Why would you want to paint the cabinets in your RV? It usually happens when you find a great deal on a used RV, that’s in great condition, but looks dated. Even if the look isn’t dated or worn, going from a dark wood grain to a light color or bright white can really brighten up your old RV and make it feel bigger and more open.
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There are a lot of articles, videos, and tutorials on painting RV cabinets, and a lot of them make the whole process look intimidating or near impossible. The truth is, painting cabinets in a motor home can be quick(ish) and easy (or much easier than you thought.
First of all, remove everything you can and paint it outside your RV. It simply gives you more room and decreases the chances of spilling paint inside your trailer or motorhome. Door and drawers are easy to remove – the cabinets all depend on how they were installed. If you CAN and DO remove the entire cabinet boxes, there are two additional things you should consider… putting in new flooring (so the cabinets can sit on top your new floor, instead of complicated flooring cutting) and painting every surface of the cabinet. Painting the interiors, sides, backsides and bottoms helps seal the woodwork (often water-absorbing MDF) and can help prevent damage from future water spills or leaks. Also, remove all hinges, pulls, handles, drawer slides and any other hardware. That will avoid unnecessary time spent cutting around things and avoid the drips and splatters on hardware that scream “amateur job!”
Choosing an RV Cabinet Paint
As far as paint selection goes, only use cabinet paint. You might be tempted to use wall paint because it’s cheaper and comes in a bazillion different shades and colors, but wall paint is designed to drive “soft” with some flexibility. That makes it far less durable and lead to uncleanable scuffs, cracking, and/or peeling. Cabinet paint dries to a hard, durable finish.
Shop around and check out the different brands of cabinet paint in our area and read the instructions carefully to find the brand that suits you best. Some will need a primer… some will want the same brand of primer… some don’t need primer at all.
A good finish on RV cabinets only comes from good prep before painting them. Start by getting rid of any grease and oils with a good cleaning. This can be as simple as scrubbing the cabinets with a bit of soapy water and a sponge or brush, or using special degreasers available at any home center.
Let everything dry and then give them a light sanding with a fine sandpaper. This provides a better surface for the primer or cabinet to adhere. Finally, a tack cloth will remove any sanding dust.
We suggest you start by painting areas that aren’t usually visible, for example the inside surface of the cabinet doors. That gives you some time to get used to the paint. Once the back sides are done, you can flip them over and paint the fronts. If you’re in a hurry, you can stick some thumb tacks or pushpins into the freshly painted backsides, flip them over onto the tacks, and keep painting.
As far as actual application goes, spraying is almost always the best way to go. However, buying a sprayer quickly increases the price of the cabinet repainting, and is only practical if everything can be removed from the RV. Foam rollers are a popular choice for many RV cabinet painters and are usually a strong second choice for paint application – however, the cabinet paint manufacturer will have their own recommendations and those are the ones you should follow. Many brands are excellent at “self-levelling” and can even be put on with a brush. If you have the time and inclination, you can always find a similar surface to your cabinets and paint test swatches with a foam roller, regular roller, and brush, then check the results after drying.
Once you’re done, you can quickly reinstall everything, especially if you’re using the same hardware. If you’re going to update the handles or pulls, you have two choices – find ones with the same hole spacing and size as the previous ones, or fill all the holes BEFORE painting so you can install whatever you want wherever you want.