I get asked from time to time — how are the kitchen cabinets holding up? It has been nearly a year since I completed my epic kitchen cabinet painting project — and for the most part — they look like they were just painted yesterday.


However if you look closely, you may be able to see some slight wear around the handles on the sink cabinet doors…


…upon closer inspection you can see that some of the paint has completely peeled away around both handles — though it is worse on the right hand side (the side where the trash can is).


Leo’s facial expression pretty much says it all — ugg.


What is happening here may be a humidity/water problem. Here’s how it went down: I finished painting the cabinets in late February — waiting for the appropriate amount of “cure” time before reinstalling the doors and using them. All was well until July — when we had extremely hot and humid weather for about a week. Even though we have A/C, the humidity must have affected the paint around these door handles.


The only other spot that saw any damage was the drawer next to the dishwasher where we keep the silverware. I am thinking that high heat and humid air + us touching these three knobs with sopping wet hands (when putting away still-damp dishes from the dishwasher, having wet hands from washing pots and pans or cleaning and then opening the under cabinet sink to throw wet paper towels away, get out cleaning spray, dishwasher detergent, etc) was too much for the paint job (I used water based paint). In all other areas — where we don’t open the cabinets or drawers with wet hands — the cabinets look like they have been freshly painted.

So what’s the solution? To repair these three spots (sand, prime, paint, let cure) and then top coat at least the area around the knob — if not the whole door — with a few coats of oil based varnish in the same sheen as the paint. Hopefully this will essentially water proof these three areas and prevent further paint damage without having a different sheen than the rest of the kitchen cabinet paint job.

Has anyone else painted kitchen cabinets and had this issue? Perhaps this is why many people recommend using oil based paint on cabinets. Regardless of the situation, I believe these three spots can be remedied and sealed to prevent further damage. While I don’t much enjoy the thought of working on the cabinets again, it is only three small spots that need attention this time — much better than what I was up to at this time last year.

A homeowner’s work is never done!



  1. I am so glad you shared this! They really look impressive after a year, even with those few small spots.

    We’ve just recently decided the original cabinets in our bathroom need to be painted as the wood just doesn’t look its best. I’m going to revisit your post last year when we get closer to figuring out the best way to do it. We figure it will be a small test ground to find out if we think we’ll be up to painting our own kitchen cabinets someday. 😉 Good to know about the oil-based paint. I would think that humidity would be a serious issue for our bathroom as there is no ventilation in there except a window. I think we’ll have to go that route!

    • Yes — the cabinets are holding up wonderfully — save those three sticky spots. I’m glad my experience can help you out. Isn’t that the whole reason we share this kind of information? 😉 Good luck with your painting job(s)!


    You want to put an oil-based topcoat over your light-greenish-blueish water-based paint job? Here is what will happen:

    1) All oil-based topcoats are naturally yellow, to whatever degree. They may LOOK clear coming from the container, but they are, in fact, yellow. Over time, they will yellow more and more and more. How do you think knotty pine cabinets look so yellow? From the pine? Nope, it’s because they’re coated with oil-based (polyurethane) finishes.

    2) Once you apply an oil-based finish of any kind over a water-based finish, you will never again be able to apply another water-based finish over it. Ever. Well, not unless you completely strip away ALL of the oil-based finish first.

    What to do?

    Simple: Apply a WATER-based finish over your paint job. They’re available at all the big-box stores and hardware centers.

    However, there is a caveat: Though water-based finishes ARE clear, they WILL CHANGE the “depth” of the color beneath. In other words, a section of your cabinetry coated with a water-based finish WILL NOT look the same as the unfinished cabinetry around it.

    Layers of paint AND finish will bring a “satin” sheen up to a semigloss sheen.

    Personally, I’d just go ahead and lightly sand the affected areas, and reapply the paint you already have on the entire piece, be it a door, drawer, or what have you. I’m sure you guys keep a clean house, but all finishes gather dust, dirt, and whatever else is floating in the air attached to all the air molecules that come in and out of our homes.

    Remember: You can apply oil-based finishes OVER water-based finishes, but NOT the other way around. Once you go down that road, THAT’S IT.

    I like Aleta’s idea of plates to go behind your knobs. That’d be some kickin’ mid-century mod appeal!!!

    • That’s a good point Mike S — thanks for alerting me to that. I think you and Aleta may have it right with the backplates. I’ll just have to find something that works with my small knobs that is also not too costly since I’ll need 31! I’ll keep you guys posted!

      • The wear is due to the fact that those cabinets and drawers are the ones you guys open and close the most. Oil could be a culprit, and fingernails are murder on paint jobs.

      • Yes, and the friction generated when reaching for and handling the knobs will rub off paint, too.

        You guys may want to look into “washable” or “kid-friendly” paint, designed to make crayon marks more easily removable. There must be an additive they put in the paint to make it washable, and in turn, more durable? Just a thought.

  3. Hi Kate,
    I can’t remember what kind of paint you used but we used the Benjamin Moore Advance paint in our bathroom cabinet over a year ago. We haven’t had one chip or mark–it’s amazing. I painted the cabinets in our pantry as well and no chips there (its been about 8 months). The paint cleans up like water but it a oil/water mix. We didn’t put a top coat on anything, either.

  4. I painted my cabinet fronts almost three years ago with a latex paint and they are holding up quite well with the exception of a few key areas like yours. One area that I have an issue with is the door handle under our sink where we keep the trash can. It gets used the most and Mike S is right about fingernails (my 14 year old daughter is the culprit there). I’ve been contemplating the same idea as to how to reinforce those areas. I’ve thought about using a water-based finish, too, but have been a little scared to try it in case it looks weird color-wise. In the meantime, I’ve been keeping a little of the paint in a plastic container in a kitchen drawer and when it starts looking too bad, I just touch up the spots. So far, that solution has worked and no one can tell I’ve touched it up a few times. Keep us posted if you try a finish. I’d be interested to see how it works.

    • I had thought about doing some touch up too — though I think it will not cure well if it is touched up and used…I’m looking into the back plates — it is a great idea and a nice retro touch! Will keep you posted… 🙂

  5. I wonder if finding a cabinet knob with a longer “stem” or extension would be the ticket. I switched out the knobs in my kitchen for Amerock dish knobs similar to yours. The knobs I bought are almost 1 3/4 inches in diameter and I picked them over the smaller ones as the stem or extension was longer. The small knobs felt awkward when I tried opening the door as I thought they fit too close to the door. The old knobs I replaced were ugly but they had an even longer stem and I think they were the most comfortable to use and kept our fingers away from the cabinet surface. I wish I could put stem extensions on the knobs I have. I may order a Rejuvenation dish knob to try out.

  6. Pingback: BACKPLATES ARE THE ANSWER « Retroranchrevamp's Blog

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