Like other parts of your RV, the cabinets also suffer wear and tear. Painting them can give your RV a refreshed look. Let’s look at how to paint RV Cabinets.

Painting RV Cabinets can seem a daunting task and require dedication as a lot of physical work is involved. But keeping yourself focused on the results will make the task seem easier and more enjoyable.

Preparation is key when painting RV Cabinets. You will need the right equipment to clean, sand, and prepare the surface before painting. Applying high-quality primer will give a smoother finish. Once you are done painting, it would be best to end the job with a sealer for long-lasting results.

It is essential to follow a systematic approach when painting RV cabinets. The process is lengthy, and a lot can go wrong if the correct steps are not followed. From storing the small components safely to using the right equipment, and the right quality products, all can make a difference in the results.

RV maintenance experts believe that refurbishing cabinets can save a significant amount of money compared to replacing them. If you opt to repair your RV as a DIY project, you can save even more. Painting cabinets is a task that requires little skill and practice. If you know the steps you have to follow, painting can be rewarding as it is not too difficult to achieve good results.



Preparing RV Cabinets

Before you begin brushing away, there is a lot to be done. The preparation process is more important than painting itself. Having the correct supplies and setting the right ground will make a significant difference.

Most commonly, you will need to have the following supplies at hand:

  • Basic tools like pliers and flat and Phillips screwdrivers
  • Markers
  • Ziplock bags
  • Rough sponge
  • TSP
  • Soft Rags
  • Small putty knife
  • Wood filler
  • Wood glue
  • 180 grit sandpaper
  • 220 grit sandpaper
  • Clamps
  • Palm sander 
  • Three or more mini paint rollers
  • Mini roller tray
  • Paintbrushes of different sizes
  • Foam Brush
  • Paint
  • Primer
  • Clear Coat
  • Safety equipment such as gloves and safety goggles

With all the supplies at hand, you can start dismantling the cabinets. The first thing that you should take off is the cabinet doors. Depending on the type of hinges, you may require a flat or Phillips screwdriver to unscrew the doors from the hinges.

Remember to label the boxes and the doors as you deconstruct. You can use the marker to number the doors and the location where they were removed in a concealed place that cannot be seen and will not be painted. Or you can use some numbered tape. You will thank yourself later for labeling as it makes the doors much easier to reinstall.

You will need to remove all the drawers as well. With the doors and drawers removed, you will want to remove the hinges, railings, handles, and knobs. Place all small components in zip lock bags to ensure that you do not lose anything.

The next thing you want to set up is where you want to paint the cabinets. Make sure that you paint in a well-ventilated place, and be prepared for drips and spills.

Once you have all the supplies and have prepared your mini painting workplace, you are ready to take the first step

Step 1: Degreasing and Cleaning

Trisodium Phosphate or TSP is an excellent cleaner to prepare a surface for painting. It removes grime and grease easily and is highly recommended. The chemical can irritate the skin, so wearing protection and handling the substance with care is essential.

Mix the TSP as per the instructions, and scrub down all cabinets using the rough sponge. It will take some elbow grease, but the results will be worth the effort. Pay extra attention to the dirty areas such as near handles and knobs, and especially to cabinets above the stove. You will need to use the chemical on both sides of the doors and the drawers.

Once you have finished cleaning with TSP, use a clean, damp cloth to wipe down all the panels, and remove any residues of TSP.

Step 2: Repairing Patches

Every used RV cabinet goes through some wear and tear. With all the grime and grease gone, you will naturally see more scars, scrapes, and scratches on the panels. You will now work on repairing the patches, so the paint has a smooth surface to sit on.

Start by examining all the cabinet doors and drawer panels to find scratches and knicks. Sand down the surface with sandpaper, and then apply wood filler to the blemish using the putty knife. If your cabinets are veneer or laminate, use wood glue to paste back any surface that is peeling off. If there are chips or scars, use wood filler to even them out.

You will also want to make all the repairs you need to the cabinets at this step. For example, if you have any doors breaking apart or considerably damaged panels, take your time to repair them. There is no point in painting a damaged surface, as it will continue to look equally bad.

Also, make sure that the new ones fit in the holes you have if you are replacing the handles. If not, use wood filler to fill the holes properly before proceeding to the next step.

Step 3: Preparing the Surface

Whatever you just cleaned up and repaired, now is the time to get it dusty and dirty. To make the surfaces even, they will need to be sanded. If you have an electric sander handy, this chore will be easier. If not, it is time to test your elbow grease.

Any areas that have been repaired or glued will require more abrasion. For these patches, you can use larger grit sandpaper, such as 120. The surface needs to be sanded down until it is flush and smooth with its surroundings.

It would help if you used the 180-grit sandpaper for sanding down all the cabinets. This sandpaper will not leave any sandpaper marks but remove glossiness and provide a surface rough enough for the paint to stick to. Some edges might be hard to reach. Consider rolling up small prices of the sandpaper to reach into edges.

