Around the Block with Glen Blok: The DIY Lie

Welcome to our new series, Around the Block with Glen Blok. These stories are  from the field and written by our residential sales team member, Glen Blok. In these posts Glen tells us stories of painting projects from the perspective of a CertaPro team member.


I am willing to bet that we all spent some time in the past year watching videos on whatever house project we thought we would tackle. Last year was the perfect storm of us having time on our hands, and no place to go, so why not? I mean, how hard can it be to do, right?

painter in kitchenTurns out that the answer to that question varies greatly.

This is the story of a friend who, convinced by the experts on HDTV and YouTube, attempted to paint his kitchen cabinets.

If you ask him now, he will admit that this was a project he should have never started, but he was bored, and perhaps was under the influence of Covid now he decided to jump in.

He says that he watched a bunch of videos, but in all reality, he probably started watching a video, got to a point where he was given a list of materials that he needed, and took off to the local big box retailer. He came home with 5 gallons of primer, 5 gallons of paint, half a dozen brushes of various sizes, mohair rollers, sanding blocks, caulk, wood putty, drop clothes, plastic, tape, a paint can opener, and enough stir sticks to build a small fort in his back yard. He was confident in his purchase as he had all the knowledge on the subject that one can get from watching the first four minutes of a video.

He watched his video again and determined that he should first empty the contents of his cabinets. He made a comment to me about just how much junk he keeps in his cabinets, and that this would be a great time to do a deep cleaning. This was the end of Day 1.

Next step, he would remove the doors and take the hinges and hardware off. Easy enough, or at least it would be if he could find a screwdriver bit for his drill that was small enough for the hinge screws. Back to the store he went, but because he is clever, he thought it would be a good idea to buy new hinges. After all, if there was ever a time to put in those hidden hinges now would be it.

He came home, took off the doors, laid out the drop clothes on his garage floor, set up all the sawhorses he had and started to sand the doors. He sanded them so smooth! This would be great!

He wiped the doors down, determined to have the best-looking cabinets ever. Time for the primer.

He carefully brushed on the primer, making sure to get good coverage, but noticed quickly that the nice smooth finish he achieved by sanding the doors was now a hot mess of brush strokes. No matter, he had more sanding blocks, he would sand them out. Who would have thought that sanding out brush strokes would take so much time, cause so much dust, and require an additional multi pack of sanding blocks from the store! Day 2 was now complete. He was sore from all the sanding, but still had a sense of accomplishment. He would clean up all the dusty footprints he tracked into the kitchen another day.

Day 3 started with another wipe down of the newly primed and sanded doors to get rid of the dust that had fallen on them overnight. Time for some real work to get done. This is where the cabinet job was going to start looking good.

He opened the can of paint he was going to use, but because he is clever, (as stated earlier), he was not going to brush them this time. That is what the mole hair roller was for. There would be no brush strokes this time.

He poured out the paint in the tray, dribbled a bit on the drop cloth, but that was ok. That was why he bought them. Determined to get some serious work done today, he decided now would be the best time to run into the house to grab a bottle of water so he would not have to stop later. Back to the kitchen he went, grabbed the water, then on his way back to the garage realized that he had stepped in the paint he dribbled on the drop cloth and now had paint on his kitchen floor. No matter, just a quick clean up, nobody would even know.

Bottle of water in hand, he went back to the garage. He noted where the drips on the drop cloth were so he would not step in them again.

He started rolling out the paint with his fancy roller. He noticed that the finish was not as smooth as he had hoped. There were small bumps in the finish, that no matter how many times he tried to roll them out, they just would not go away. He decided to continue though, hoping that as the paint dried it would settle down and smooth itself out. It was nearly the end of the day and he had most of his cabinet doors painted but had run out of room on his sawhorses. He would need to move the wet doors to another location if he were to finish getting the coat of paint on all of them. He carefully picked the doors up and carried to the front corner of his garage where he had set up a makeshift table where they could dry and was able to finish putting the paint on the rest of the doors. He knocked off for the day as dinner time was approaching, and he wanted to relax at least a little bit before his weekend was done. He would check on everything tomorrow morning before starting work.

My friend is in pretty good shape for a middle age man, but on Day 4 he woke up with aches and pains that he had not felt in years. How was this even possible? He got ready to start his workday, but because he was working from home like most people were, he was able to go and look at the doors. The paint has not smoothed out like he hoped it would, but it was much better than the brush strokes from the primer. He could sand them again, but these were the backs of the doors. Nobody would see them unless they opened the doors. If the fronts of the doors were smooth it would all be worth it.

He turned the doors over to expose the front side and went back into the home to work. Lunch hour came, and he sanded the front face of the doors so he could hopefully prime them at the end of the day. His workday ended, he decided that he had accomplished enough for the day.

Day 5 started with Zoom meetings, and a variety of issues that he needed to address. The cabinets would have to wait, but that was ok. He had a good start and was feeling pretty confident that he could finish it up by the end of the coming weekend.

Fast forward to Day 7 when he was able to get away from work and do the priming needed. Being a clever man, he knew he did not want to sand the brush strokes again, so he purchased a “power sprayer” for $199.00 He filled the reservoir with primer then went to apply it, anxious for the glassy smooth finish. The primer was pretty thick, so it spit globs of it all over the first door. Thirty minutes of wiping the mess off he tried again. Similar result, but a little better. He decides to just roll the primer on and do a light sanding after.

