How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets
One of my very best friends wanted to give her kitchen a complete overhaul and it was nothing short of spectacular! The kitchen was in excellent shape, so there was no reason to get new cabinets. They just needed a fresh look! Also, why pay thousands of dollars on new cabinets when you can do a DIY and spend some time with your awesome friend (me, duh)!
Here’s the kitchen before the reno:
The cabinets are a gorgeous solid wood. This is their natural color and it had a clear coat glaze on top to seal the wood. This is a great sized kitchen with A LOT of cabinets! (You’re going to be slated by the transformation!)
If you’re going to paint your cabinets, the first step is removing the hardware. My friend did that before these pictures were taken. Next, removing all of the cabinet faces from the wall.
Don’t worry about emptying the cabinets! There’s no reason to do that unless you’re going to paint the inside. Which is up to you, but might be more trouble than it’s worth!
After removing all of the cabinets and drawers, we took them outside and sanded them down. I used a 120 grit paper on my sander. A lower grade (harsher sand paper) might work faster, but it will not give you a smooth finish. We laughed and cried a little at how long this took us. My friend thought it would be an hour, I said, “no way, it’ll be more like 3 hours.” Well, it ended up taking us just over 5 hours to sand everything. That’s 10 man hours total. If you’re going to paint your cabinets, you’ll need to dig deep. Pro Tip: Do this DIY with someone you enjoy spending time with! It’ll go by faster 🙂
Here’s a before and after of a drawer face that I sanded. You can see the difference in the color of the wood once the glaze was removed. The surface was entirely smooth and almost ready to be painted!
Depending on what kind of hardware you choose, you might need to fill the holes. My friend decided to go with some new hardware and switched from a knob with one anchor, to a drawer pull with two. You’ll need a flexible joint knife and wood filler to do this.
Take a dab of the wood filler and push it into the hole. The take the joint knife and smooth it out, just like if you were spackling a wall. Do this on both sides of the cabinet or drawer.
For the absolute best results, wait until it’s 100% dried. Then take a sander and lightly go over the filler until it’s flush with the cabinet. Tip: Close your eyes and run your finger over the area. If you can’t feel any dips, cracks, bubbles, or crust, you’re ready to paint!
The Finish-All Paint is available on Amazon and I have only excellent things to say about it. This was my first time using it and I literally could not believe how far 32 oz of this paint goes. For the entire kitchen we only used 3 of them. The paint goes on thin and smooth but is heavy enough that you only need two coats.
At this point in the day it was pretty dark out. So we brought painting inside and set up a painting and drying station. The paint dries so quickly and does not smell, so it was manageable to work inside. Make sure you used a tarp or sheets to protect your furniture. We used my old bed sheets to cover a pool table.
The best way to paint cabinets is to paint inside the grooves first, then the panel, and finally the trim. Doing it this way will create clean and crisp brush strokes. If you paint the grooves last, the corner strokes will look sloppy.
Here you can see the difference between coats one and two, but coat one is super impressive, especially for white paint. White paint usually takes 3 or 4 coats to cover a dark surface color.
When the cabinet faces are drying, you’ll need to go back and paint the cabinet frames. Once everything is dry, you’ll need to seal the cabinets with a protective finish. My friend used General Finishes. This will protect against general wear and chipping. It will also create an easy to clean surface.
When you’re all done, you can add your hardware and hang the doors back up! I recommend using a hardware guide to expedite the process and more importantly, please your OCDs.
This difference is unbelievable! Those are the same floors! The same space! The same cabinets! The white is so brilliant, it makes it feel like a completely different room. You can basically do cartwheels in this kitchen now. I can’t explain it. But it’s glorious. Just look at it!
Special thanks to Jackie for trusting me to take apart your home, love you, friend!