This post is sponsored by Wagner Spray Tech. As always, opinions are all my own.
Follow this simple tutorial to completely transform your RV cabinetry with paint! We’ll show you how to paint RV cabinets without sanding so you can get your outdated RV kitchen looking updated and stylish on a budget.
I am so excited to share this project with you all!
Some of our very close friends live full-time in their fifth-wheel RV and in an effort to bless them, we offered to help them with a mini kitchen-makeover. 😉
Our long-term plan is to paint all of the wood in the entire trailer, but this was the much-needed first step.
Before we talk about what we did, I just HAVE to show you a quick before/after because it seriously blows my mind!
Take a look at this…
In addition to painting the cabinets, we spray painted all the hardware black, installed some peel-and-stick faux subway tile backsplash, and covered the counter tops with marble contact paper.
Just a few simple changes and this kitchen looks like a fabulous, modern space for under $350!
In today’s post, I’m going to share with you what we believe to be the easiest and most effective way to paint oak cabinets white without sanding.
I hope this tutorial helps you get your outdated kitchen looking snazzy!
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How to Paint Oak RV Kitchen Cabinets
Can you paint over oak kitchen cabinets?
The one thing you’ll want to consider is the wood grain.
If you paint over oak cabinets without filling the grain first (this can be done with wood filler, spackle, or a special grain-filling paint) then you will still see it through the paint.
We chose not to fill the grain in this kitchen (mostly because it adds a lot of work) and I think it still looks fabulous.
But if you don’t like seeing the grain under your paint and you want yours to be perfectly flat, you’ll want to fill the grain first.
Here’s a great tutorial for doing that.
What type of paint do you use to paint camper cabinets?
I believe the best paint to use on cabinets (whether in an RV or not) is with oil-infused cabinet paint.
The fact that it isn’t fully oil-based makes it easier to work with but still gives it the durability of oil paint.
Every experience we’ve had with it convinces me a bit more – it levels out really well, covers just about anything, and stands up to all sorts of wear-and-tear.
It’s a bit more expensive than the typical water-based paint, but well worth the cost.
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Does it make sense to paint kitchen cabinets?
I believe it makes sense to do whatever is going to make you love your home (or home on wheels, in this case.) 😉
If that means painting your kitchen cabinets, then DO IT!
And honestly, the return on investment you’ll get from a painted kitchen is huge.
Painted cabinets are extremely popular and so the “sellablility” of your home will increase along with your home’s overall style.
DIY Painted RV Cabinets
For a printable copy of the materials and instructions, scroll down.
- Pre-Paint Cleaner
- Liquid Sandpaper
- Painter’s Tape
- Plastic Drop Cloth
- Cabinet Paint
- Screwdriver or Drill
- Wagner FLEXiO 5000 Paint Sprayer
- Painter’s Tripods
- Painting Tent (optional)
How to Paint Oak Cabinets White Without Sanding
STEP 1: Remove all doors and drawers.
The first step is to use your screwdriver or drill (with a driver bit) to remove all the cabinet doors, drawers and hardware.
As you remove each face, use painter’s tape to number the space where it goes (on the inside of the cabinet) and the door itself.
This will make the re-installation much easier!
Store the doors and drawer fronts somewhere where you will have enough room to clean them and place all the hardware in a baggie.
STEP 2: Apply the liquid sandpaper.
Next, wipe down all of your cabinets, doors and drawer fronts with liquid sandpaper.
Be sure to follow the application instructions on the liquid sandpaper bottle.
We wore gloves and used one rag to apply the sandpaper and another to dry them off afterwards.
Let them dry for about 24 hours after this step.
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STEP 3: Wash with pre-paint cleaner.
After the liquid sandpaper has dried, deep clean all of the cabinets, doors and drawer fronts with a heavy-duty, pre-paint cleaner.
This step is critical – don’t skip it and don’t speed through it!
If you don’t get all the built-up grease, dirt and grime off the wood, your paint won’t adhere or cover well.
Be sure to follow the application instructions on your cleaner bottle.
STEP 4: Mask the space.
After your cabinet frames, doors and drawers have been thoroughly cleaned, it’s time to paint!
We always choose to paint the cabinets themselves first, so that the use of the kitchen can go back to normal as quickly as possible.
Since we recommend spraying the frames for a quicker, more even coat of paint, the first step is to prepare the space with tape and drop cloths.
For each of the cabinet openings, use painter’s tape to tape around the inside edges and then adhere plastic drop cloth to the tape creating a barrier for what’s inside the cabinet.
Place plastic over the sink and appliances.
For each edge of the cabinets (along the counter tops, walls, ceiling and floor) lay down plastic drop cloth and tape up to the edge of the wood.
In essence, you want plastic to be covering up anything other than the wood cabinetry so that it’s protected from the paint.
We also chose to hang a piece down the middle of the RV so that our friends’ furniture on the other side of the space wouldn’t get any over-spray on it.
Take your time with this step and use good quality painter’s tape – the last thing you want to deal with is your tape falling off in the middle of your painting!
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STEP 5: Prime and paint the cabinets.
Now comes the fun part!
Using your Wagner FLEXiO 5000 paint sprayer, apply a coat of high-quality, stain-blocking primer and two coats of cabinet paint, letting it dry thoroughly between coats.
We love how easy this sprayer is to use and how well it covers.
Not to mention it takes about 15 minutes to paint what would be 3 hours of painting with a brush and roller!
My favorite part is seeing the dark wood turn bright white as we spray… the transformation is almost instant.
Since this project is in such a tight space, be sure to wear a paint suit or clothes you don’t mind getting covered in paint.
And don’t forget to wear a mask as well!
