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Spraying Cabinet Doors Vertically vs. Laying Flat: Which One's Better?

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Matt is a professional painter who owns and operates his own painting business, specializing in interior and exterior house painting.


Should You Spray Paint Cabinet Doors Laying Flat or Hang Them?

When spraying cabinet doors with paint, you'll have to decide whether to hang the doors vertically to spray them or lay the doors down flat. The way you decide to store the painted doors is also an important consideration that determines how long your project will take to finish.

The way cabinet doors are typically sprayed using the hanging method is to screw small hooks into the edge of the door and hook the door onto a swiveling coat hanger attached to a horizontal pole. This can be done using a pole fastened on top of two step ladders or a hanging rack constructed out of PVC piping.

Why I Prefer to Spray Cabinet Doors Flat and Horizontally

I paint cabinets on a monthly basis and spray all of my cabinet doors horizontally, two sides at a time, using a special spray rack. I store painted doors on the matching drying rack too. These racks were a game changer for me in terms of time saved, and I highly recommend them if you paint cabinets. I'll explain more about my cabinet painting equipment at the end of this article.

There are pros and cons to spraying doors vertically versus laying them down flat, but spraying and storing doors horizontally has many advantages. I'll explain what I like about spraying doors flat instead of hanging them up.

Easy to Fix Paint Spits

Nothing is more annoying than a sudden tip clog blasting a glob of paint onto a cabinet door you're spraying. Paint spits ruin the finish, but fixing them is easy when spraying horizontally. Simply make another pass with the spray gun to build up the paint thickness and level out the imperfection. When spraying a door vertically, you can't build up the paint coating without getting runs. The only fix is to wait for the paint to dry, sand out the imperfection, and spray the door again.

No Paint Runs

Getting paint runs is almost impossible when spraying cabinet doors laying flat. It is possible to get paint runs on the door edges, but you'd have to spray awfully heavy for that to happen. With gravity working against you, you're far more likely to get paint runs with the hanging method, especially when spraying self-leveling enamel, or paint with added conditioner. Fixing paint runs isn't fun. When spraying flat, I don't have to worry about it. I spray the doors, store them on my drying rack, and I'm done.

No Need to Drill Holes

When using hooks to hang the doors for spray painting, you have to drill pilot holes into the door edge for the hooks. The holes are drilled into the edge of the door that won't be visible after installation (top edge of upper doors and bottom edge of base cabinets). I've never liked the idea of drilling holes into my customers cabinets and risking the wood splitting.

The Door Stays in Place

I've spray painted cabinet doors using the coat hanger method and the door tends to slightly rotate from the pressure of the spray gun. To stabilize the door, I'd have to hold the edge of the door with one hand and spray with the other hand, but I ended up with over-spray on my hand and arm. When spraying a door laying flat, the door stays in place while spraying.

Easy to Paint Grainy Wood

I paint a lot of oak cabinets. I really like spraying doors flat because I can spray primer a little heavier to fill the annoying grain of oak. I fill the grain before priming and painting, but some deeper cracks need a little more primer to fill in all the way. When you spray doors vertically, the primer doesn't fill the grain as effectively as with doors being sprayed lying down. You can't spray the primer heavier on hanging doors or you'll end up with runs.

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Freshly painted cabinet doors on my drying racks. The special design allows both sides to be painted at one time.

Freshly painted cabinet doors on my drying racks. The special design allows both sides to be painted at one time.

The Racks I Use for Painting and Storing Cabinet Doors

The biggest mistake folks make when spraying doors flat is not using the right equipment for the job, especially if you have a painting business.

When I first started painting cabinets, I'd spray one side of the door the first day, allow the paint to dry overnight, and paint the other side the next day. Don't paint cabinets that way or you're going to add multiple days of labor to your project.

How to Spray Cabinet Doors With the Racks

The way I paint and store all of my cabinet doors is with the Door Rack Painter racks. I first used their stationary spray rack that you space apart to fit the length of the door, but now I use their rotating spray rack and it's awesome. I clamp the rack onto my work table and spin doors around for easier spraying with less fatigue.

Basically, the way the spray rack works is the curved bars that hold the door are designed to make minimal contact with the painted surface, allowing you to flip the wet side over and spray it, instead of waiting until the next day for the paint to dry. The drying rack is equipped with the same design for storing the wet side down.

Along with the spray rack, I own three of the drying racks, each holding 17 doors, allowing me to take on any cabinet job without having to worry about running out of storage space.

Using these racks is the way to go if you want to save major time painting cabinets. Stacking doors on drying racks condenses everything into one area too, saving work space, and you won't have to worry about paint runs, or drilling holes into door edges.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: How do you prevent halo effect while spraying sides?

Answer: I'm not sure what you mean by 'halo effect', but if your concern is overspray going onto the wet front or reverse side of the door when spraying the sides, this won't have any effect on the finish if you spray everything in sequence without waiting. I spray the bottom, flip the door over on my rack I mentioned in the article, spray the front, followed by the sides. The sides of the door have the same finish as the rest of the door. Everything dries in a uniform finish.

© 2019 Matt G.

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