Can You Paint Hickory Cabinets? (Find Out Now!)

Ossiana Tepfenhart
by Ossiana Tepfenhart

Hickory is one of the strongest hardwoods to grace the New World, and that’s why many people rely on it as a favorite wood for furniture and cabinetry. Unfortunately, it also happens to have a pretty bad rap sheet when it comes to being paintable. Is it even possible to paint hickory cabinets without streaking?

Painting hickory cabinets may require a conditioner and extra treatments, but it’s absolutely doable. Many cabinets are actually made from hickory and coated with a clean coat of lacquer, then sold on the market for a premium price.

It’s clear that hickory is a little challenging to paint. This is fine. However, you still need to know what to do if you want to get good results.

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Is It Possible To Paint Hickory Cabinets?

Hickory cabinets do have a tendency towards taking paint poorly, but the good news is that you don’t have to skip paint here. With the right treatments and a careful eye towards prep, you will be able to paint your cabinets pretty easily. It’s all about the prep work.

What Should You Watch Out For When Painting Hickory?

Hickory has a darker tone to it, so if you want to paint it a light color like white, you may see some bleed-through. It’s best to lighten up your wood before you paint it if you want to get a good color that doesn’t bleed through. Moreover, you definitely are going to have to sand things down and use a primer.

Can You Use Wood Stain On Hickory Cabinets?

Wood stain is doable on hickory, but once again, it always should be done on pre-treated wood. In some cases, you may need to use conditioner before you actually start staining it. Most people note that stain can be kind of tricky on hickory. It often absorbs at uneven paces when not treated well, which can give a blotchy or streaky look.

How To Prep Hickory For Paint

Hickory wood, if nothing else, is persnickety when it comes to getting ready for paint and stain. Here’s how to make sure your cabinetry takes to paint like a duck to water.

  • First, get good hickory cabinets. I’m a firm believer that the best paint jobs start with quality cabinetry. So, make sure that happens.
  • Set up a clean work station. Line your work table with a plastic cover, make sure you have plenty of ventilation.
  • Remove any stain or paint that may already exist on it. Most hickory cabinets come pre-painted, so this means you may have to get paint thinner or stripper. If you have a stain that was placed on the wood, you will also have to treat the stain so that you can lift up the color.
  • Use soap and water to clean your cabinetry thoroughly. Trust me, you need a clean cabinet to start with.
  • Grab 100-grit sandpaper and start roughing up the hickory. You don’t want to have any part of it shiny. The paint and wood filler needs to have a little roughness to be able to properly grip the wood.
  • Add wood putty. This will give you a smoother look. Wood putty is there to fill in the natural gaps and holes and knots that hickory has.
  • Sand down the putty once it dries. This will level things out and ensure you don’t have scuffs or bumps.
  • Apply 1 to 2 coats of primer to your cabinetry. The primer is going to be what makes your hickory wood grip the paint properly. It also works to conceal the dark streaks in the wood, which is a win-win. Make sure your primer is fully dry before you apply another coat or add paint.
  • Start painting, then top with a finish. This is where the magic happens—after you’ve done all that prep work!

What Kind Of Primer Should You Buy?

Painting wood is not as tricky as painting metal, especially when you know the type of paint that you want to get. As long as the primer is made for wood, you should be good to go. The one thing that we might want to suggest is that you should be open to splurging on primer.

Thin primers generally do not handle the rigors of hickory very well. If you can feel the weight of the primer on the brush, it’s probably going to be a better choice.

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Related Questions

What type of wood stain should you use on hickory?

If you have to try a stain, do whatever you can to avoid getting an oil-based stain. Oil stains do not take to hickory well and often can lead to blotching or streaking. This is a small side effect of the naturally high level of oils found in hickory, so unfortunately, this issue isn’t always preventable.

How hard is hickory wood?

Believe it or not, hickory is actually the hardest naturally-occurring hardwood in North America. A true hardwood by all means of the word, hickory rates at 1820 on the Janka hardness scale. This translates into excellent durability in terms of both load-bearing as well as scratch resistance.This is why hickory is one of the best hardwoods for heirloom-grade furniture and why most people would recommend hickory for cabinetry. While it can be a bit pricey for flooring, the truth is that it’s still well worth the money. You won’t have to replace it any time soon.

Which wood is more affordable, hickory or walnut?

Though you might be able to find a logger who will sell you walnut at a discount, the truth is that hickory is almost always the more affordable option. Walnut is a luxury hardwood that’s held in high esteem for heirloom furniture as well as for cabinetry that has intricate details in it.Walnut is not expensive due to the hardness of the wood itself. Actually, both are great hardwoods. The difference is that walnut tends to be easier to work with, which makes it a good choice for more intricate work.

Ossiana Tepfenhart
Ossiana Tepfenhart

Ossiana Tepfenhart is an expert writer, focusing on interior design and general home tips. Writing is her life, and it's what she does best. Her interests include art and real estate investments.

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