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How To Paint Bathroom Vanity Cabinets (That Will Last)

Does your house have a lot of old, construction-grade oak in it? Learn how to paint your bathroom vanity cabinets for a fresh look. Our easy step-by-step method will help you cheaply makeover your bathroom.

before oak bathroom vanity with arrow pointing to after painted blue gray bathroom cabinets with new mirror.

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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. 

Dated oak cabinet vanity in small bathroom with blue walls, toilet and white cabinet on wall.
The “Before” Oak Bathroom Cabinets

Our Other DIY Painted Oak DIY Projects

Here are some of our home DIY projects that have used a similar painting technique to help get rid of the oak color.

The biggest difference is that those above DIY home projects turned our oak into modern white counterparts.

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.

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.

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?

Behr Latex Enamel paint, Proclassic paint and Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel Paint Gallon cans.

For best results, the type of paint matters no matter the brand. Make sure that you are using paint meant for cabinets and woodwork.

Hands down the best 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>>>Best Paint For Bathroom Cabinets

What paint would we use today?

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.

kitchen with white and green cabinets, industrial stools and stainless appliances
You can see the same type of cabinet in our kitchen that we repainted using the SW Emerald in the best blue green paint color. The self-leveling paint made such a smooth surface when dry.

Other Bathroom Vanity Paint Options

  • Sherwin Williams Proclassic (a little cheaper than our favorite paint listed above)
  • Behr Latex Enamel
  • Benjamin Moore Advance Paint or Pro Advance Paint

SW Proclassic

Sherwin Williams Proclassic line is what I have used for all other trim and cabinet painting in our house. You would be surprised at how long our kitchen cabinets and moldings have held up with 3 children banging into them.

Benjamin Moore Pro Advance

DIY bloggers also love Benjamin Moore Pro Advance. From my understanding, this paint line acts a lot like Sherwin Williams Emerald Urethane Trim that we love.

Do you need help deciding what color of paint to use?

We recently just tried Samplize and it totally beats having to buy individual paint samples. These 9″ x 14.75″ samples will get shipped directly to you and save the hassle of clean-up (we loved that).

You can also check out our post, see our review and hopefully get the answers to those frequently asked Samplize questions.

Samplize peel and stick paint sample on cabinets
Here we are using Samplize to help us pick our lower kitchen cabinet color.

Recommended Supplies

Deglosser, cabinet paint, paint tray, small roam roller, paintbrush and sandpaper.
Some of the supplies that were used to paint our cabinets. Please note we are missing the SW All-Purpose Primer.

Bathroom Cabinet Painting Tutorial

Oak bathroom vanity with blue laminate countertops, stool and carpet in small bathroom.
Just one more view of the ugly and dated bathroom vanity!

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.
tape along the edge of bathroom cabinet and wall.

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. 
Hinges in bag from bathroom vanity sitting on table.

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.

hand Lightly sanding oak cabinets before painting.

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.

container of Krud Kutter surface prep siting in bathroom oak cabinet box.

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.

painter's tape on drawers

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.

brush added primer to oak bathroom cabinet.

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.

Oak cabinets getting primed and painting propped up on garage floor.

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.

White primer brushed on bathroom cabinet door corner before painting.

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.

small foam roller applying white primer to oak cabinet door.

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.

white primer on bathroom vanity cabinet box with drop cloth on the floor.

Step 9: Start Using Latex Enamel With Brush

Using a paint brush to add gray latex enamel paint to cabinet door.
We just propped up our doors on scrap wood pieces. If painting a lot of doors we recommend setting up sawhorses so you do not have to bend over as much.

Step 10: Continue Painting With 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.

two bathroom cabinet doors and one door propped up with blue gray paint in tray.

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. 

bathroom cabinet box with primer and new coat of gray paint being added.

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.

painted blue gray bathroom cabinet box without counter and faucet.
Notice that we did not paint the cabinet interior, just the solid wood fronts.

See more about how we replaced the old laminate counters and products we used in this bathroom. But once the counter was completely redone we were able to complete the following makeover ideas.

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 our 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.

Silver spray paint laying on cardboard with hinges and screws stuck in cardboard.

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. 

Large brushed nickel pulls for bathroom vanity makeover.

