Home Improvement

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets: Complete Guide for Beginners

In this guide we provide some helpful tips that you can use to successfully repaint your kitchen cabinets and give your entire kitchen a new look.
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Could your kitchen use an update? Whether you just want to change the overall design or its tired and worn out, if you’re considering remodeling your kitchen, you’re probably thinking about overhauling the cabinets.

Since the cabinets take up so much space, they’re one of the main focal features in a kitchen. But tearing them down and replacing them, or even resurfacing them with new doors, can be costly. If you’re looking for a more economically-friendly way to remodel your kitchen cabinets, consider repainting them.

A fresh coat of paint is the easiest and most cost-effective way to breathe new life into your kitchen design. It’s a project that you should have no trouble doing on your own, so there’s no need to hire a pro. But before you dive in, it’s important to have a plan and know how to properly paint your cabinets.

In this guide, we provide some helpful tips that you can use to successfully repaint your kitchen cabinets and give your entire kitchen a new look.

Determine Which Type of Paint to Use

The very first thing you need to do is determine whether you should use a water-based latex or oil-based paint and primer.

  • If the existing paint is water-based latex (commonly referred to as ‘latex enamel’), your best bet is to stick with the same type for the new paint job. Why? – Because oil doesn’t adhere very well to latex, so if you apply oil-based paint over latex, you’re going to have problems with the final product.
  • However, if the existing paint on your kitchen cabinets is oil-based, the new coat can be either oil-based or latex, as latex enamel does adhere to oil-based pain. With that said, if you aren’t sure what type of paint is already on your cabinets, opt for latex enamel and both types of paint can be applied over a clear finish.

If you’re trying to decide which option to use, it’s important to consider the benefits and disadvantages of each type of paint.

While latex paints have greatly improved over the years, a lot of professional painters prefer oil-based paints for kitchen cabinets, as they go on smoother and are more durable (and durability is quite important in a kitchen.)

However, oil-based paint does generate fumes, which means you will need to ensure your kitchen is properly ventilated and will have to wear protective gear to avoid breathing in the fumes. Additionally, oil-based paint is thick and can be difficult to remove from your brushes and rollers.

Latex paints, on the other hands, are pretty much odor-free and they are a lot easier to clean up.

Best Selling Kitchen Cabinet Paint

Bestseller No. 1
Nuvo Titanium Infusion 1 Day Cabinet Makeover Kit
  • Ideal for use on wood, laminate, primed or painted metal cabinets, kitchens and bathrooms.
  • Covers 100 square feet of cabinet surface (40 linear feet) - the typical size of most kitchen cabinets
  • Pairs well with Giani Countertop Paint Kits for complete kitchen or bath makeovers
  • Kit includes: Two 31 oz. Cans of Nuvo Cabinet Paint, 1 Roller Arm, 2 Roller Covers, 2” Angled Paint Brush
  • Durable finish, requires no additional topcoat or sealer
Bestseller No. 2
Nuvo Driftwood 1 Day Cabinet Makeover Kit
  • Low VOC, low odor, water-based acrylic paint and primer in one
  • One-day application process that dries in a soft, satin finish
  • Professional results with simple tools included in each kit
  • Covers 100 square feet of cabinet surface (40 linear feet) - the typical size of most kitchen cabinets
  • Ideal for use on wood, laminate and primed, or painted metal cabinets
Bestseller No. 3
Nuvo Cabinet Makeover Kit, Earl Grey
  • Low VOC, low odor, water-based acrylic paint and primer in one
  • One-day application process that dries in a soft, satin finish
  • Professional results with simple tools included in each kit
  • Covers 100 square feet of cabinet surface (40 linear feet) - the typical size of most kitchen cabinets
  • Ideal for use on wood, laminate and primed, or painted metal cabinets

Once you’ve decided which type of paint to use, you’ll then need to determine the degree of gloss.

  • For kitchen cabinets, professional painters usually recommend using a semi-gloss finish, though if you prefer shiny, you can opt for a gloss finish.
  • For cleaning purposes, pick either eggshell or flat, as these paints are a lot easier to clean.

Of course, you’ll also have to decide on the color, which is totally up to your personal preference.

Required Tools & Equipment

In addition to the paint and primer, you’ll also need to make sure that you have all of the necessary tools and equipment before you get started. To paint your kitchen cabinets, you’ll need the following:

  • A sanding block
  • 120 grit sandpaper
  • A vacuum or shop vac
  • A few two-inch tapered paintbrushes. If you’re using an oil-based paint, opt for natural bristled brushes or synthetic bristles that are specially made for oil. For latex paint, you’ll need synthetic bristled brushes.
  • A bucket to hold the paint
  • Drop cloths
  • Rosin paper
  • Masking tape
  • Screw drivers. Check the screws in your cabinets to determine if you need a flat head or Phillip’s head)
  • Crease cleaner
  • Tack cloth
  • Painters tape

Once you have all of the necessary materials, make sure that they’re in an easy-to-reach location. You don’t want to run back and forth to grab supplies when you’re in the middle of painting.

