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How To Repaint Old Kitchen Cabinets

Step By Step Instructions - How To Paint Your Kitchen Cabinets in 3 Days!

Learning How to Repaint Kitchen Cabinets is one of the least expensive and best transformations you can do for your kitchen. Painting kitchen cabinets is a simple and inexpensive overhaul, and with our DIY Kitchen Painting Guide, you can complete this project in 3 days.

The “Do it Yourself” category – painting kitchen cabinets or bathroom cabinets – can be one of the most rewarding home projects you will ever take on – and in the process, you will save a lot of money.

Professional painters can charge between $2,000-$5,000 to repaint cabinets, depending on the size of your kitchen – making this project one of the biggest cost-savers most homeowners can take on themselves.

And Great News –  With these simple steps below, you can paint kitchen cabinets without stripping them first!


How to Repaint Kitchen Cabinets

 

First:  Buy the Paint & Materials:

Allow a budget of $300-600 for all of the materials needed to paint kitchen cabinets, depending on the size of your kitchen, the grade of materials chosen, and any new hardware selections.

We Recommend this list of Paint and Materials – For Repainting Kitchen Cabinets:

  • Best Type of Paint For Kitchen Cabinets (see suggestions below)

  • Primer – Buy the best Primer for all types of wood surfaces (see tips below)

  • Paint Brush – We recommend a high-quality 2 – 2 ½” Nylon Bristle brush

  • Foam Roller – 3” mini foam roller with refills for smooth flat surfaces

  • Painters Tape – 1 roll of painter or “Frog” tape should be sufficient

  • Drop cloths – to protect floor and countertops.

  • Have plenty of rags for quick clean-up.

  • Sharpie pen

  • Screwdriver or drill with bits to remove hardware

  • Portable Workbench

  • Shop Vacuum

  • Wood putty and putty knife (if you have damage or knicks to fill)

  • Ventilation masks

  • Tack cloth – If you plan to sand, buy tack cloth to remove dust from cabinets.

How To Paint Kitchen Cabinets | Best Home Gear
White Painted Kitchen Cabinets

Few Quick Tips:  Before Painting Kitchen Cabinets:

  • Allow Sufficient Time:  While many people claim repainting kitchen cabinets is a 1- or 2-day project, we recommend allowing 3-4 days for this project. Just pick a time when you can set aside 3-4 days for just this one project.
  • Buy the Best Paint for Kitchen Cabinets: Choose the best paint for kitchen cabinets that you can afford. This is a time when the saying… “You get what you pay for”… comes into play. A lousy brand of kitchen cabinet paint or primer will doom your project from the start.
  • Buy the Best Primer for Kitchen cabinets you can find. Equally important to the paint you use is buying the best Primer for cabinets available. In our opinion, the best-rated primer for kitchen cabinets is the KILZ Adhesion bonding primer.
  • Good Lighting:  Be sure to have sufficient lighting for your kitchen. This may require the use of additional lamps or Jobsite lights to brighten up your space while you work.

Without trying to sound too much like a commercial…..Kilz is a Water-based Primer for easy cleanup; it does not have toxic fumes like oil-based primers and will adhere to laminates, glossy surfaces, metal, and existing latex or oil-based paint.

It dries in one hour, so you can quickly get right onto the next step – painting kitchen cabinets.

Keep in mind that no matter how great your paint is, if your kitchen cabinet primer doesn’t adhere permanently and the primer coat fails – the paint will peel.


Day One:  “Prepare” Cabinets for Paint:

 

Step 1)  “Sketch” Your Existing Kitchen Cabinet Layout

Make a quick sketch of your kitchen cabinets, numbering every door and drawer on the plan, and save the sketch in a safe place to reference later.  Many doors and drawers are often made to fit one specific opening, especially in custom kitchen cabinets. It’s essential to return each door and drawer to its original location.

