Hand painted kitchens FAQ



Traditional Painters provide answers to perennial questions about having your kitchen cupboards hand-painted!

I have a brand new pine kitchen ready for painting. Will the knots bleed through the finished paint? »

In a nutshell, no!

Can you paint an oak kitchen which has been clear lacquered. Someone said the paint will not stick. »

Lacquered oak, limed oak, pine, poplar… lacquered timber kitchens are perfect candidates for hand-painted finishes.

If a lacquer is worn in places, or is waxy, professional kitchen painters have a reliable variety of preparation options and primers to specify, from Zinsser, Tikkurila, and Mathys, and these products work over lacquer just great.

Can you paint laminate or melamine doors? Do you really need a primer? »

This post explains the process of painting a laminate kitchen. Once correctly prepared and primed, laminate is like any other surface and can be finished as you wish.

What paint finish is best for kitchen cupboards? »

There is a full list included on my best paints for kitchen doors page.

Oil based eggshell is traditionally the paint specified for hand-painted kitchen cupboards. In my opinion, Little Greene oil eggshell is the de facto low sheen oil eggshell. It has the right level of sheen to deal with normal wear and tear, but isn’t so glossy that it shows all the marks. It has that traditional look and is suitable for interior AND exterior use.

Tikkurila Empire is a proven oil eggshell finish, exceedingly tough, just a little shinier than Little Greene.

Paint Library also do an Exterior Oil Eggshell.

Johnstones oil based eggshell also gets the thumbs-up from a couple of my hand-painted kitchen colleagues working elsewhere in UK. I don’t use it, however, because it has a modern sheenier shine.

Annie Sloan chalk paint is a good option, when I am asked to refurbish kitchens or furniture that has been waxed, and the French / Swedish look is required (It is not always for shabby chic effects.).

What if I want a high gloss paint finish on my kitchen cupboards? »

Our “thing” is hand painting and usually in a mid to low sheen paint, but gloss and spraying has its place, and we can accomodate requests. Lee at 5Bridge can offer a 2-pack factory spray finish. Hand painted high gloss kitchens can be done too, the demand for this finish is quite low though.

I dont want oil paint in my house. I want a no odour eco paint on my kitchen cupboards? »

Mythic non toxic low odour acrylic paints are the way to go where no odour is required. The primer and semi gloss are brilliant paint, that you can barely smell even with your head stuck in the paint bucket. It can be colour matched to anything and everything and for your situation, it is a good durable option.

Tikkurila Furniture Feelings is an exceptional low odour water-borne paint used and championed for years by Traditional Painter, Mark Nash.

Sikkens Satura comes highly recommended by other professionals.

If you ask me what I think about Farrow and Ball water-borne hybrids, many painters are using Estate eggshell on painted kitchens, Martin Guest Traditional Painter Worcestershire specifies the exterior eggshell with great success on new kitchens. Personally, I can get a beautiful finish with it too, but if refurbishing a kitchen and the surface needs a problem-solving primer, I don’t like to jump through hoops, or take chances. What I mean by that, on refurbishments, you need a bombproof adhesion primer and maybe a stain blocker too. So we have a set of products we rely on, and none of them are F&B primers. Problem is, there are inexplicable quirky F&B issues usually where their eggshell is applied over these non Farrow and Ball basecoats, it doesn’t dry as expected. I don’t particularly want to take the risk, therefore, especially when I have base paint / topcoat paints from other manufacturers that just work together every time. That is my opinion, but ask others.

Farrow and Ball colours, I agree, are fantastic. In this day and age with the colour matching facilities available, if you have a painted sample or a piece of fabric or a picture frame, you can get that colour without having to compromise on choice of paint.

Is a painted kitchen suitable for me? »

I wouldn’t recommend a painted kitchen in a commercial kitchen, or where you have a big family of boisterous teens who slam kick and knock their way about. But if you appreciate that a painted kitchen needs to be treated with a little respect, you will get a lot of use out of it.

How long do painted kitchens last? »

That question is a bit like how long is a piece of string, but as an idea, the more coats, the better it lasts, and the better you care for it, the longer it will stay intact.

I hand-painted a kitchen in 1997 with 5 coats of olde school oil eggshell, plus decorative finish plus 2 clear coats ie just about the top spec possible with oil paints. It has been very well used, and has worn and been scratched in places, but intrinsically 14 years later it is still as solid as the day I painted it. It would also be quite straightforward to prepare and repaint.

