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How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets

Last modified: 2019-03-13 | Approximate reading time 5 mins

Amanda Harvey

You're looking at your kitchen cabinets thinking about how they're old and outdated but still intact. Maybe you aren’t quite ready to replace them because frames and doors are structurally sound, or a whole new cabinet renovation just isn't in your budget. Whatever the case, for a quick kitchen update, all those cabinets require is a fresh coat of paint!

Brush on a new coat of paint to give your cabinets a quick update! This simple DIY task requires a bit of patience and finesse but can be completed by almost any homeowner. Follow our straightforward steps and your kitchen cabinets will be looking fresh and current in no time!

Here are the 5 main steps to follow when painting kitchen cabinets

Painting equipment

Photo: Pixabay

1) Get Prepped!

The most important steps when painting kitchen cabinets do not happen in the painting itself, but in fact, happen in the preparation for the project! To guarantee that your paint job goes as smoothly as possible, you'll want to be good and ready. One of the most common mistakes homeowners make when painting their kitchen cabinets is not removing the doors from their place. However, this step is crucial. Take the doors off, remove all hardware as well as any knobs, hinges or additional drawers you plan on painting. This will make the painting process far easier than attempting to paint the cabinets while they're still in place.

After removing all fixtures, label the doors, drawers and hardware! This step might seem like a waste of time, but in the end, you'll be thanking us! Label each door with tape so you’ll know where they go when the job is finished. Use numbered labels, or pieces of masking tape stuck to the backside of each piece. 

Painted kitchen cabinets

2) Clean the Kitchen Cabinet Surfaces

Following the removal and labelling, you'll want to devote more time to prep the surface of your cabinets. This involves thoroughly cleaning, sanding and priming every inch of the surface. Cleaning the surface of the cabinets is a vital step, allowing for your new paint and primer to adhere properly.

Since kitchens deal with daily grime and grease, years of dirt is hanging around and sticking to your cabinets, so you need to be extra attentive to any buildup or residue.

To do this, you should work with a TSP Substitute. If the cabinets have been cleaned recently, or aren't too greasy, a degreaser will work just fine. It may take a few passes of the substitute or degreaser before the cabinet is fully prepped, so roll up those sleeves and put your arms to work! Not only do you have to clean the cabinets themselves, but make sure to clean the surrounding area as well.

Any grease in the area could make its way onto your freshly painted cabinets, and you don’t want your new paint job to be tainted by leftover grime. If you notice any little imperfections on the surface of the cabinets that you want to fill in, now would be the time. If you're working with wood cabinets, use a wood filler. 

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3) Sand the Surfaces

Sanding kitchen cabinet

source: Unsplash

Even if your cabinets are new or in mint condition, do not skip sanding them. Sanding further prepares the surface for the paint and primer to adhere and skipping this step will likely end in an uneven paint job that you'll be hoping you could take back.  A rotary sander can be used for this job, specifically for flat areas of cabinets. Hand sand the parts that are sticking out or any small details on cabinets.

Do not forget about door edges! Determine the type of sandpaper you use based on the shape your cabinets are in. If you're unsure, play it safe and go for medium grain sandpaper. If your cabinets have been previously painted, this may require stripping the surface, which is a necessary extra step!

Kitchen cabinets

4) Prime the Cabinet Surface!

Some homeowners will be tempted to skip this step or buy a paint-and-primer in one product. But beware, neither of these options will have the desired outcome. Priming the surface is yet another way to prepare for painting, as well as to avoid unwanted knots bleeding through months down the line. Make sure to choose a water-soluble primer or one that has been recommended for the type of surface you are working on, as well as the kitchen.

Also, it is important that the primer is tinted to match the top coat, and is especially crucial if the original surface is dark. You'll want to avoid the potential for the initial colour to bleed through and taint the new paint colour. After your primer coat is dry, gently sand away any imperfections that you find on the surface, but be very careful with this step as you want the primer to stay intact.

Painting on kitchen cabinets

Photo: Flickr Keith Rowley

5) Time to Paint the Cabinets

After all the initial steps, we are finally ready to paint those kitchen cabinets! Firstly, make sure to choose the correct colour. Although this is a straightforward project, it's not one that you'll want to repeat soon. Make sure that you've painted a test surface to see how the colour dries, and if you're satisfied, then you can go ahead with painting the cabinets. Not only is the colour important, but you'll want to buy the right type of paint for the kitchen.

Choose between acrylic enamel paint and alkyd paint. Water-based acrylic paints have little fumes and clean easily whereas alkyd or oil-based paints need to be applied in a space with good ventilation, as they contain solvents that can irritate the lungs. However, alkyd paints provide a very durable finish.

Buy the best quality paint you can afford, as this will ensure the paint's longevity.  There exist self-levelling paints that level out brush marks as the paint dries, making for a super smooth finish. Make sure paint is well-stirred and start with your cabinet doors, as they will need time to dry in order to paint both sides. Complete the paint job with a small brush, making sure to be extra careful around door edges and delicate details.

Finish painting with a foam roller to smooth things out nicely, especially if you're not working with a self-levelling paint. Now, it's time to wait. Don't be too hasty when reattaching cabinet doors; give ample time for everything to dry and your cabinets will be beautiful and ready to use in no time! 

Get 3 renovation quotes for your kitchen cabinet painting project can help you get quotes for your kitchen cabinet painting renovation project. If you submit your project to us, we’ll put you in contact with top-rated contractors. Fill in the form on the homepage (it only takes a few minutes), and you will get estimates from trusted professionals. 

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