“How To Paint Your Cabinets”

My kitchen sure didn’t look like this when we moved in. It was all oak- oak cabinets and flooring. Painting the island and cabinets lightened, brightened and modernized the space for a fraction of the cost of a remodel. But you already knew that and that’s why you are reading this!

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This is the kitchen when I moved in.  So dark. So brown.  So 90’s.  Just so.much.oak.  However, on the flip side it had great appliances and quality cabinetry.  Cosmetically all the wood was easily fixable.

So, let’s get down to it.  I read a bajillion blogs and researched before painting my first kitchen.  With Stylish Spaces we professionally painted many kitchens before I moved and painted this kitchen.  I painted with and without a sprayer and we tried multiple products over time.  What I’m sharing with you is what I’ve learned and it has worked best for me.

If you want to paint your own cabinets (or your own wood banister or ANYTHING wood for that matter) or if you simply want to feel informed about what to expect if you hire a painter this is for you.

REALISTIC TIMELINE

I painted our Florida kitchen in one sleepless weekend. 10 hour days of insanity.  That was overly ambitious and NOT recommended.  I would allocate 2 weeks reasonably from start to finish.  It’s easier to work on your own kitchen because you have access to it 24 hours a day but best to keep some balance.   You also need to understand that it takes 30 days for your paint to fully cure.  30 days.  No one can avoid their kitchen for 30 days but be as gentle as possible while the paint hardens.

REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS

If properly cleaned, properly sanded and degreased you have a perfect template to paint.  You will need to be patient and follow all drying times on the can.  Do not rush it.  If you get a drip, drop, run or imperfection let is fully dry then sand it before continuing.  It will not magically disappear but with sanding you can eliminate it and start fresh.  Never rush the drying process.  If you scratch it or scrape it there will be a mark especially in the first 30 days.  Once cured and dried it’s much harder to knick but any painted surface can be scratched if gauged.  That being said it’s really easy to touch up and totally worth it!!!

SUPPLIES WITH EXPLANATIONS

  1. 2” angled paint brush-  spring for a good quality brush wherever you are shopping
  2. Denatured alcohol, TSP or Krud Kutter-  choose any degreasing product
  3. Microfiber Rags-  you will use a few of these to degrease, dust and wipe up various spills.  I pick them up in the auto section at Walmart.
  4. Paper towels-  keep on hand for spills, place over paint cans when hammering shut etc
  5. 1 gallon of Zinsser 123 primer or Extreme Bond Primer by Sherwin Williams-  big price difference but both perform well
  6. Mini mohair rollers from Sherwin Williams-  these are for rolling cabinetry bases.  Grab a mini 4″ metal roller there or elsewhere.  Love these and feel they give a consistently good finish.  You’ll need one for priming and one for paint. Buy at least 2 packs.  https://www.sherwin-williams.com/home-builders/products/contractor-series-mohair-mini-rollers
  7. Rubber Bumper Pads-  you’ll want to replace 2 per door and 2 per drawer.  You can find at hardware stores or have shipped https://www.amazon.com/Rok-Hardware-Self-Adhesive-Bumpers-Kitchen/dp/B01L2UZYAC/ref=sr_1_11?ie=UTF8&qid=1527555482&sr=8-11&keywords=rubber+bumper+pads
  8. Philips screwdriver or drill bit-  you will use this to remove and reinstall cabinet doors/drawers/hinges.  A power drill makes this easier but is not necessary.
  9. 100 grit sand paper for wood-  you are going to scuff up and sand over every base, panel, door and drawer
  10. Orbital Palm Sander-  if you have one GREAT.  If you don’t you can buy one for $25-$30 and it’s a really an important part of the job.  I have this one and it works great for everything I tackle https://www.amazon.com/BLACK-DECKER-BDERO600-Random-Actuation/dp/B00OJWLZMW/ref=sr_1_3?s=hi&ie=UTF8&qid=1527555986&sr=1-3&keywords=black+and+decker+orbital+sander
  11. Extension cords- these are for reaching all over the kitchen with the sander
  12. 2 gallons of Sherwin Williams Pro Classic Interior Acrylic Latex for trim and doors-  self leveling, water based and overall a quality product.  SW has paint sales often so time it right!  You can try buying one gallon and buy another if needed.  (Amount needed is hard to assess without seeing your kitchen)
  13. Yellow or Green Frog painters tape-  I don’t know what it is about their product but it’s excellent and the only painters tape I will buy!
  14. Sharpie- you will be labeling the hinges, cabinet doors and drawers on snips of painters tape or on the baggies
  15. Baggies-  grab a pack to put the hinges and hardware if you already had it in and place next to the door or in the drawer you removed it from.  It really does matter.
  16. Tables or sawhorses with 2×4’s-  you need a lot of space to lay the cabinet doors and drawers on while painting.  Borrow from friends, relatives and neighbors.  The more you can create an assembly line the better.  I borrowed from all over the neighborhood and sharpied on painters tape the name of the owners so I could return promptly and accurately 😉
  17. 3-4 Canvas Drop Cloths-  you will want to cover tables, garage or basement flooring, kitchen flooring while painting bases as well as cabinetry.  I like canvas to reuse and wash between jobs.
  18. Paint tray and plastic liners-  liner for primer and paint.  Grab a bulk pack.
  19. Plastic cups-  pour small amounts of paint in for touch up or edging with a brush
  20. Styrofoam plates-  to pour paint on one and a clean plate for rolling off excess when using the mini roller on bases
  21. Rubber or latex gloves for cleaning and painting