Day 8 was a Saturday, and that meant he would be getting a lot of work done. He lightly sanded the roller stipple marks from the primed door fronts, then wiped them clean. He was going to try to use the power sprayer to apply to topcoat of paint but realized that he did not clean it from the day before. It was a hot mess, clogged and useless. He decided to rent a “real” sprayer from the store, so that is what he did. He got the crash course and sprayed out the fronts of the doors. This was the result he was looking for and was feeling very confident about the whole thing. He got the spraying done, then cleaned the sprayer thoroughly. He would let the doors dry, then do the back sides the next day so that they looked just as good as the front. He was back on track!

At this point his wife was getting very impatient and wanted to have her cabinets back. It was not very convenient having their contents laying all about the kitchen and living room. He told her he had a system now, and that it would go faster.

Day 9, he woke up, flipped the doors over to do the backs again and let them dry. He had earned a Sunday Funday.

The morning of Day 10 is when the wheels came off the cart. Full of optimism, he went out to the garage to inspect his work. He lifted one of the doors off the sawhorse, but it didn’t come free immediately. Apparently, the paint had not cured when he flipped them to do the back side one more time, and the paint AND the primer had pulled off the doors where they had come into contact with the sawhorses. This was a disaster, and this is where he called me for advice. I told him that for starters, he should put all the stuff back into the cabinet boxes. He wasn’t going to be painting the insides of them anyway, and there was no sense in making his wife angrier. I then told him that there wasn’t anything he could do other than sand down the fronts of the doors and do it again. He would have to rent the sprayer again, and he would have to let everything dry much longer than what he had allowed this time. He put everything back into the cabinets and spent the next three days sanding the doors back to smooth(ish).

Day 14 he was back at it. He decided to rent the sprayer for the entire week so he would not have to rush through it. He primed the fronts again then the next day sprayed the finish coat.

Day 16 was when he realized that the doors were the easy part, and that painting the cabinet boxes were going to be a potentially huge mess. He could either take them all off the wall (I told him not to do that), or mask off all the floors, walls, windows, baseboards, and drop a sheet of plastic between the kitchen and living room so that the dust stayed contained. He said he would, but that didn’t happen till Day 21.

Day 22 he sanded the boxes and inspected his tape job on the walls. Everything seemed to look good, so he started to spray out the primer. Things were looking promising until a piece of tape lifted, and primer sprayed all over the walls. That’s ok he thought, I can just touch up the paint on the walls, and he kept going. A few minutes later another piece of tape lifted, and the plastic he had covering the walls whipped itself into the freshly primed cabinet box. He wiped all the wet primer off the box, threw out the ruined plastic and masked it all off again. He then repeated this process on two more of the cabinets.

It was now Day 24, and he had no more desire to even walk into the kitchen let alone try to finish the project. He had spent almost a month doing something that the video he watched said would not be that difficult, and he had spent more than $1000 on tools, rentals, paint, and materials. He decided to focus on work, and the cabinet project sat for the next 4 days.

Day 29, he no longer felt the need to have that glassy smooth look to his cabinets. In fact, he wasn’t even sure he needed doors. That was a thing, right? He needed to rethink the plan, so it sat for another week.

Day 35 and he realizes that he needs to finish this project one way or the other. He checks to make sure that all the tape is going to stay in place when he brings the rented sprayer back home again to paint the boxes, picks up the sprayer, brings it home and proceeds to spray out the boxes. He returns the sprayer, and the cabinets sit for another week.

Day 42 and he starts to take the tape off the walls. As he does, some of the paint from the cabinets gets stuck to the tape and peels off the cabinets, but he catches it before it gets too bad. He will have to touch them up with a brush. He removes the masking from the insides of the cabinets only to realize that paint has gotten past the barrier and he has painted some of the dishes, or maybe its primer? The cabinets sit for a week.

Day 49 and he is ready to put the doors onto the cabinets that he has touched up. You can tell where he had to do the touch ups, but hopefully nobody would look that close. He took the doors from the garage where they have sat now for several weeks and dusted them off. The paint job has dried with little bits of dust and hair from his dog that must have been floating around in the garage. No matter, remember, he is clever. He ever so gently sands the doors just enough to remove the offending materials and put them back on the boxes. He has already realized that he can not put the fancy hinges on that he wanted because the holes don’t line up with where the old hinges were. At this point he doesn’t care, he just wants to be done, so he put the doors back on, masked the walls again, rented the sprayer (I think he qualified for frequent renter program from this project alone), and sprayed out the doors while they were on the cabinets.

Dear reader, if you have made it all this way, I am sure you know what happened. My poor friend has now spent nearly two months of his covid quarantine trying to tackle a “simple” home improvement project, and he now has cabinets with doors that he painted shut. He was forced to take a razor blade and work around each door to cut the paint seal to get them to open. What’s worse is that there is a nice line outlining where the door matches up to the cabinet when it closes.

He called me in absolute frustration. He pleaded with me to come over and look at what had happened, assuring me that nobody in his home had Covid and he really needed my help. I took pity and agreed to go and look. Besides, this is one of my good friends, and we laugh at each other all the time. This would be comedic gold for me every time we tell the story.

When I got there, I told him that I could honestly say that I have seen worse. Without sanding everything down there would always be the paint outline where he painted the doors shut, and the spots where the paint had been ripped off from the masking and the forcing the doors open will always look like a touch up unless he painted the entire area again. He had no intention of doing that and asked me how much it would have costed him to just have someone paint them in the first place. I did some mental figuring and came out with a number of just over $3000. He asked how long that would have taken and I told him it would have been less than a week. He looked at me and said he had spent just north of $1800, and it took just over two months to get to where he was, and there was still dust in every nook and cranny in the house from the project. I had to ask why in the world he thought he would be able to just do it himself when he had never done anything like this.

He proceeded to curse out HDTV and every DIY video out there.

I’ll be telling this story for years to come!