After the paint has dried for 24 hours, carefully go around and remove all the tape and plastic.
Be very careful when pulling the tape away, as sometimes it can get a bit of paint build-up on it and it will pull the paint off the cabinet.
If you notice that starting to happen, use a razor blade to cut the edge between the cabinet and tape before pulling the tape off.
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STEP 6: Prime and paint the doors and drawer fronts.
If you plan to paint your doors outside, set up some tables with drop cloths on top and then use painter’s tripods to prop up and lay out all of your doors and drawer fronts face-down.
If you’re wanting to paint the doors inside a shop or garage, consider setting up a spray tent with a drop cloth on the ground and then placing the doors with their tripods on the floor.
This process is the same for both painting and priming, so use these basic steps to apply one coat of primer and two coats of paint, allowing them to dry for at least 3-4 hours in between.
Begin by priming the back face of your doors and drawers with your sprayer.
Again, we used the smaller attachment on our Wagner FLEXiO 5000 for this part of the project since the doors are smaller and more detailed.
I love that the FLEXiO 5000 has two different sized nozzles to use depending on the size of your project!
After the back is completely painted, carefully grab the sides of each door or drawer front and flip each of them over on top of their tripods.
Then, spray the fronts.
Be sure to go around your table and paint them with an even coat from every angle – that’s what gets them covered best.
The amazing thing about spraying the cabinet doors is that it’s pretty quick and there aren’t any brush marks or streaks to worry about.
You’re able to get a perfect finish for a lovely kitchen!
STEP 7: Rehang your doors and drawer fronts.
After you’ve let all your paint dry for 24 hours, you’re ready to reassemble!
Use your numbers to remind you which door/drawer front goes where and hang each door and drawer front using your drill or screwdriver.
If you’re planning to replace hardware, now would be the time to do so.
And that’s it! You should now have a lovely painted RV kitchen!
I still can’t believe how stunning my friends’ RV turned out…
As you’ve seen, updating RV kitchen cabinets with paint isn’t hard, but it is time consuming, so be prepared to put a bit of elbow grease into the project.
But it’s SO WORTH IT!!
I mean, look at this before/after…
Dreamy, right?! 😉
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I hope this tutorial has been helpful in showing you the how to paint RV cabinets!
Feel free to ask me any questions you may have in the comments.
As promised, here are the printable instructions:
How to Paint RV Cabinets
Transform your RV cabinets from outdated oak to modern paint with this easy-to-follow painting process!
- Pre-Paint Cleaner
- Liquid Sandpaper
- Painter’s Tape
- Plastic Drop Cloth
- Cabinet Paint
- Screwdriver or Drill
- Wagner Flexio 5000 Paint Sprayer
- Painter's Tripods
- Use a screwdriver or drill to remove all doors and drawer fronts (being sure to number them using painter's tape for re-installation.)
- Wipe down all the cabinets, doors and drawer fronts with liquid sandpaper.
- Clean all the cabinets, doors and drawer fronts with a pre-paint cleaner.
- Mask all the edges and interiors of the cabinet frames using painter's tape and plastic drop cloths.
- Use your Flexio 5000 paint sprayer to apply one coat of primer and two coats of paint to your cabinets frames.
- Carefully remove all the masking after the final coat of paint has dried for 24 hours.
- Lay out your doors and drawers on tripods and use your FLEXiO 5000 paint sprayer to spray the backs with primer.
- Gently turn them over on their tripods, spray the fronts with primer and let them dry for 3-4 hours.
- Turn them back over and repeat this process for two coats of paint.
- Rehang the doors and drawer fronts and you're done!
To avoid seeing the wood grain under the paint, paint with a wood grain filler before applying the cabinet paint.
17 thoughts on “How to Paint RV Cabinets the Easy Way”
Because it isn’t oil-based, and only oil-infused, it does not have the typical strong odor. Our friends were able to sleep in there the night after we painted, no problem. I do believe they left the windows open for ventilation, but you’d want to do that no matter what. Hope this helps!
Thanks for the excellent tutorial! I was wondering – with the oil infused primer, wasn’t there a strong odor afterwards? I am wondering if it’s possible to sleep in the rig right after painting…
We love to use Kilz Primer – it works great!
We left them as-is! You could spray them as well, but our friends didn’t want to take everything out to do that. If it was a renovation on an RV people weren’t using yet, I probably would have painted the inside as well. 🙂
What did you do about the inside of the cabinets?
What type of primer do you suggest?
I agree they’re more durable, but they are also much harder to work with as a DIY’er. I was giving the easiest route for someone trying it on their own. 🙂
Thank you!! Wish I could help everyone. 😉
Will you be my friend and paint my RV?! 😃
Oil-based paint is preferable for pop-up camper cabinets if you want a more durable finish. When completing trim work, oil-based paints are favored since they are more durable.
I blog frequently and I seriously want to thank you for the detailed information. This article has really piqued my interest. I’m going to take a note of your site and keep checking for new information about once per week.
Hi Chelsea! There was really only one kind of liquid sandpaper available at my local Home Depot, so I just went with it. Here’s the one. And I used this TSP cleaner because it’s one of the best!
Hey there! Do you have a preferred liquid sandpaper and pre-paint cleaner brand?
I don’t have one too close up, but I can tell you the paint finish was as smooth as you can expect from painting over oak cabinets without a grain filler. The grain was still visible underneath the paint from a texture standpoint, but my friends liked the look so we went with it! 🙂
Hey! Do you have a close up photo of the paint finish and how smooth it is? Thank you!
Great idea! We’ll have to put those tutorials together too!
Excellent tutorial! What a difference!! Will you have a post about the back splash and counter too? Or some close-up pictures of how they came out?? I’m very interested!