If you’re in the market to paint your kitchen cabinets, you have come to the right place! I am sharing every single solitary step to a brand new space!
While the actual priming and painting only took three days (can you say marathon painting?), reviving your kitchen cabinets will also require at least one solid day for prep, and at least one additional day to put everything back together. I took all day Friday to prep, primed and painted Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, and put everything back together all day Tuesday for a total of five days.
I am sharing my experience step-by-step. Feel free to skim over if you don’t need that much nitty gritty. I included affiliate links so you can find the products I used. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.
If you missed the before of this makeover, you can see all the not so pretty pictures HERE.
Let’s get started!
Day 1: Prep Cabinets
- Remove all handles and knobs, and store them in a Ziploc bag if you plan to reuse them.
- Label doors according to what is inside. I used FrogTape which was perfect since I was moving the tape often.
- Remove cabinet doors and cabinet door hardware (hinges). If you plan to reuse them, save them in a Ziploc bag also. (I have reused my hinges in the past to save on costs. I just spray painted the old hinges. However, if it is in your budget to do so, I recommend purchasing new ones. Be sure to take a sample of what you already have to the store with you!)
- Remove everything from the counters if possible. I emptied a couple of my cabinets, but not all. I pushed as much back as I could and removed anything that was unable to be pushed back.
- I found it very helpful to cover my surfaces with brown paper. A roll of it can be found near the drop cloths at Lowes for around $8. It will catch any paint splatter and any dust from sanding, saving a ton of clean up later.
I used masking tape to hold it in place. I covered the stove and sink also, but I was able to remove it when I needed to use either. Then I just put it right back.
- The MOST IMPORTANT step for a beautiful, smooth finish is cleaning your cabinets! I used All Surface Paint Prep which is a TSP substitute. This particular brand is no longer available, but this one is just as good…as long as it says it is also a deglosser.
Because this product is also a deglosser, it will take the gloss off of any surface you use it on. Wearing gloves is recommended. I sprayed it directly onto my Scotch Brite sponge and then wiped the cabinets down with it. I had to use the abrasive side in stubborn areas. I started with my cabinet boxes.
Action shot! I don’t think I’ve ever been photographed while cleaning before.
- Find a clean, dust-free area to lay out your cabinet doors. I have several tables I was able to set up, but you could just as easily lay them out on a drop cloth on the floor. You can see I carved out a very narrow space in my crowded garage!
- Clean the cabinet doors. I was able to spray the cleaner right on to the doors this time since no other surfaces needed to be protected. Look at the difference on this tall cabinet:
The cabinet on the right almost looks as though it’s been sanded. I also scraped off the old felt bumpers with a razor blade. (I think they were dry-rotted anyway.)
- Time to sand! Sand the cabinet boxes first. Sand all surface fronts and the lip just inside the cabinet. I did not paint the interior of the cabinets, so no prep is needed there. You are not sanding down to bare wood, just enough to remove any shiny surfaces that still remain after cleaning. Use 320 grit sandpaper or a fine sanding block. I like to cut full sheets of sandpaper into four rectangles, then wrap one around an old foam sanding block to sand my pieces, replacing each piece of sandpaper often. *I also highly recommend wearing a dust mask while sanding!
- Sand drawer fronts and doors. When sanding drawer fronts and doors, sand really well where the knobs and pulls are or will be, as those areas will receive the most wear.
- Use a shop vac to pick up the dust in the cabinets and from the crevices of the cabinet doors. Wipe off any remaining dust with a clean damp cloth.
- Tape off the hood vent, inside of drawers, appliances and anything else that needs to be protected from paint.
- Add about a foot of brown paper all around the base of the cabinets to catch drips and splatter. This is the only photo I have, but you can see it also provides a landing spot for your brush and roller as you’re switching back and forth.
Woo hoo! Your kitchen is officially prepped! Wasn’t that hard work??
Day 2: Time to Prime!
This is what you’ll need to start priming:
Four inch roller and an additional two-pack of smooth rollers (These are from Lowes and specified, “Doors and Cabinets”.)
Paintbrush -I prefer to use a Purdy 2.5-Inch Angle Brush, but I had this brand new brush on hand already, which is fine for priming. (I did use a Purdy for painting. )
Gloves (not shown) I bought a 25 pack of blue Nitrile Gloves and tried to wear them at all times to save on clean up.
Start priming the boxes of your cabinets first. I painted mine much the same way you would paint a wall. I cut in with the brush and then rolled out the easier-to-reach areas. I will warn you that when you stand back and look at your primed cabinets you may start doubting the insane idea you had to paint your cabinets. They will look terrible but have faith. The paint will look spectacular!
Mine looked pretty awful at this point:
- Prime drawer fronts. I used a paintbrush to apply primer to the back of the drawer fronts and a roller to roll out the fronts. DO NOT prime the sides of the drawers, only the fronts and backside of the fronts.
- Prime the cabinet doors. Lay all of the doors with the backsides facing up. The backs should be painted first. I cut in the inside panels with the brush and rolled out the rest.
Be sure to lightly roll the primer on at the edges, so that the primer only covers the top surface, and doesn’t drip down onto the sides:
Only one coat of primer should do the trick, unless your cabinets are really dark, then I would recommend following up with one more coat of primer when that first coat is dry before moving on.