If you beat your painted kitchen with sharp objects and slam and bang your way around the place, the finish will die quicker. 2 coats of finish paint straight on bare laminate probably won’t last either.

Kitchens painted with the water-borne tinted lacquers are unlikely to fail. We use the high end specification Scandinavian paints as used by the kitchen world’s most prestigious companies.

How much to handpaint a kitchen to the highest standard? »

Budget £100 per door or a full refurbishment or painting a kitchen from new bare timber

How much to handpaint a kitchen to an average standard? »

We can’t answer that as we don’t work to that standard. It is not in your best interest nor ours, to proceed on the basis of what can we get away with?!

Say we agree to have you paint our kitchen. How long are we in chaos for? »

Chaos isn’t quite the right word! To refurbish a decent size kitchen of 20 odd cupboards would take at most 2 weeks on my own. A 2-man team about a week. Painted in water-based paint, a full refurbishment would take about 7-8 days.

We would ask for the units and worktops to be cleared away before work starts, or sheets can be taped to interior of cupboards. I sheet everything up but, make sure you can get to your appliances and prepare basic meals and access water in the evening and morning.

A lot of clients try to go away on holiday. That works quite well.

How do you go about painting our kitchen? »

This explains the process without getting too technical. I stick to a tried and tested system for sheeting up, masking, sanding, stacking and labelling / hanging doors etc. What you see explained on the website is what you will see in your kitchen. You may see the * Erecta Rack in action too, keeping any loose doors in a safe and tidy place.

How long after you have finished painting can I use the kitchen? »

The day after I have painted the top coat, the doors and drawers are dry to the touch and you can carefully open and shut doors and start to re-use the kitchen. However, please bear in mind that paint dries a little harder every day and is not fully cured for 30 days if oil or 7-14 days if water based acrylic or water-borne. At that time, it has its optimum sheen and is ready for everyday use.

How hard can I hit them? »

(A bouncer I knew asked this once at an interview, but he wasn’t referring to painted kitchen doors!)

I wouldn’t say that eggshell, or any paint for that matter, is 100% resistant to marking or chipping when hit really hard with a sharp object. But you can use a painted kitchen without kid glove treatment.

If plinths are well recessed they don’t seem to mark, but if you think your plinths are vulnerable to kicks from size 14 boots or over-zealous vacuum cleaner, maybe consider replacing them with pre-finished timber, or stainless, or stone. Edges could be tastefully reinforced with a metal edging piece.

If you are concerned that painted units and furniture may not stand up to the rigours of your household, a natural wood finish or a factory lacquered or sprayed 2-pack finish may be more appropriate. One of our team is looking at a brush applied commercial grade clear lacquer as a solution where hand-painting is requested in a super-busy space.

How can I keep a painted kitchen clean? »

Eggshell finishes especially Exterior grades, are great for a kitchen environment and food and liquids can be removed with a gentle wipe down with a blue J cloth. I would advise against a daily scrub with an abrasive pad, as this will literally wear the paint away over time.

Gentle non abrasive cleaning agents can be used. Look through the eco Krudkutter range for a gentle but effective stain remover.

If you mop the floor be aware that water and suds have been known to seep under plinths, swell the wood and then push the paint off. Plinths can be protected somewhat from water damage by inserting a “windscreen wiper” seal into the underside of the plinth to create a good seal.

Why do you recommend oil paint as opposed to acrylic paint? »

I would use oil paint wherever I was concerned about bleed through from resinous wood. Select brands that were unaffected by post 2010 legislation (Tikkurila, Little Greene), still produce a high class finish, and are user friendly to the point that they can be sanded down hard between coats, have body and flow out well. Tikkurila eggshell is especially durable.

Admittedly, even with the reduced amounts of solvents in 21st century paint, oil eggshell has a strong odour compared to water-borne paints, but much better than the good old days of red eyes and milk to settle the painter’s stomach.

Having spun the “oil head” line, I am not anti-water-based / water-borne at all. Acrylic / water-based paint is fast developing as a viable alternative to oil, and some hybrid paint lines are almost as good as oil. Tikkurila Feelings ticks every box.

I now recommend and like to use acrylic eggshell or water-borne eggshell ahead of oil paint on general decorating (door frames and skirtings and windows) and for kitchen painting, the advanced water-borne paints are moving ahead of what we have been used to applying.

I stick by my thesis that water-based enamels excel when spray painted on a surface that is near perfect to start with. (That thesis is however under pressure with every passing day as we see product coming to the UK market from manufacturers in Scandinavia and the Continent. Tikkurila especially, gathers pace as a most compelling product line.)

