How to Transform Your Space With DIY Distressed Kitchen Cabinets

Alicia W
by Alicia W
13 Materials
1 Week

A friend of mine wanted to paint her kitchen cabinets. They were oak and she felt they were out of style.

Oak cabinets before the makeover

TSP for cleaning

Step 1: Clean

I used TSP and hot water to deep clean the cabinet. I wiped the outside of all the cabinets and the inside of the cabinet doors.

Numbering the cabinets

Step 2: Number Your Cabinets

This is one of the most important steps: Write the same number on two pieces of tape. Place one piece of tape inside the cabinet and one piece on the door.

I used letters and numbers - "A" is for the upper cabinets, "B" is for the lower cabinets, and "I" is for the island cabinets.

Removing the hardware and hinges

Step 3: Remove Hardware and Hinges

Once you have your cabinets marked, removed all the hardware and hinges. Place the hinges into a zip lock bag.

Remove the doors.

Disassembling the drawers

For the drawers in this kitchen, the actual drawer fronts unscrewed from the drawers. Place the drawer screws into a zip lock bag.

Laying out the doors and drawer fronts

Step 4: Lay Out the Doors and Drawer Fronts

In the garage, I laid pieces of plastic drop cloth onto the floor then I placed pieces of scrap wood underneath the doors to elevate them off of the floor. This will increase air flow when the doors are drying.

Place the doors with the back facing up.

Filling holes with wood filler

Step 5: Fill Holes

I was replacing the hardware so I filled the holes with wood filler and sanded when they were dry.

Applying painter's tape to the walls

Step 6: Tape Walls

Another important step that you don't want to skip is taping off the walls around the cabinets. These walls had been recently painted so I used painter's tape made for delicate surfaces which is yellow.

Priming the cabinets

Step 7: Prime Cabinets

I used a 1/4" nap cabinet roller with this primer. To get into the seams, I also used a natural bristle paintbrush. I used the roller on the outsides of the cabinets too.

I applied one coat of primer and allowed it to dry for 24 hours as per the manufacturer's directions.

Painting cabinets with Valspar cabinet enamel

Step 7: Paint

I used Valspar cabinet enamel for this project. By using this type of paint, you don't have to seal the cabinets. The enamel gives them a hard protective finish.

I used the 1/4" nap roller and brush to apply the paint to the doors and cabinets.

I applied two coats of paint allowing them to dry for 12 hours between coats.

Spray-painting the hinges

Step 7: Spray Hinges

The homeowner was changing the hardware to a nickel finish so I I applied two coats of spray paint to the hinges in a nickle finish.

How to distress kitchen cabinet

Step 8: How to distress kitchen cabinet

The homeowner didn't want a flat cabinet, so I distressed the cabinet doors.

I mixed one part of white paint with three parts of water and mixed it for a consistency of water.

Then, I sanded the edges of the doors with fine-grit sandpaper and removed the dust with a tack cloth.

Using a paintbrush, I brushed the paint/water mixture onto the door and immediately used a soft cloth to remove most of the paint.

Adding the hardware

Step 9: Add the hardware

Once the doors were dry, it was time to attach the hardware. Using a Kreg jig specifically made to drill new holes for hardware, I measured to find center, then drilled holes for the pulls and knobs.

I used a hand screwdriver to attach the hardware and a power screwdriver to reattach the hinges.

DIY distressed kitchen cabinets

DIY distressed kitchen cabinets

Here is the finished kitchen with the painted and distressed kitchen cabinets! Now scroll to the top and look at the before (I'll wait).

What a difference right? It looks updated and clean. And the homeowner loves the new look.

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3 of 62 questions
  • Becca Becca on Jan 17, 2022

    NICE! What color is the Valspar paint?

  • Cathy Matel Cathy Matel on Jul 10, 2022

    Nice, this is exactly what I researching for my kitchen.

    also just read a great piece about whitewashing the brick on home talk too. I also would love some clarification on step 8. Did you just do the edges or other parts as well? So if I understand this you sand through the paint and primer and then wipe the whitewash in? Yes also would love to know the color...

    Thanks mine are the same honey oak. Did you do it without any sanding? Mine have the dreaded varnish, do you think that would make a difference in the need to sand?

  • Linda Linda on Aug 21, 2022

    Can you use the Valspar Cabinet enamel on dressers and be able to use cleaners on it?

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2 of 145 comments
  • Nancy Peterman Nancy Peterman on Oct 02, 2022

    You have done a great job of explaining. My son took the time to sand, prime, and dry between coats of paint, and the finish lasted for years - no chipping or crazing. Nice!

  • Deb55097247 Deb55097247 on Jun 09, 2023

    Great Job!!! Excellent instructions!!!

    Thank you!!