It’s become quite popular recently for people to renovate their RVs. One of the most common things people do is paint the walls and cabinets. This is a great way to instantly refresh any space and is fairly easy to do. Today I want to share with you a step-by-step guide on how to paint your RV cabinets!
The most recent project in our 5th wheel was painting our kitchen island so that is what I will likely be referring to most often in this post. However, the things I’m sharing with you apply to any cabinet painting projects in your RV. We will be painting the lower RV kitchen cabinets to match the island and will be painting the kitchen cabinets a light grey next.
Looking for inspiration on your RV renovations? Check out 21 Gorgeous RV Bedroom Makeovers, 21 Stunning RVs & How They’re Decorated, & 21 Beautiful RV Kitchen Renovations.
Ok, let’s get right into how to paint RV cabinets!
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Do proper prep work
Prepping is perhaps one of the most important parts of any RV painting project. If you don’t prep things correctly, you might end up with problems like paint peeling or even a bigger mess. There are a few things we like to do to prep for our projects before we ever crack open a can of paint. These steps are all important whether you have real wood or fake wood cabinets in your RV.
Remove any hardware, drawers, and doors
First things first, grab a drill and remove everything from the cabinet base. This includes any hardware like handles, drawer stops, etc., and also any cabinet doors or drawers. You’ll also need to remove any outlets or other accessories where you’ll be painting.
You can either keep the hardware original, paint it, or replace it. We chose to use spray paint and paint ours black.
All of the following steps will need to be done on any drawer fronts and cabinet doors as well. I like to take them outdoors and paint them there to help with fumes as well as spread out my workspace.
Repair and sand all surfaces thoroughly
If there are any chips or unwanted holes in the real wood of your cabinets, you can use a wood filler to repair them. Make sure to let them properly dry according to the directions on the filler you’re using.
Sanding is a super important step! Trust me, it’s not a fun one and makes a huge mess, but it’s definitely worth it!
We tested out skipping sanding on some of the cabinets during our bathroom renovation and found that the paint doesn’t stick as well. Sanding allows the paint to grab hold better and is less likely to peel off.
We (and by we, I mean Tucker haha) sanded the island really well and have had zero issues with paint peeling even though it’s been over a year since then.
I know, you wish I wasn’t telling you this haha! But trust me, don’t skip this one.
Clean up from the sanding
After you’re done sanding, make sure to clean everything up really well. Personally, I used a microfiber cloth with just water and it got everything up.
You don’t want any dirt or sawdust being left behind as it can get into your paint job and mess up the texture/finish.
Tape everything off
Next up, grab your painter’s tape! I like to use this 1/2 inch painter’s tape but you can use whatever you’d like. Very carefully place the tape around any surfaces that need to be protected. I usually put it on the floors, any walls I’m not painting, around light fixtures, and electrical outlets.
Some people choose not to tape anything but I am far too messy of a painter and need the extra protection! If you’re excellent at cutting and not making messes, go for it! I am not haha!
You can also lay down drip clothes or newspapers to protect the floor and any furniture that may be nearby.
Pro tip: Puppy pads actually make a great mobile drip cloth. When I painted our RV island I used a puppy pad to set my paint can on and scooted it around the island as I painted. It ended up catching several drips and was super easy to clean up and throw away when I was done!
Prime the cabinets before you paint
Ok, now your prep work is all complete and you’re ready to prime your cabinets.
The best primer for RV cabinets
One of the most common questions I am asked is what primer I like to use. I use Kilz oil-based primer for all of my RV painting projects. It works really well and it also dries quickly. I recommend using oil-based primer instead of water-based.
You can get it at most hardware stores and I believe even most Walmarts carry it in-store. I like to keep a gallon on hand when I’m working on projects although it does stretch pretty far. I also use the same primer for our camper walls.
Make sure that you are in a well-ventilated area when using it. If there are windows nearby, open them to let the fumes escape. This primer is very strong and usually makes my eyes water/burn so use protective glasses if needed.
I only apply one coat of primer. As I mentioned earlier, it dries very quickly. It’s usually dry to the touch in about 30 mins and I’m able to paint shortly after that. Use your own discretion according to what the can of primer says.
Painting your RV cabinets
Finally! You’ve prepped and primed and you’re ready to paint! I like to use a paintbrush for both primer and paint but you can also use a paint roller if you’re more comfortable with that. Some people even chose to use a paint sprayer.
I always do 2-3 coats of paint depending on the color usually. Darker colors tend to need a third coat. You can always go over it and touch up a few spots without applying an entire third coat of paint as well if needed. I recommend you paint over all surfaces at least 2 times.
The best paint for RV cabinets
What type of paint you use is really personal preference. I know a lot of RVers have used chalk paint on their camper cabinets but I don’t have any personal experience with that. There are a lot of possible paint types you can use and a lot to learn about paint types.
I like to use EasyCare Ultra Premium Satin Interior paint from the local hardware store. It is an acrylic latex paint that is easy to clean. Do your research and decide what paint is going to be best for you and your needs.
Don’t forget to also do these same steps for your cabinet doors and pull-out drawer fronts.
Yay! Now you know how to paint RV cabinets and all that’s left is a few finishing steps.
Cleaning up is the easy part. Pull any tape off and throw it away, clean up any accidental splatters of paint on unwanted surfaces, and reinstall the hardware and drawers/doors after everything is properly dried.
If you chose to follow up with a clear coat of sealer you can, but we don’t find that it is necessary with the type of paint that we use.
How to paint RV walls
The steps for how to paint RV cabinets and walls are very similar. The only main difference when painting RV walls is that you do not want to sand them.
You will still need to clean them very thoroughly, but skip the sanding and go straight to the primer. If you sand your RV walls, they will lose their texture and the paint will have a harder time adhering to the walls.
I hope that this post about how to paint camper cabinets has been helpful and that painting cabinets in your RV are not a daunting thought anymore. I really love how our cabinets have turned out so far and I’m excited to finish up our projects!
Follow us over on Instagram where we will be posting updates as we do more of our renovations.
14 thoughts on “How to Paint RV Cabinets”
We just replaced our bathroom cabinet and now I want to paint all the things 🤣 thanks for this! Will definitely be referring back to it ☺️
Haha! Have fun with your projects!
Great information! We used chalk paint for our cabinets which does not require primer, but it is harder to keep clean.
I haven’t personally used chalk paint but what I’ve seen others do with it is gorgeous!
This is a great walkthrough of the process! Thank You!!
You’re so welcome!
Great tips! Now if I could only bottle your energy…
Very helpful post, Janae! And I love that you included a video 🙂 I foresee cabinet painting in my future and appreciate the tips and tricks!
Yay! So glad you found it helpful!
This was really helpful! I needed all of this when we painted our RV!
Your renovations turned out beautifully Jen!
Janae this is SO WONDERFUL!! Seriously I have been so nervous to do anything with our rv and this makes me feel like I at least have a heads up on it all!! And I always have you to turn too!🙌🏼❤️ I can’t wait to share!
I can’t wait to see what you do! 😍