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ACE Cabinet and Trim Paint: Honey Oak's Perfect Companion

3.23.2009
As you can see our house has a honey oak problem. Thus began my love affair with this paint:

I first read about this paint on the Paint board on Gardenweb. So many people were asking how to paint their kitchen cabinets and the painting pros on the board suggested this paint along with some others. The reason I tried it out- it's cheap ($26 bucks a gallon baby), you can have it tinted to any color, you can buy it at Ace Hardware and even when you use a brush to apply it, it is self-leveling so the brush marks disappear. After using it I have also found that 1 gallon also goes a long way (for example it only took 1.5 gallons to complete two coats on all my kitchen cabinets). After thinking it was too good to be true, I wandered over to my local Ace to buy a quart an and try it out. Then a small problem occurred-not all Ace's in this city carry it. Luckily I found one and even though it is a half hour away from our house, it is worth every mile. I read advice about how to apply it, practiced using it and then set off to paint away the oak. I used it a lot in our house-all the trim, cabinets, doors, crown molding, and window panels. Each time I impressed with the finish--it just looks so smooth. But in order to make it look nice, you have to know how to apply it. This skillset Derek has not learned (and thus his excuse not to have to paint trim) but I hope that after this tutorial he too will be able to master it. Disclaimer: I am not a pro painter, just a DIYer but this is what I learned about spending many hours with this paint!

1. Prepare whatever you are going to paint. With all the wood trim in our house I sanded and then primed before I used this paint.

2. Use a high quality brush. And if your high quality brush gets all junked up, go ahead and buy a new one.

3. Plan how you are going to paint. This paint can only be brushed for about 30 seconds before it starts to set up. Then if you brush it after that it is almost sticky and will not level the same way. So if you painting a door, window or anything with multiple parts, plan how you will start and stop because you need to keep a wet edge and move very quickly. It works well on square things to start and stop at a natural seam and even better at a seam away from your line of sight.

4. Dip your brush in and get a medium amount of paint. I have found this paint to be a little thinner than typical paint and it tends to drip, especially on the first couple of brush strokes.

5. Brush the paint on in long even strokes. Practice on the thickness in which to apply it. You need to put it on a little thickly to get a really level finish....but not too thickly otherwise you will get tons of drips.


6. Reload your brush, start away from your wet edge and then paint into it again using long strokes. Like this:


7. Repeat. As you move along, keep an eye out for drips and lightly wipe them away with your brush. If you notice drips more than a couple of minutes after you painted that area, you have two choices. Leave the drip, sand and repaint later or wipe at the drip, sand and then repaint. Once the paint had set and starts to level it is difficult to fix so be really careful with drips and catch them early.

8. If you are painting something like a 6-panel door, I have found it to be more successful to paint each panel separately being careful not to get paint one the outer part. When I do get paint on the those I wipe it with a damp paper towel to stop it from setting up. After each panel is painted, I then paint the long parts of the door keeping multiple wet edges at a time and moving very quickly between them.

9. I have found I need one coat of primer and two coats of paint on anything wood. Things that were already painted white, I have just used one coat.

10. This paint takes a long time to dry. According to the can, you need to wait 24 hours between coats. This is especially true if you are using a deeper color as they take longer to set and then dry. But on the plus side I have observed that I have longer to brush before those colors start to set.

11. This paints looks terrible as it is drying. It looks splotchy and uneven. Even though I have already gone through multiple gallons I still need to remind myself not to look at it as it dries. If I look at it, I am convinced that I forgot how to paint properly and I am tempted to rebrush it. Just don't look at it for at least a couple of hours. And if you do, sit on your hands and don't touch it....you will just make it worse.

My number one tip is to practice, practice and then decide your plan of attack on each thing you are going to paint. I hope you enjoy this paint as much as I have!

Some things I have used it on:


Bye Bye Oak!

(Check out my other posts about this paint here and here)
59 comments on "ACE Cabinet and Trim Paint: Honey Oak's Perfect Companion"
  1. Thanks for the detail. Did you use semi-gloss for all your upgrades? I want to change my honey oak colored bathroom cabinet and chair railing to a dark chocolate brown. Do you have a color suggestion?

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  2. Maggie-
    I used semi gloss on all the trim because honestly that is the only sheen it came in:). But on the banister I added semi-gloss polyurethane and it made it a lot shinier. So the next time I use poly over it, I am going to use a satin finish to more closely match the paint. The dark brown color I used was Sherwin Williams Black Bean colormatched into the ACE paint. I love how deep it is without having a lot of red undertones. Good luck!

