Chalk Paint vs. Latex Paint for Kitchen Cabinets – DIY Farmhouse Kitchen Series #1

Painting your kitchen cabinets is no joke. I am quickly discovering that fact with our first renovation project in the “big white box” we just bought a few months ago.  And when you have a massive kitchen with 10 thousand million billion cabinets and drawers like we do, it’s an insane project.

The pros and cons of chalk paint and latex paint when painting kitchen cabinets.  Very helpful information!

This photo is from the real estate listing. See? There’s at least 10 billion

You want your kitchen cabinets to look GOOD.  You can’t just slop the paint on and hope for the best.  That’s why its really important to choose the right paint for the project at the outset.  If you plan on tackling the major undertaking of updating your kitchen cabinets yourself, your choice of paint can make or break your project.

Today I am going to review some of the pros and cons of two of the more commonly used types of paint for cabinets, and share one girl’s opinion on the best paint for the job.  I am not a professional painter, but I have done more than my fair share of painting in this DIY life, of everything from walls to furniture, to decor, and now cabinets, and have used both chalk paint and latex paint extensively.

The pros and cons of chalk paint and latex paint when painting kitchen cabinets.  Very helpful information!

Latex Paint

Latex paint has traditionally been the go-to paint for interior projects.  It is most often used on walls, but can be used on any other paintable surface as well.

Pros

– Latex paint comes in a variety of finishes, so you can easily achieve the sheen level you want, simply by selecting that finish.  Some people love a glossy finish (semi-gloss or high-gloss), and some prefer and satin or matte finish.

– Latex also comes in an amazing variety of colors, so if you have colorful taste and want a bold statement on your kitchen cabinets, you may want to consider latex, as you can get it in almost any color, or even have a color mixed to match a specific color you’ve found in a fabric or other item.

– A semi-gloss finish on cabinets will be easy to wipe clean and will not stain or hold onto grime as chalk painted cabinets may do

Cons

– Latex paint has a significantly longer dry time between coats.  One of the most common complaints about latex that I hear from people (and from personal experience) is that it dries sticky.  Like, set-an-object-on-it-for-a-day-and-it-will-pull-up-the-paint sticky.  This is because the individual coats were not allowed to fully dry before applying another coat or a top coat.  In my experience, you really need a full 24 hours between each coat, and maybe more if the weather is really warm.  For a project like kitchen cabinets that need 3-4 coats of paint, that’s just not an option for me.

– Latex also needs a perfectly smooth and cleaned surface to get good adhesion.  This means lots and lots of sanding, cleaning and priming, before you even apply a drop of paint.

– Latex paint does not take that well to sanding, especially if it’s not 1000% dry.  Even then, it just doesn’t look that great once its been sanded.  It seems to hold on to the marks of the sand paper or something.  If you use a product like Floetrol Latex Paint Additive mixed in your paint, you shouldn’t need to do a lot of sanding, but you may still need to do a little.

Chalk Paint

Ok, so I am in love with chalk paint.  For all the reasons below, I chose to try it out on my kitchen cabinets.  I have used it a lot for furniture, but this has been my first experience with using it on kitchen cabinets, and it has been a great learning experience.  I will write a full post on what I did to get a perfect finish on my cabinets, but for now I’ll just share a photo of how they are turning out (not done with all of them yet!).

The pros and cons of chalk paint and latex paint when painting kitchen cabinets.  Very helpful information!

The white really brings out the red in the floors – can’t wait to get rid of those!

Pros

– In general, chalk paint requires almost no preparation, and really just needs a clean surface to adhere to.  For my purposes, these cabinets hadn’t been really cleaned in about 15 years, so we went ahead and sanded off the top layer.  Also chalk paint doesn’t require primer in most instances.  The exception is when painting over mahogany or cherry stains – lucky me.  So yeah, we primed too.

– Chalk paint has super fast drying time, usually about an hour.  I could paint a section of doors, and by the time I was done, the first ones were ready to be painted again.

– Chalk paint sands like a dream.  You can get the smoothest, silkiest finish by sanding appropriately.

– I love the sheen you get with a wax topcoat, and wax over chalk paint has the perfect matte sheen.

Cons

– Chalk paint tends to chip easily, which is why people love it for a distressed look.  That’s not what we are going for, so we will see how they hold up over time.

