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How to Paint Bathroom Vanity Cabinets (That Will Last)

Learn how to paint your bathroom vanity for a fresh look

Does your house have a lot of old, construction-grade oak in it? 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. 

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

In the past, we have gone over how we have painted other oak items in our home. From our painted fireplace mantel to doors in our basement, we have used a similar technique to help get rid of the oak color. We have even done our kitchen cabinets and all the molding in our upstairs following the steps described below.

The biggest difference is that all of those above DIY home projects turned our oak into modern white counterparts and this time we wanted to create a nice blue-gray cabinet for our bathroom vanity.  See how you can get a two-toned look after painting our oak stair railing as well.

*Disclosure: I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are our own. This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission. Read full privacy policy here.  

Bye bye dated oak cabinets with images of oak bathroom cabinets.

Tips and tricks to painting bathroom vanity gray

Here are some questions that we hope to answer through this DIY bathroom vanity tutorial 

  • How to paint cabinets without sanding?
  • What kind of paint to use on the bath vanity?
  • How cheaply can these bathroom vanity makeovers be done?
  • Can you just replace the bathroom vanity top?
  • What are your budget-friendly vanity top options?
  • Easily add hardware or how to update current hardware
  • Printable simple instructions are at the end of this post.

    Also, check out these wonderful painted bathroom cabinet ideas from our DIY friends. We love the different cabinet color ideas.

    How to paint cabinets without sanding (or I guess I should light sanding)?

    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. 

    Now our plan still involves seeing the grain a little through the paint. It really doesn’t bother us, therefore it is really not worth the time to use something like these fillers and oil-based primer that I see other DIY bloggers or pro painters recommend. 

    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 have used Sherwin Williams Multi-Purpose Latex Primer for a lot of 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 listed below.

    However, we have had great success with latex-based primers and paints and really have not had the need to stink up the whole house! Here is an article from Family Handyman that may help you decide which primer is best for you.

    Other great primers to consider are:

    • 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.

    What kind of paint to use on a bathroom cabinets?

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

    Hands down the best water-based cabinet paint to use 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 act like your typical latex.

    I was able to score this Behr latex enamel for pretty cheap and I thought about giving it a try. It has held up in our bathroom and seemed to work. I am still happy that I used the Behr paint on my bathroom vanity. The regular price the Behr latex enamel is around $40 and the SW Emerald Urethane Trim is closer to $95. (never pay full price though for SW paints as they do have sales). If budget is a huge factor in your DIY bathroom project, then you will still be happy with the outcome.

    If I were to paint them again, most likely I would use the Sherwin Williams Emerald 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 painted our already painted kitchen cabinets.

    kitchen with white and green cabinets, industrial stools and stainless appliances

    Same types of paint used on kitchen and bathroom cabinets

    Learn how to paint kitchen cabinets using Sherwin Williams Urethane Trim Enamel paint like in our kitchen pictured above. Our kitchen cabinets have been a painting project over the years. You can see how to repaint white painted kitchen cabinets using the SW Emerald in the best blue green paint color. We will never use any other paint again to paint cabinets!

    Other bathroom vanity paint option

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

    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.

    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.

    However, the price is the main reason I decided to give this Behr a try. I was able to get a gallon for around $30 because I had a coupon and they were already on sale. I will have to update this post next year with how the cabinets are holding up with this brand of paint.

    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). Check out the brands you can get here. 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.

    Our “before” bathroom

    Dated oak cabinet vanity in small bathroom with blue walls, toilet and white cabinet on wall.
    Before our budget bathroom makeover

    Remodeling a bathroom can be budget-friendly

    The good news is that painting a bathroom vanity can go pretty quickly and can be pretty inexpensive. We ended up doing more to this small bathroom (and another one in the basement) to help completely makeover the spaces. Simply getting rid of the oak cabinets through our easy cabinet painting technique did wonders for our bathrooms.  

    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.