What colours have you painted kitchens? »

There are about 130 Farrow and Ball colours, a few hundred English Heritage colours from Little Greene, and we are able to source our favourite paint in any of those colours. But generally, customers have chosen from the strong off-whites, lighter creams, mid greys plus mid blues / greens.

What advice can you give for colour choice? »

There are no rules for colours, but I do think people miss a trick playing safe or fixating on having to go for a light colour. We have dark purple-blue alongside lighter blue and off white. It looks fabulous and makes the most of the changing light during the day. Also if you are refurbishing an orange pine or dark oak kitchen, even the strongest paint colours are still going to appear lighter than the dull wood of old that it is obliterating.

I have known many people who almost worried themselves to death over colour choices, with a house full of sample pots and a headful of confusion. Traditional Painters are good with colour and have experience of many many kitchens.

My friends painted kitchen peeled after 3 months. Is that normal? »

Absolutely not! And I think I know why that painter had a problem – Some factory primers don’t cooperate with water-based paint finishes. I always recommend bonder coat plus oil paints if I’m not sure what the primer is! Ordinarily though, on refurbishment work, paint fails due to poor preparation and incorrect (or no) primer.

Kitchen painting specialists are fastidious with preparation and cleaning and have a good array of tried and tested problem-solving primers. We would be more disappointed than you if the paint went flaky in your hand-painted kitchen!

The steam from the kettle has lifted the paint, what can we do to stop it? »

I have come across this a couple of times. Either make a point of turning the kettle round, so the steam billows out into the room rather than up under the wall unit, or plug the kettle in somewhere else – or use a microwave to heat your tea and coffee!

We want to change the door handles, is that a problem for the painter? »

We replace like-for-like handles as part of the painting service, and can sand back the edges of any doors ahead of painting, so they don’t rub on the frame, and tweak door hinges.

Beyond that, any modifications to new handles or cabinetry can be arranged to be done by a kitchen fitter colleague.

So if your new knobs come with different fixings to the originals, or the new spindles need cutting to length or piloting new holes or fitting new runners, the simplest approach is to call in your local joiner or fitter for half a day, well ahead of the kitchen painting.

I know many of the UK kitchen painters are more willing to take on small joinery works themselves.

Wicker baskets and runners

When you are painting the kitchen, can we still use it? »

From a practical point of view, it works out fine if you finish breakfast before I arrive at 8.30, and have your dinner after I leave around 4 or 5pm,. We can all have a cup of tea or coffee any time during the day!

I assume my customers want me in and out as quickly as possible, so I give a fixed price based on the assumption that the cupboards and drawers and worktops are cleared before I start work, and I assume I will not be working round the family and tripping over the dog.

Can the dog come in the kitchen when you are working? »

Ideally not, unless you want a hairy finish on your door and a howling painter.

Will there be brush marks on my hand-painted finish? »

By definition, a traditional hand-painted finish is applied by brush, however, there are a couple of tricks that improve the quality of a brush finish way beyond the normal standard.

1 – Sanding down between initial coats builds up a smooth base for the top coats.

2 – Using high quality brushes suited to the paint, and a modified coachpainting technique can dissipate the ridge effect that you tend to see on every day paint finishes.

3 – To complete the attack on brushmarks, we may add a paint conditioner that increases the flow and “levelability” of the paint.

A well painted kitchen door is special, but, the bottom line is, we cannot apologise for the look of a hand-painted finish. It is a traditional technique, and its charm, if you like, is that it does not look like a soul-less factory spray finish. Hand-painting is our speciality, however, so we do achieve an exceptional finish!


Hopefully these FAQ have put your mind at rest about a few unknowns. If you wish to proceed to the next stage with no obligation, contact the kitchen painter in your area and tell them what you are trying to achieve.

The procedure is to email some photos, so we can gauge the full extent of the work. We will list what is required and include a budget for you, usually responding same day / next day.

From there, you would decide whether you wish to go ahead and finalise colours, dates and so on.

If you find a better option, we would encourage you to send us a “thanks but no thanks” email, simply as a courtesy (not an opportunity for us to try and sell you the dream again!) As you will appreciate when you deal with us, we will do whatever it takes to make sure you are well informed and clear on the process and tell you about potential problems, and we do so without charge or obligation.

Please note, all information on this website is presented in good faith. By viewing this website you accept complete responsibility for how and where you use such information.

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