– I’ve also read that the wax finish doesn’t protect well against oil, which could spell disaster in the kitchen.  However, I personally use very little oil in my cooking, so it’s not something I’m overly concerned about.  The wax finish is impermeable water and other liquids, and wipes clean just as well as latex if properly coated with wax.

– Another minor con is that when you sand chalk paint, the super fine dust that results gets everywhere.  It’s very messy, but isn’t that difficult to clean up.

I hope you found this post helpful today.  For more painting tips and ideas, check out my Pinterest board called “Painting”

Follow 's board Painting on Pinterest.

There are other types of paint that could be used on kitchen cabinets including oil-based enamel and milk paint, but I have very little experience with either of those.  If you are planning a painting project soon, I would definitely recommend chalk paint.  Try it out on something small and see what you think.

Have painted your kitchen cabinets?  If so, what kind of paint did you use?

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Comments

    • says

      Hi Becky, I used Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Pure White. I’ve made my own chalk paint for smaller projects and it always turned out fine. But because the cabinets are such an important aspect of the house and a huge investment of time, I wanted to be sure I would have a consistent finish throughout the project. Plus, that paint yields an incredibly silky finish that you don’t get with homemade. I haven’t tried other brands of chalk paint. Hope this helps!

  1. says

    I can’t wait to see the whole kitchen! Did you keep the white appliances?
    Your kitchen is like mine but I’m afraid to paint the cabinets. I’ve got white appliances and they stick out like crazy with oak all over the place. I think the white cabinets and appliances blend together and look better. I have got to see what you did!! :)
    Robin @ Redo It Yourself Inspirations recently posted…Summer Home Tours Series 2015 GuestMy Profile

    • says

      Hi Robin! I can’t wait to finish the whole kitchen LOL! For now we have the white appliances, but our fridge is stainless, and honestly, I’m not a fan of the way the white appliances look next to the white paint. They aren’t the same shade of white and feel like they clash – plus they are 15 years old and I’m sure the buyers will want stainless when we sell in a few years.
      You definitely should paint your cabinets – just go for it! Is it a lot of work? YES – but so worth it in the end. You’ll fall in love with your kitchen all over again.

  2. says

    I painted my cabinets with CeCe Cauldwell’s Simply White chalk paint and they turned out beautiful! I love them! But they took a long time to do :( By the time I got to the last one I was ready to scream. But I am so very happy I did it and they are holding up great!! You have more cabinets than I do, so you have a lot of work ahead of you. But from what I have seen, you are doing great!

    • says

      Hey Gail! Yes they are taking FOREVER! But I have lots of help and they are so worth it. I can see the finish line now and I can’t wait to reveal the finished product! Thanks for your comment!

    • Karen says

      Hi~I’m getting ready to paint my cabinets and I am wondering how yours are holding up. Are they easy to clean? Are they holding on to any cooking grease? Are they chipping at all? Anything you could suggest would be great. Anything you would do different? Thanks :)

  3. says

    Thanks for the paint comparison Shelly! I haven’t really done any projects involving a lot of paint but am planning on it in the near future so I really appreciate the run down of the pros and cons of different paints. And you are right, you have a billion cupboards! :) Your kitchen sure will be awesome when it is done though with all that space! Thanks for linking up at Talented Tuesday!
    Hope your day is going well!
    Aspen Jay
    Aspen Jay recently posted…Bird Baby MobileMy Profile

  4. Suzanne says

    Your cabinets look beautiful! I am considering painting my kitchen cabinets as well. I have never used chalk paint and it seems crazy expensive to me! Does one quart last longer than a quart of typical paint does? Do you use two coats? Thanks for any advice!

    • says

      HI Kate! Thanks for the info! Yes I had heard the lacquer works well but for some reason didn’t try it out. I still have the cabinetry in three bathrooms to paint, so maybe I’ll try it out!

    • says

      Laquer is the best route. I did my cabinets with it and when a nick occurred it was fairly easy to fix. Seemed to hold up much better than the wax. Plus I watered it down and did an extra coat as well.

    • says

      Hey Gilly, it is a daunting task.. It’s like the never-ending project, but once its finally finished its such a great feeling. Thanks so much for your comments!

