3 Common Issues with Painted Cabinets

Issues with Painted Cabinets

There are 3 common issues with painted cabinets, including adhesion problems, durability issues, and appearance problems. Proper surface preparation, paint selection, and application techniques are essential to prevent these issues.

As a pro painter, I’ve seen my fair share of problems with painted cabinets.

Over the years, I’ve learned from my experiences and the experiences of others, and I’m here to share those insights with you.

In this article, I’ll discuss the common issues with painted cabinets and how to address them.

1. Adhesion Problems with Painted Cabinets

Adhesion problems occur when the paint doesn’t bond well with the cabinet surface, leading to peeling, cracking, and flaking. These issues can be caused by inadequate surface preparation, improper paint selection, and poor application techniques.

Inadequate Surface Preparation

When I first started painting cabinets, I didn’t realize how important proper surface preparation was. I learned the hard way that cleaning and sanding are essential for a smooth, lasting finish. Removing old finish or paint and priming the surface can also make a significant difference.

For example, one of my clients had issues with the paint on their kitchen cabinets peeling away around the center panels. I found out that this was due to inadequate surface preparation, which allowed moisture to penetrate the cabinet surface, causing the paint to separate.

Improper Paint Selection

Choosing the right paint is crucial for a durable finish. Regular paint isn’t designed for cabinet painting and can wear off around door pulls and other high-touch areas. I’ve seen cases where clients used regular paint on their cabinets, and the paint started to delaminate from the surface.

When selecting paint for cabinets, it’s essential to choose a product specifically made for kitchen cabinets. Water-based paints are safer but generally less durable than two-pack paints, also known as 2K or acid-cat paints. These two-pack paints are more challenging to work with but provide a more durable finish.

Poor Application Techniques

Applying paint correctly is vital for a smooth, lasting finish. I’ve seen many DIY paint jobs where the homeowner didn’t remove the doors and hardware before painting, leading to an uneven finish and paint drips. Using the right tools and allowing cabinets to dry long enough are also crucial for a professional-looking result.

2. Durability Issues

Cabinet paint can wear off, fade, or become discolored over time, making the cabinets look unsightly. These durability issues can result from water damage, everyday wear and tear, and cracking due to expansion and contraction of the wood.

Water Damage and High Humidity

Water is the enemy of wood cabinets, and moisture damage is a common problem with painted kitchen cabinets. Leaving wet rags hanging on cabinets, not using coasters on furniture, or having high humidity can cause water damage to painted cabinets.

One client had issues with their dishwasher cabinet, where the paint began to separate due to moisture exposure. To protect the paint and the cabinet, I recommended using moisture-resistant MDF and ensuring proper ventilation around the dishwasher.

Wear and Tear

Due to their heavy usage, kitchens are prone to wear and tear, and it’s likely that painted cabinets will eventually encounter scratches from knives or skillets. The simple act of using fingernails around the drawer pulls and knobs can also contribute to damage over time. I always recommend using durable paint on cabinets and performing regular touch-ups to maintain a fresh appearance.

Cracking and Expansion

Wood cabinets can crack over time as they expand and contract with the changing seasons. In contrast to mitered doors, the problem is less noticeable in mortise and tenon doors. In addition, wider rails tend to make the cracks more noticeable.

To minimize cracking, I suggest using a flexible filler like MS polymer to fill the cracks. However, it’s essential to understand that there’s no guarantee that the filler won’t split over time. Proper humidity control in your home can also help reduce the likelihood of cracking due to expansion and contraction.

3. Appearance Problems

Uneven color distribution, drips, and runs can detract from the overall aesthetic of painted cabinets. These appearance problems may arise from incorrect application techniques or the wrong color choice.

Uneven Color Distribution

Achieving a uniform finish is essential for an attractive appearance. I’ve seen cases where clients ended up with uneven color distribution due to improper painting techniques. To ensure a consistent finish, use high-quality brushes or rollers and apply paint in thin, even layers.

Drips and Runs

Drips and runs can ruin the appearance of your painted cabinets. To prevent these issues, avoid applying a thick layer of paint and use the right painting techniques. If you do encounter drips or runs, sand them down and reapply a thin layer of paint.

Maintenance and Touch-ups

Regular maintenance and touch-ups are crucial for keeping your painted cabinets looking their best. One client I worked with had a beautifully hand-painted kitchen, but over time, the paint began to show signs of wear and shrinkage. I advised them to request touch-ups from the cabinet maker and obtain some paint for future touch-ups.

DIY paint jobs can sometimes lead to issues like peeling paint, paint chipping, and structural problems with cabinets. It’s essential to invest in proper cabinet refinishing and use a bonding primer to ensure a long-lasting, professional finish.


While painted cabinets can be an attractive and cost-effective way to update your kitchen or bathroom, they can be susceptible to various issues. Adequate preparation, proper paint selection, and correct application techniques can significantly reduce these problems and ensure a beautiful, lasting finish.

As a pro painter, I’ve learned a lot from my experiences and the experiences of others. I hope this article has provided valuable insights into the common issues with painted cabinets and how to address them for a stunning and long-lasting result.