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Can you paint kitchen cabinets?

Cabinets are one of your kitchen’s focal points. They play a strong role in determining whether your kitchen looks modern and updated or old and antiquated. But even if your cabinets are outdated, doing a complete overhaul can cost you upwards of  $3,000. So, generally speaking, refinishing your cabinets is the way to go. Paint can work wonders on just about anything, but can you paint kitchen cabinets? You absolutely can, and here’s how to do it.

1) Get the proper tools for painting kitchen cabinets.

The best paint for kitchen cabinets is a self-leveling paint. These special paints reduce brush strokes and roller stippling by evenly spreading across the surface as they dry, leading to a smooth finish. Although self-leveling paints cost more than non-leveling paints, it’s well worth it to have evenly coated and smooth kitchen cabinets.


You’ll also want a small mohair roller to cover the flat surfaces of the doors and an inexpensive foam craft brush for those tight spaces and molding. Although you could get the job done via spray painting, it tends to be a bit trickier because of the nooks and crannies cabinet doors usually have.


Finally, you’ll need a flat horizontal surface for painting and allowing the doors to dry. Make a long work table with a sawhorse and two-by-fours. If you don’t have a sawhorse, no worries. Create a makeshift one using boxes or buckets.


Remember that the doors need to dry for several hours to avoid drips. For oil-based paint, allow at least six hours for the paint to fully dry. Latex paints usually dry within the hour, but play it safe by painting a scrap piece of wood at the same time as your first cabinet door. After several hours, check the scrap wood to see if it’s dry. If it’s not dry, you’ll know that your cabinet doors aren’t dry either.

2) Remove cabinet doors and other pieces.

Before you paint, remove all the doors, hinges, and hardware from your cabinets. To make your job easier, label each cabinet door with tape so you’ll know where it goes once you’re done painting. Keep track of all the hardware by putting it in small plastic bags or containers. If you have adjustable hinges, place them in the corner of the appropriate cabinet so that you don’t have to adjust it again once you’re done painting.


You’ll also want to clear off your kitchen counters, remove everything from your cabinets, and cover your backsplash and appliances to avoid any paint splatters.

3) Clean the doors.

Kitchen cabinet doors get their fair share of food splatters, dust accumulation, and grease. Clean them up with a proper degreaser like Krud Kutter. If you are planning on installing new hardware, cover the existing holes with wood filler.


Next, use 100-grit sandpaper to make all of the surfaces smooth and even. You want to make sure you remove the previous primer and paint so that the new coat of paint can properly adhere. Don’t worry about removing all the stain or paint. Just make sure that you sand away the surface layer of gloss.


Once you’re done, use a vacuum cleaner attachment to suck up all the dust followed by wiping with a tack or microfiber cloth. If necessary, apply rubbing alcohol to the microfiber cloth, but avoid water as it will raise the woodgrain and prevent a smooth finish.




4) Apply primer.

If you want professional-looking results when you paint your kitchen cabinets, you need to prime the boxes, drawers, and door fronts before you paint. Priming allows for more even paint coverage and prevents stains from showing through the paint. If there are any cracks or seams between the molding and the panels, now would be a good time to apply caulk to fill in any gaps or seams. Allow caulking and primer ample time to dry before applying the paint.

5) Start painting…almost.

Once the primer has dried, lightly resand with a 200 grit sandpaper and clean well. Then, at long last, you can start painting. The best way to paint kitchen cabinets if you want to avoid strokes and drips is to work from the lowest panel surface to the highest. Start on the panel’s interior then use your foam brush to add paint between the molding and the interior and exterior panels. Then, use the roller on the top panels and around the doors’ edges.


Be sure you don’t put too much paint on your roller as this will lead to drips!


Once the paint has dried (follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the can), lightly sand, clean, and apply a final coat of paint.


6) Wait.

After you’ve applied the second coat, let your cabinet doors cure for several days before attempting to rehange them. Adding the doors before they’ve completely dried can cause the doors to stick to the boxes. Now that you’re done, sit back and enjoy all of your hard work.


While the process of painting your kitchen cabinets can be tedious and you might be tempted to cut corners, following these instructions step by step will ensure an impeccable job the first time around, leaving you with a kitchen you’ll be proud to show off.


Author’s Bio:

Darlene Mase lives in Newnan, Georgia with her husband and daughter. She is a stay-at-home mom and works as a freelance writer for Zumper.com and other popular sites. During her free time, Darlene enjoys traveling, hiking, camping, cycling, gardening, caving, kayaking, or anything else outdoors.