  5. Belle says

    Painting kitchen cabinets IS a huge job! I did my kitchen last year, and it was half the size of yours, but what a job! I also used Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, and loved the finish and the way it went on. However, I discovered that ANY oil or grease, even a greasy fingerprint will soak right into that chalky finish permanently and make a spot just like grease on fabric. I decided to put a water based clear-coat finish on mine and I loved the way they came out. No worries about re-waxing or about anything marring the finish. Good luck with your remodel. The cabinets look amazing!

  6. Loren Slingsby says

    Hi Shelly – thanks for the post, I have cabinets very similar to yours, what primer did you use? Also did you use a roller or a brush or a combination?
    Tbh it’s the trim and side panels that worry me more that the doors and making sure they look professional after! Any advice?
    Thanks Loren.

    • Loren Slingsby says

      Ps. Also, my cabinets are vinyl wrapped (not real wood) but I still think the chalk paint will work, do you? They are in perfect condition but after 9 years I just SO over them! Lol!

  7. Rachelle says

    hi! I’ve never painted any sort of cabinets before. What do you mean about sanding chalk paint? After you finish all the coats do you have to sand it down a little? I’m sorry if his is a totally stupid question haha. Your cabinets looks awesome so I’m thinking of taking your recommendation and tackling our cabinets with chalk paint!

  8. Kathyanne says

    I am in Phase II of painting my kitchen cabinets with ASCP-Old White. Phase I was all of the lower cabinets and the island (took me about 3 weeks); Phase II — and the final phase — is all of the upper open shelving. We live in a log home (logs inside and out!) and the Old White really brightens up the area and defines the “kitchen” among the open concept of a kitchen/eating area/living room setup. I didn’t know about the Annie Sloan lacquer 6 months ago when I began my project but may consider using that or a water-based clear coat finish on everything so I don’t have to keep rewaxing to protect the paint. Good luck with your project!

    • Kara says

      I am very interested to see what your know then looks like. I too live in a log cabin and am in the process of remodeling my kitchen. I am looking for the right type of paint, but I do not want something that will chip or need constant waxing. How did you’re clear coat work? Pictures please :)

  9. Rachael says

    I have used homemade chalk paint on other projects, painted, distressed, antiqued with dark wax and then finished with natural wax. Finally, I used a polyacrylic coat for durability on high traffic pieces. Have you done this before? Painted my bathroom cabinets first and waxed them but nothing else and waiting to see how they fair for awhile before moving on to practice in the laundry room and then finally in the kitchen. I will do the kitchen but want as much exposure to ideas before I move onto the big project.

  10. Elaine says

    Amy Howard one step chalk based paint is tintable and you don’t have to wax. Although, if you choose to, there are several waxes to pick from. Available in most ACE Hardware stores.

  11. Carolyn Shanley says

    How did you get such a smooth finish on the cabinets? Did you use the AS brushes? I just painted a cabinet (pretest for kitchen cabinets) and I am not happy with the results. Couldn’t get it smooth. Also, how much wax do you use? Went over cabinet with wax and it dried streaky, maybe I used too much??

  12. Anna says

    I have recently done a similar project, painting over a fairly huge (brown) kitchen in white. I took a completely different approach based on advice from a really good local decorating firm. First, I cleaned down the cupboards with spray sugar soap. When dry, I cleaned also with meths (not that nice). I didn’t really do much sanding except where there had been wear to the cabinets. Then it was a coat or two of this fabulous stuff called Zinsser B-I-N Shellac-Based Primer in white. This is meths based and dries REALLY quickly. For this reason, it’s best put on with a roller so as not to look ‘draggy’. This primer will allow you to use a water based top coat over just about any surface, even oil based. It also stops stains and damp coming through and it helps ‘grab’ the top coat. There is a water based version too if you can’t stand the meths. On top of this, I applied with a roller Dulux Trade Diamond Satinwood in white for a fairly matt finish (water based forumula). There is a quick dry formula for this. I did find it necessary to follow over immediately with a brush to iron out any bobbles. The result of all this is a white kitchen that I’ve had for a year now and has worn really well – it is wipeable and I think the occasional ‘touch up’ to high traffic spots will do to keep it all looking perfect. What’s nice is that it is water based paint which is much nicer for clean-up. Unlike the oil based version, it should stay brilliant white rather than yellowing. I’m following this method round the house to paint over skirting boards and doors that have previously been done in oil based white (and gone yellow with time).

