Learn the tips and tricks to painting a bathroom cabinet that will last! This inexpensive yet professional looking project saved our builder grade vanity.
Painting the bathroom vanity has been on our todo list for years! We are so close to finishing up this bathroom renovation, that I almost can’t stand it!
So this is what we started with:
It’s not in great shape and the missing front piece has never been there since we moved in.
The awesome power of paint in a makeover never ceases to amaze and, frankly, I love that it is a budget saver. I have painted several furniture pieces over the years and am ready to tackle a little different job.
With only a quart of paint, the right tools, and a little knowledge, I made this into to a more modern guest bathroom!
While it might seem like an intimidating project, with the right tools and some good advice, it’s perfect for a beginner DIY project. If this is a project you’ve considered tackling, this post will give you the step by step how-to to get it done! Let’s go…
The Best Paint Project Supplies:
- TSP Cleaner – or any degreasing cleaner should be fine
- Palm sander, mouse sander or muli-tool cutter/sander, sandpaper blocks (if necessary)
- Stainblocker or Shellac Based Primer (only needed for very light or white colors)
- Microfiber rollers (Not Foam)
- Paint – (my favorites) Benjamin Moore Advance, Cabinet Transformations, Fusion Mineral, Rust-Oleum Chalked Ultra Matte
- Protective Top Coat – Here is my list of favorite protective top coats. (optional- more on that later)
Step 1: Remove the Doors and Hardware
The first step when painting a bathroom vanity is to remove the drawers, door front, and any hardware present so that only the frame is left.
If you are changing out the hardware to a different size, fill any holes from the old hardware. After the surface is good, clean the frames and all doors and drawer fronts with either TSP or a household cleaner if the cabinet isn’t too nasty.
Step 2: Sand Lightly
After all grime is removed, lightly sand the surface. I generally recommend against skipping the sanding because the best bond requires some sanding. And you want your paint to have the best bond for long lasting results.
For sanding, you only need to “rough up”, not completely remove all previous stain and varnish. I use an orbital sander with 120 grit and leave it at that. A 220 can be used for hand sanding any corners.
If you want to get a completely smooth finish, we have a tutorial for filling in woodgrain on furniture. For dark colors with a matte sheen, I generally don’t find it to be bothersome.
After everything is sanded, vacuum off the sanding dust and wipe all of the surfaces down with a clean microfiber cloth or tack cloth.
Step 3: Paint
Yes, the fun part! Here are some tips for the smoothest finish:
- Get the right tools. A few extra dollars will save you a lot of heartache and frustration. I prefer fine taklon brushes like you find at craft stores for the least amount of brush strokes, but many people like Purdy Brushes.
- Tape off any edges you don’t want painted such as under countertops or walls.
- Use a lint free -microfiber roller across all flat surfaces for the smoothest finish.
- You will get the best results if you brush then roll before the paint has time to dry.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I skip priming cabinets?
Yes! If you don’t have any of the below problems, I would skip priming:
- When you use on a non-priming enamel paint
- There is no risk of stains, oils, or grease coming through the paint (use a stainblocking primer if there is).
- You aren’t painting bright white (I like to use a stainblocking primer for white).
The color is Midnight Blue from Fusion Mineral Paints. The above picture is the best reference for what the true color looks like in LOTS of natural light. However, it does appear darker at night or in shadow (it looks almost black).
Do I need to paint inside the cabinet?
I usually don’t paint the insides or the drawer sides because it just isn’t worth the effort for me. I generally don’t recommend painting inside the cabinets because of scratches. If you have some damage, I would probably use a quality contact paper.
What paint can I use in a bathroom?
Moisture is definitely going to be a factor when deciding what paint to use. As a result, I would use an enamel or acrylic type of paint. Fusion Mineral Paint is an Acrylic Emulsion based paint rather than something like chalk or latex which I would never use in a bathroom.
You can read more about the best paints for furniture here which shows my personal recommendations developed over years of refinishing and living with painted furniture.
Do I need to sand between coats of paint?
No. The biggest misconception I see in painting is the idea that you need to sand between coats. Sanding is required only if your paint is not smooth to your liking.
Do I need to use a polyurethane or protective top coat?
With the paints I use, a top coat is not required. If you do choose to add a protective topcoat, there are lots of options and they all work pretty well. You can read my recommendations on the best top coats for furniture to help make a decision, but any quality poly will do. Just make sure that it is water based.
With a brush and microfiber roller, I painted 2 coats. And that’s it!
Because I wanted to add hardware to this vanity, I drilled holes in each piece and screwed them in just like any other hardware.
Want to see more furniture transformations? Check these out!
- How to Eliminate Brush Marks or Strokes
- Executive Desk Makeover
- How to Paint Old Kitchen Cabinets
- How to Paint a Stair Rail that Lasts
- Military Footlocker Trash to Treasure Makeover
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