    Tutorial on how to paint oak bathroom cabinets

    Supplies needed for vanity cabinet makeover

    Deglosser

    Old Rag

    Enamel Paint in Semi-Gloss (We used this paint in Charcoal Blue)

    *Latex Primer-We use Multi-Purpose Latex Sherwin Williams Primer

    Brush- We like using Purdy 2 ½” Angular Trim Brush or equivalent from Wooster

    Small Roller Handle

    Small High-Density Foam Roller (these are a must for a variety of DIY projects)

    Painter’s Tape (I used this brand meant for delicate surfaces, but I actually 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)

    Fine Sandpaper

    Oak bathroom vanity with blue laminate countertops
    Just one more view of the ugly and dated bathroom vanity!

    1. Take all doors and drawers out. 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

    2. Lightly sand with fine sandpaper to rough up the gloss on our current surface. I think this always allows the primer to stick a little better.

    Lightly sanding oak cabinets before painting

    3. Use a deglossing agent with a rag to wipe down cabinets, drawers and doors. Make sure to completely clean all parts. You do not want anything greasy leftover.

    Use a deglosser before priming oak cabinets

    4. 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 prime and paint the backs of the drawers easily. 

    5. 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.

    White primer brushed on bathroom cabinets before painting

    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

    6. Once you complete the door, just 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.

    Small foam roller used to apply primer to cabinets

    7. The large flat areas can have primer applied with a small foam roller. The same principle applies to full coverage while making sure not to have drips.

    8. Let your primer dry. The front and back of the front 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. 

    ***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. ***

    9. 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 naptimes 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.

    Using a paint brush to add gray latex enamel paint to cabinet door

    10. 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.

    Painting bathroom vanity cabinets gray

    11. Make sure that you evenly paint the sides and all parts of the bathroom cabinet. It is very easy to miss a spot. Looking at your cabinet and vanity parts from all angles, helps you see if you missed any spots. 

    Painting cabinet base gray

    12. 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.

    Bathroom vanity cabinet without sink

    We will talk more about how we replaced the old laminate counters in a future post. But once the counter was completely redone we were able to complete the following makeover ideas.

    See what else we used this same blue gray paint color in our home! We weren’t going to let a gallon of paint go to waste.

    Add new hardware to complete your bathroom vanity cabinet makeover

    Before, putting our brass hinges back on, I used silver spray paint to update the look and match our hardware. You can also purchase new brushed nickel hinges (of the finish of your choice) pretty cheaply.

    Let your painted doors and drawers fully cure

    It is important that you don’t rush to put the hardware back on immediately. Once we felt the paint was cured enough, we decided to add our cabinet pulls. I absolutely love the larger pulls we added. Normally, we do not pick larger hardware but thought this was a great way to cheaply modernize our bathroom vanity. 

    How to easily paint old hardware and cabinet 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.

    Silver spray paint to update hinges for bathroom vanity

    I purchased these large pulls from Amazon and while they are only plated brushed nickel, I could not beat the price 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

    Other bathroom hardware and accessories to add to painted cabinets

    Also, don’t forget to check out World Market for different hardware options. I love using their hardware on our refurbished furniture projects. 

    You still should be very careful, as it can take paint 30 days or so to really cure or harden. After about 5 days, I also added plastic drawer and door protectors on the inside to limit the banging of the drawers.

    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 about the bathroom countertops and sink?

    We could have left the blue laminate countertop, cleaned it up a little and been all done. 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.
    Painted oak bathroom cabinets in the basement with old laminate countertops

    At the time, it wasn’t worth spending more money on bathroom upgrades (even if they are DIY projects) for a basement bathroom. I still love the look of this freshly painted bathroom vanity! However, for the upstairs painted cabinets, we wanted to make it a little fresher feeling.

    Decide on the type of countertop and sink

    However, the upstairs bathroom was a little different. This bathroom vanity painting project started the snowball effect into more DIY bathroom projects. This tends to be a trend around here.

    Read more about how a new screened-in porch turned into building a DIY corner shelf and then into a fireplace mantel painting project. 

    Another note about replacing the countertops is that premade countertops are not that expensive, so we figured we would try to completely update the vanity. 