Remove the Doors and Hardware

Now that you have the supplies on hand, it’s time to get started.

  • Remove the doors from the cabinets by unscrewing the hinges. You also need to unscrew all knobs and pulls from the doors and drawers.
  • When removing the doors from the hinges, unscrew the single screw that connects to the cabinet frame, as well as the two screws that connect to the door.
  • Set all hardware aside in a secure location so you can easily find it when you’re finished. It’s a good idea to place all of the hardware in individual bags and label them. Doing so will make reattaching the doors a lot easier. Additionally, label each of the doors so you know where they go.

Remove the Faces from the Drawers

If the faces on your drawers are screwed in place through the inside of their boxes, you should remove them. Just like the doors, put the hardware for each drawer in its on bag and label each one to make reattaching the faces easier. Remember to label the drawer faces so that you know where each one goes.

Remove doors, hardware and drawers
Remove doors, hardware and drawers

Protect Your Kitchen

To protect your floors, countertops, and appliances from splatters, make sure you cover them. Lay drop cloths over the floor and drape them over the appliances. Use masking tape to secure the drop cloths over the appliances. Cover the countertops with rosin paper, again, using masking tape to prevent the paper from shifting.

Clean the Cabinet Surfaces

Kitchen cabinets collect a lot of grease, and dust and other debris can easily get trapped inside it. Before you paint them, you’ll want to make sure the surfaces are thoroughly cleaned, otherwise the paint won’t adhere well and the end result will be marred.

Mix a cleaner that cuts through grease with water and using a clean sponge, wipe down all of the surfaces. Rinse with clean water and allow the cabinets to dry.

Sand the Cabinets

To ensure that the primer adheres to the cabinets, use scuff up the surfaces with the 120 grit sandpaper and a sanding block.

Once the surfaces have been sanded, be sure to vacuum up any dust and wipe down the cabinets with a tack cloth to remove smaller remnants of dust.

Prime the Surfaces

Next, prime the surfaces that you’ll be painting. Set the doors and drawer faces on top of scraps of wood placed on top of drop clothes. Doing so raises them up so you can paint the edges without having to worry about them becoming stuck on the cloth as the paint dries.

  • For the cabinets, use painters tape to protect the surfaces that the cabinets connect to (the wall, ceiling, and floor.)
  • When applying the primer, use solid, even strokes and follow the grain of the wood. Be sure to work the primer into the wood so that the paint will adhere better.
  • cabinets themselves so you can smooth out any drip marks.
  • After you have primed all of the surfaces, all them to dry thoroughly. Bringing in a fan and a dehumidifier can help to speed up the process.

Apply the Paint

Thoroughly mix the paint and then apply it to the cabinets. Keep the doors and drawer faces on the pieces of wood on top of the drop cloth. For all surfaces, work from the top down, and make sure you take smooth, even strokes and go with the grain.

After all of the surfaces have been painted, allow them to thoroughly dry. Apply a second coat of paint and allow that to thoroughly dry, as well.

Paint the cabinet doors
Paint the cabinet doors

Reassemble the Cabinets

When all of the surfaces are completely dry, you’re ready to reassemble your kitchen cabinets. Just follow the same steps you followed to disassemble them. You’ll need a screw drives and may want to ask for some assistance to support the doors while you’re screwing them back into place.

Helpful Tips

In addition to the above-mentioned steps, the following handy tips can help to ensure your kitchen cabinet painting project goes as smoothly as possible and that you achieve the best results.

  • Try out a few different paint colors before you decide on the final one. Purchase samples and test them out on different surfaces so you can see how they’ll look and can choose the best color.
  • Remove any painters tape while the paint is still wet.
  • Allow the primer and paint to fully dry before proceeding with the next steps. While it’s tempting to rush it, applying paint to wet primer, or hanging up cabinets before they’re fully dried can lead to serious problems, so it’s best to wait it out.
  • Enlist the help of a friend or two. While kitchen cabinet painting could certainly be a one-person job, it will go a lot faster and will be a lot less tedious with more hands on deck.
Brian Jackson

Brian has worked in the construction industry for over 30 years, He brings this experience to HomesOutline where he advises and edits the content in our home improvement sections. Contact Brian@HomesOutline.com

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