How To Repaint Kitchen Cabinets

Taking time to repaint your kitchen cabinets (and perhaps update your decorative hardware) can transform a space, making it look brand new. Painting cabinets is a daunting task, but skipping steps and cutting corners to save time and money will often end up costing you both money and time in the long run. This project may take a few days, but we promise the following steps are worth the effort.

Step 1: Start by choosing a high-quality acrylic latex paint. Pratt and Lambert’s Aquanamel is a good premium option or our Best Look Kitchen and Bath paint is another good option at a little lower price-point as long as you are choosing a light color. When selecting a sheen (how shiny the paint is) it is important to consider some trade-offs: as the sheen goes goes up (gets shinier), the paint will show more imperfections in the surface. Meaning, a gloss or semi-gloss paint will show divits, scratches, etc., more than a satin or flat finish. On the other hand, gloss and semi-gloss paints are much easier to clean and are generally more durable than satin or flat paints. Because kitchen cabinets are constantly being open and shut, dishes are going in and out, and food and grease can often splatter onto them, it is best to choose a higher sheen such as a semi-gloss or gloss paint. We just need to make sure to take special care when we prepare the cabinets for painting.   

Step 2: Before you crack open your new paint, prep your cabinets and your work area. Begin  by emptying all cabinets, pulling off doors and pulling out drawers, and removing any cabinet hardware including handles and knobs. Remember during this time to cover up your countertops, stove area, and any other items you want to keep paint-free with drop cloths or painter’s plastic

Pro Tip: mark your hardware and your doors/drawers so you remember where to re-install! Put all the little fasteners in a container with a lid and label it cleary so it doesn’t get thrown out in the trash.

Step 3:  Now, take some time to wash your cabinets using a mild detergent or degreaser and a cloth or sponge. While you are making your way around the cabinets, it is a good idea to inspect the existing coat of paint and check for signs of peeling or bubbling. If the surface is in good condition and the paint is still adhered to the cabinets, you can paint over the existing paint. If there is some wear and tear present, you’ll want to remove any loose paint with a scraper and sand down the surfaces so they’re nice and smooth. 

Step 4: Now that your cabinets are emptied, washed and any loose paint has been removed, apply painter’s tape to the areas where the cabinets meet the wall. Then, sand all parts of your cabinets down with a medium grit, such as 120 grit sandpaper and work your way up through finer grits, finishing with 220 grit. Make sure to get all the nooks and crannies in your cabinet doors while sanding. The extra time is worth it. Any divits or deep scratches can be filled with spackling or wood filler and then sanded down. Once sanded and smooth, go through the cabinets with a vacuum and then follow with a tack cloth to ensure all areas are dust-free. This is important before you begin priming and painting. Now is also a good time to get a fan blowing out in a window of your work space to create a nice air flow. 

Step 5: Prep phase complete, on to the fun part. Before painting you’ll want to prime your cabinets to provide a nice surface for the paint to adhere to. Start inside the cabinets using a brush, beginning at the back and working your way toward the front. Apply the primer evenly. On larger flat zones like the outside areas of the cabinets you can use a small paint roller to cover the surface with primer. After all cabinets, doors, drawers, and other surfaces have been primed and are dry, it’s a good idea to give all surfaces a light sanding once again with fine sandpaper, and then vacuum and follow with a tack cloth to remove any dust. Now we can move onto beginning the painting phase!

Step 6: We like to begin by painting the cabinets first, using a high-quality brush* and applying even strokes. Make sure you keep your brush wet, but be mindful to watch for drips or pooling and don’t apply too heavily at one time. While the cabinets are drying, you can move on to painting the doors and drawers. To speed up the process of painting the doors, you can make DIY painters pyramids to rest the doors on while painting. Take some scrap blocks of wood and drive nails or drywall screws through the scraps. The protruding nails/screws can now be used to rest the doors on while you paint. Start with the back of the doors first and when you flip over you will only end up with 4 very small divits on the inside of your cabinet doors while you paint the fronts of the doors. Alternatively, if you aren’t in a rush, you can paint one side at a time, allowing for the paint to fully dry before moving onto the other side. Your cabinets and cabinet doors and drawers will likely require two or three coats of paint, taking care to give a light sanding between each coat followed by a vacuum and tack cloth. 

*We prefer a brushed finish on cabinets, doors and drawer fronts, but some people opt for a foam roller on larger flat areas. Avoid knit or woven fabric rollers which typically don’t leave a smooth enough finish for cabinets. 

Step 7: Once you finish painting everything, make sure you wait at least 24 hours (longer is better) before reiunstalling doors and drawers to avoid the doors sticking to the freshly applied paint. When all paint is dry, track down those notes you took, and reinstall the cabinet hardware to the appropriate drawers and doors. If you’re looking for new handles or knobs, we’ve got you covered. This is also a great time to add cabinet door bumps to all the cabinet doors. Sometimes a simple hardware swap out can really up the feel of your kitchen space. The last step is to reattach all doors, install hardware and remove your painter’s tape. 

We hope you find the time waiting for paint to dry and following the above steps worthwhile as you sit back and admire your new kitchen! If you run into any questions along the way, or need any guidance picking out or color matching a paint, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team at 616-241-2655!