Repainting Kitchen Cabinets

A kitchen is one of the most loved, and most used, areas of your home. As a result, it endures a lot of wear and tear.

In the case of kitchen cabinets, that can mean scratches, gouges, and faded or chipped paint.

Even if your cabinets don’t show wear and tear, making changes to them is one of the best ways to update your kitchen. But what if you don’t want the expense of completely new cabinets?

Rather than tearing them out and having new ones installed, repainting kitchen cabinets is a great way to update, freshen and re-style your entire kitchen.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy, and it’s not the same as painting walls.

So let’s look at the 4 key points to repainting kitchen cabinets.

Preparation is Key 

What is similar to other paint jobs is the preparation necessary before repainting kitchen cabinets. But there are a few differences.

Here are the steps: 

1. Remove everything from your cabinets.

Take everything out of your cabinets and thoroughly wash the inside. This is a good opportunity to purge unnecessary gadgets, old grocery staples and those extra coffee mugs that never get used.

2. Number the cabinets

Before removing any of your cabinet doors, create a numbering system so you know which door went where – vital for replacing them when you’re done painting. You can number before you take the doors off, or number as you remove them. If you fail to number the cabinets, the hinges may not align or the doors may not fit properly.

As you remove the doors, take out all the pulls, knobs, hinges and any other hardware. These should also be numbered, or you could put them in plastic bags and leave them in the cupboard or drawer that corresponds to the door.

Or, it’s worth considering installing new hardware, as this is another excellent way to update your kitchen. Why go through all the work of painting and then put back old, tired hardware?

Also remove the drawer fronts of drawer fronts and slides, depending what you’ve decided to paint. 

3. Clean the doors and drawers

You might think you kept your cabinets are clean, but they aren’t clean enough to paint. Prepare a solution of TSP (trisodium phosphate) and water, wash both sides of every cabinet door, and then wipe with a clean cloth.

4. Look after repairs

Now’s the time to fix any holes or gouges in the doors. Wood filler is a good option. If you are planning on purchasing new hardware, it’s important to measure the size of the new materials. If it’s different than your old hardware, you will need to fill all the holes from the existing hardware.

5. Sand the doors

Once the wood filler is dry, sand the surfaces of the doors and drawers to smooth them out. It’s up to you whether you want to sand the inside surfaces as well. If you’re going through the work to repaint your kitchen cabinets, you might as well do the job right and do every surface.

Remember that you don’t have to sand off all the old paint. Simply roughening the surface of the cabinets will help the new paint adhere.

One you’re done sanding, vacuum the dust, or use an air compressor to remove all residue from the surfaces. Follow that by wiping with a clean cloth. You want a clean surface for the next step. 

Primer is Next

Your first coat needs to be a primer-sealer, which helps the paint bond to the surface but also reduces the need to remove all the old paint. Primer will be the base for the paint you will choose, and it makes painting easier.

 If you plan to radically change the color scheme, you may want to tint the primer so that it matches your color choice. For instance, if your cabinets are dark and you want to apply a light color, you can tint the primer to be light as well. Tinting can be handled by your local paint expert, who should recommend that your tint is about 75% of your final color choice. You can also choose a less transparent primer if your color change is drastic.

Time to Paint

The first key to painting is to pick the right paint. Don’t skimp on quality, because these surfaces will endure a lot of use, and you don’t want to be painting again in a year or two.

While it used to be true that you had to use an oil-based paint, there are good quality water-based and latex paints. We also recommend avoiding a matte finish because it will be difficult, if not impossible, to keep clean. The best choices are semi-gloss, gloss, or satin. Remember that the harder the finish, the more durable the paint.

It’s also important to consider your cabinet material. Wood or wood laminate cabinets are relatively easy to paint. Metal or plastic laminate cabinets may require some advice from a paint expert, like your local paint or hardware supplier.

Start by doing the inside surfaces, so that you can perfect your painting style, learn how the paint drips and smudges, and see how long it takes for surfaces to dry. You’ll be an expert by the time you paint the outer surfaces.

Apply the paint in thin, light strokes, and be sure to do at least two coats. You may decide to do three coats, since kitchen cabinets endure heat, grease and a lot of wiping and cleaning.

Put It All Back Together

Now it’s time to re-assemble your kitchen cabinets. Start by installing the pulls and knobs. If this hardware is new, you will want to mark the placement on each of the doors and drawers. That can be done with a square, and marked with a pencil. Then you can pre-drill all the holes and install the hardware.

If you’re happy with your existing hardware, and you didn’t fill the holes, you simply replace the hardware on each of the doors and drawers.

Then using your numbering system, work your way around the kitchen, re-installing the freshly painted cabinets and drawers.

It’s time to enjoy your new kitchen! 

Final Thoughts

Repainting kitchen cabinets is one of the most economical ways to update and refresh your kitchen.

Rather than spend thousands of dollars building and installing new cabinets, a quality paint job will accomplish your goals: a new color, a brighter finish, an updated look, repairs to damaged cabinets…or all of the above.

By understanding our 4 key points to repainting kitchen cabinets, you will soon have a fresh new kitchen to enjoy for years to come.