You still should be very careful, as it can take paint 30 days or so to really cure or harden.

Other Places To Shop For Cabinet Accessories

  • World Market for unique hardware options. I love using their hardware on our refurbished furniture projects. 

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.

Tutorial FAQs

How much did the bathroom cabinet makeover cost?

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. 

What other items did you add to your bathroom makeover?

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.

What would this vanity makeover look like without replacing the countertop?

We could have left the blue laminate countertop and just cleaned it up a little. You can see how we only painted the bathroom vanity in our basement bathroom in the image below. We didn’t think we really needed to do much more to update the small space.SW 6176 in small basement bathroom with painted oak bathroom cabinets with blue laminate countertops.

What is the best finish for bathroom cabinets?

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.

What if I don’t want to see the cabinet or oak grain?

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.

Before and After Painted Oak Bathroom Cabinets

orange oak bathroom vanity with mirror.

Yes, I am so happy about what a fresh coat of paint can do for your bathroom cabinets.

The “After” Painted Bathroom Vanity

painted bathroom vanity cabinets with mirror and painted light fixture.

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).

Other Cheap Bathroom Makeover Projects

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.

More DIY Bathroom Projects

What other tips do you have for painting a bathroom vanity? We would love to hear about your DIY projects!

Make sure to ask any questions at the end (we love getting comments from our readers and helping out DIY nuts like ourselves). 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.

Follow us on Pinterest, Youtube or Facebook for more DIY inspiration!

gray blue painted bathroom cabinets with mirror and painted light fixture.

How To Paint Bathroom Cabinets

Step-by-step cabinet paint tutorial to makeover your oak bathroom vanity while staying on a budget.
Print Pin Rate
Keyword: bathroom cabinet painting, how to paint a bathroom vanity, how to paint bathroom cabinets, painting oak cabinets
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Active Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Author: Erin
Cost: $100

Equipment

Recommended Supplies

Instructions

  • 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.

Notes

  • 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.
Tried this Tutorial? Tag me Today!Mention @theDIYNuts or tag #thediynuts!

Tutorial Rating




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Erin McQueen

Wednesday 7th of September 2022

Hi Erin!

I am contemplating updating my son’s bathroom. He also has the old oak look. My question is about the hardware. I absolutely love the handles on the cabinet (my vanity doesn’t have drawers). What size hole centers did you purchase?

Erin

Thursday 8th of September 2022

Hi Erin! The handles we purchased were the 6 1/4 inch wide ones. Just note that these were an economical choice and aren't solid metal. They have worked fine for our upstairs bathroom and I have even spray painted them in our laundry room. Good luck with painting your bathroom cabinets!

Gina

Thursday 31st of March 2022

Can you tell me now how well the Behr held up after a year and a half or maybe it's longer?

Erin

Friday 1st of April 2022

Hi Gina. On our bathroom cabinets, the Behr has held up surprisingly well. On the railing right outside, I would say I wish that I would have used a more expensive paint. This is probably due to how the railing gets touched vs. the cabinets. The painted bathroom cabinets look as good as they did when we painted them over a year and a half ago. Good luck with your bathroom cabinet project.

Ella

Thursday 3rd of March 2022

Thank you for sharing your process! I got my kitchen a few weeks ago and ever since I've wanted to update my bathroom cabinets. I think I'm going to try your process out on my downstair bathroom vanity this weekend, and I'm crossing my fingers that it turns out as good as yours!

Julie

Saturday 19th of February 2022

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. I would include photos but it doesn’t give me the option. Thank you again!!

Erin

Sunday 20th of February 2022

Hi Julie! Thank you so much for the kind words. I am so happy that your painted bathroom vanity turned out so well!! I would love it if you would share your images with us at [email protected] I could even share them with our email list with your permission!

Marco

Friday 26th of November 2021

Red Oak furniture/cabinets are highly sought after for their beautiful grains and strong durability. I would have refinished the vanity and gone with a modern rustic look. To each their own, but it now looks like any cheap, "modern" piece made out of MDF.

Erin

Saturday 27th of November 2021

Hi Marco. To each its own. The sides of our cabinets were not completely solid wood, so I am not sure that was an option. We did gel stain other ones in our house. Good luck with your future DIY projects and thanks for sharing your ideas.

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