Does your house have a lot of old, construction-grade oak in it? Learn how to paint your bathroom cabinets for a fresh look. Our easy step-by-step method will help you cheaply makeover your vanity.
The “Before” Bathroom
Our house was built in 1992, and oak Merillat cabinets and molding really seemed to be the standard. One thing we know is that getting rid of the golden oak color in your home can really help update your space.
We have done a lot of home DIY projects that use a similar painting technique to help get rid of the oak color. From painting our kitchen cabinets white to repainting a different bathroom vanity, we have a lot of DIY home painting experience.
This time we wanted to create a nice blue-gray cabinet for our bathroom vanity. This matches the two-toned look of the painted oak stair railing that is outside the bathroom door.
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We followed your directions to a T and my bathroom vanity turned out great! Thank you so much for the tutorial. I was very intimidated by the thought of messing up and having to spend $1,000 on a new vanity, but this gave me the confidence to try it and I’m so glad I did.Julie
Do bathroom cabinets need to be sanded before painting?
Yes, you need to scuff up the surface of your cabinet in order for the primer to adhere to it. However, it is not as big of a deal as you think. You just need to lightly use a sanding block or 220-grit sandpaper and go over your cabinets. Your goal should be to dull the current surface.
Don’t worry the sanding part is really not bad and will take you only a few seconds which we will explain in the step-by-step tutorial.
What primer should you use to paint bathroom cabinets?
Using the right primer is one of the most important things when painting bathroom cabinets. We used Sherwin Williams Multi-Purpose Latex Primer to primer our bathroom vanity.
It has been our go-to primer for our home DIY projects, but that does not mean that an oil-based primer may be better. If you can stand the smell and cleaning of the brushes you may want to try the Zinsser stain-blocking primer listed below.
- Zinsser Water-Based Primer
- Zinsser Oil-Based Stainblocking Primer: if you don’t mind the smell, but will do a better job sealing your wood cabinets than a latex-based primer.
- If you are going to be painting your cabinets white, you may want to consider using an oil-based primer so that the wood tannins don’t bleed through. Wood tannins are colors that may bleed through in your paint and will create yellowish or brownish spots.
Here is an article from Family Handyman that may help you decide which primer is best for you.
What kind of paint to use on a bathroom vanity?
For best results, the type of paint matters no matter the brand. Make sure that you are using paint meant for cabinets and woodwork.
Our favorite water-based cabinet paint to paint cabinets is Sherwin Williams Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel. We had painted these bathroom oak cabinets before I discovered this water-based paint that doesn’t resemble your typical latex paint.
Most Economical Bathroom Paint
This Behr latex enamel was relatively cheap compared to some of the other types of paint. For a budget-friendly update, this paint worked well.
I am still happy that I used the Behr paint on my bathroom vanity.
Comparing Prices Of Paints
The regular price of the Behr latex enamel is around $40 and the SW Emerald Urethane Trim is closer to $95. (never pay full price though on SW paints because they always have sales).
If budget is a huge factor in your DIY bathroom project, then you will still be happy with the outcome of using Behr Trim Enamel. Just note that you may need 3 coats of paint to get your desired look.
Read More>>> Find The Best Paint For Your Bathroom Cabinets
- Tack Cloth or Rag
- Drop Cloth
- 220-grit Sandpaper
- Enamel Paint in Semi-Gloss-We used this paint in Charcoal Blue)
- Primer-We used SW All-Purpose Latex Primer
- Brush– A good quality brush like Purdy 2 ½” Angular Trim Brush or equivalent from Wooster will help you get a smooth finish.
- Small Roller Handle
- Small High-Density Foam Roller-these rollers help you apply paint in thin coats for a new look
- Paint Tray-these small ones are our favorite to use for small painting projects
- Painter’s Tape-Even though we used the tape meant for delicate surfaces, we should have used the classic multi-surface tape
- Hardware Pulls or Knobs– Here are the handles we used
- Spray paint or new hinges (unless you like your current hinges)
- Plastic Door and Drawer Protectors
Before You Begin
- You may need to fill old hardware holes by using a putty knife with wood filler. We did not have to do this because our old cabinet drawers and doors did not have any hardware on them.
- Set up your work area for doors and drawers. We like to paint doors and cabinets in our garage or basement. It is nice to have a separate area since it does take time to let each coat of paint dry fully on both sides of the doors.
