What You Need to Know About Painting Cabinets

The Rozy Home
by The Rozy Home
Painting cabinets is an inexpensive but effective way to give your kitchen (or bathroom) a fresh look. Done right, painted cabinets will not only look beautiful, but last for years. Luckily, painting cabinets is easier than most people think. After 15 years of painting cabinets, I've come up with my own method that has provided beautiful results every time.
The first step is prep. Begin by taking the cabinet doors off and removing the hinges.

For the cabinet frames, you can tape off the wall area around the frame (I usually just free hand it).

I usually work outside or in the garage (depending on the time of year). To elevate the doors, I use furring strips under the cabinet doors (above).
The next step for me is sanding. A lot of people recommend degreasing them first. I have never degreased a cabinet in my life before painting them (I figure sanding them will remove any grease or dirt).

I use a 100 grit sandpaper and then move on to 120. I use my orbital sander on what I can and do the rest by hand.
After sanding, I clean the cabinets. Years of painting has taught me that a Swiffer duster is the best tool for removing dust specks.
When it comes to priming, I begin with the center panel. A note about primer, I always tint it the same shade as the paint so if there happens to be a scratch at some point, it's less likely to show.
Next I paint the rails and stiles. Note: I do not paint the edges yet.
After 24 hours, I give the doors a light sanding to remove any specks of dirt that may have settled onto the door and then I add another coat of primer.
After 24 hours, I flip the doors over and repeat the entire process except that I paint the edges.

After the second coat of primer, I flip the door back over (to the back) and repeat the entire process with paint. I finish with adding a few coats of polyurethane and that's it!

I don't know if you were keeping track but four days will pass before you start painting and 8 days will pass before you can poly. Yes, this is a long process, but if you want it done right, you need to take your time. From start to finish, the entire process takes me about 9 days. Remember, anything worth doing is worth doing well.

For my recommendations on primer and paint, finding the perfect color, FAQs and troubleshooting tips, visit http://www.therozyhome.com/blog/the-rozy-guide-to-painting-cabinets.
The Rozy Home
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
Frequently asked questions
Have a question about this project?
  3 questions
  • Got7642175 Got7642175 on Nov 14, 2016
    Hi, my cabinets were painted with oil based paint and I hate it. How can I get my cabinets prepped to use a water based paint? Thanks.

  • Bean Kelly Bean Kelly on Apr 10, 2017
    I never heard of polyurethane over paint. I've only used it over stain. Why not paint alone or what type of polyurethane?

  • Eileen A Flemming Kier Eileen A Flemming Kier on Jan 26, 2020

    Best way to paint veneer cabinets? I’m redoing my moms kitchen and the cabinets were installed in the 70’s... please, I need help! Lol

Join the conversation
3 of 38 comments
  • Jeani Miller Miner Jeani Miller Miner on Jun 05, 2015
    I agree with @Peggy Sue . Annie Sloan Chalk paint. No sanding, no priming and certainly not 9 days, more like 9 hours. And @Milly Krotzer , no poly, just wax. It holds up surprisingly well. I've done my own cabinets and they are subjected to the typical splashes with no ill affects.

  • Willie Willie on Jun 28, 2015
    Please advice how to remove paint from a wall with a chalk undercoat and a flaky oil paint top ?

    • The Rozy Home The Rozy Home on Jun 30, 2015
      You've got me stumped on that one. I would probably start by sanding off the flaky spots and then covering it with an oil based primer. That should seal everything in and give you a nice smooth surface.