Meredith Wouters
Meredith Wouters
  • Hometalker
  • Albuquerque, NM

How to DIY a Professional Finish When Repainting Your Kitchen Cabinets


Painting kitchen cabinets is a big job, and it's tempting to want to take shortcuts. But if you want a paint job that will look great and stand the test of time, it's best to take the time and do it right. Here's how.
You'll need all the standard painting supplies, like drop cloths, paint rollers, brushes, tape and sandpaper. But the real secret is the paint. Use a self-leveling slow drying paint, such as Benjamin Moore's Advance, and a mohair roller for a smooth finish. Here are the steps to the whole process.
how to diy a professional finish when repainting your kitchen cabinets, how to, kitchen cabinets, kitchen design, painting
To turn your dingy old dark cabinets into a light, clean, and bright kitchen only requires a little elbow grease, some patience, and the right tools!
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First, label all your doors and drawers. I use a raffle ticket system, as in this photo. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP! Then remove all the drawers and cabinet doors. You can save a lot of money reusing the hardware if it's still in good shape. Just collect the knobs and hinges for reattaching later. Set the drawers and doors aside, and work on the boxes first, so you can get your kitchen functioning as soon as possible. Remove dishes and food items from the cabinets, so they don't get all dusty.
Clean every cabinet surface with Krud Kutter (find it in any home store or grocery) to remove any grease.
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Using a hand sanding block of 150 grit, sand down the frames (outsides) of the cabinets. You need to sand off the top coat of whatever is sealing the original finish, but you don't need to take off every bit of color from the wood. Use a short nap or mohair roller to paint the boxes with primer. I like Benjamin Moore Advance. Use a primer that is close to your finish color.
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Once the primer is dry, use caulk to fill any seems and caps. Let that dry for at least an hour. Sand lightly with 200 grit sandpaper. Clean all the sanding dust and apply the paint with a mohair roller (and synthetic brush for crevices and corners). Follow manufacturer's instructions for drying times.
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In between coats of paint, sand very gently with 320 grit sandpaper. When you paint on the final coat, be careful not to overwork the paint. This will give you a gorgeous, super smooth finish.
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Once your cabinet boxes are done, you can replace all your dishes and kitchen items and use your kitchen normally, while you're working on your doors elsewhere. You'll follow the same steps for painting the doors, but with extra attention to detail because they will take the greatest wear and tear, and will be the first thing people will notice.
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To save yourself lots of time and exertion, use an electric palm sander for the flat surfaces of the doors, and just use your sanding block to get in all the nooks and crannies. It really is worth the time to sand well, so that the paint and primer can properly adhere to the wood. This is how you keep the nicks and scratches at bay.
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Carefully remove any sanding dust from the doors, first with a vacuum, and then with a microfiber cloth dampened with rubbing alcohol. Do not use water, as it will raise the grain of the wood and interfere with a smooth finish.
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Brush primer in the corners of the door panels. Then use the roller to apply primer to the flat surfaces.
Note: If you're painting the backs of the doors, start with that side first!
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Try to lay the doors flat for as long as possible to minimize drips. Once they are mostly dry, you can lean them up against the wall (not touching each other!) to finish drying. Use your caulk to fill in any gaps between the molding the flat surfaces of the doors. Sand lightly with 200 grit sandpaper and clean well.
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Using your mohair roller, start painting from the lowest surface on the door, the inside panels.
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Then use a synthetic brush to fill in the corner layers of molding. This is where you want to be careful not to overload your brush with paint, or you'll end up with drips. Finally use the roller to paint the outside flat surfaces. You can also roll lightly over the already-painted edges to even out any drips or excess paint. Taking the time to do this right will really make a difference in the finished product.
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Again, try to lay each cabinet door flat for as long as possible. Since this paint is self leveling and slow drying, having the door flat helps the paint do its job properly. Repeat the sanding (with 320 grit), cleaning and painting process one more time.
Finally, allow at least a couple of days drying time for the paint to cure. If you reattach the doors and drawers while the paint is still curing, it will stick together and may end up ripping off a patch when you next open that door.
Reattach your doors and drawers by matching up your "raffle tickets". I like to put felt pads on the inside corners of the doors, just to keep them from banging on the cabinet frame. And voila! You have a brand new kitchen! And new respect for cabinet painters!
For the full tutorial with lots more pictures and tips, please check out the blog post.

Suggested materials:

  • Benjamin Moore Advance Primer, White
  • Benjamin Moore Advance Paint, in Valspar's Totten's Inlet
  • Mohair roller
Meredith Wouters

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

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Have a question about this project?

3 of 48 questions
  • Lorraine
    on Jun 14, 2018

    What if you have old laminate cabinets

  • Cathey DeLost-Elrod
    on Aug 2, 2018

    With out having to go through hundreds of questions.. What color is paint? I know white, but I mean the color/number.. Kitchen looks great..

    • Deann
      on Aug 24, 2018

      lol I just read through all the questions and came to yours. Here's your answer.

      "It's Benjamin Moore Advance paint, but the color is by Valspar, called Totten's Inlet."

  • Sally Alter
    on Aug 25, 2018

    Well said, Bbp. I am now certain that I cannot cope with all this work, and besides I have nowhere to dry those doors and drawers.


    I do have a very big problem though with my very old press board cabinets. They have fake wood paper on them and look indescribably awful. Some of them are even slightly warped. I just don't know what to do with them. The knobs are antiquated so I suppose I could just replace them, but I was thinking there must be some other kind of 'paper' or something I could just stick on the inset of the doors to make them look half way decent without all that work.


    Any ideas?

    • Katie Misner
      on Sep 17, 2018

      I saw another hometalk post about using wallpaper on cabinets. It looked great and seemed much easier than this whole process.

Join the conversation

2 of 323 comments
  • Gloria Barbera
    on Sep 18, 2018

    Great advices! Thank you so much! I know is not going to be a day job, but your results are fabulous!

  • Laura Cooper
    on Sep 22, 2018

    Finally! It's nice to see a PROPER cabinet paint job. Have you considered using an hvlp? We really like the results. It's especially nice when you have an area to set up like you show on your post. It also dries faster as it puts down a fine mist of paint.

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