Once the sanding is complete, you must wipe down all the surfaces with a damp cloth to remove the dust. Remember to use a damp cloth, not a drenching wet one, as water can quickly damage the wood.

Step 4: Applying the Primer

It is finally time to grab the brush and start swishing. It is essential to choose the correct primer depending on the surface. After sanding down, you might have exposed bare wood, so it is recommended to use a stain-blocking primer to keep the wood protected. The primer will also seal the wood filler patches to allow the paint to stick to the surface evenly.

For veneer and laminate cabinets, a different primer might be required. These cabinets often require oil-based primers, which can be quite a nuisance to clean up from brushes and other surfaces. So, it is important to be careful when using them.

If you are unsure of the type of primer you should be using, consider doing a little scratch test. Run your fingernail on a painted surface with medium pressure, and if you can remove the paint, you need another primer. If not, you are good to go.

Depending on your painting style, you can use a foam roller to apply the primer. However, some painters feel that rollers apply too thin of a coat and prefer to use paintbrushes. Whichever tool you prefer, make sure they are of good quality. Hardly anything during painting is more annoying than having to pick up broken bristles off of a fresh coat.

It is best to start priming the inside of the cabinet doors first. This way, you can get rid of any drips and globs that make it to the front surface for a better exterior. This practice also allows you to get used to the brush and the covered area of the primer.

It is best to use brushes for nooks and crannies and a roller for flat surfaces to ensure you get an even coat of primer all over the doors.

Step 5: Painting Away

Finally, we have reached the most fun part of painting RV cabinets, which is actually painting them. After the primer has set in and dried, your cabinets will look worse than before with all those streaks and brush marks. But these are what a coat of fresh paint is made to fix.

If you are unsure of the shade you want to use, start by painting a test door, and see how it looks. It is best to take your test door inside and decide if you want the color rather than painting the whole cabinet and then repainting the whole set because you did not like the color.

Try to use high-quality paint for your cabinets instead of the cheapest one. There are several good brands of paints on the market; make sure to do your research before selecting a brand. It is also advised to use one brand for the exterior because even shades with similar names tend to have slight differences if chosen from different brands.

If you are painting a high-traffic area cabinet, such as a kitchen, consider using a high-gloss finish. This paint is much easier to clean by wiping it down with a damp cloth.

Paint the cabinet doors and panel surfaces much like you applied the primer. Start by painting the insides first, let them sit and dry, and then paint the exterior. It is best to apply at least two coats of paint to get the best finish.

Once all your cabinets and drawers are painted, you will need to wait for them to cure before sealing the paint. It largely depends on the type of paint you are using to determine how long to wait, but a couple of days will do.

If you are not into roll-on painting or do not like to use paintbrushes, cabinets can be painted using a paint spray machine. This will make your job easier and add the costs of a paint sprayer. However, the most expensive method will still be spray paint cans, in which case one can’s price can be similar to a gallon of roll-on paint.

A spraying machine might get a smoother finish, but it requires a lot of practice to develop an efficient hand. With that said, you can get quite a smooth finish with the traditional roller and brush.

Step 6: Clear Coating

It is best to clear coat your cabinets to protect them from water and other harmful substances. There are three popular clear coating options: wax, water-based sealant, or an oil-based sealant.

Wax is usually used with chalk-based paints, but some painters use it to coat every kind of paint. However, it is best to steer clear of wax if the cabinets are installed in high-traffic areas such as RVs, where they are exposed to heat and humidity.

The best alternative to wax is a water-based sealer, which is easy to clean and does not fade to yellow like most oil-based sealers. If you have painted your cabinets in a light shade, it is best to use water-based sealers to keep the shade fresh for longer periods.

Oil-based sealers are the most durable of the lot. But with their yellowing downside, it is up to you to decide which sealer suits your cabinets best.

Sealers also require two or three coats with a very fine sanding in between the coats. If you are not worried about brush marks or have an expert hand, feel free to apply the sealer with a brush to your cabinets.

Final Step: Putting it All Back Together

Once the sealer has dried, it is time to put the cabinet doors and drawers back where they truly belong. If you are changing handles, you might need to drill new holes for the screws.

The installation process is exactly the reverse of how you dismantled the cabinets. Start by installing the hinges into the cabinet boxes, and then mount the doors. Make sure all screws are in place and tight. Replace any missing or faulty screws or hinges.

Make sure to check the railings of the drawers before you install them. Replace any faulty parts before reinstalling the doors or the drawers.


Anthony Day

Anthony Day

Hi, my name is Anthony, and RVs are what I'm passionate about. I bought my first RV when I was 21, and I've been hooked ever since. I'll guide you on how they work, how they can be used in different environments, and how they fit into our everyday lives.

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