- Add a drop cloth around the cabinet boxes.
- Decide if you are painting your old countertops, replacing them, or just keeping them as is.
Step 1: Remove All Drawers and Hardware
- Take all doors and drawers out. You will notice that we have a fake drawer on the top and did not remove or unscrew that. It was fine to paint it as part of the cabinet box.
- Take off hardware (hinges as well).
- Place in a bag and label clearly. You also want to put a piece of painter’s tape inside the drawers labeling where they came from.
Step 2: Scuff Up The Surface With 220 Sandpaper
Lightly sand with fine sandpaper to roughen up the gloss on our current surface. This always allows the primer to stick a little better. Make sure you go with the grain.
Step 3: Wipe Down With Deglosser
Use a deglossing agent or trisodium phosphate to clean cabinets. Make sure to wear rubber gloves when using a damp cloth to wipe down cabinets, drawers and doors. Also, you want to double-check that you completely cleaned and deglossed all parts. You do not want anything greasy left over.
Step 4: Tape Out The Back Of The Drawers & The Side Of The Cabinet
Tape any spots that you feel you will not be able to trim well with a brush. I only taped along the wall where the cabinet and wall meet. Use your fingernail or an old credit card to really push the tape on.
Tape drawer fronts on the back so that you can add a coat of primer and paint tothe backs of the drawers easily.
Step 5: Prime Hard To Reach Areas With Brush
Use a primer with a brush first in areas that can’t be rolled. The biggest thing is to make sure you cover everything, while not having drips.
If you’re painting cabinet doors and they are like our standard construction-grade cabinet from the 1990s, make sure to not have extra drips in the grooves or ridges.
Step 6: Check For Drips
Once you complete the door, go back and check to make sure that you give a quick brush to any spots that appear to have too much. Continue to also prime the spots a roller could not go on the cabinet frame back in the bathroom.
Step 7: Prime With A Small Foam Roller
The large flat surface can have primer applied with a small foam roller. The same principle applies to full coverage while making sure not to have drips.
Step 8: Let Primer Fully Dry
Let your primer dry. The front and back of the drawers should be able to be painted/primed at the same time because you should be able to prop them up. Once the primer is dry, you will have to flip the door over and do the backside.
Pro Tip: Saving your brush and roller in a Ziploc bag is a great tip so that you can save the hassle of having to wash your brush every time.
How long does it take primer to dry?
The primer should be dry in a few hours (I believe Sherwin Williams says 4 hours). However, I also call myself the naptime painter so I always paint in steps during naptime and just continue the next day.
Therefore, I did the back of the door later that day but waited to start with my semi-gloss latex enamel paint until the next day.
Step 9: Start Using Latex Enamel With Brush
Step 10: Continue Painting With A Roller
Following the same brush and roller procedure, apply the latex enamel paint. Let dry and then add a second coat to the drawers, doors, and cabinet base. If you think you need a third coat, feel free.
Read this full tutorial on how to easily paint cabinet doors before starting your cabinet painting project.
Step 11: Cover All Surfaces With One Coat Of Paint
Make sure that you evenly paint the sides and all parts of the cabinet boxes with the first coat of paint. It is very easy to miss a spot. Look at your cabinet and vanity parts from all angles to see if you missed any spots.
Step 12: Let The Paint Fully Dry & Add A Second Coat Of Paint
Repeat the steps with the grayish-blue paint at least twice. You may decide to add a third coat depending on how thickly you applied the paint.
Step 13: Let Your Painted Doors And Drawers Fully Cure
It is important that you don’t rush to put new or old hardware back on immediately. Once we felt the paint was cured enough, we decided to add our cabinet pulls.
Normally, we do not pick larger hardware but thought this was a great way to cheaply modernize our bathroom vanity.
Optional: Add Or Paint Hardware
Before, putting brass hinges back on, you can use spray paint to update the look and match your handles, knobs or pulls.
You can also purchase new hinges (of the finish of your choice) pretty cheaply.
Tips For Spray Painting Hinges
Use an old piece of cardboard so that you can stick the screws in so it is easier to spray the heads with silver spray paint. This will allow you to get full coverage on all parts that you will be adding back to your newly painted cabinets.
Read our full tutorial about painting cabinet hardware with spray paint.
Our New Handles
These large pulls came from Amazon and are only plated brushed nickel. The price was right for our kid’s bathroom makeover.
