As promised, here is my blog post telling you all my not-so-secret tips for painting kitchen cabinets.
This last painting project is the sixth time I’ve done cabinets.
The first time was in our first house in the teensiest kitchen you’ve ever seen. I wish I had pictures of that one but it was way before blogging was in my life. The previous owner had painted the cabinets deep red and decopaged fruit fabric in the center. It was clever, but not the look we were going for. The fabric was removed, the cabinets sanded and given a coat of white paint. (We also replaced the old laminate counters in that kitchen with wood planks, stained them dark and put thick boat epoxy over it all to seal. Those were cool counters. Someday I’ll try to dig up pictures … What wasn’t cool was the lack of dishwasher and the rodents that broke into our house and freaked me out every night.)
I painted the kitchen cabinets in our next house (the one you might be familiar with if you have been reading the blog for a while). I used oil-based paint (which did yellow over time so it is not necessarily recommended anymore) and spent days adding layer after layer, sanding in between, and getting them as perfect as possible for a diy job. Here’s how that kitchen turned out.
I also painted the laundry room cabinets (which were relocated from the kitchen!):
And I did the master bathroom cabinets in the old house:
When we moved to this new house, I went the total opposite direction of every other set of cabinets I’ve painted and did them super dark:
But they just felt too dark for our house. So I repainted them.
So basically, I am a kitchen cabinet painting pro. Okay, fine. I’m far from it. I’ve just done it a few times :)
Here’s what you should know right from the start:
If you want your kitchen cabinets to have a hard, smooth finish and it is important to you that they are free of brush marks and little imperfections (like drip marks) and if your budget allows, get them professional sprayed. Nothing can beat a professional paint job.
If you are okay with a less perfect paint job (but still totally passable!) and don’t mind a slightly visible brush stroke, occasional drip marks and doing the work yourself, I say go for it.
As with most diy projects, the key is having the right supplies, putting some effort into the boring prep work and investing a handful of hours into transforming your space. You can do it!
Will they be perfect? Probably not.
Will anyone notice the imperfections? Not likely.
Will it make you insanely happy to change the look of your space for very little money? Yep.
Okay, so now for my process for painting the kitchen cabinets.
(Get ready for some very poorly lit photos. I did all of the kitchen work at night so that we didn’t run the risk of bumping into the fresh paint.)
First, remove the hardware.
Next, label the cabinets. I just wrote a description of what lives in the cabinet and wrote it on masking tape so I could remember which cabinet door went where. When I painted the inside of the cabinet door, I moved the piece of tape to the hinge.
When I painted the kitchen the first time, I did not remove the cabinet doors. I painted just the outside and brushed around the hinges.
This time, I removed all of the doors and painted both sides. It was more work and not totally necessary, so you just choose how you prefer to do yours.
I gave everything a light sanding just to rough up the surface a little. Audrey helped me with the doors out in the garage and I did the same to the drawer fronts and cabinet bases inside.
Once I sanded, Audrey vacuumed the cabinets off and then I went over them again with a damp cloth to remove the rest of the sanding dust.
This is where you could spend a lot of time on prep. You could sand really well. I’m a lazy sander and don’t do and excellent job.
With the cabinet doors prepped (good enough, at least), I propped them up on boxes pulled from the recycle bin and old cans of paint.
Let’s talk about paint real quick. For wipe-ability, most people suggest using semi-gloss or high-gloss paint. I went with semi.
Last time, we used Behr Marquee paint in semi-glass color matched in a Sherwin Williams color.
This time, I asked the paint guy at Home Depot and he recommended the Behr Alkyd Semi-Gloss Enamel. He said it dried slightly harder and went on smoother and I was sold. It is actually a little bit cheaper than the Marquee and specifically formulated for trim, doors and cabinets. I had it color matched to Sherwin Williams Anew Gray.
I know that Sherwin Williams, Benjamin Moore and other fine paint companies each have their own version of cabinet-grade paint. You will spend more on these and the quality is very likely better than what you’ll get at Home Depot or Lowes. Perhaps I would spend the extra money if we were planning on keeping these cabinets long-term and durability was a big concern, but that was not the case for us. Choose the paint that fits your needs and budget.
In addition to the paint, I picked up a new 1 1/2″ angled brush, small foam roller and paint tray.
Audrey was so excited to help, so as I brushed the first coat of paint around the edges and grooves, she went behind me and rolled the center of the cabinets.
She did fine, but after seeing how uneven they dried, I decided it was better if I didn’t let my 8 year old paint the cabinets :)
I did a quick sanding of any rough spots and added another coat. I actually found that I liked how the paint went on better with a brush and mostly stuck to just brushing it on.
P.S. My back hurt like crazy when I was done doing the doors. I had to bend over to paint the whole time and it was mildly painful. #nopainnogain
Back inside, the kitchen looked like this for a week or so:
And then after some more painting, it looked like this:
I removed the drawers to paint the bases, then carefully set them back in (keeping them pulled out a bit) and painted the drawer fronts.
Random fact about me: one of my pet peeves is drawers that are not all the way pushed in. Therefore, the kitchen with all these drawers left open drove me just a little batty.
For the larger areas of cabinetry, I taped off the perimeter, used a brush for the edges and rolled the center.
All of the cabinet bases, doors and drawers received two coats of paint.
I’m guessing the painting took me around 15-ish hours total. That’s a very rough estimate. I just did a little bit each night and listened to one million podcasts. It was actually quite a wonderful way to spend those hours.
I let the cabinets dry for 24 hours before putting the doors back on (a total pain!) and then adding the hardware (my worst job ever).
But all that work paid off and the kitchen is now much lighter and brighter with its new gray color.
So, to recap:
- remove hardware
- label cabinet doors
- remove cabinet doors (or skip this step)
- lightly sand + remove all dust
- brush or roll two coats (sanding in between coats if you wish)
- let dry at least 24 hours
- put doors back on
- add hardware
- step back and enjoy!
Painting your kitchen cabinets (or laundry room or bathroom) can totally transform your space. Don’t be afraid to do it!
Any questions? Let’s chat in the comments.