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  3. Jenny, this is perfect advice for me as I have just finished taping all parts of the spindles and stairs in prep for painting. Already have the paint I'm using but will try yours next time around. Thanks so much. Kim

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  4. This is really helpful. We're painting our cabinets black also. What color did you paint the trim in your kitchen? Do you have any pics of the trim?

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  5. Glad you like it....we love the black. We painted the kitchen trim white. I was so close to painting the window trim black, but since the rest of the house was painted white, we were worried how it would look. If you send me an email (anythingprettyblog at gmail dot com) I can send you some more pics.

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  6. I used this paint on cabinet doors and it is not drying. Can you give me any suggestions on what to do? Can I spray it with a water based urenthane? Will this get dry?

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  7. I have honey oak cabinets and I am at a loss at what to do with them as far as color. I don't want to paint and then have to pull all the cabinets out if i screw up the color... All of our trim is really dark. Any suggestions?

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  8. Wow, thank you so much for the well-written tips! We painted tonight, using your advice, and it came out spectacular! Thank you!

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  9. Lilian- Why don't you get a unfished cabinet door from Home Depot or Lowe's to practice on to get the technique and color right? They are sell panels of unfinished oak for cabinet ends that I used a lot. Or try it on a ugly bathroom vanity in case you hate it because that is a lot cheaper to replace.

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  10. Andy Joe-

    I am so happy to hear that!

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  11. I know it's been said, but THANK YOU for posting this. I hate honey oak too and it's everywhere in my 1990 suburban house. My current project is the kitchen. I was hoping to begin working on it while DH is working out of town this week. Unlike your DH, mine says he "doesn't care" what I do to the house, but will proceed to second guess every choice I make and hold up projects. I find it much easier to just finish things while he's away. So with that in mind, I swung into ACE near the airport where I dropped off DH to pick up more BM paint cards. I was planning to use Benjamin Moore's Waterbourne Satin Impervo for my kitchen project, which I've never been truly happy with. While I was browsing ACE, I found Cabinet Coat paint. I was so thrilled just to find it. I've read about it for years and could never find it locally. The bummer is the store only carries it in white and almond quarts. I bought one of each color and decided to google it to see if I could tweek the color. That's when I came upon your blog. I had no idea that ACE made a comparable product that's tintable and cheaper too! I hear an angel choir singing in the background. I'll definitely return the Cabinet Coat and buy ACE’s version. Now I just have to decide which color to tint it. My kitchen is north facing and too dark for black cabs (love the look though). Besides, DH will probably have a coronary. I love the look of your white trim. What color did you use?

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  12. klcampo-
    I am so happy you found the post! I was going to use cabinet coat as well but was so happy to find something cheaper and tintable. I used "high hiding white" for all the white trim which you can buy right off the shelf without worrying about tinting it. It looks like bright white to me but I think it just have a tiny tiny bit of ivory in it. I think they also carry "ultra white" or something like that on the shelves too. Our kitchen reno started in a similar way- Derek was out of town and I "surprised" him with having all the wallpaper torn off when he got home. Also our neighbors freaked out when I told them we were painting our cabinets black:). Good Luck and let me know if you have any more questions! Send pics if you get a chance!

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  13. Thanks for sharing this! Can you tell me what primer you used with the paint you chose?

    Thanks again!

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  14. Colleen-
    I used Zinsser's 123 primer. When I painted things brown or black, I had the primer tinted at the paint counter "as dark as you can" and it came out a medium gray which helped with coverage. I love this primer and use it for everything. Hope that helps!

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  15. Thanks for the detailed instructions, I definitely want to try this on my cabinets! Since this is a self leveling paint, have you ever tried this on vertical surfaces? And if so, are there any additional tips? Thanks!
    Sandra

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  16. Sandra-
    I have used on lots of vertical trim, doors and wainscoting (pics in the post). The application is pretty much the same....except I put it on a little bit lighter to avoid drips. Good luck!

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  17. Hi Jenny,

    Thank you for the detailed post. I came across your site while searching for trim paint. I bought a quart of cabinet coat to paint all the orange oak window and baseboard trims. I have painted the first coat. I do see brush marks. Can you share how I can minimize brush marks? Thanks. Alicia

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  18. Alicia-

    I have a couple of ideas- first did you prime? That first coat is really necessary to get a even coat. Also are the brushmarks variations in color or texture? After a first coat I can still see some lighter spots which is taken care of with a second coat. If it is neither of these things, I might try putting the paint on a little thicker or making sure you are not touching it with a paintbrush after about 20 seconds of application because it gets tacky like I described above. Hope this helps and let me know if it does not!

