Finishing inside of cabinets

I am currently refinishing some under-sink bathroom cabinets.
The inside walls are MDF maybe with a coat of poly slapped on during construction about 15 years ago.
They're ugly, dark and rough. And they harbor dust. When I encountered the same problem with some identical kitchen cabinets, I slapped on a few coats of poly. That helped but I'm less than thrilled with the result. I'd like to use a light color to help make the inside of these cabs look a little less dark.
One simple option would be some white semi-gloss latex which I happen to have. I also have some primer so that's not a problem.
It may be a bit soft but the finish doesn't need to handle a lot of knocks and scrapes -- these cabinets are only used to store supplies of toilet tissue, soap, toothpaste and some cleaning materials.
Do you think this will work, or am I creating a disaster?
Other suggestions welcomed although I don't want or need to spend a lot of time or money on this.
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Get ready to spend very little money, but more time than you want.
I'd go over the surface with some medium-fine sandpaper, vacuum the bejeezus out of it to eliminate dust, spray on some primer, and them spray on a coat of HIGH GLOSS ENAMEL. What you want is something smooth, snag-free and easy to wipe with a sponge.
As I've said before in other discussions of painting, the drying time stated on the cans is a lie. Multiply by 2, at least. Since you're talking about a bathroom, multiply by 4. A week should be sufficient, with the cabinet doors open.
Anything else will be a cob job.
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Yeah, I had a feeling folks would go for gloss enamel. I hoped to avoid the 1-2 weeks smell of new enamel. I really don't want to spray either but I can think about it. I'll have to make that decision quickly -- if I'm going to spray, I had better do it before I refinish the frames.
As for the sanding... I've refinished a stack of these cabinets, taking off the old poly, sanding sealer (I think) and stain to get back to clean wood. Lots of molding too. Taking care of the MDF inside walls will be a walk in the park in comparison ;-)
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wrote:

The only reason for the sanding is not to achieve perfection, but to eliminate what I imagine to be a grainy surface that'll annoy you for the next 20 years. I think you know what I mean.
As far as the smell, is this a bathroom that's used daily for showers? If not, you should be beyond the smell in a few days. Certainly not the 24 hour lie on the paint container, but not 2 weeks, either.
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It's a large bathroom, used daily, and open plan to the master bedroom so the smell will be a pain. The refinishing of the cabinet exteriors with poly won't be too much of a problem because the doors, drawers and panels, have been taken to the garage/shop for refinishing. The frames will need to be done in situ but the surface area of the frames isn't very great.
I agree that the paint smells tend to last a lot longer than advertised (unlike the paint!). Some brands and formulations are more obnoxious than others.
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wrote:

It's more than just the smell. If it doesn't cure long enough, things will stick to it when it's humid, like the plastic wrapper for the 12 pack of toilet paper.
Suck it up. You have to do this right.
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You're right, on all counts. I've been looking at the job and just tried some left-over Kilz spray on a scrap bit of MDF. It seems to take very nicely. Looks like it will take two or maybe three very light coats to avoid runs (which I hate).
Maybe I can find some not-too-smelly spray enamel. The Kilz I had doesn't smell too bad.
Still pondering the preparation. The surface needs some serious cleaning -- TSP I guess but without getting the MDF too wet. Very light sanding I think -- too much will probably be counterproductive with MDF. And a wipe down with mineral spirits.
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wrote:

I have such an idea for you, but first, you have to tell me your favorite color. Think carefully.
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Ummm, blue. But I'm very flexible and practical about colors. The wife is less flexible -- are you sure you didn't mean to ask about her favorite color? Pink or beige for a bathroom I think.
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wrote:

Think about this: Measure the insides of the cabinet precisely. Find some very thin plywood and cut to size so it can be glued inside the cabinet. Check the fit carefully. Take the pieces to the garage and paint in the most bulletfroof way possible. Let it sit in the garage until the stink is gone. Install in cabinet.
If you like this idea, you owe me $5,000.00 for saving you from the paint stink in the house. Cash will be fine.
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Heh, not a bad idea but too much work just to avoid the stink. The other approach would be to install a Formica lining -- I considered that for the kitchen cabinets I refinished but it's not cheap and it would probably take a while to learn the techniques for cutting that stuff. But it would make for a very durable and easy to clean lining.

Hmmm, the Formica would be cheaper. Come to think of it, gold leaf would be cheaper. Now, there's a thought... ;-)
Seriously, thanks for the spray primer/enamel suggestion. I didn't like it at first, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense.
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wrote:

I am the paint god. :-)
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Well, after all that, I've gone with a no-paint solution.
I bought a sheet of Formica this morning together with a pair of laminate shears. The shears work great; you've just got to take your time and resist the temptation to rush it (as with most tasks).
I already have most of the Formica cut with a very decent dry fit. Obviously, I'll glue it later after the other work is done but that should be fairly simple. Hopefully, just one day of fumes from the adhesive.
It should result in a very durable and easy to clean surface that looks great.
If anyone else is contemplating Formica but scared of the cutting issues, I'd encourage you to invest in a pair of laminate shears and give it a shot. It's *much* easier than I feared.
Selection of Formica grade/pattern is very limited at the usual places (Lowes, Home Depot). For a bigger job I would special order but, for this task, I found something suitable available off the shelf at my local Lowes.
Your suggestion of lining the cabinets with pre-painted plywood set me thinking about the Formica approach again. I'm glad I did; I think it will work out marvellously. Thanks again.
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Malcolm Hoar wrote:

Clean it out with water and household cleaner, dry quickly. Sand when dry, vacuum out the dust. Wipe with denatured alcohol to degrease. Prime bare spots. Two coats of alkyd semi should be very easy to clean, unless the surface is extremely rough. Keep cabinet open and ventillate well with fan. I waited a week when I painted inside kitchen cabinets, only because of the weight of dishes stored there and didn't want them to stick.
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If you just want to "seal in" the odor, you can use a "sanding sealer" type product. The type I'm talking about uses alcohol as a solvent. You can sand (duh!) after putting on sanding sealer and then put on another coat for odor control. The stuff dries very quickly.
If you want to cover a stain, the paint approach works too.
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Malcolm Hoar wrote:

White melamine paint. Once dry, it's pretty tough.
Chris
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Malcolm Hoar wrote:

As long as you're in there, replace the bottom shelf. Damn things are made of carboard and get all bendy with the least little water.
1/4" plywood with a brace underneath. Something.
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Well, the base is in pretty good shape although it is MDF. I'll be pulling off the old stick-on liner and will replace that with some vinyl flooring. I've installed vinyl in some of our other cabinets and it works great. I was even able to chamfer the front edge of the vinyl using a rasp so it looks neat.
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Malcolm Hoar wrote:

Cool. That'll work. If you've got the flooring out, do put a brace under it (I used a cut-off section of 4x4). Those particle-board shelves do get bendy.
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