Tuesday, January 26, 2010

the kitchen chronicles - Part 3 - working with mdf

Painting MDF Cabinet Doors
Replacing kitchen cabinets is a very costly undertaking.  Since the actual cabinets in my kitchen were good, I decided to go the less costly way and replace the doors.  I checked the price of doors at Home Depot and other stores and the average cost of a suitable door was $95-$120.. that's Canadian, folks, (far too much since I have quite a few in the kitchen.) 
I decided to go with MDF doors.  I had someone make the doors for me.  If you've never seen a CNC machine at work, take a gander over at youtube and watch one in action.  They cut doors from MDF like a knife goes through butter.  It's facinating.

The price of these MDF doors?  $7 - $20, according to size.

Here are the raw MDF doors as they were delivered to me.  I decided to finish them myself.

Painting MDF is very different from painting wood. MDF soaks up the paint as it's 'cut' surfaces are somewhat FUZZY.  Don't bother to sand the fuzzies too much in it's raw state, you'll be there forever.
The first thing you need is a REALLY GOOD PRIMER.
The best primer I've found BY FAR is KILZ.  This stuff sprays on amazingly!  Try it and I assure you, you won't use anything else. It's a primer, sealer and stainblocker.  The best out there. You'll use HALF of what you would use with another product, and because it goes on so great, you'll have less overspray in the air.

Another thing you need to know about MDF is it is very absorbent.  Because of its absorbency, using a lot of latex products on it can sometimes swell the MDF.  Something you definitely don't want.  Use all oil based products if you can.

In this picture below, you can see the 'fuzzies' as the primer is sprayed on the raw surface. It doesn't take too long to dry as the MDF just sucks in the primer.  Give it two coats of primer.

Below is a picture with two coats of dried primer.  You can definitely see the rough, pebbly-like surface.

Once thoroughly dry, take a sanding block and sand away! A fresh sanding block will allow you to get into the edges with a crisp firm block edge.

I don't think it's too easy to see, but the door on the left has been sanded and the door on the right has not.  The difference is really amazing.  They turn out very smooth.

Give it a good vacuum and a wipedown with a tack cloth, and paint as you like.
I'm giving my doors a coat of Rustoleum Heirloom White to start.
Here is a picture of one painted, (propped up on canned pumpkin - will be baking later on)

Next up - Glazing Cupboard Doors 


  1. Lisa! That's pure genius to have the doors made for you. At that cost, even I can afford new doors. I'm looking forward to the final update.

  2. You are an amazing girl, arent you?? :o)
    Looking fab & anxious to see the glazing!


  3. I can't wait to see how they turn out! I'll be checkin' in! =]

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Wow Lisa ~ just catching up with you today and loving what you are doing. I cannot wait to see the glaze on the doors. Steal of a deal by going with MDF too!

  6. they're looking amazing already....can't wait to see the new unveiling......although I already know how amazing it's going to look, as does everything you undertake......where's your foreman......aka (fur face)

  7. Great idea using MDF. Especially if the footprint of your kitchen works and you just want to give your cabinets a facelift. The finish on the cabinet door in the last pic looks great.
    Be sure to link up and show us your cabinet doors when they are hung.

  8. You exhaust me and amaze me...all at the same time. LOL

  9. How have I been missing this series?!? The routered MDF? Holey moley, that's awesome. I'm off to read more!


  10. I'm on the hunt for MDF doors now! I need to extend my kitchen cabinets by adding pantry space, but buying premade pantry cabinets will blow my budget -- plus they're way too deep for the space I have. I have no issue building a box of shelves for the pantry, but I knew I would have a challenge matching the oak cabinet doors already in my kitchen. I love the MDF idea! Now I can replace these thin, flimsy, nondescript builder doors with something lovely. Any chance you could e-mail me with the company you used? I don't even know where/how to start looking.

  11. What kind of glaze do you use? It looks great!

  12. Hi Meredith
    I mix my own glaze. Start with a clear glazing medium and I added a brown colour that I already had.
    Thanks for dropping by.

  13. I absolutely love your kitchen redo!I also would like to know what company you used to order your doors. I know you posted this a long time ago, so if there is any chance you get this comment, I would appreciate it if you could let me know where you ordered them! jamers21@hotmail.com or comment on here again! Thanks!

  14. The kitchen is the soul of every home. This is one of the most used of the house.so that should be perfect.

  15. I have a question on the CNC Machine... where did you find one and what is your recommendation, since they are way too expensive to buy, Thanks Kevin Smith

  16. Please post the name of the company that routed out your doors. Thanks!

  17. I love your kitchen transformation! Questionl: did you brush on or spary on paint? lorigibe@gmail.com

    1. Hello Lori
      The paint I used was Rustoleum Heirloom white in spray. I think at the time I was doing this I wasn't aware that the same color came in a can. I really like the sprayed finish though... never any brush marks or missed spots. Very flat, even finish!

  18. Hi! Love the kitchen doors, you did a great job! I like many others are probably fearful of painting kitchen cupboards due to wear and tear...so tell me, how are they holding up? It's been 3 or 4 years if I read through the blog timeline correctly. Thank you, Patty

    1. Hello Patty. I have to tell you that the doors are still looking as new as the day I did them. I have seen painted cupboard doors that have chipped all around the handles or knobs, but this paint has held up beautifully ! It's really all in the preparation. If you prepare your work surface properly all the layers of primer, paint and varathane will adhere and withstand daily usage. I could actually take a picture of all the most used cupboard doors and drawers and you wouldn't see a mark. Don't be fearful of painting. Make sure you take your time and prepare everything properly. You'll never regret the extra time spent.

  19. I wish I had this tutorial when I painted my cabinets years ago. I'm with you about the Kilz primer! Best. Primer. Ever. Thanks for the very detailed post!


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