How to Paint Stained Oak Cabinet Doors

Painting oak cabinet doors is definitely on trend. The 90’s and early 2000’s were filled with an influx of builder grade, stained oak cabinets and as we transitioned to 2010 and now almost 2020 those are far from “in style.” But buying new cabinets isn’t in everyones budget so let me walk you through my process for painting oak cabinets and transforming your kitchen in under $200.

Working in a bathroom? My favorite vanity lights under $150 here.

Prep to Painting Oak cabinet Doors

Probably the most important part that a lot of painting oak cabinet tutorials WANT to skip, and lets be honest a lot of do it yourselfers try and skip because its no fun, messy and tedious, but I’m here to break the bad news. I think this step is crucial. Even with a “no sanding” primer. I still think it’s imperative to get the old gloss and stain off the cabinet prior to painting anything.


  1. use a cleaning agent like TSP or Krud Kutter to clean the cabinets. Just spray and wipe down with a mildly abrasive sponge or cloth to remove any buildup.
  2. Use a deglosser, simply spray and wipe it on to remove some of that shine.
  3. Sand. Use a combination of an orbital sander and hand handing or a small detail sander with 120 grit to remove the top coat of stain from the oak cabinets. Be sure to get all the edges.

Sand & Fill Grain

  • OPTIONAL: Fill the wood grain. There are several types of products you can use to fill the good grain, the most popular are Aquacoat, Bondo Wood Filler, and plastic wood. Use a putty knife and apply at a 45 degree angle to get into the grain. Wipe away as much as you can and let try. Sand with 120 then 220 grit. The more meticulous you are in this process the less grain you will see once you paint. For my project my in laws DID want to see some grain shine through so I skipped this process.
  • Tack Cloth. The most crucial step to a silky smooth finish. A tack cloth is basically a sticky cheese cloth that you use to wipe down the surface prior to paint. It clings to any left over fuzz or saw dust and gets every last stray piece of debris.

Hanging the Cabinets

This might not be an option for all people, but depending on your space and set up it has been a life saver for me. I predrilled a small hole in the top of the upper cabinet edge and the bottom of the lower cabinet edge and screwed some eye hooks into the cabinet. This allowed me to hang the cabinets and work on both sides simultaneously.

I hung them on a steel header in my unfinished basement. If you are only working on a few doors you could hang them from a wardrobe rack or some other contraption. Word of warning, most doors took 2 hangers to adequately support the load, and once you get more than 3 or 4 cabinet doors it starts to get very heavy. Be sure to have adequate support from what they are hanging on. If they fall off, the doors WILL crack and break. (For video of this process see my instagram highlights)

Hanging the cabinets also prevents the dreaded over drip or the painted side that hasn’t fully cured peeling or chipping when it is laid down.

After Painting remove the cup hooks and fill with Plastic Wood in white and lightly sand. You’ll never know they were even there.


Using the right kind of primer is a complete game changer when it comes to refinishing cabinets. Zinsser is the most popular type of primer and comes in a variety of finishes, latex, oil, and shellac. For oak cabinets, since oak is a very grainy, and naturally yellow wood you want to make sure you seal it, and seal it well. Since it has been finished with stain and a top coat, the best primer to use is Zinsser BIN Shellac. Apply 2-3 coats with either a 4″ Mini Foam Roller and brush, or with a sprayer. Be mindful when you use this product in a sprayer that it can only sit in the gun for max of a few hours and it needs to be cleaned with acetone/denatured alcohol and cleaned WELL otherwise you will have to get yourself a new paint sprayer.

Speaking of sprayers, for this project, and all my projects, I use my favorite entry level sprayer, the Homeright Finish Pro Max. For more tips on spraying see my paint spaying tips post.

Roller and Brush

First brush all the crevices with a paint brush. Next over over with a foam roller trying to keep with the grain pattern (vertical). Next roll the sides of the cabinet, flip the cabinet over and follow the same pattern (brush first, roll second).

Sand between each coat of primer and paint with 220 grit and wipe down with a tack cloth.

Paint Sprayer

Here’s some tips to working with a paint sprayer.

Load the paint sprayer and test a scrap pieces of wood under the sprayer is consistently spraying with minimal overspray and no splattering.

Take your cabinet door and move in a continuous back and forth pattern with 50% of your current spray overlapping your last spray. Be sure to ALWAYS have the paint sprayer moving and start the sprayer off to the side of the cabinet.

Hang to dry according to your paint guidelines for recoat.

Painting Oak Cabinet

For this project I used ProClassic by Sherwin Williams in Egret White which is a light, creamy white. It was the paint picked out by my in laws so I stuck with it. I typically like to use Sherwin Williams Emerald because it hardens and cures, but I’ll definitely update this with how ProClassic holds up.

I sprayed 2 coats of Proclassic on each cabinet door sanding with 220 grit in between and wiping with a tack cloth.

Thus far the cabinets look very smooth, still have a mild grain pattern depending on the lighting.

For more behind the scenes and progress videos of all things DIY follow me @honeybuilthome





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Meet Christine Gummersall, a mother of 4, coach's wife, former Labor and Delivery nurse, and self taught DIYer who decided to take a sledge hammer to her 1950's bathroom over a decade ago and hasn't stopped tackling her honey-do list since.  Folow along as christine breaks down the pretty afters, by showing the whole how to process and empowers you to STOP waiting, and START creating a home you love, with your own two hands! 

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