Best Primers and Paints for Cabinets, Furniture & Fireplaces

Hello and happy weekend,

I often get asked about my bigger painting projects – furniture, kitchen cabinets, my built-ins, fireplace, etc.  Usually, the questions go in this order:

“You painted that yourself?” (The look on their face always makes me laugh.  It’s a mixture of shock, baffle and is-she-nuts?)

“How long did it take you?”

“Was it hard?”

My response is usually the same: “I sure did!  It wasn’t hard, but it takes time, patience and you have to be a perfectionist, or it will look sloppy.  I took me _____ weeks/months, but it was totally worth it.  I saved a boatload of cash, and it feels pretty awesome to know I did that.  The right paint, products and tools will make the world of difference.”

My first project were my kitchen cabinets.  You can read the whole story here.   Looking back, it was really ambitious of me to take that on without much non-wall painting experience.

This post contains some affiliate links.  Click here to read my full disclosure policy.  

Kitchen 2

What I Used: I don’t have the can of primer I used 6 years ago, but I checked out their product line online and they don’t carry that exact kind anymore.  I did find an Enamel Underbody Primer that is meant for cabinetry, wood, trim, etc.  If I did it over again, I would use that.   PAINT: Benjamin Moore Satin Impervo, color – Misty Gray.

*This is probably a good time to mention that you need to use quality paint.  Do not skimp on paint for something major.  I bought this in quarts (silly because I think I bought at least 4 quarts), but I didn’t know how much I would buy, or how I would like the color since it technically is a gray posting as a white.  I think this paint was $50 a quart.  Crazy I know, but worth every penny.

Number of Coats:  4 of primer, 5 of paint… or was it 5 of primer and 4 of paint?

Tools:  Purdy brushes, the angled type.  They are the best.  I won’t buy anything else.

Time to Complete:  nearly every night and weekend during summer of 2010 (this is no exaggeration since the cabinet doors take twice as long – paint one side, wait for that to dry, paint the other side the next day…)


My next big endeavor was my fireplace and built-in bookcases.  You can see more photos here.

Fireplace 1

What I Used: Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Primer and Behr Premium Plus Ultra (Primer & Paint in One).  The friendly folks at Home Depot made my day when I told them about my project and they said I could avoid stripping and sanding the built-ins with the Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Primer.  WHOA, what?   Honestly, I was skeptical, but by golly, it worked.  I’m a believer.  I think there are a couple different formulas, so make sure you get the one that says “sticks to all surfaces without sanding” on the front.

For paint, I’ve used the Behr Paint & Primer in one before and knew it was a good quality thicker paint, ideal for non-wall projects.  I didn’t think of it as putting two kinds of primer on the wood.  In this case, I think of the Behr as an awesome paint 😉  Home Depot was able to use Benjamin Moore’s Misty Gray formula on the Behr paint so there was consistency with the white between my dining room and kitchen.

Number of Coats:  Two coats of primer, three of paint.  I believe I just did two coats of paint on the brick fireplace.

Tools:  I think I planned to roll what I could, but in the end, I just needed up brushing the whole thing.  It didn’t take that much longer since there aren’t that many big flat spaces to roll.    Purdy angled brushes all the way.

Time to Complete:  I could finish an entire coat in one night after work.  Granted it was usually a late night – 6 hours, but I was motivated as heck to finish it by a certain date.  I had to take a couple nights off, so I had it done in 10 days.


The next project that I think is worth mentioning for this Non-Wall painting category is when I painted my grandparents, then parents midcentury bedroom dresser.  I use it as a credenza in my dining room.  You can see more of it here.

Dining Room Credenza Makeover 1 - The Striped House

I researched paints on this more than I’ve ever researched paint before.  Like most of us, I have painted furniture in the past that didn’t turn out how I hoped.  Since I really like this piece and it had sentimental value, I was not going to mess it up.

What I Used:  (see photo below)  The products that came recommended by some of the most respected DIY bloggers were Sherwin Williams primer and paints.  So that’s what I got.  the primer is latex, the ProClassic paint is their Acrylic-Alkyd formula in Semi Gloss, and the protective polycrylic finish is from Minwax (water based in the clear satin formula).  I didn’t sand off enough of the old stain, and it did come through the Sherwin Williams primer.  Dang. So I did go over it with the Bulls Eye 1-2-3 primer (twice) and the yellow spots that came through before were gone.

Number of Coats:  Two of the SW Multi-Purpose primer, two coats of Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Primer, three coats of ProClassic, and two of the protective polycrylic finish is from Minwax (water based in the clear satin formula)

Tools:  I used a short nap foam roller for all of the products.  I tried brushing it, but the brush marks were too obvious.

Time to Complete:  It took 15 minutes to put on each coat, but I let each coat dry 48 hours before the next step.  Omaha has terribly humid summers and I wasn’t going to risk it.


Hopefully this will inspire you to go paint something in your house and make love your home even more, at least that’s what happens for me 😉  If I discover more products, I’ll be sure to tell you!

xo Jen signature



Instagram   Pinterest  |  Bloglovin  |  Google +  |  Twitter  |  Facebook

Linking up to: The 36th AvenuePink WhenMaking it in the MountainsHome Stories A to ZLive Randomly SimpleWinthrop ChroniclesA Stroll Thru Life, Knick of Time, The DIY DreamerSimply DesigningLive.Laugh.Rowe.The Heathered NestFrench Country CottageThe Crafted SparrowThe Girl CreativeTatertots & JelloThe SITS Girls, One More Time Events, Life on Virginia StreetCraftberry BushDwell BeautifulChic on a Shoestring BudgetToo Much Time on Her HandsLife on Lakeshore DriveFinding Silver PenniesA Designer at HomeRefresh Restyle

1 Comment on Best Primers and Paints for Cabinets, Furniture & Fireplaces

  1. Rebecca
    February 11, 2016 at 9:20 pm (4 months ago)

    Wow, I think that this is the most informative blog post I’ve every read about painting furniture and other non-wall things. Thanks for sharing your experiences with the different products. And your pieces all turned out beautiful!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comment *

*/ function add_hellobar_script() { echo ""; } add_action( 'wp_footer', 'add_hellobar_script'); ?>