Refer to the Kitchen Cabinet Sketch below – Use this type of method to keep track of and Identify Doors & Drawers before removing them:

labeling kitchen cabinet doors and doors - best home gear
Label Kitchen Doors and Drawers Before Removal – BestHomeGear.Com

Step 2)  Label Kitchen Cabinet Doors and Drawers

  • Using a small piece of painter’s tape and a sharpie pen, label each door on the “hinge pocket” located on the backside of each cabinet door. The number will be concealed after the door hinge is installed.
  • So for just the doors, you can write the door number right in the hinge pocket on the door without painter’s tape.
  • For the drawers, use painter’s tape and label the inside of each drawer box. Do this according to the number or letter is shown on your sketch.
  • As shown above, I like to number the doors and assign a letter to each drawer to keep everything separate and simple.

Step 3)  Remove Cabinet Doors and Drawers

After you have labeled all the doors and drawers in your kitchen (or bath), remove the labeled doors and drawers, carefully set them aside, and move on to Step 4.

Step 4)  Remove Kitchen Cabinet Hardware

Remove all hinges, screws, knobs and pulls from doors and drawers and separate the hardware into separate small boxes of screws, hinges, pulls, and knobs. (Note: leave sliding drawer glides in place unless you are repainting the inside drawer “boxes,” – which is a huge job).

Step 5 – Prep Kitchen Cabinets, Doors, and Drawers, for Paint

  1. For old wood cabinets with “a varnished finish – Use a good de-glosser such as
  2. For old wood cabinets with a “painted finish,” – use an excellent de-greaser first such as Kleen strip
  3. Fill any minor nicks or dents with wood putty
  4. and lightly sand all doors and drawer fronts surfaces with 200-220 grit sandpaper.
  5. Wipe off any dust and residue from wood surfaces with a clean, soft rag.
  6. Use painter’s tape to tape off the inside of cabinets, shelves, and drawer boxes (not to be painted).

Step 6)  Protect All Surfaces

Before applying Primer and Paint, cover appliances, countertops, and floor with plastic, drop cloths, or paper to protect from paint splatters or spills.  You will be very glad you did!

Step 7)   “Prime” Kitchen Cabinets

Use the Best kind of Primer to paint your kitchen cabinets – We recommend using KILZ – as the best adhesion primer for all types of cabinet finishes.

Priming Kitchen Cabinets | Best Home Gear
Priming Inside of Cabinets Before Paint Isn’t Necessary – Besthomegear.com

Tips Before you start:

If the “Inside” of your kitchen cabinets is a Natural finish (like Oak or Maple), we recommend leaving the inside of the cabinets and the drawer boxes Unpainted

The photo above shows a woman priming the “Inside’ of her kitchen cabinets.  However, when the kitchen cabinet doors and drawers are closed, you will not see the inside of the cabinets –  so we consider painting the inside of cabinets and drawers an unnecessary step and enormous savings for you in labor.

While the interior of cabinets and drawers are left untouched and unpainted, the “face-frame” of cabinets, however, does require painting (shown above). The face frame Does Show when the cabinet painting project is completed.

When painting kitchen cabinets, leaving the inside cabinet a “natural” color goes very well with most of the. Popular paint colors are used today, such as painting kitchen cabinets white, sage green, or dusty blue.

Six Steps to Prime Kitchen Cabinets:

  1. Apply Primer to one side of all doors and drawer fronts. Note: Always apply paint in the direction of the wood “grain.”
  2. Depending on how Flat or Detailed your cabinet doors and drawer fronts are, we recommend using either a good 2 – 2 ½” wide nylon bristle paintbrush or a mini foam paint roller for flat surfaces or using both as needed.
  3. Lay each “Primed” piece of cabinetry Flat – on top of a covered table, empty boxes, sawhorses, or otherwise “staged area” to dry.
  4. Next, Prime all cabinet “boxes” – starting from the back (inside) and working out to the front.
  5. Note: If you are leaving the inside of your cabinets original and unpainted, you will only need to prime and paint the “Inside Edge” (front frame) of the cabinets.
  6. You will only be applying one coat of primer, so make sure you apply evenly and thoroughly to all “exposed” cabinet surfaces.
  7. Allow a minimum of 1 ½ – 2 hours for the primer to dry. Then, flip the drawers and drawers over, and apply primer to the backside of each door and drawer.
Primer for Kitchen Cabinets | Best Home Gear
Putting Primer Coat On Kitchen Cabinets – Besthomegear.com