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  19. Wow, this is exactly what I needed to see! I thought I was doomed to have ugly ktchen cabinets. My only concern is with offgassing. Do you remember if the paint had a particularly strong smell. I have a 5 month old baby so I'm a bit concerned. Also, my cabinets are already painted (poorly) black. I want to repaint them black because the previous tenants did a poor job (brushmarks and dripmarks visible). Do you think primer and two coats of paint is the best approach?

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  20. Kiwi's Mom-

    Glad you found the post! It is not a low VOC paint, but it is a latex paint and I find the smell in terms of level to be comparable to any other latex paint. It does have a distinct smell however that is slightly different than "normal" latex paints...not stronger, just different. I have not used any low VOC paint on any trim so I am not sure how they would perform.

    If your cabinets are already painted I would make sure to scrub them with a TSP substitute to get all the grease and grime off first. Then if there are large drips lightly sand them so that it is level. Then prime and paint. Good Luck!

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  21. This post is going to be so helpful to me. Thanks so much for linking it up!!

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  22. Jenny - Thank you so much for your detailed post!
    I discovered an Ace Hardware (20 minutes away) that sells this paint! So excited and have already sanded, getting ready to prime and will be painting my bathroom cabinets with a BM Ticonderoga Taupe and then a RL Smoke Glaze. I'm trying this out in a smaller space first. My goal is to do the kitchen cabinets the same way. Do I need to put any kind of sealer on the final coat to make it more durable?

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  23. Anon-

    So glad you found it. we ended up adding two coats of polyurethane like I talked about here- http://anythingpretty-jenny.blogspot.com/2009/07/underwhelming-reveal.html
    for more protection. But if you are doing a color other than black in an area with less traffic, you probably can skip this step. Good luck!

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  24. Thanks, Jenny! It's coming along well. However, I'm seeing brush strokes with the primer. I've read that I can use a 220 grit sand paper to smooth out the brush strokes before applying the cabinet paint? What do you think? I'm afraid if I don't, that the primer brush strokes will show through when painting. I know the cabinet, door and trim paint is self-leveling, but only when applied to a smooth surface, right? I'm anxious to see how this will turn out!
    Many thanks!
    Alicia

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  25. Alicia-
    I did not sand after the primer, but I did not notice a lot of brush strokes. The color looked uneven because it was only one coat, but if you ran your hand over it it was pretty smooth. I would maybe do a practice one and see if the results are what you are hoping for. It would just be a whole lot of work to sand it all and not notice a difference. What primer are you using?

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  26. Jenny - I'm using an Ace primer called Alkyd Enamel Undercoater (Oil Based). The lady at Ace tinted it to blend with the BM Ticonderoga Taupe that I'll be using. Apparently this primer is formulated to penetrate and seal and has excellent adhesion, blocks stains and has superior holdout. Sooooo, we'll see. I have laminate side panels on my cabinets and the primer took very well to the non-wood surface.
    Thanks for all your advice and suggestions. If you'd like, I'll keep you posted on how the project turns out. I'm constantly on your blog reading about all your renovations! They are all beautiful, especially your Wizard of Oz bathroom redo. Loved the look of the beadboard and after seeing your post, we've decided to add beadboard in our bathroom too!
    My next project is to hide my honey oak upstairs railing, very similar to what yours looked like before you painted it. It's a major eye sore and the first thing you see when you walk through the door.
    Hope you have a great weekend!
    Alicia

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  27. Hi,
    Love your blog! I have finally, after three years of persistant persuading, convinced my husband to redo our 90s oak home!!! Thank you so much! Quick question. Did you remove all of the baseboards, paint them, then remount them? And, we have casement windows with several "layers" leading up to the window pane - hope that makes sense. Has anyone asked about painting these kinds of windows or do you know if that can be done?

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  28. Alicia-

    Definitively keep me posted! I would love to see your progress!

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  29. Kim Liles-

    No removal here....I just painted it all where it was attached and either was careful or taped. Are your windows wood or vinyl? If they are wood like mine are you should be able to paint them no problem. Just be super careful not get paint in the crevices that allow them to move. This involves some strategic planning and changes depending on how your windows are constructed but it should be able to be done if you are careful. Good luck and let me know if you have any other questions!

