Kitchen cabinet shelves tend to go through a great deal of use year after year, with cans and jars damaging the protective paint covering to the point where it begins to flake away. Fixing the paint requires removing the flakes before they grow too numerous, then applying a new layer to smooth out the surface. If you don't catch it in time however, you'll need to remove the old shelf paint entirely, replacing it with a new paint surface. Either way, to regain the look and usefulness of the painted shelves, you'll be applying paint to create a surface that lasts for years without any new damage.
- PH-neutral cleanser
- Face mask
- Safety goggles
- Drop cloth
- Masking tape
- Putty knife
- Chemical paint stripper
- Sandpaper, 220-grit and 150-grit
- Sanding block
- Stain-blocking primer
- Tack cloth
- Oil-based topcoat
- Polyurethane finish
- Foam applicator
Remove the screws holding the cabinet hinges in place. Remove the cabinet doors to gain full access to the interior.
Clean the interior of the cabinet with a pH-neutral cleanser diluted in warm water according to manufacturer's instructions and a sponge. Rinse away the cleanser after cleaning with clean water, then use a rag to pat the cabinet interior dry.
Lay a drop cloth under the face of the cabinet to avoid staining from any spilled paint. Place a strip of masking tape onto the sides and rear of the cabinet interior where they meet the shelves. Put on a face mask and safety goggles for protection from paint flakes, fumes and dust.
Examine the paint already present on the shelves for flaked paint. Remove any paint flakes by scraping them off with a putty knife, if there are just a few areas of light flaking. Sand the edges of the paint around the missing paint with medium-grit sandpaper to smooth them out.
Remove the paint from the shelves completely if the flaking covers the entire shelf. Use a paintbrush to brush a moderate layer of paint remover gel onto the shelves. Let the gel sit for 20 minutes, then use the putty knife to strip the gel and the paint off the shelves. Remove the masking tape, wash the shelves again after paint removal, then replace the masking tape.
Use a paintbrush to brush stain-blocking primer onto the shelves. Allow the primer to dry overnight. Sand the primer smooth with a sanding block and 150-grit sandpaper. Wipe the sanded primer clean with a tack cloth.
Brush on two layers of an oil-based topcoat over the primed shelves with the paintbrush. Wait two hours after the first layer before painting the second, then allow the paint to dry for 48 hours.
Use the sanding block and sandpaper to sand the topcoat smooth, and then wipe with the tack cloth.
Cover the paint on the shelves with a polyurethane finish to create a tough layer over the painted surface. Use a foam applicator to apply the finish, overlapping each brushed-on row to give the shelves complete coverage. Use two layers of finish for thickness, waiting two hours after the first before applying the next.
Allow the finish to dry for 48 hours. Remove the masking tape and replace the cabinet doors.
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