    • Anna says

      Hi, yes, I did the work over a year ago and all fine. The only issue was right at the start: I had the kettle under one of the cupboards and the paint there didn’t like the direct steam (the paint bubbled up on a small area). I moved the kettle and as all the prep had been done on the cupboard, it was very quick to touch up. I don’t know if chalk paint is any better in this respect.

  13. Tina says

    Thanks for the comparison! I was wondering if you painted the insides of the cupboard as well. I worry about the resale value of the house if I don’t do that. I have Honey Oak cabinets.

    • Anna says

      Hi, I didn’t paint the insides too, however, I think it would look better to do so if selling the house. Maybe best to clean and prep the inside and out first then do the insides as a second stage to make it less awkward?

      • says

        Yes I didn’t paint the insides. They actually are just the raw wood and if I was staying in this house forever I would paint them, but I don’t think it’s worth all that work in our case

  14. says

    Hi Anna,

    Thanks for sharing your experience painting your kichen with chalk paint.
    We just want to solve some of the cons you’ve said on your list.
    We’re not familiar with Annie Sloan products, but we can suggest solutions with our own.

    When people want to paint their kitchen we reccomend to them using Autentico Paint Outdoor because this paint doesn’t suffer when is in touch with water and also because it doesn’t need wax nor varnish.
    In case someone would’nt want to use the Outdoor paint we truly suggest using varnish finish. The reason is that varnish offers more resistance to water, and we especially recommend using varnish if the surface has direct contact with food, as in case of worktops.

    To reduce the possibility to chip the paint we suggest painting 3 thin coats instead of 2 thick, and finally, protecting the paint with 2 coats of wax or varnish.

    Regarding what you’ve said about the oil protection, we definitely recommend using varnish finish or the Outdoor paint. With both you’ll solve this problem.

    And that’s it. We hope we’ve offerd good information to you and your readers to solve some of the problems you’ve mentioned you had when using chalk paint.
    If you have any other question or want any further information, please, feel free to contact us http://www.facebook.com/autenticospain

    Thanks again for sharing your experience and your work.
    Regards,

  15. Linda Ertel-Snyder says

    I was thinking of starting small when it comes to chalk painting. How would it hold up in a bathroom ?

  16. Pam says

    Thank you for this valuable info. Annie Sloan is extremely expensive in South Africa so I’m looking for a S.A. product. But will definitely look for a different sealer.

  17. says

    how has the finish held up?? curios as a master refinisher specializing in cabinet refinishing i would never personally recommend anyone put a coating other then a lacquer base or water base that is KCMA grade on cabinets.

  18. Valerie says

    I am looking at doing my kitchen cabinets and just love the look and feel of the chalk paint examples I’ve been looking at. I am concerned about the way they hold up over time and would love to hear how the project is holding up for you.

    Reading the comments so far my feeling is that a lacquer finish might be a good idea. Would love to hear some more input and experience about that.

  19. ROSE says

    Hi, I’m wanting to paint my kitchen cabinets they are white laminate. Any recommendations on what to use, chalk paint or something else? They’re white now but I want to re-do them in a gray color. Thanks for any advise.

  20. Tanya says

    I am in the process of painting my dark oak stained kitchen cabinets white, with Annie Sloan chalk paint. I would not recommend using chalk paint on dark cabinets.
    First of all, you must seal the wood, even if you don’t sand it. Otherwise the tannin from the wood will bleed up through the chalk paint and ruin your hard work. Chalk paint application is most often used for creating a distressed look. As a result it is super easy to sand…right off! Must be super tender with any sanding.
    If I had it to do over, just give me primer and plain ole latex. I was sold on chalk paint because of the no sanding, two coat promise. Just depends on what you’re painting. It did not deliver for me.

  21. Brian S says

    I just painted some brand new cabinets I built, so I was able to start with raw wood. Primed with a couple coats of Zinsser 123 then on a recommendation from the paint guy at the hardware store, I used a water based porch and floor paint in satin. It looks pretty good and if it can stand up to being on a floor it should work for cabinets.

    • Sandy Morrison says

      IS this still holding up using the porch and floor paint? Also, would it work on dark mahoghany stained doors? Cabinets are white but for some reason the doors are not. Also, could I paint the vinyl floors with that porch and floor paint?

  22. Rosie says

    How are the cabinets holding up? Do they still look as nice as before? I’ll be embarking on a journey of re-doing a kitchen soon, and am looking for the best option!!

