How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets

One of the first posts we ever published was about our kitchen. That post has garnered much attention and we felt we should update it to better reflect the changes made along the way.
how to paint kitchen cabinets, diy, how to, kitchen cabinets, kitchen design
When we moved into our home over three years ago the kitchen was the first project we tackled. It was spacious, but dated and lacking character. I truly believe the kitchen is the heart of the home. It’s is a gathering place for family and friends to savor delicious meals while spending time together. We knew our kitchen had potential and we wanted to create a space we would love and truly enjoy spending time in.
The kitchen was in great shape, the cabinets had recently been refinished and there was newly installed backsplash and granite counter tops. But the overall feel of the kitchen was dark and dull, exactly what we didn’t want.
Here are a couple of before pictures.
how to paint kitchen cabinets, diy, how to, kitchen cabinets, kitchen design
how to paint kitchen cabinets, diy, how to, kitchen cabinets, kitchen design
We gravitate towards bright, light and airy spaces and love decorating with neutrals, so we knew for certain our kitchen must encompass that feeling. We also wanted to create a custom look at a fraction of the cost. Everyone knows that a custom kitchen can ‘make’ a house. When cabinetry and furniture are built custom to fit a particular space it creates a more cohesive and luxurious look. Everything feels like it belongs and becomes part of the home.
how to paint kitchen cabinets, diy, how to, kitchen cabinets, kitchen design
The other issue we faced in the kitchen was an awkward layout. There was a bank of cabinets, along with our fridge on the back wall. It seemed ill placed and inconvenient, so we knew it had to be moved (the second before picture shows where we moved them to, they were originally along the wall with the door to the garage entry).
With all of this is mind we got to work. My incredibly talented husband did everything himself and I am so proud of the beautiful kitchen we created for us. I am going to let him jump in now with the specifics.
When we moved into our house the kitchen had two separate areas – the main prep area and a space for a kitchen table. We determined we didn’t need a sit-down dining area in the kitchen as we had a large dining room that we wanted to utilize. Instead, we decided to add an island, this would allow us to have additional counter space, as well as a place to sit down for a quick bite to eat. I moved the pantry and fridge from the back wall to the wall where the seating area was originally located. This provided a more open feel to the entire kitchen, created a better workflow and allowed us to accommodate the island we wanted.
Once we had moved the cabinetry, it was time to prep the kitchen for the rest of the work. Just like any project, this is probably the most tedious. But believe me, if you prep properly it will make the process go much smoother.
how to paint kitchen cabinets, diy, how to, kitchen cabinets, kitchen design
How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets
The first step is to carefully remove your cabinet doors, drawers, and hardware. Give them a good cleaning with a solution of TSP, which can be found at your local hardware or big box stores. It is important to remove the cabinet doors, drawers, and hardware, including the knobs and hinges before you clean to ensure you have proper access to clean all surfaces.
Before you begin removing the doors and drawers, here is an important tip. All of your doors and drawers are going to be slightly different, so to make the re-install much easier number each door and drawer. We simply used a marker, painter’s tape and Ziploc bags.
Mark the inside of each cabinet where there is a door or drawer with a number on painter’s tape.
how to paint kitchen cabinets, diy, how to, kitchen cabinets, kitchen design
Once you have done this you can remove your door and hardware. Mark the same number on the door with the marker in the hole the hinge was sitting in (you won’t need to paint this spot so it will allow you to still see the number once you are finished painting and re-installing the cabinetry). Label the Ziploc bag with the door number and add all hardware. Believe me, this may have been the most important step of the whole job!
how to paint kitchen cabinets, diy, how to, kitchen cabinets, kitchen design
You will need a large space that you can spread out all of the doors and drawers, it’s important to remember to keep the temperature consistent, and not too cold or too hot. I did this project in the fall, so I put a heater in the garage for the nights when the temperature would drop. We got creative and used 2×4’s propped on ladders or bins to keep the cabinets off the ground, it’s much easier on your back when painting.
Before you begin painting the cabinets, clean both sides of the doors and drawers with the same TSP solution you used for cleaning the hardware. You want to make sure there is no residual dirt or grease left over.
how to paint kitchen cabinets, diy, how to, kitchen cabinets, kitchen design
Once the doors and drawers are completely dry you can begin to prepare them for paint. Lightly sand them in the direction of the grain using a fine grit sandpaper. The goal is to remove any gloss and create a texture that will allow the paint to adhere. When you are finished vacuum the dust from them and a wipe them down with damp cloth (you may need to do this twice to really get the dust off).
I have never liked painting. I think it’s tedious, time-consuming and takes a lot of patience to do it right. Since the kitchen is the hub of our house I knew I couldn’t rush through it. From my experience, the key to outstanding results are patience and using quality products. I went to Grey Bruce Paint & Décor (our local Benjamin Moore retailer) and asked for their advice. They recommended I apply a base using a product called STIX Waterborne BondingPrimer. This product adheres very well to all surfaces, including the laminate ends of the cabinets.
To add primer coat I used a standard mini foam roller and paint brush. I found the ideal method was to hold the door in one hand, coat all of the edges first and then lay it down on the 2 x 4’s and coat the rest of the surface. You want to ensure you add only a thin layer of primer to avoid drips, and you only need a thin coat to create a bondable surface. Start by priming the backs of each door and drawer, allow the primer to dry as per the supplier’s instructions and then repeat the same process on the front sides.
If you notice that any drip marks have made their way to the front, now is the time to sand them off.
And finally, you can move back to the kitchen and prime the cabinet boxes. I allowed the primed doors, drawers and cabinet boxes to cure for a full seven days before painting.
We used Benjamin Moore Advanced (Pearl Finish) in Mountain Peak White for the finishing coat. This is our favorite paint for refinishing furniture and cabinets, it’s amazing! It goes on smooth and self-levels to a perfect finish with no brush marks.
Use small mohair rollers and a good quality brush to paint your cabinets. Use the same method you did while priming to paint the cabinets. I applied very light coats to avoid any drip marks. In total, I applied three coats on the back of each door and drawer and four coats on the front. Apply three of four coats of paint to your cabinet boxes to ensure an even and full coverage.
Allow the painted cabinets to cure for four to five days before re-installing them in your kitchen. This is when you will be grateful you numbered each one!
how to paint kitchen cabinets, diy, how to, kitchen cabinets, kitchen design
I want to offer a word of caution to anyone considering painting their kitchen cabinets. This is not a weekend project! Be prepared to work mornings, nights and weekends for a significant period of time. It took me at least six weeks to complete our kitchen because I also enclosed all bulkheads to make the cabinets look like they go to the ceiling and built in some shelving on either side of the fridge and pantry so my wife can create display areas. It is so important to take your time and do it right. Do not rush through it, you will end up with mistakes and you will be unhappy with the end result. I typically don’t have a lot of patience because I like to see results right away, but I knew I had to take my time with this project and the payoff was well worth it.
how to paint kitchen cabinets, diy, how to, kitchen cabinets, kitchen design
There you have it, from my cabinet-painting expert husband! I encourage you not to feel overwhelmed or daunted by this project. It simply takes patience and a time commitment, but the end results are absolutely beautiful.
It’s been over three years and we still love our kitchen. It is the light, bright airy space we dreamed of. If you enjoyed our kitchen we would love for you to tour the rest of our home.
A Burst of Beautiful

Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!


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