Why is The Paint Peeling from My Cabinet Doors

If you’re reading this, it is because you have painted cabinets in your home and you have an issue with peeling paint.

When we are painting kitchen cabinet doors, we take extra steps to make sure you have a new, clean, solid painted surface that will last for years to come.  We are so sure we give you a lifetime warranty on all our cabinet painting.

There are issues where the paint on a painted surface will peel away.  We know this because we are getting calls from people who have this issue and we have had this issue with work we have done.  In each case the reason is simple- the paint is not adhering to the surface.

Is your paint peeling, chipping or bubbling?

These are 3 different reasons that cause paint to come off of a surface.

  • Improper preparation
  • Impact damage
  • Water damage

With these reasons there are some other reasons why paint will come off a painted surface like cabinet doors but for today we will keep it simple.  So lets hit the 3 reasons.

Improper preparation causing paint to peel

We see this issue in many different ways:

  • Cabinets not cleaned of dirt and grease
  • Cabinets not sanded to allow a surface for paint to stick
  • Finger prints!  If you try to paint and clean without gloves on, finger prints show up on the paint
  • Using the wrong primer. A good bonding primer is needed to stick to previously finished cabinets and give a surface for new paint to stick too
  • Wrong paint. Not all paints are created equal!  A high quality cabinet tested grade paint is what you need to use.

We take a lot of time to clean cabinets. We use degreasers, wax removers and de-glossers to get rid of any contaminates in and on cabinet doors.  Sometimes, heavy grease or cooking oil just will not go away. In those cases we are stuck using oil primers.  If you are working with bathroom cabinets or areas where hair spray is being used, you will have a major issue with silicone that takes shellac to cover.

If you don’t take the time to clean, sand, prime and inspect for contamination issues you will have paint issues.

Impact damage

This damage is usually seen with chipping paint

  • Areas around silverware drawers will chip because putting silverware away, at some point you will hit the paint with a utensil.
  • Finger nails – This usually happens around knobs or at the ends of a drawer or door because there is no hardware to use.
  • Trash access – Cabinets that have trash inside the cabinets ALWAYS get damaged. Cans, plates, you name it- cause paint to be damaged.
  • Toys – Usually small kids but we have seen some older kids do some damage to cabinets.
  • Cleaning tools – We usually see this with vacuum hoses. The metal hose dings the edges of the cabinets
  • Dogs – We have fixed many cabinets where dogs have chewed the edges of cabinet doors

We cant do much to prevent this, it happens and you should expect it in every type of kitchen cabinets. Stained cabinets have just as much damage, you just cant see it as easily as a painted cabinet.

Water Damage shows itself in bubbling

Water damage comes in various forms. We have done a few videos and blog posts on this already.

  • Water and wood do not mix!
  • Leaving wet towels or rags on wood cabinets
  • Using the wrong products to clean wood
  • Allowing water to stand and dry on wood cabinets
  • Humidity

You can read and watch some of the most common water issues we deal with in these links below:

The hidden enemy of cabinet water damage: Humidity. Humidity in a home not only will damage and cause problems with your cabinets, but with your floors and interior doors!

In the pictures in this post, this was due to water in the home, excessive humidity, which caused the doors to expand then caused the paint to “pop” or blister. We received the call to fix them!

cabinet refinishing geneva - cabinet refinishing st. charles
The paint blistered or bubbled on the door
cabinet refinishing st. charles - paint cabinets white
The paint chipped away from the door
cabinet refinishing st. charles - paint peeling
Bondo being inserted into cracks!
cabinet refinishing st. charles - cabinet doors
2nd coat of Bondo added to the doors
paint peeling from cabinet doors - cabinet paint refinishing
Doors are masked for primer and paint
paint peeling from cabinets - cabinet refinishing st. charles
Tape removed and finished!

So, that is our process. There may be better – I just don’t know what they are. We work with a few cabinet makers and have their process as part of ours. We use the same materials they use when making them, so it is a solid system.

Is prevention possible? Yes to some point

But when you are asking “why is the paint peeling from my cabinets?” it is not a simple answer. Kind of like: I was stung by a bee. Was it a bee or was it a wasp, honey bee, bumble bee, yellow jacket or sweat bee?

So top ways to reduce damage to your cabinets and prevent paint failure:

  • Maintain level humidity in your home (humidifier and dehumidifier).
  • Avoid standing water left on your cabinet doors
  • DO NOT leave wet towels, rags, aprons etc. hanging on your wooden painted doors
  • Use a vinegar and water 50/50 mix to clean the doors. It evaporates fast, no residue.
  • Hire a reputable cabinet painter with the right systems to get the job done right

Have questions? Let us know. We look forward to helping you love the space you’re in!

You can also check out our podcast where we talk about home improvement issues as well, The Paint and Paper Podcast. (iTunes) (Windows player)

Repairing Water Damage to MDF Cabinets

One of our biggest repair calls is for cabinets that have been made in part of MDF boards.

MDF Boards

MDF, also known as Medium-density Fibreboard, is an engineered wood that combines wax and a resin binder. Applying high temperature and pressure creates the MDF board. It’s often denser than plywood. MDF looks great once finished, but water is not its friend. The other form of water that does damage to MDF is steam.

MDF Cabinets and Water-based Damage

For some reason, manufacturers of dishwashers have the steam vents now on the sides in the dishwasher, which means steam is now being forced into your wood cabinets. When we work on projects, we use steam to strip paint and wallpaper. So it is no surprise that these appliances are damaging cabinets that are right next to them.

cabinet refinishing geneva - water damage to MDF cabinets

As seen from the picture above, water has removed the paint and primer of the wood cabinet. Not a good look.

To repair the water and steam damage, first, we have to cut away the puffed up damaged wood fibers. We then sand it smooth. Next, we use a solvent based primer, I like BIN shellac primer for this because it penetrates, it seals, and it dries fast. The area is sanded then primed one more time. Once dry I will use the primer for the cabinets to ensure a good bond to the surface. Then we spray it with the paint and topcoat. ML Campbell Agualente is my product of choice when possible. Love it!

Once dry we can polish if needed. Sometimes for touch-ups, a polish is needed to blend the sheen from old to new. But when finished…

repairing cabinets - water damage to MDF cabinets

It’s good as new.

Let us know if you thought this article is helpful to you. We would love to hear from you!

We can also perform a free estimate for you on wallpaper installation, kitchen cabinet refinishing, and any painting or wall art services.


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