  23. Toni says

    Did you post a tutorial on how to paint your cabinets with chalk paint? I am having trouble finding step by step instructions. i.e. how many coats, what you used to prime your cabinets…

    • says

      Toni,
      There are Annie Sloan ” how to” YouTube tutorials . Then, there are many other painted projects and refinishing tutorials on you tube or Vimeo that explain , step by step, how to use different types of paint. Simply google ” step by step Annie Sloan painting tutorial”. Bear in mind, this is one brand of paint and Annie Sloan is from the U.K. / Benjamin Moore etc is one brand of easy to use paint that has many types of paint, and Annie Sloan is a chalk based paint that needs to be sealed with either wax or varnish to make it last. Good luck !

  24. Patty says

    Thank you for your article. I was all set to use Annie Sloan paint to refinish my cabinets, and now I’m concerned about fingerprint oil, and other oils.

    Varnish is something to consider, but in my experience Varnish will yellow white paint.

    Will the Annie Sloan brand of Varnish Yellow the white painted cabinets? Thank you!

  25. Renee says

    I also have 10 *billion* cabinets! :) Since chalk paint is so pricey and available in small size cans, curious how much paint you used in total.

    Thanks!
    Renee

  26. Diane Guerrero says

    Hello. I can’t stand the thought of stripping my cupboards again so I’m going to use the chalky paint. But as I’m a freak about cooking grease and keeping a clean kitchen i eas thinking of using a polycrylic in stead of wax? More time, but more protection right? I just don’t want that shiny look to detract from the chalky paint, ideas?

  27. Alyssa says

    Okay I cannot just read this and not relpy looks like people are still posting responses only a month ago so here goes. I painted my entire kitchen with Anne Sloan chalk paint spent tons of time sanding and lots and lots of coats. I used the polyacrylic to seal them in satin. They do chip badly it’s been a year and they’re very chipped. Also everywhere or anywhere anything containing oil touches them oil marks are left behind on the paint even with the coats of poly. I’m not redoing all of them with Benjamin Moore advance paint. Wish me luck.

  28. Jackie says

    In 1994 I used oil-based enamel in my kitchen cabinets; yes it was time consuming and took 2 weeks to complete but I was laid off at the time and decided to take the project on. My family moved out in 1999 and cabinets endured my teenagers for 5 years. Fast forward 22 years and several moves to several states and we end up back in my home state and I discover our old home up for sale! I took a virtual tour of the house online and behold, same paint in the cabinets!!! For endurance choose oil based enamel over latex or chalk, those have their place for sure, not in the kitchen though. My opinion only of course.

  29. Laura says

    Great info! My last house I painted my kitchen and cabinets with Latex. Big mistake. The paint cracked and chipped. I’m pretty sure the oil based paint is the way to go. BUT, I’m taking the risk and going to do my 90’s honey oak kitchen with chalk paint. The low prep really has me excited. Just sand and go. I’m in the process of testing out my colors. I’m going for the bi-look with white on top and teal on the bottom. I purchased Valspar’s chalky paint in Beaded Reticule along with Miniwax water based poly. You can get a small can at Lowe’s. I’m practicing on a few old wooden chairs. I read that the poly can crack the paint. I will say one coat on a chair took very little paint.

  30. Tonya says

    Hi I was planning on doing my cabinets again and I use a lot of chalk paint doing furniture but for some reason I can’t pull the trigger on the cabinets. How long has it been for yours and how are they holding up

  31. niki says

    Hi, I was wondering if I make my own chalk paint using mix of latex and calcium carbonate, will it have same cons ad latex-only paint?

    • Pat says

      Hi Niki, I made my own chalk paint using calcium carbonate and latex paint. I painted my wooden hallway handrail two years ago, along with some furniture items, and they have held up well. I put two coats of the chalk paint on, followed by two coats of semi gloss latex paint, and a clear varnish. I was happy not to have to remove the finish or sand…just a good clean with TSP. What did you end up doing? I just recently did the same process with bathroom cabinets and am now considering doing my kitchen cabinets.

  32. Lynette says

    A great option for a protective finish is to omit the wax and use a polycrylic topcoat. You can get a low sheen satin finish and it will make your life easier because you can wipe your cabinets now!

  33. Sharon says

    Hi, I am considering painting my cabinets with chalk paint and using a bit of dark wax to distress them. Can I then use a sealer instead of the traditional wax as a sealer? I think it may not adhere once I use the dark wax, right?

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