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How To Paint Kitchen Cabinets Like A Pro

Wondering how to paint kitchen cabinets without making a huge mess—or worse—wasting your money?

Then you’re definitely one of the Fabulously Frugal! Read on to find our why you should consider painting kitchen cabinets, what to plan for, and how to paint your own cabinets like a pro.

Why Paint Kitchen Cabinets?

cream colored kitchen cabinets with antiquing

Paint kitchen cabinets and you save a small fortune over buying new, and it’s the ultimate in recycling. You can re-use all your hardware too, unless it doesn’t work or doesn’t fit your new decorating theme. Just think: no demo, no expensive cabinets to buy with every little option costing more money (You’d think you were buying a car!) and no installation fees.

Painting kitchen cabinets is easiest if your cabinets are solid wood and the interior shelving is in good shape, but just about anything can be painted these days including laminate cabinets. Just ask your paint store about using the appropriate primer and kitchen cabinet paint. As always, buy the highest quality paint you can and follow the manufacturer’s directions.

Another way to save a small fortune is to paint kitchen cabinets that you buy used. You can also buy unfinished kitchen cabinets off the shelf of your local home improvement store and paint or stain them yourself. These are great in vacation homes where the style is more informal.

Who will be painting kitchen cabinets?

kitchen cabinets primed and ready for paint

First, decide if you’re going to paint kitchen cabinets yourself or hire a professional who knows how to paint kitchen cabinets. (This will probably depend on your budget and your confidence with a paintbrush.)

Kitchen cabinet paint can be brushed on or sprayed. Many professionals spray but spraying is messier and not always practical if you are using your kitchen during the remodel process.

Some painters have their own shop where they can do this. If yours doesn’t, maybe you have a garage or spare room that can be closed off and set up as a paint spray room. You won’t have cabinet doors for a while but at least you can still use the cabinets.

Our doors were painted in our garage by a pro who knew how to paint kitchen cabinets with a sprayer. He then painted the face of the cabinets in place with a brush.

How to paint kitchen cabinets

  1. Wipe down all cabinets with TSP or Krud Cutter to clean, degrease, and remove all residues.

  2. Label each door by placing a small piece of masking tape with a number on it inside the hole left by the hinge. Draw the cabinet layout and list the corresponding numbers. This way each door will go back in it’s proper place and there is less chance of a misfit.

  3. Remove cabinet doors, drawer fronts, and all hardware. Store the hardware in a safe place so it can be reused.  

  4. Add any decorative moldings or veneers.

  5. Sand, caulk, and prime doors, one side at a time, and let dry for 24 hours.

  6. Remember: if using oil-based paints or a spray gun, wear a paint respirator made for the product. Because the doors have to be done one side at a time, this can take several weeks to complete. If you still need to use your kitchen, it helps if you can take the doors to another room to work on them.

  7. Apply at least two coats of paint, while lightly sanding between coats, and allow 24 hour dry time for each side. If antiquing (Why not!) do it now, then add two or more coats of quick-dry varnish or sealer. One antiquing method is to tint your varnish and spray on light coats until the desired effect is achieved. Or use an antiquing product with a paint brush and do it by hand.

  8. Allow your cabinet doors to dry/cure for several days or longer before hanging them to make sure you don’t chip the fresh paint and to minimize VOC’s if you used an oil-based paint.

  9. After you install your door hardware and knobs, make sure to put rubber bumpers on the inside of doors to absorb noise and shocks. (WARNING: some doors may not fit with bumpers on both top and bottom.) You can also rub a tiny bit of clean cooking oil over the inside of the door to keep it from sticking.

Now you know how to paint kitchen cabinets! I hope you have a great time choosing your kitchen cabinet paint and creating your brand new look for very little money.

Or try this idea our painter came up with to darken 10 yr old built-in book cases and desks. By spraying them with multiple coats of tinted varnish (flat quick dry), he was able to transform maple cabinets that had turned orange into a dark chocolate cherry shade. We got an amazing new look for a frugal price and got rid of all the ugly scratches in the process.

Be sure to check back to see my kitchen lighting ideas and the best way to show off those beautiful new cabinets.