilated spot with plenty of natural light and comfortable work surfaces is crucial when setting up your painting station. The location should provide easy access to lay out the doors and drawer fronts.

To protect against splatters and drips, place an extra-large drop cloth on the floor and cover it with a folding table topped with another drop cloth. This setup will cushion your surfaces and prevent damage. You can even set up a television nearby to keep yourself entertained while waiting for each coat of paint to dry.

Precaution Tip Before You Paint

Working with oil-based paint requires proper safety precautions. Make sure to apply oil-based paint in a well-ventilated area, such as outdoors or in a ventilated garage. If moving the cabinets isn't an option, wear a respirator and ensure there is a steady stream of air from the bathroom to the outside. This is important, especially when dealing with strong fumes or multiple layers of paint.

Always prioritize your safety by reading labels before using any chemical products and wearing recommended protective gear. Proper ventilation and airflow in your workspace are essential to prevent health issues caused by inhaling excessive fumes.

2: Fill Holes / Scratches

Before painting, fill in any scratches, gouges, or dents on the wood with Wood Filler. This inexpensive product works wonders! If you've changed the hardware on your cabinets and have holes from the old knobs, you can also use wood filler to fill them.

Simply smush the wood filler into the hole with your finger and wait for it to dry. Sand off any excess filler quickly, and then paint over it. This step ensures a smooth finish.

3: Do I Have to Sand Before Painting My Bathroom Vanity?

Sanding is necessary for maximum primer adhesion, especially if your vanity has a shiny finish. However, sanding doesn't have to be a big deal or time-consuming. All you need to do is lightly sand the cabinets, doors, and drawers with a fine sanding block. Your goal is to rough up the surface, not remove the finish completely. Sanding helps the paint adhere properly and provides a smooth finish.

After sanding, clean off any dust with a tack cloth or another quick wipe down using Krud Kudder spray. This ensures that your paint isn't contaminated by dust or dirt particles.

4: Prime Time

bathroom cabinet painted without doors on

Begin by priming the cabinets one piece at a time. Use a 2" brush to apply primer to the surfaces that aren't flat, and then use a mini foam roller for the larger, flat areas and the sides of the vanity. Foam rollers are less likely to leave lap marks, ensuring a smooth finish. Work on one section at a time to prevent the primer from drying too quickly.

5: Painting Your Bathroom Cabinets

sheets with painted bathroom cabinet on top

The next morning, lightly sand the dry primer coat and remove any sand leftovers with a microfiber cloth. Then, paint the cabinets using the same method you used for priming. Use a brush for the edges and a foam roller for the larger areas. Paint both sides of the cabinet doors for a finished look. Allow the paint to dry completely.

After the vanity is dry and not tacky to the touch, repeat the process—lightly sand, remove dust, and apply a second coat. Good quality paint should provide a nice, durable finish after this step.

6: Vanity Painted: Time To Wait

bathroom cabinet with hale navy paint and old navy paint

Although the paint will feel dry to the touch within a few hours, it'll take about a week (or longer!) for the paint to fully cure. During this time, handle your vanity with care to let the paint cure completely. Wipe off anything that finds its way onto the vanity immediately to prevent damage or unwanted markings. After three days, you can reattach the drawers and cabinet fronts to the vanity. Be gentle, as the paint may still be delicate.

At this point, you can install new hardware and complete the final touches.

8: Accessories? New Mirror, Art

bone inlay bar harbor mirror from Serena and lily

To complete the look of your freshly painted bathroom cabinets, consider adding new accessories. For example, I replaced the old mirror with a fabulous Bar Harbor Bone Inlay Mirror from Serena & Lily. I also added framed nautical flag art above the toilet for a nautical vibe. Choose accessories that match your style and complement the new look of your vanity.

And just like that, your bathroom refresh is complete!

Create A White and Black Bathroom

navy painted bathroom cabinets in a white bathroom

In my boys' bathroom upstairs, we went for a bold white and black theme on a budget. We installed a black cabinet and used black mirrors and black tile with black grout as a contrast against the white vanity. You can check out our fun kids' bathroom as featured in Country Living for inspiration.

Pin This Tutorial Now, Find Again Later

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Pin this tutorial to save it for later and easily refer back to it whenever you need it. You'll also find other helpful posts on our website, such as why Hale Navy goes with everything and two-toned walls in our son's room.

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