Day Two:  “Paint” Kitchen Cabinets

 

Step 1)   “Sand” Kitchen Cabinets – First

  • Lightly Sand all exposed primed surfaces with an extra-fine – 220-grit sandpaper.
  • Note: While sanding kitchen cabinets is optional, It is an excellent idea to do a light sanding on all exposed surfaces between the primer, paint, and final clear-coat finishes. Sanding provides a smoother finish and a much more professional-looking job.
  • Tip: Sanding is much easier and quicker if you use an extra-fine “Sanding Sponge” for flat surfaces.

Step 2)  “Paint” Kitchen Cabinets

  • Our choice for the best paint for kitchen cabinets would undoubtedly be either Sherwin Williams, Benjamin Moore, or Dunn Edwards. Each manufacturer has stand-alone paint stores and a vast array of color selections.
  • However, if you don’t have a good paint supplier near you, and plan to paint kitchen cabinets white, we recommend INSL-X Cabinet paint, which you can get shipped from Amazon, along with your primer.
  • If you’re looking at spicing up your kitchen with Color – Check out Nuvo’s Warm Greige or their other many color choices.
  • Proceed with Cabinet Paint: Follow the same steps used for applying the primer and apply Paint to all primed surfaces, including doors, drawers, and cabinet boxes.
  • We recommend waiting one day (minimum 8 hours) before proceeding with the final finish coat and hardware.

Day 3:  Complete Cabinet “Finish & Hardware”

This is the “fun day” – the day you wrap up your kitchen cabinets painting project!

Step 1)  Apply “Clear Coat” For Kitchen Cabinets

  • Select one of the Best Clear Coats for Kitchen Cabinets, and apply a final “Clear Coat” Finish after allowing the Paint coat to dry overnight – or for a minimum of at least 8 hours.
  • We recommend Rust-Oleum Polyurethane Clear coat finish because It’s water-based, easy to apply, and dries quickly – in about 2 hours.
  • Apply one coat of polyurethane to the painted finish; easiest applied with a foam roller. The clear coat finish is critical to protect and maintain the beauty and the paint of your painted kitchen cabinets.
  • The Clear Coat is Essential for protecting painted surfaces from wear, knicks, and stains, and it makes it much easier to clean painted cabinets daily.
  • Most clear coat finishes dry to the touch in 2 hours or less.  Read the instructions to be sure it is dry enough to re-assemble the cabinets, and move on to step 2 below.

Step 2)  ReInstall All Kitchen Cabinet Doors and Drawers

install cabinet hardware - best home gear
Installing Cabinet Hardware – Besthomgear.com
  • Install all of the hinges back onto the finished doors. (install drawer slides onto the finished drawers if previously removed).
  • Using your previously numbered kitchen layout sheet, re-install all kitchen cabinet doors and drawers back to their numbered correct kitchen cabinet.

3)  Install Kitchen Cabinet Hardware

Finally, Install your New or repurposed door pulls, and drawer pulls or knobs onto your refinished cabinets.

4) Clean Up!

Remove all the Surface Protection from countertops, floors, and appliances, vacuum any dust, mop floors, etc.

Step 5)  Enjoy Your Beautiful New Kitchen!

Now you know “How to Repaint Old Kitchen Cabinets” – And more importantly – How to Do it Yourself!  While your kitchen may not look exactly like the Kitchen below, this should give you some idea of how great white-painted kitchen cabinets can look!