I stock up on everything between Lowes or Walmart and Sherwin Williams. All hardware stores will carry most items.   I prefer SW for the actual cabinet paint and rollers but can get the other items for less other places so I make 2 trips.  I’m a frugal girl and 2 stops isn’t a deal breaker for me.

 

 

REMOVE DOORS AND DRAWERS

  1. Go around the kitchen and label all doors by placing a piece of painters tape on your door or the back of the door.  Orient yourself in the kitchen and choose left, right, center and island if applicable.  Note lower and upper as well. For example for the 3rd cabinet door on the bottom left side I would lable as “LL3”.  Create a system you will remember and works for you.
  2. Remove the hinge, place it in a plastic baggie and label it upper or lower.  Keep it in the cabinet on the side you removed it from.  Oddly this really matters when rehanging them.
  3. Look closely at your drawers.  Can you remove the front drawer face by removing screws inside the drawer?  If so, you are so lucky and can continue to store items in and use the drawer throughout the process.  Label the back of the drawer face.  If you can’t remove the face you are going to have to empty the drawer, label the back of the drawer face and remove the entire drawer.
  4. If you have drawers in front of your sink that pull down you have 2 options.  You can paint in place which is tricky or use an L shaped screw driver to remove the tiny screws to free the drawer face which is also tricky.  Done both and each have challenges.  Choose your evil.
  5. You can toss all knobs/pulls/hardware in one bag.

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Here’s an example of a labeled door and hinges.  You can’t be too specific in this process.

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Take all of the doors and drawers to the garage, basement or area where you will be painting them.  Now that they are out of the way you can begin cleaning the bases.

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CLEANING

Get ready to scrub every wood surface well so your paint can adhere properly.  Wash down all areas of the base cabinets, side panels, any island panels- everything.  You can use denatured alcohol, TSP or Krud Krutter to name a few.  Wear gloves and use a sponge then wipe dry.  I usually complete all steps inside the kitchen (cleaning, sanding and priming) then repeat the steps on all the doors/drawers.

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SANDING

Once your woodwork is dry you can move on to the sanding process.  Sanding scuffs up the wood and helps the primer bond to the wood.  You may read that you don’t have to sand but I recommend sanding all surfaces.   This is where a palm sander and extension cord come in handy.  I can’t imagine effectively sanding by hand plus it would be EXHAUSTING.

DUSTING/CLEANING

Use a damp microfiber cloth to wipe off all dust from sanding.  Wipe down counter tops, sweep or vacuum and ensure the environment is dust free.  Move any items that are near the front of cabinets to the back to avoid getting paint on your dish ware.

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TAPING

Now that your environment is clean and dry it’s time to tape.  Tape along appliances, along flooring, under countertops, along walls.  Also rip off a piece and place on the left and right of each shelf (as seen above) to avoid rolling paint onto the shelf.

 

23032367_1632753520078106_8755852490819947532_nPRIMING YOUR CABINET BASES

Stir the primer well then pour out some primer into a paint pan or plate.  Use your brush to edge along the top, bottom and in any grooves.  Use your mohair roller to cover flat areas.  Go back and check for any drips or runs- swoop over them and roll smooth.  Your primer coat will look uneven but this is normal.  Don’t panic!

The primer is acting as a bonding agent and a thin coat is better than a thick coat.  It dries typically within a half hour.  Wash out your brush and roller to prime doors/drawers or store in a plastic baggie in the fridge between use.  If your cabinets are dark and you are painting them white you may want to do 2 thin coats of priming before painting.

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PAINTING YOUR CABINET BASES

Painting the bases is the same as the priming process.  Stir your paint well and pour out some paint in a tray or plate.  Brush and roll using thin coats.  You will likely roll it all 3-4 times over a few days to get full coverage especially on flat panels.  Sand any drips or imperfections that you find as you go between coats.  Living in the house you are working on helps a lot here!  Usually the paint needs 4 hours to dry so if you can roll the bases you can go out and work on the doors.  You can likely do 2 coats per day.

 

PAINTING DOORS AND DRAWER FACES

SET UP A WORKSPACE

For your doors and drawers you will want to find a space like the garage or basement to set up sawhorses and 2×4’s or tables to lay as many as you can flat.  Cover the floor and tables to protect surfaces.  The more tables you can borrow and set up the faster you can complete steps like an assembly line.

