When painting your furniture, priming is a crucial step that decides the look, the finish, and, most importantly, the paint’s longevity. Since primers play such a critical role, people wonder how many coats of primer to apply or whether they should apply as many coats of primer as they can.

You need to apply two coats of primer on wood cabinets unless a primer’s container explicitly claims to get the job done in one coating. Unfinished wood is highly absorbent and requires a thick coating before it can be conducive to paint.

The rest of this article covers what you need to know when you are painting a wood cabinet. This includes topics like sanding, the best primers to use, and how to paint your wood cabinet.

Why Is Primer Needed for Wood Cabinets?

A primer is needed for wood cabinets because without it, wood can absorb the paint you apply. Furthermore, the grain on wood can lead the paint to chip off and not take hold on the surface.

Because primers have a high solids content, they can smoothen the surface over the grainy wood and make the surface less absorbent, so you can paint the cabinet without compromising the look, the finish, or the longevity of the paint.

Should I Sand After Priming My Cabinets?

While primers work well in smoothening the wood, they are applied by a human hand, resulting in unevenness on the primer layer. Brushstrokes can create uneven “mountains” and “valleys.” And it is also possible that primer droplets have solidified in certain areas. It is ideal to sand the surface with a fine-grit sanding paper after each layer of primer in such an instance.

For best results, make sure the primer is thoroughly dry before sanding it. Alternatively, you can apply both layers of primer at once, then sand the surface after it is dry. This method takes less time as you don’t have to wait for the first layer to dry, but it is not as effective as the first method.

Can You Use Spray Primer on Wood?

As mentioned above, applying a primer with a hand brush can create unevenness and brush marks on the primer’s surface. This texture often requires sanding. Since spray painting makes it easier to paint without a hand brush, one may wonder whether it is possible to spray paint a primer.

You can spray primer on wood because it is a practical layer meant to neutralize the textural disadvantages of wood. As long as the material can coat the surface, it does not affect the outcome.

You will require sanding, albeit less, if you use a spray primer because the surface will have uneven primer despite not having brushstroke texture. The spray primer will, however, take less time to apply.

Best Primers for Wood Cabinets

It is not enough to just use a primer before painting your cabinet. You must make sure you use a high-quality primer to match the wood you are painting over. Below are my top four recommendations.

  • KILZ Premium helps seal surfaces, prime them for latex and oil-based paint, and has a low odor and superb adhesion to furniture like wood cabinets. The product has over eight hundred positive reviews and is Amazon’s choice for its category.
  • KILZ 2 Multi-Surface Primer can coat previous colors to give you a neutral surface to paint over for your paint’s truer color to show well on your cabinet. The best thing about this primer is that it works on a variety of surfaces, so you won’t be wasting the primer leftover after you are done with your cabinet. It can cover bricks, drywall, and painted metal, among other surfaces. Quite versatile.
  • Rust-Oleum Mold-Killing Primer is, as the name suggests, not just a primer but a mold-killer as well. It has a dry-to-touch time of only 30 minutes and thus makes painting your cabinet less time consuming despite the two-layer application.
  • Rust-Oleum Marine Wood Primer is a high-performing luxury primer meant for painting above-surface wood. In other words, it is suitable for boats and ships as long as it is not used on the area that is submerged. Since your cabinet is not going to be underwater, you can use this primer to create a high-quality priming layer that is good enough for durable surfaces like ship decks.

How to Paint Your Wood Cabinets

If you have decided to paint your wood cabinets, the task can seem as simple as taking the paint and just applying it to the surface. But doing so can lead to the paint looking a different color and chipping off easily. Follow the steps below to make sure your paint looks right and lasts long.

1. Prepare the Surface Before You Paint It

You do not want to paint in a confined space as the odor can be overwhelming and a dense smell can seep into things like clothes and food. It is best to take the cabinet to your garage, backyard, or a spacious room with an open window. Use a wood cleaning soap to make sure dust and other deposits are washed away.

2. Sand Down the Unevenness for the Best Results

Sand the wood before applying a primer just to make the wood more conducive to the surface. Most primers account for unfinished and unsanded wood, but it is still a good practice to sand before priming.

3. Apply Two Layers of Primer Before Painting

Apply the first layer of primer and let it dry. Unlike paint, you will not have to wait twenty-four hours for the primer to dry. Here, you can sand the surface with a finer sanding paper to even out the tiniest unevenness. Sanding between the coats as well as after the second coat will give you the best-prepared surface for painting.

4. Apply the Paint With a Hand Brush

This is the most significant yet the easiest part. All you have to do is apply the paint as evenly as possible and keep the number of layers even on all sides of the cabinet. As long as you fulfill those conditions, your cabinet will come out looking to write and evenly colored in the color of your choice.

Use the right brush to avoid leaving visible brushstroke marks on the surface. Once you are done with this step, give the cabinet at least twenty-four hours to dry.

5. Use a Sealer to Extend the Paint’s and the Cabinet’s Lifespan

With the previous step, you are essentially done with painting your cabinet. However, to add to the paint’s longevity, it is recommended that you use a wood sealer. The sealer makes the surface almost waterproof and keeps it from getting water-damaging.

Moreover, it keeps the surface from molding too easily. That said, you should avoid polyurethane-containing sealers, especially if you have painted the cabinet white. That is because such sealers can yellow over time, and that is not a good look.

Related: Do You Need to Paint the Inside of Your Cabinets?


Priming wood cabinets is an essential step in the painting process. It allows the paint to stick better and more evenly across all areas of the cabinet and, more importantly, keeps the paint from chipping off easily. You should apply two layers of primer and sand between each coating to get the best results.

Write A Comment