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  30. Hi, Jenny.
    So glad to have stumbled onto this. Painting my old kitchen cabinets, which are currently cream. Top will be a slightly deeper cream and the lower cabinets will be black. I brought SW Black Bean sample into my local ACE and he said it would be easier if I could find a similar color from their ACE paints. There is one called Pumpernickle. But both this color and SW Black Bean look dark brown vs black. And my appliances are black. Yet the photos you posted look black and you refer to the color as black. Is it closer to black or is it really dark brown? Thanks!

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  31. Also, I haven't started painting yet but I bought foam roller brushes thinking they would not leave brush marks. What do you think?

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  32. Minnesota Jul-

    I used a color called Cannonball (by Ace) on the cabinets which is a true black. The black bean is more of a dark brown that you can see in the how-to pictures on this post.

    I have not used foam rollers so I am not sure how they would work. I know other bloggers have had great results with them but I brushed everything and was very happy with how they turned out.

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  33. Hi: Wow, you are inspiring me..fantastic job on everything! I was just wondering about your primer, do you use oil or latex based primer when using the Ace cabinet paint? Thanks!

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  34. Anon-

    I used water-based primer on everything except the windows. They were really badly stained and it came through the water-based primer. But it worked great on everything else!

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  35. Okay, so I called BenMoore and they said you could prime w/o sanding, if you used a certain primer. I did that, and you wouldn't believe the amount of peeling - after it was dry for over a week it got just a slight knick in it and started peeling off in big sheets. So, I want to try exactly what you did since I don't want to listen to the so-called experts! ;) Let me make sure I have these steps right for stained trim, doors, and cabinets:
    1. Clean wood
    2. Lightly sand with 180 grit sandpaper.
    3. Clean with rag and TSP solution to remove all dust.
    4. Prime using Zissner's Bulls Eye 123 - one coat. How long should I let that dry - hours or overnight?
    5. Use the Ace paint you recommended.

    Did you use 1 coat primer and 2 coats paint?

    Does that sound right?

    Thanks so much for your blog - I think I look at it almost every day! Just frustrated that I painted a room that I now have to go back and redo.
    Kim

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  36. Hi Jenny! Quick question about the picture with your wainscoting. Did you use this paint on just the trim or on the wall as well? If you used it on the wall, did you just paint really fast to keep a wet edge on such a large surface?
    Thanks, Erin

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  37. Hi Erin-

    All the white is the Ace Cabinet and Trim paint (the blue is regular paint). You are correct...I used moved really fast to keep a wet edge and did it strategically so that I did the inner squares first where there was a natural break so my edge did not matter that much. I typically move really slow while I am working on projects and this paint helps me make sure I stay on task:)!

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  38. Jenny, your blog is great and my wife and I have been using the ACE Cabinet paint to re-do our kitchen and trim/windows. We've loved it in dove white but have recently tried some dark browns-BM Wenge and bittersweet chocolate. We've found the paint tints a bit lighter than the chip and after drying it is more dull than expected-less gloss in the semi gloss. Have you or anyone else noticed these challenges with the dark colors? I've heard it could take a week or two to 'cure'. Does that make a difference? Any comments or ideas from anyone?

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  39. I was hoping to paint our horrible laminate cabinets white while my husband is out of town this weekend, and I love the idea of the Ace cabinet paint (supposedly gives a factory-smooth finish)...but the need to keep a wet edge worries me a little. Do you think this stuff is too tricky for a paint-newbie? My only painting experience has been with less fussy outdoor projects.

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  40. Well, here it is August, and I'm finally getting my project done (see my post from March). I spent last week refinishing the cabinets. I sanded, added trim, primed with Zinsser 123 tinted, then two coats of Ace Cabinet Paint in dark mustard. THEN, I brushed on one coat of oil-based gel stain and quickly dry-brushed it off. These cabinets are 45 yrs. old, originally a horrid oak, then had been painted cream. Now, they are a beautiful distressed wood look. The transformation is amazing!
    I must say that I didn't have any of the issues you talk about with the ACE paint (setting up fast, dripping) but I do tend to paint thin. It was wonderful to work with!
    I've been told that two weeks should pass before applying a sealer. I'm trying to decide which brand of water-based sealer to use. Any suggestions?

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  41. Anon-
    Hmmmmm.....I found that it dried at a pretty consistent semi-gloss sheen and pretty true to the paint chip color. I used this paint in very dark colors on the staircase and cabinets which does take longer to cure than white, but I have not heard of any sheen issues. One person did email me awhile ago a mention that she just got a bad can of paint with tons of weird issues that were all fixed with a new gallon. Maybe this is what happened to you? If it is not shiny enough, you could also add poly to it....that always increased my shine. Hope this helps!

