How To Paint Kitchen Cabinets

Growing up my parents have always been into the whole rustic décor theme so when it was time to move into my own house I naturally gravitated towards that type of décor. And then Fixer Upper came on and the farmhouse theme became all the rage.

After moving into our home, we had a list of projects we wanted to do. Those included painting our cabinets white, do a faux brick white washed wall in our office space, build a coffee bar, wooden shelves, paint rooms. The list goes on and on. Well, we immediately knocked out painting the bedrooms and just recently did an accent wall in our living room. Cary built a beautiful coffee bar and rustic shelves.

Having a baby really throws off your plans because projects are hard but we finally pulled the trigger on painting our cabinets a few weeks ago after Cary told me to “stop being a chicken” multiple times. It took us about 2 weeks since we wanted to do it right and had no reason to rush it. I will preface it by saying the cabinets are not perfect, nor professionally done but we are both really happy with the finished product. Maybe down the line when we go to sell and the cash flow allows, we will get them professional done.

To be fair, our cabinets were fine just not our style.

Below are the materials we used. I wish we planned it ahead of time because amazon is way cheaper than home depot was for these but live and learn. I have linked all of these to make it easier to find and/or purchase.


Step 1: Prep

We chose to tackle the top cabinets and finish them completely and then once it was put back together we did the bottoms but these steps can apply to either option.

First you will need to remove all the hardware. We decided to keep them and the hinges so we placed them in baggies until it was time to prep them.

Make sure to use your painters tape to label all cabinets and drawers as you take them off so you don’t get them mixed up.

Use the painters tape to tape off the walls, appliances, and any baseboards that may be at risk of getting paint on them. We are no expert painters so we decided to tape off just about everything.

Use whatever cleaning solution (TSP) you picked up and clean the fronts of all the cabinets. Make sure to use the gloves as this solution can be harsh. We used the cleaner liberally and scrubbed with the rough part of the sponge.

After giving them a good cleaning, I used a separate sponge and wiped them down with water.

This should get all the crud off and the shiny layer of finish.

Then take your sandpaper and give the cabinets a good sanding. If your cleaner removed the layer of finish you won’t need to sand as much. We used the crud cutter so we had a good amount of sanding to do.

Wipe clean with your tack cloth and vacuum off any remaining particles.

Repeat the process on the backs and on the cabinet boxes.


Step 2: Prime

Set up your cabinets on plastic cups (or whatever you choose to lift them off the surface) You don’t want any excess to drip and make the cabinet stick to the surface you are painting on.

I always start with the fronts and use my Purdy 2.5 in. brush to cut in and then use the foam roller immediately after to smooth all surfaces. Don’t forget the sides and paint against the grain.

Primer dries really fast so make sure you have time to cut in and foam roll.

Allow to dry for an hour and then apply a second coat if needed. With our top cabinets we only did one coat of primer but if you aren’t sanding a whole lot I would recommend two coats of primer.

Allow to dry a few hours and then repeat the process on the backs.

Just keep your rollers and brush in a plastic bag or wrap in plastic wrap so you don’t have to wash every time.

After the priming, I immediately panicked. I got a little idea of what the white was going to look like and I was terrified we made a huge mistake. It looked awful but there was no turning back. DON’T PANIC. It will look amazing.

Step 3: Paint

It’s my personal opinion that Sherwin Williams is the best paint on the market and while I always use Behr on my walls and that’s been totally fine, cabinets get a lot of use and this project is a big undertaking so to me it wasn’t worth having to redo after we finished and it sucked or in a few years because we decided to go cheap on the paint. It’s expensive paint, I won’t lie, but totally worth the investment. Plus this one we used is self-leveling which is a huge perk. Just google for a coupon or ask at check out. He gave us $10 off just for asking.

Double check all the cabinets and make sure you don’t need to sand down any thicker primed areas first.

Get a new brush and foam roller ready and follow the same steps you did with priming. Cut in first and then foam roll.

Make sure to foam roll over where you cut in as well so all the paint stays even. Don’t forget the sides.

I ended up doing 3 layers of paint on the front of all cabinets and drawers and two layers on the backs. I personally just thought it looked better but each project will be different. But this worked for us because I didn’t layer it on super thick.

Allow it to dry at least 2-3 hours between coats. You may need to do some sanding in between each coat of paint, depending on how thick you layered and also how meticulously you painted.

Do the same on the backs and cabinet boxes.

Step 4: Prep and Paint Hardware

We decided to keep our original hinges and hardware because they were nice and there was really nothing wrong with them. But we decided we didn’t want them silver anymore so I picked up a metallic spray paint in the color Oil Rubbed Bronze. This is pretty dark, almost black and has a more matte finish to it.

Use your crud cutter cleaning solution and tack clothes to clean all hardware and hinges.

We didn’t spray the hinges just cleaned them and set them aside.

Once you have cleaned all the hardware, lay them outside on newspaper, cardboard, whatever you choose to spray them on and follow the directions on the can. We did two coats of spray paint. Allow them to dry at least an hour.

Step 5: Put it back together

The biggest thing we learn between completing our top cabinets and completing the bottoms was to let them sit AS LONG AS POSSIBLE. As in, if you can avoid putting them back together for a few days you should. It can take the paint weeks to fully cure and settle on the wood.

We chose not to polyurethane because we were eager to put the tops back together and therefore ended up chipping quite a few spots that we needed to touch up later.

The bottoms we let sit a while longer before putting them back together and because of that none chipped. (Knock on wood)

We somehow lost a drawer handle in the process of all of this. Literally have no idea how that is possible but it happened. Luckily they are the same ones in our upstairs master bathroom so we will just steal one from there as it’s way cheaper to buy all new ones for that than the kitchen.

Final Thoughts:

I was totally chicken to take on this project and I kept saying “no” thinking that we would screw it up. I figured we would just save to have it professionally done but it really wasn’t as bad as I imagined. Don’t get me wrong, it sucked and took a while because we have a baby so you find time when you can. Also, we have A LOT of cabinets and our top ones are so tall but two weeks of work and about $300 later we have the kitchen of my dreams.

If you are doing the project with someone I would suggest splitting up the work. For example, I did all the cleaning of the hardware while Cary did all the spray painting. I cleaned the cabinets and Cary sanded them. He primed everything, while I painted all the cabinets and drawers. It really just keeps the project moving along.

For anyone that has been considering painting their cabinets, just do it. Don’t be a chicken, buy your supplies and take the plunge! It is worth all the work! The hardest part is just waiting for paint to dry before doing another coat. If you put it in your mind that it won’t be done in one weekend then you will be totally fine!

If you have more specific questions on the process or products we used just leave a comment below!

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