- After about two hours of dry time, I primed the fronts of the cabinet doors. To do this, I found a trick using push pins! Before flipping them over, I lightly hammered a pushpin in each corner to allow the backside to continue to dry thoroughly while still being able to prime the front!
Ready for the front side now! It’s also easier to run a roller around the sides with the cabinet doors elevated.
Did I mention I was marathon painting? Thankfully primer dries really quickly. Since my cabinet boxes inside had been dry for a few hours, I started painting! (Not the doors, just yet, but the boxes were ready!)
Day 2 (still): Let’s Start Painting!
Here’s what you’ll need to paint your cabinets:
Interior Enamel Paint in a Satin finish (I used Behr’s Cottage White) **This is latex paint, but the enamel gives it a durable, easy-to-clean finish.
**I did not get the paint with primer built-in since I was priming separately, but I would recommend using the paint with the primer for even better coverage, as I did have to touch up a few areas.
Four-inch roller and an additional two-pack of smooth rollers (These are from Lowes and specified, “Doors and Cabinets”.)
Purdy 2.5-Inch XL Brush or other good quality brush (2 or 2 1/2″)
Nitrile Gloves (Again, if you can save on clean up…plus I used my fingers for clean up so they were covered in paint!)
Paint the cabinet boxes. Use the same method as priming, brush to cut in and roll out the rest.
- Paint cabinet drawer fronts. Again, I used a paintbrush to paint the back of the drawer fronts and a roller to roll out the fronts. DO NOT paint the sides of the actual drawers. You are only painting the panels attached to the fronts of the drawers. I also painted the backs of those front panels.
This photo shows how smooth and pretty the paint is!
- Allow everything to dry overnight.
- Wrap all brushes and rollers with Saran Wrap when not in use. I used mine off and on for about two weeks like this, no washing necessary in between uses.
Day 3: Paint, Paint, Paint
- Time to paint the back sides of the cabinet doors. You’ll need to remove the push pins from the backs and lay the fronts face down. They should be well dry after sitting overnight, so no push pins necessary. I painted the same way, using a brush to cut in the recessed area and a roller to roll it out.
- Paint the cabinet boxes next with their second coat of paint. This is when everything starts to look really great!
- Remove tape while your surfaces are still wet!! This includes the brown paper on the floor.
- Take a break and take care of things you’ve been neglecting for the past two days, while your paint dries. Or take your kids to the Strawberry festival and go pick up a bookcase you found on an online yard sale, but had no business doing since you are knee-deep in a kitchen redo war zone.
- After a few hours of allowing the first coat on the cabinet backs to dry, I applied the second coat. They look so pretty! (You can see here too that the labels ended up on the table in front of each cabinet.)
One coat of primer and two coats of paint gave perfect coverage in the rolled areas. The brushed areas, could benefit from the paint with primer added for even better coverage.
- Allow everything to dry overnight.
Day 4: Finish Painting
- Add pushpins once again to the backs of the cabinets.
- Turn cabinet doors over and paint. I used a brush in the recessed areas and rolled out the flat areas and sides.
- I let mine dry pretty much all day, then gave them a second coat. The paint dries to the touch really quickly.
- Let the fronts dry completely overnight.
Day 5: Put the Kitchen Back Together
You can wake up to this and know that the painting is behind you!
- Time to add hinges! I installed brand new hinges very similar to these Satin Nickel Self-Closing Cabinet Hinges in quality and price: . I have spray-painted old hinges and reused them in the past. If your budget allows, I recommend new hinges. They just look and function so much better. The hinges I link to above run $30 for 10 pair. Well worth it!
- Add handles and drawer pulls. I reused what we had before, since they are still pretty:
- I also purchased new Felt Bumpers for the drawers and cabinets:
If you are only painting, you’re done! That was a lot of work, wasn’t it?
At this point I still had to paint the inside of the cabinet that I planned to add glass doors to, replace those door panels with glass, add a shelf above the window, install the crown molding above the cabinets, and add wainscoting to our large island.
It’s amazing what a difference paint can make! The after photo below is two years after I painted these cabinets and it is still holding up strong:
Why not use chalk paint?
I had been putting off this project for way too long. My toughest decision was what kind of paint to use. You know I am a huge fan of chalk paint and it seemed so much easier with the “no prep” idea behind chalk paint. However, I chose the latex enamel in the Satin finish and I could not be happier. The finish is so smooth and the enamel makes it durable and so easy to clean. The prep needed was well worth the end result, and there was no need to wax or seal the paint after, as would have been needed with chalk paint. That will make touch-ups so easy. Plus, you really want to have a smooth, grease and grime-free surface to paint on anyway!
I hope that you found this helpful! Maybe you’ll be inspired to get started on that kitchen update you’ve been putting off?
UPDATE: How have my cabinets held up after three years??
See for yourself HERE!
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You might also enjoy seeing how I painted the kitchen in our new house using the exact same method, except this required two coats of primer since the cabinets were so dark:
See how it looks now HERE!
And here’s what else I paint around here:
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If you like what you see, there are several ways to follow along!