Painted White Kitchen - Best Home Gear
Painted White Cabinets – Besthomegear.com

Frequently Asked Questions – Painting Kitchen Cabinets:

Can you paint any cabinets?

Any cabinet surface that can be scruffed up or lightly sanded can be painted. To paint melamine or plastic laminate cabinets will require a special bonding primer. To allow a proper finish, all laminate surfaces must be free of any defects.

What is the Best Paint to Use On Kitchen Cabinets?

Most professional painters and paint stores recommend using water-based Latex or Acrylic Paint for kitchen cabinets. Both types are easy to apply, and because they are water-based, they clean up easily.

What Is the Best Paint “Finish” To Use For Kitchen Cabinets?

The paint finish you choose to paint kitchen cabinets is a personal preference. The top paint finish choices are generally Latex Satin, Semi-Gloss, or Gloss paint finish.

For today’s kitchen remodels, Satin finish paint is the preferred choice for most painters and homeowners.

Satin is a slightly dull finish and hides more defects or imperfections in the wood, unlike a semi-gloss or gloss finish, which will likely expose knicks, dents, or scratches on the wood surface.

Should You Apply Clear Finish Over Painted Cabinets?

Applying a polyurethane finish as the Final Coat when painting kitchen cabinets is highly recommended. The final clear coat protects against everyday wear and tear and allows for easy wiping of stains from food prep, fingerprints, etc.

Due to the nature of cleaning and handling in a kitchen – painted wood – that is left without a clear coat finish will eventually break down sooner and require further repainting.

What is the Best Paint For Kitchen Cabinets, Oil-Based Or Latex Paint?

While Oil Based paint provides a “harder” finish when dry, Oil-based painting involves harsh fumes, longer dry times between coats, and challenging cleanup. Approximately 90% of all professional painters use Latex or Acrylic – Water-Based Paints for painting wood cabinets.

How To Repaint Kitchen Cabinets – Video:

While this video isn’t identical to the cabinet painting steps in our article – it’s pretty close. The video, courtesy of This Old House – Is a short but fun tutorial on How to repaint kitchen cabinets:


Conclusion

While painting cabinets is more advanced than painting walls – and this job may look challenging to someone not accustomed to painting, once you know “what materials to buy and how to apply them, painting kitchen cabinets is not something you can do with proper guidelines.

Just remember to set aside three full days; don’t skimp on materials by buying the “cheap stuff,” and before you know it, you will be walking into your beautiful newly painted kitchen!

Thanks for visiting BestHomeGear.Com – Please leave us a comment below, and don’t forget to check out our other DIY articles and get the job done Yourself.

References and Additional Reading:

Kevin
Kevin
Kevin is the author and editor for Best Home Gear. In addition to his work in publishing, Kevin enjoys exploring the Outdoors in Michigan and Arizona, Hiking, Cycling, Fishing, Reading, and Completing Projects for the Home and Garden.

5 COMMENTS

  1. In regard to sanding, I don’t think I can sand my cabinets, because the paint may have lead (it’s from the 40s) Would it be okay to skip that step?

    • Betsy, thanks for your question – In the US which is where I am, the Federal Government banned paint containing Lead in 1978. So depending on your location in the world, you should avoid sanding any interior paint that is older than 1978. You can paint over the existing paint without sanding the existing finish. Hope that assists you, and good luck with your project.

  2. Kevin
    Before I read this article I was seriously “afraid” to take on painting my kitchen cabinets. With this step by step guide, I see now the process is not as daunting as I had thought. Thanks for making the steps so simple to follow. I will let you know how my own painting project goes!
    Tammi D.

    • Hi Tammi
      Thanks so much for your comments and for re-assuring others – that they can take on this DIY project. It’s like anything you set your mind to – If you have the right tools, time, and some good instructions, you can do about anything yourself.
      Good Luck with your kitchen painting project!
      Kevin

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