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How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets

...and completely transform your kitchen!

Learn how to paint kitchen cabinets and avoid the common problems many people wind up with because they took short cuts. Short cuts are bad! Not always, but in this case, bad. Peeling paint, sticking doors, doors that don't shut and cabinets that won't wipe clean? This long list is enough to scare even me away from my beloved paint. Was it going to hold up? Would it look just as good a year from now? Should we just replace all the cabinets and start over?

Those are the questions I asked myself as I stood in the doorway of our dark and dreary kitchen in the house we just purchased. It came with the original knotty pine (dark orange wood color) cabinets and it made my already small kitchen look like a small dark cave. Not exactly the "bright, clean and airy kitchen of my dreams. Sigh. So paint them? Replace them?

I soon learned that replacing the cabinets was simply out of the budget. So paint them? Yes indeed. Gulp.

After consulting with the paint pros (a few hired contractors, guys at several paint shops, friends who had done it before, etc) we determined the best method for how to paint kitchen cabinets. At least, the best method for us.

I've been waiting to write this page until I could honestly say our kitchen as been fully lived in to test how well these painted kitchen cabinets hold up. It has been just over a year now and they look exactly the same as when we painted them. Well, except they are dirty now but that is just because I have two small children and I'm lazy and need to wipe them down. They do wipe clean by the way, only not by themselves unfortunately.

how to paint kitchen cabinets before how to paint kitchen cabinets after

Supplies: To paint kitchen cabinets, you'll need a handheld power sander, quality primer (we use Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3) and quality semi-glossy paint (we used Benjamin Moore from the Natura Line) as well as tools to remove your cabinet doors, drop cloths, brushes, rollers, buckets and all that painting good stuff. Tip: You can learn more about picking the best paint for kitchen cabinets in this article.

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets: Prepping - First, you'll need to remove everything from your cabinets and drawers. Yes, I'm serious. If you are already living in the house plan on eating out for several nights. You'll also need to remove the doors and drawers on all your cabinets. This will make sanding and painting much easier. All knobs and drawer pulls also must be removed obviously and this will give you a good chance to clean them if you'll be keeping them. This is a huge project but so worth it. Can't say I didn't warn you.

Sanding or Deglossing - Now if you are starting with wood like we did, sanding with a power sander (and hand sanding in hard to reach corners) will be your best bet. This will create a smooth even surface and even buff out some dings and dents and fifty years of grease and grime.

If your cabinets are already painted you can use a product called Liquid Sandpaper which is a nasty (but helpful!) chemical that basically takes the gloss off the surface which will allow your primer to grip the cabinets. Actual sanding is always better (although much more work) and as with all home improvement projects that involve sanding, be certain to test for lead paint if you fear your cabinets might have some layered somewhere. Do not sand lead paint - leave that to the pros. Sanding is messy, best to hang plastic sheets over your doorways to avoid it getting in the rest of the house.

Clear Dust - Now assuming you sanded, you'll need to clean up. Sanding creates a horrible mess. Clean it up. Get a shopvac and don't forget to use a tack cloth (a sticky cloth that you buy specifically for picking up sanding dust) or just use damp rage/paper towels to make sure you get all the dust off the surfaces. This is important or your primer won't stick as well, which is crucial.

painting kitchen cabinets painting kitchen cabinets drawers

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets: Prime - Prime with a quality primer (we use Zinsser Bulls Eye 123 because about 15 different painters told us it was good as any) and use a roller for any of the larger flat surfaces. We layed our cabinet fronts on 2 by 4s outside and used the roller. We let them dry completely and then flipped them over and did the other side. Do the exterior sides of your doors last so they stay pristine.

Paint - Again, do the front sides of your doors as the very last thing. Quality paint is really worth it here. We learned this the hard way on other projects (a dressor we painted where the paint just peeled off, ick) so for this we picked the very best. Benjamin Moore. It really is great paint, it is thick like cream and very durable. We used the Natura line because it has zero VOC (meaning no nasty off-gassing chemicals which I didn't want in my kitchen where we prepare and store food!) and no stinky paint smell in our house. Semi-gloss for kitchen cabinets is a must for durability and wipe-ability. If you go with full gloss it will show imperfections more so I'd suggest semi for cabinets.

diy kitchen cabinet painting diy kitchen cabinets paint

Dry & Be Patient - Let the paint dry and cure for longer than the can tells you. The longer you let it "cure" before putting your doors and hardware back on the better. We waited a full week. When you reassemble, scratches and dings are inevitable (if you are clumsy like me) so have some touch up paint handy for that spot you accidentally scraped with a screwdriver or whatever.

painted kitchen knobs painted kitchen hinges

Hardware - It is fun to get new hardware, but even that is expensive. I didn't mind the shape of our hardware, I just didn't like the color. So I spray painted it all metallic black with metal spray paint! It has held up perfectly over the years too! Just lay it all out on carboard and lightly spray with spray paint to alter the look. There are lots of great "metal finish" spray paints on the market right now that work well.

painted kitchen countertops before painted kitchen countertops after

Enjoy - Now marvel at how much bigger your kitchen looks and cleaner! And newer! Hope you enjoyed learning how to paint kitchen cabinets.

Happy painting!

After all, it's your might as well love it!



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