TRANSFER THE LABELS

If you are able to sharpie the cabinet label in the hole where the hinge goes (for example LL3)  and cover it with the tape.  When you are done painting you can pull off the tape and see where to rehang it.  If you can’t remove your hinge for some reason just keep the labeled tape in front of the door or under it while you work.

CLEAN DOORS/DRAWERS AND REMOVE BUMPERS

Take each door and degrease both sides and the edges. While cleaning them go ahead and pop off any remaining bumpers with a flat head screw driver or putty knife.  Repeat for all doors and drawer faces.

SAND DOORS/DRAWERS

Sand front, back and sides.  Ideally sand off to the side of your paint space to keep your table surfaces dust free.

DUST DOORS/DRAWERS

Use a damp microfiber rag to wipe all dust from the doors/drawers.  Shake out drop cloths if needed and sweep.  Make sure you have a clean work area and lay out as many pieces as you can.  Once everything is clean and dry you are ready to prime.

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PRIMING DOORS/DRAWERS

Stir your primer well then pour out some primer in a plate or pan.  Use your brush on insets then roll flat areas.  I like to do the back side first.  Thin coats are best.  Take care to make sure paint isn’t dripping on the sides.  I like to prime one side of alllllll of them, then flip.  Helps me keep track of what step I’m on.  Prime the back, let dry then flip to prime the front.  If any paint dripped from the back to the front sand it off before priming the front.

 

 

PAINTING DOORS/DRAWERS

Stir your paint well and pour. You can brush and roll the cabinets doors with great results.  The paint is self leveling and will level out for a smooth finish.  I like to start with the backs.  Take care to clean up any pooling around the inset and edges.  Thin, controlled coats are best.  It will take more coats but you will have less sanding and touching up.  I like to roll thin layers letting them dry in between until the back is completely done.  Let it dry well before flipping it over then complete the fronts.

REHANGING THE DOORS/MOUNTING THE DRAWER FACES

Let your doors dry well then carry them carefully into the kitchen.  Stage the doors in the area where they will be rehung.  Enlist help with the hanging process so you don’t scratch the fresh paint.  Hang your doors, screw on the drawer faces or slide in the drawers.  Add fresh bumpers to all doors and drawers for quiet closure and to protect your paint.  Feel free to sand or touch up anything once finished then I recommend leaving it alone for up to a month. It takes 30 days for the paint to fully cure.

TOUCH UP

After a month go ahead and touch up- sometimes the lighting is different and you see an area that needs another stroke.   Stir the paint really well and use a fresh roller.  If touching up a cabinet roll the entire surface so the sheen is uniform.  Maybe one of the kids gauged a door with a toy?  Sand lightly to smooth first and then touch up.

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I painted my entire kitchen in Florida (above) with a brush and roller.  It came out great.

If you have a sprayer or are considering purchasing a sprayer keep reading.  If not, I hope I’ve answered all of your questions.  Message me if I left anything out 🙂

 

SPRAYERS

Another option is to use a sprayer on the doors/ drawers.   You will still brush/roll the bases so that part doesn’t change.

A sprayer speeds up the process but does require practice, lots of draping plastic/protective tarps to keep in contained plus careful cleaning of the sprayer between use.  You need to wear a respirator and protective eyewear too.

Watch YouTube videos and read the manual carefully.  If you spray too close or with too much force it can create puddles, pools and problems that you will have to completely sand off then prime and begin again.  No bueno.

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HAND HELD ELECTRIC SPRAYERS

Once we started booking kitchens with Stylish Spaces we bought a Titan FlexSprayer from Sherwin Williams.  It could get a little heavy after a while and needed constant cleaning of the nozzle.  If you attempt to rent or use a sprayer always test it by spraying it on plywood/scrap wood to make sure the settings are working properly.  This was a good entry level sprayer.

https://www.sherwin-williams.com/home-builders/products/titan-flexspray-handheld-electric-sprayer

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ELECTRIC AIRLESS SPRAYER

After a while we purchased a pair of the Magnum ProX17 Airless Sprayers from Sherwin Williams.  This keeps the paint on the ground and simply a gun in your hand so it was much lighter.  We were able to be much faster by owning 2 sprayers.  We used this on many kitchens and I sprayed the doors of my VA kitchen with it.   I don’t use it often so I get nervous, watch all the videos and obsessively read the manual before power it up.

https://www.sherwin-williams.com/home-builders/products/graco-magnum-prox17-electric-airless-sprayer

What a long blog covering everything I can think of that you would need to know.  If I missed anything message me.  I hope this helped you know what to anticipate if hiring a company or how to paint your own cabinets.  I recommend a trial run with a bathroom or laundry cabinets to find your groove and boost your confidence before tacking the kitchen.

Happy painting!

Kristen

About Desperate Craft Wife

Mom of 4 crafting her way through life one project at a time!

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