Master Bath Redo Part I – Painting Cabinets

Posted by Alicia Sell

I am a spontaneous person.  I get ideas in my head and I just make it happen, even if it is at 9:00 pm.

So one Friday evening I was looking on Pinterest and there were tons of posts about painting cabinets.

You can see where I am going with this, but I will preface this by saying that my master bathroom, while nothing special, did not particularly bother me either.  However, that night, while looking on Pinterest, it became crystal clear to me that my master bathroom needed an immediate remodel, starting with the vanity cabinet.

I told Randall that we were going shopping at the hardware store in the morning for this project.  He is what I would call a “home improvement store junkie”, so I knew he would get on board pretty quickly.

There was some mild protesting on his part.

Randall: “Do you know what you are doing?  What if it ruins the cabinets?  Why do we need to start this first thing tomorrow?”

Alicia:  “Of course I know what I am doing. It will be a weekend project.  Here are the articles to read.  We won’t ruin the cabinets. We can go out to breakfast in the morning. ”


Here is what our bathroom cabinet looked like before.  Pretty typical builder grade stuff.

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Before I give you the after picture, there were definitely some lessons learned.  Pinterest has helpful tips and some not-so-helpful tips.  Read it all and decide for yourself what makes sense and works best for you.  Listed here, in no particular order, are the top five recommendations from Pinterest that made my project a success:

1.Take your time.

It is easy to want to rush through the process because it is so time consuming and tedious  (especially the sanding part).  But if you take your time and do a good job, it pays off.  Did these mean the project was longer than a weekend?  Yes.  Does it always work that way for us?  You betcha.

2. Sand, sand, then sand again.

Sanding is the worst part of the process, and I read a TON of articles about how to work around it.  And it is true, you can take short cuts or skip it.  But I am a firm believer that the old fashioned elb0w-grease method yields the best and longest lasting results.

Before sanding, clean the wood well with soap and water or a paint prep chemical.  We used 220 sand paper to get in all of the nooks and crannies of the cabinets before applying primer. You aren’t sanding down to bare wood – just enough to remove any shininess. Wipe down the cabinets after sanding to remove any particles.  Use the light sand paper in between each coat of paint.

3. Primer is important.

Some Pinterest posters used primer and others didn’t.  Because our bathroom cabinet is exposed to a lot of everyday wear and tear, we decided we needed a primer.  I am so glad we did!  I used Benjamin Moore Advance Primer because it came highly recommended in a few different articles.  It is really good quality and we will use it in the future.  If we would have done anything differently, I would have probably added a second coat of primer.

4. Remove all of the hardware and remove the doors and drawer faces before painting.

This is probably a no-brainer to most people, but it seemed so much easier to just leave them on and work around those pesky hinges.  Don’t give into temptation!  Remove everything and then reinstall.  Make a small mark on the cabinet to indicate where it came from so it is easy to reinstall after painting.

5. Paint quality matters.

Randall and I have used many different paint brands over the years.  Benjamin Moore consistently has good coverage and color options, so we decided on their Advance Semi-Gloss paint in the color called Cotton Balls.  Seemed appropriate for a bathroom.  Who knew choosing a shade of white could be so difficult?

Bonus tip

After we finished the cabinets, I saw a handy little trick where you put small cup hooks into the top of the door and drawers that you removed for painting and hang them up to paint both sides.  What a time saver!

So after this weekend project turned into a full week project, we finished it up and reinstalled everything.  Here is how it looks now:


I am really happy with how the cabinets turned out.  They have been painted for a couple of months now and have held up nicely.  We also added hardware to the drawers.

The hardware was inexpensive, and I am glad we did it because it has improved the functionality tremendously.

Now that the cabinets are done, it is obvious that the vanity top needs an upgrade.  And the lighting.  And the mirror. This is how home improvement projects snowball!.

I will save the rest of the bathroom makeover for another post!

Do you have handy painting tips to share with Button Jar readers?  Please share in the comments section below!

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