Learning How to Repaint Kitchen Cabinets is one of the least expensive and best transformations you can do for any kitchen. Best of all, painting kitchen cabinets is a simple and inexpensive overhaul, and with this DIY Kitchen Painting Guide, you can complete the 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 Step: Buy the Paint & Materials:
Allow a budget of $300-600 for all 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:
Use the 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.
Screwdriver or drill with bits to remove hardware
Wood putty and putty knife (if you have damage or knicks to fill)
Tack cloth – If you plan to sand, buy tack cloth to remove dust from cabinets.
Few Quick Tips: Before Painting Kitchen Cabinets:
- Allow Sufficient Time: While many claim that repainting kitchen cabinets is a 1- or 2-day project, we recommend allowing 3-4 days. Pick a time when you can set aside 3-4 days for this 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. We highly recommend visiting a paint store such as Sherwin Williams or Benjamin Moore and consulting with a sales expert before you buy.
- Buy the Best Primer for Kitchen cabinets you can find. Buying the best Primer for cabinets is equally important to the paint you use. We believe 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 additional lamps or Jobsite lights to brighten your space while working.
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 complete the next step – painting kitchen cabinets.
Remember that no matter how great your paint is, the paint will peel if your kitchen cabinet primer doesn’t adhere permanently and the primer coat fails.
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:
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” 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 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 straightforward.
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 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). If Neccessary, Temporarily Move any Appliances
Slide the refrigerator, dishwasher, etc., out temporarily if you need access to cabinet frames for Priming or Painting.
Step 6) – Prep Kitchen Cabinets, Doors, and Drawers, for Paint
- For old wood cabinets with “a varnished finish – Use a good de-glosser such as
- For old wood cabinets with a “painted finish,” – use an excellent de-greaser first, such as Kleen strip
- Fill any minor nicks or dents with wood putty
- and lightly sand all doors and drawer front surfaces with 200-220 grit sandpaper.
- Wipe off dust and residue from wood surfaces with a clean, soft rag.
- Use painter’s tape to tape off the inside of cabinets, shelves, and drawer boxes (not to be painted).
Step 7) 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 8) “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.
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 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 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 white kitchen cabinets, sage green, or dusty blue.
Six Steps to Prime Kitchen Cabinets:
- Apply Primer to one side of all doors and drawer fronts. Note: Always apply paint toward the wood “grain.”
- 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.
- Lay each “Primed” piece of cabinetry Flat – on top of a covered table, empty boxes, sawhorses, or otherwise “staged area” to dry.
- Next, Prime all cabinet “boxes” – starting from the back (inside) and working out to the front.
- Note: If you leave the inside of your cabinets original and unpainted, you will only need to prime and paint the “Inside Edge” (front frame) of the cabinets.
- You will only apply one coat of primer, so ensure you apply evenly and thoroughly to all “exposed” cabinet surfaces.
- Allow 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.
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 be 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 many other 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 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; it is 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, making 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 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 you removed 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!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q: Can you Paint Any Cabinets?
A: Any cabinet surface that can be scruffed or lightly sanded can be painted. However, Melting melamine or plastic laminate cabinets require a special bonding primer. In addition, All laminate surfaces must be defects-free to allow a proper finish.
Q: What is the “Best Paint” for Kitchen Cabinets?
A: Most professional painters and paint stores recommend using a 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.
Q: What Is the Best Paint “Finish” For Kitchen Cabinets?
A: For today’s kitchen remodels, Satin finish paint is preferred for most painters and homeowners. The paint finish you choose to paint kitchen cabinets is also a preference, with the top 3 paint finishes including Satin, Semi-Gloss, or Gloss finish.
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.
Q: Should You Apply a Clear Finish Over Painted Cabinets?
A: 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 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.
Q: Which is Better For Kitchen Cabinets, Oil-Based Or Latex Paint?
A: 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:
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,” 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:
- Avoiding Paint Fumes? – Healthline.Com
- How To Wire a 3-Way Switch DIY – Besthomegear.com
- Cabinet Painting Mistakes To Avoid – Good Housekeeping.Com
- How to Clean Tile Grout – BestHomeGear.com
- Best Type of Paint Finish (Sheen) for Cabinets – Homedepot.com
- Paint fumes if Pregnant – Americanpregancy.org