    Other bathroom vanity counter ideas

    Whatever choice you go with make sure to measure twice before ordering and that you get what you need for your specific space. Most of these simple and inexpensive white sink tops (Amazon) that were interested in only had a small lip on the back.

    If you don’t have kids or you have a stand-alone vanity that you have painted, the two link options from Home Depot and Amazon may be a great choice for you.

    Kid-friendly sink top and protection (we hope)!

    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. Soon you will be able to read more about how we removed the old countertop and sink and add this one to our painted cabinets in this post.

    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.

    Here is a recap of how to redo a bathroom cheaply

    1. Paint vanity cabinets (it isn’t as hard or as inexpensive as you would think).
    2. Add new hardware.
    3. Replace countertops, sink and faucet (if you want).
    4. Frame out old construction mirror, purchase a new one or leave your current one.
    5. Consider painting old light fixtures or there are so many inexpensive ones out there that you buy.
    6. Add some new fun accessories or repurpose what you have.
    7. Add bathroom shelves
    8. If you need to cover up spot inside the inside of the cabinet, using a fun shelf liner can really add some fun inside your cabinets. Not to mention, extra protection from future mishaps. I know we need that with our tribe.

    Don’t forget about the inside of your newly painted cabinets

    Funny story about our shelf liner. I meant to order contact paper for a file cabinet makeover that I will be doing soon. I love this pattern (at the time I thought paper). However, it was a textured shelf liner

    I should totally have read the whole product description. For the price, I knew that would use it somewhere else and it wasn’t worth returning. Inside our bathroom vanity was the perfect place!

    If you want to see more about these DIY bathroom projects make sure to check out these posts

    One last before picture of these ugly oak cabinets

    Before oak cabinets are painted gray

    Yes, I am so happy to share with you the updated bathroom look. So drumroll…

    The after bathroom cabinet makeover

    Behr painted oak bathroom cabinets

    From the Charcoal Blue cabinets to our SW Grayish 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).

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

    See how we added a rustic pipe bathroom shelf to this bathroom later.

    Printable instructions here!

    How To Paint Bathroom Cabinets

    grayish painted walls with charcoal blue painted cabinets with fun shaped silver mirror

    Step-by-step cabinet paint tutorial to makeover your oak bathroom vanity while staying on a budget.

    Prep Time 30 minutes
    Active Time 3 hours
    Total Time 3 hours 30 minutes
    Difficulty Medium
    Estimated Cost Varies

    Materials

    Instructions

      1. Take all doors and drawers out.
      2. Remove all hardware and hinges as well. Place hardware in a bag and label it.
      3. Lightly scuff the surface of your bathroom cabinets with fine sandpaper.
      4. Put deglosser on a rag and wipe down all surfaces getting painted.
      5. 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.
      6. Use a primer with a brush and a small foam roller. Pay attention to cleaning up any drips. Let primer completely dry.
      7. Clean brush.
      8. Once bathroom cabinets are dry, use a latex enamel paint of your choice to paint. Use a brush for hard-to-reach spots and a small roller for the rest.
      9. Let paint dry and repeat for at least two coats of paints.
      10. Remove painter's tape.
      11. Let paint fully cure for a few days before putting cabinets doors and drawers back in.

    Notes

    Optional: You can spray your cabinet hardware or purchase new to complete your bathroom vanity makeover.

    Did you make this project?

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    Ultimate Cabinet painting guide

    Painting our bathroom vanity cabinets was one of the best and cheapest ways to refresh our small bathroom.

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    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.

    Karen

    Saturday 23rd of October 2021

    I'm about to paint my oak vanity. The drawer fronts are not removal, so should I try to paint the back of the drawer front or leave it as is? Doing so would involve a lot of taping and then might still look messy. Thank you.

    Erin

    Saturday 23rd of October 2021

    Hi Karen, I would paint the wood part of the inside of the drawer of your bathroom vanity. I would just make sure that you use a good painter's tape (green Frog kind) and be very careful when applying paint if you are really worried about getting a clean line. I have also found that you can kind of scrape off any extra globs or leaks if you catch it right away.

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