How to paint RV cabinets

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Though they are useful, RVs aren’t always known for their aesthetics. Unless you custom order your rig or spring for the luxury models, most come with standard furniture, cabinetry, and fabrics. Luckily, you have options if your RV’s interior design is due for a little upgrade. With a little DIY know-how, you can breathe new life into your rig by repainting your RV cabinets any color you want. This may seem daunting at first but worry not. In this article, we will break down how to paint RV cabinets and make your RV shine!

Preparing for the paint job 

Painting your RV cabinets is a great way to spruce up your RV’s interior and make it feel more like home. How you go about it is up to you and the level of work you’re willing to take on, but there are a few things we recommend doing beforehand to ensure success and a paint job that lasts.

1. Sand and prime the cabinets first

While sanding isn’t necessarily an essential part of painting RV cabinets, it’s vital if you want them to look their best. 

It’s almost guaranteed that your RV cabinets are not made of actual solid wood. To keep things light and inexpensive, most manufacturers use particle board with wood veneer or MDF. What this means for you is that if you dive headfirst into applying paint to your cabinets, they won’t look as good and will likely require constant maintenance to address any peeling paint. 

We highly recommend lightly sanding your cabinets to give them a nice edge that the paint can stick to, and then applying a coat of primer. Doing both of these things will allow your new paint to adhere to the cabinets and give it a nice finish.


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2. Pick out the right kind of paint for your needs

There are a few different types of paint you can use for your RV cabinets, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. 

We’ll start by talking about oil-based paints. These are a great option for this project because they provide a long-lasting finish and look great. 

Alkyd paints are another popular choice because they also last a long time but are easier to clean up than oil paints. 

Some people like to use chalk paint because doesn’t require prior sanding and priming. It comes in a vast array of colors and its variety is a huge appeal. However, using chalk paint adds a few steps to the process of painting your RV cabinets because it needs a top coat for its finish, and needs to be touched up over the years more than other types of paint. 

You can also use latex paint, but this is really just for those prioritizing convenience more than anything. It’s super easy to clean when you’re done, but its lifespan is relatively short. 

3. Give yourself a lot of time

It isn’t too difficult to paint your RV cabinets, but it isn’t a quick job. Preparing your cabinets beforehand can take some time, not to mention the actual painting process. Be prepared to let your cabinets dry for about 24 hours after painting, and a few hours between each coat of primer or paint. 

We promise that it’ll all be worth it in the end when your RV cabinets look gorgeous but just keep in mind what you’re getting into. You don’t want to rush this process or you might risk lowering the quality of your work.


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Painting your RV cabinets

If you have your paint ready and are prepared for the road ahead, let’s start painting those cabinets! 

1. Remove the cabinets, prepare your space, and prepare your cabinets

You’ll want to begin by taking out all the cabinets you plan to paint, if possible. This makes getting to those hard-to-reach places much easier. A best practice here is to mark where the cabinets came from and how they fit into their spaces so that it’s easier to put them back later. 

Lightly sand the cabinets to provide a nice paint-holding edge to their surfaces, and then thoroughly clean them with some sort of pre-paint cleaner. This is important because if you leave dirt or other built-up residues on your cabinets prior to painting them, the paint won’t look good and may not even stick. 

Depending on where you’ll be doing the painting, it’s a smart move to cover up the surrounding areas with plastic and painting tape to keep them clean. When you feel comfortable with how well the RV is covered up, it’s time to start priming! 

2. Prime and paint

For the priming and painting process, you can use whatever tools you’d like that apply paint. Many people opt for a simple brush, roller, and bucket of paint combo, but if you want to really speed things up, consider springing for a paint sprayer. 

As we’ve stated above, priming your cabinets first is a highly recommended part of the process. It allows paint to adhere better to the cabinets’ faux wood coating. When you’ve finished applying primer, let the coat sit for a few hours to dry. You can apply your first coat of paint when the drying is finished! Your RV cabinets will look best if you give them two coats of paint after the primer. 


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After each coat, give the cabinets a few hours to dry. This may sound tedious, but it’s the best way to have your paint stick properly and look great. Once your final coat of paint has been applied, you must let it dry for 24 hours to ensure the drying is completely finished. If you’d like to paint the back of your cabinet drawers as well, repeat the priming and painting process for the backsides when you’re done with the front.

3. Let it dry and reassemble your cabinets

After all the paint you’re using for your cabinets has dried for at least 24 hours, it’s time to reassemble your cabinets. If you’ve marked where they should go, you’ll have a much easier time with this step. Simply align the cabinets to their proper spots and screw them back in. 

Congratulations, you’re now looking at a fresh, beautiful new interior for your RV that should bring you joy for years to come wherever you go!

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