There is much to be said about the beauty of natural oak cabinets: They’re durable, attractive, and have a distinctive grain that adds interest. That is if you haven’t seen the same oak cabinetry every day for the last ten years. As kitchen design trends change, your cabinetry can look outdated.

At this stage, you may feel you should gut the kitchen and start again, but the team at Chameleon Cabinet Coatings is here to tell you that you have options. Why spend all that money on new cabinetry when you have an excellent oak base with which to work? Instead, take five minutes to read this article and learn how you can update your kitchen cabinet and hide the grain.

Let’s start by identifying the type of oak kitchen cabinets you’re dealing with.

What Type of Oak Wood Is It?

Oak typically falls into two categories: Light and Medium or Heavy Grain.


This type may have whorls and streaks but is smooth to the touch. White oak is most likely to fall into this category and is the easiest to paint over.

Medium or Heavy Grain

Golden and Red Oak typically fall into this category. They have rich colors that can make the room feel darker, and you can normally feel the grain when you run your fingers across the surface.

They are harder to work with but not impossible. Giving your oak cabinets a good sanding and using a grain filler before painting them will produce the desired results.

What You’ll Need to Paint the Wood

  • Top-quality paint with excellent coverage
  • Putty knife
  • An oil-based primer
  • Different grits of sandpaper
  • Grain filler or spackle
  • Wood filler
  • Brushes and mini-rollers
  • Rags
  • Cloths
  • Painter’s tape

How to Paint Your Oak Cabinets

Now you’re ready to paint your oak cabinets:

  • Start by removing the drawers and unscrewing the doors. Number them lightly so you know where they go when you put them back
  • Remove the handles from the cabinets and drawers. You’ll follow the steps outlined below for any oak wood handles too.
  • Sand with 80 grit paper. Sand in the same direction as the wood grain
  • Vacuum the surface and then wipe it down to remove all the dust
  • Use TSU as your final cleaning agent to remove any residue
  • Apply an even, thick coat of grain filler and allow it to dry for an hour
  • Sand it using 320 grit paper and then apply a second coat of grain filler
  • If necessary, sand and add a third coat
  • You may use a thin coat of spackle instead of grain filler if you’re short on time
  • Prime the oak cabinets with an oil-based primer and allow it to dry completely
  • Paint the wood using long, fluid strokes or dilute it with distilled water and spray it on
  • Start by painting the small spaces and awkward angles
  • Continue with the rest, being careful that the paint doesn’t drip
  • Allow the oak cabinets to dry completely and apply a second coat
  • Set the doors aside and let everything air dry at least overnight
  • If at all possible, leave the oak cabinets to dry for a few days to get the best results
  • Reassemble everything

Some Top Tips

Does this sound like a fair amount of work? It is, but it’s worth following these steps to get the results you desire. Using good quality paint gives you great coverage in fewer layers.

Taking the time to prepare the surface properly will take you the longest. However, if you don’t want that wood grain to taunt you after the paint dries, it’s best to take your time.

A high-quality oil-based primer makes it more difficult for the grain to show through in the final product. It also ensures that the paint adheres properly, looks smooth, and lasts for a long time.

Where possible, use a paint sprayer rather than brushes. The sprayer produces a smoother result without brush marks, drips, or uneven patches. Make sure to hold the sprayer at least 10 inches from the cabinets for an even application.

Would You Like Some Help Getting the Perfect Finish?

The process of painting oak can be tedious and requires much time and effort. If you have better things to do with your time or want guaranteed results, call the professionals at Chameleon Cabinet Coatings at 610-897-7931 or 610-343-1504.

You can rely on us to update your oak cabinets and hide every trace of grain.