    Jenny

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  42. Jessica-

    I think the key is to practice on something you don't care about. If you are successful with that and do not distracted easily while you are working you should not have a problem. Good Luck!

    Jenny

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  43. mnjul-
    Those sound gorgeous...I would love to see a picture of the finished project! I had great luck with Min-Wax polyurethane (oil-based) and Polycrylic (water-based). I used the oil on the cabinets and the water on the banister and staircase and both have held up beautifully. It is also easy to find. If you like the current sheen of the just the paint, you might want to try a stain based sealer.....I found the semi-gloss to really increase the shine. But it is a personal preference. Good Luck!

    Jenny

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  44. good points and the details are more specific than somewhere else, thanks.

    - Thomas

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  45. Glad I found your blog - but now I'm nervous...I am painting a dining room table. I rough sanded, primed with BIN 123 and I am now ready to head out to Ace...That wet edge thing has me uneasy...I have the table sitting in my garage which is where it will have to stay until it dries. It's cold today. High 50's. Will the temperatire affect the paint?

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  46. That’s great! I just tried it out and already found a new domain. It’s a really quick search. Thanks!

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  47. Ah! I bought the exact same shelves from Target and had the EXACT same problem! I actually tore up my receipt from Target, rolled it into a few small balls and shoved it in the holes on the back of the shelf. Worked like a charm. Great minds.... :)


    Susan Graham

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  48. Hi Jenny,

    Thanks so much for sharing your remarkable talents. We've been remodeling our home for a few months and started on trim this week. I wanted smooth, glass like trim.

    We've tried a number of high end products, one from Kelly Moore and one from Sherwin Williams. We used ultra-smooth rollers and still had "orange peel." I was not willing to settle.

    I found your site last night and this morning, we headed to our local Ace and picked up a can. I also bought a cheap 1.7mm HVLP pressure sprayer from Harbor Freight this morning as well, since I have a very large compressor.

    We did a test run a few hours ago and it's simply amazing! Laid down like glass on a test piece of base trim.

    I've not been able to run normal latex through an HVLP gun before, so we were really excited that it worked well and looked amazing!

    We're going to paint all our trim/doors up front (since we're remodeling and removing all the old), the cut to measure and install.

    Your article really inspired us. You've done an amazing job and your tips are excellent!

    Wade and Sue
    San Angelo, Texas

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  49. Thanks to your great suggestion, I just returned from ACE and have in my possession a can of ACE Cabinet and Trim paint! Watch out oak trim, here I come! Thank you!

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  50. I LOVE your blog and am so happy to have found it after me re-staining gone wrong project! Little did I know my pine kitchen cabinets are notoriously difficult to take stain evenly! :( So paint it is! I am not sure of the ACE paint you speak of though. You said you had it tinted with a BM color. Did you simply bring in a paint card the color you wanted to color match? Or does ACE also deal in BM paint? I've never been to ACE so I'm not sure if you are just taking your favorite BM colors there to be matched. I assume you are happy with this being an exact color match? And if I can't find this cabinet paint at my local ACE, what is your second choice of paint to use on cabinets? Thanks so much! And wish me luck on this project! :/ Mom Of 4

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  51. Just found the paint on clearance at Ace. $8 per gallon!! Bought 3. Wish me luck!

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  52. Did you remove all your trim to paint it or did you maneuver around the carpet and left it attached when you painted it?

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    1. We left it attached. Just taped the carpet and it worked really well!

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  53. Thank you! We have a house full ok oak, I want to say bye bye too! :)

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  54. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I'm hoping these products work as well for me as they did for you. I bought the primer and the paint at Ace today. The price here in the Seattle area was $35 for the paint, but I think it will be worth it. We decided to remove the molding from the wall because of the carpet length. Wish me luck!

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  55. How is everything holding up? Any chipping at all? I am curious because I am planning on painting my kitchen cabinets and the trim and interior doors in the house. Thanks!

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    1. The chips we have had on the trim and cabinets has been minimal. Where ttim has taken a direct hit (i.e. getting gashed with a hammer during a hardwood install) it did chip. But I was expecting that that as no paint would have been able to hold up as the wood itself was gouged. Hope that helps! Good luck with the painting!

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  56. I am just loving looking through your house painting/reno posts. What you have done with your place is nothing short of amazing!

    I'm looking to paint a somewhat beat-up kitchen table (and chairs) that my we recently acquired from some friends. Do you think this paint would work ok for this? I don't know much about painting and I'm a little worried about the chairs (they aren't super intricate, but still more corners and such to go around). Thanks!

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