They came very well packaged with limited scratches or blemishes. I think ordering 5 this size from Amazon was cheaper than anything I could have found at a big box store.
You still should be very careful, as it can take paint 30 days or so to really cure or harden.
Step 14: Add Cabinet Protectors
The last step is to add plastic drawer and door protectors on the inside to limit the banging of the drawers and doors.
We recommend doing this about 5-7 days after you have finished painting the cabinets. Don’t forget this step. It will make your new paint job last.
Read More>>>14 Unique DIY Painted Bathroom Vanities from our DIY friends. We love the different cabinet color ideas.
If you are like us, then you only had to buy paint and hardware. If you assume that you already have brushes, rollers, etc. then this bathroom vanity makeover was done for under $75 and I have a lot of primer, paint & deglosser leftover to use for future projects.
Since this bathroom will mainly be used by our children, we went with this countertop and sink and ordered an extra side backsplash for the corner.
We also had to purchase a new faucet. We went with a highly rated, but under $100 modern-looking Kohler faucet in brushed nickel. I love the new trend of gold hardware, but we don’t have any in other rooms, so we just went with the safe brushed nickel.
We could have left the blue laminate countertop and cleaned it up a little. You can see how we only painted the bathroom vanity in our basement bathroom in the image below.
At the time we didn’t think we needed to update the whole space. However, check out what these repainted bathroom cabinets look like now.
The shinier the surface the easier it will be clean. We like using semi-gloss or satin on cabinets. Semi-gloss will wipe clean a little easier than satin.
Other DIY bloggers or pro painters recommend you can use these fillers before sanding and oil-based primer to help get rid of the wood grain.
It really doesn’t bother us, therefore we didn’t take this extra step.
If I were to paint them again, most likely I would use the Sherwin Williams Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel line due to how much I love my painted kitchen cabinets and painted tile backsplash.
The Behr was a great budget-friendly paint, but I couldn’t get over the results when I repainted our already painted wood kitchen cabinets.
Before and After Painted Oak Bathroom Cabinets
It is amazing what a fresh coat of paint can do for your bathroom cabinets. From the Charcoal Blue cabinets to our SW Grayish bathroom walls we love how the bathroom came out. The only thing we need to do is spray that vent black! (Thanks for the comment and suggestion from one of our readers).
More Budget Bathroom Ideas
You may have noticed that this bathroom also had a few other DIY projects to help finish it. You can see all the products and other DIY bathroom remodel ideas here.
What other tips do you have for painting a bathroom vanity? We would love to hear about your DIY projects! Sometimes, the only thing holding you back from completing a DIY project is just fear. I am telling you to just go for it. Paint can always be painted over.
Painting our bathroom vanity cabinets was one of the best and cheapest ways to refresh our small bathroom.
If you like this tutorial, make sure to give it 5 stars below 🤩🤩🤩🤩🤩. It truly helps us continue bringing you more free and budget-friendly DIYs.
How To Paint Bathroom Cabinets
- Plastic Bumpers add when paint is cured to help protect your new paint job.
- Take all doors and drawers out.
- Remove all hardware and hinges as well. Place hardware in a bag and label it.
- Lightly scuff the surface of your bathroom cabinets with 220-grit sandpaper.
- Use deglosser on a rag and wipe down all surfaces getting painted.
- Use painter's tape to tape spots that you do not want to get painted. Consider spots such as a long wall, around the drawers and inside the bathroom vanity.
- Begin using a primer with a brush and a small foam roller. Pay attention to cleaning up any drips. Let primer completely dry.
- Clean your paintbrush.
- Once the primer is dry, use a latex enamel in the color of your choice to paint. Use a brush for hard-to-reach spots and a small roller for the rest.
- Let the paint dry and repeat for at least two coats of paint.
- Remove painter's tape.
- Let the paint cure as long as possible before putting cabinets doors and drawers back in.
- Add cabinet protectors inside the doors and drawers to help eliminate extra banging when they close.
- Optional: You can spray your cabinet hardware or purchase new to complete your bathroom vanity makeover.
- If needed, use wood filler to prep spots or holes in cabinets before painting if needed. Sand and let completely dry before priming doors and drawers.
- When adding new hardware on you should be very careful, as it can take paint 30 days or so to really cure or harden.
- You don’t have to paint the inside of your cabinets, but we do recommend painting the lip, and the back of the drawers for a polished look.