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9 Steps on How to Properly Paint Your Kitchen Cabinets

Updated: Jun 24, 2020

Kitchen cabinets can receive a lot of wear and tear. If you still like the design and look of your cabinets, it may not make sense to replace them. You can keep the same cabinets and some money in your pocket by having them painted instead of replaced. This will give them the fresh, clean update you are looking for. Paint is such a great way to give just about anything in your home a lift, including your kitchen cabinets.

We recommend hiring a painting professional for the job. Painting your kitchen cabinets is not an easy task and it is much more time consuming than other painting projects, such as painting your walls. However, if you are up to it, this article will help you do it correctly.

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Step 1: Get Organized

The first step in the process is to get organized. Do not make the mistake of just skipping right to the painting. It is important to be a little organized before the brush touches the cabinets. Don’t worry, it won’t take long.

First, remove all items from your kitchen cabinets and the kitchen counters. You want to be sure to cover your backsplash and anything else in the area that you don’t want to get paint on. Next, you want to identify a flat area where you can both paint your cabinets and lay them out for drying. After they are painted, it is optimal to dry them on a flat surface. Keep in mind that they will likely need to dry overnight.

You should choose an area with plenty of room to work. Of course, if you are using a table, you might want to cover it to protect it from the paint.

Tip: Placing plywood on top of buckets can serve as a temporary makeshift table.

Now it is time to remove all the cabinets and drawers. This will require you to remove all the hardware as well, including all the hinges, screws, etc. It is important to mark each cabinet and drawer so that they go back to the exact same spot from where they came.

Use a glass or mug to place all screws so that nothing gets lost. You do not want to spend time on your hands and knees looking for a tiny screw that carelessly fell to the floor.

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Step 2: Prepare the Cabinets

It is essential that the cabinets are clean and dry before you start painting. You want to ensure that the primer will adhere to the cabinets. Wipe down the cabinets with grease remover to get rid of any residue that has built up over time from cooking and other daily activities.

After they have dried completely, scrub the cabinets with sandpaper to toughen up the surface. You are not looking to completely remove the existing finish with the sandpaper; you are just looking to make the surface coarse so that the primer will easily stick to it. 100 or 150 grit sandpaper typically works best. After you are finished scrubbing, wipe down the cabinets with a clean damp cloth or sponge. Allow the cabinets to dry completely.

Step 3: Prime Time

The next step is to prime the cabinets and drawers. However, it is essential to know the surface type of your cabinets and use the appropriate primer for that surface. Be careful not to use the wrong primer; for example, do not use a laminate primer on wood cabinets. You can apply the primer with a brush or roller. After you have finished applying the primer, let the cabinets dry for at least 24 hours.

Tip: Open windows or use box fans to help ensure a completely dry surface.

Tip: Use a tinted primer when you are updating your cabinets with a darker paint color.

Step 4: Sand the Primer

Yup, it's time to sand again. This time lightly sand the cabinet surface with 220 - 240 grit sandpaper to ensure it is nice and smooth. Pay close to attention to any drip marks or clumping that might have occured while drying. Your efforts here will pay off when you begin to apply the paint. Once again, be sure to wipe down the cabinets with a clean, damp cloth or sponge, and allow them to dry completely.

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Step 5: Apply the First Coat of Paint

After the primer is completely dry, use a brush or roller to apply the first coat of paint. We recommend using a 2 - 4 inch roller to make the job easier. Also, try to be consistent in how you paint the cabinets. For example, working the edges first before moving the center area of the cabinets every time will help create a consistent result.

Tip: Check out these kitchen cabinet paint color options from Home Depot

Step 6: Sand Again

We get it, sanding is not fun. Keep in mind that you are most interested in the long term appearance of your kitchen cabinets, so do not cut corners here. After applying the first coat of paint, lightly sand the cabinets and drawers with 220 - 240 grit sandpaper until they are smooth throughout. Don’t forget to wipe down the cabinets and allow them to dry.

Step 7: Apply the Second Coat of Paint

Apply the second coat of paint just as you applied the first coat. At this point, the cabinets should be very smooth and the paint should go on very easily. Allow the cabinets to dry for no less than 24 hours. Again, opening windows or using box fans will help with the drying process. After all your hard work, you do want smudges or errors to occur because you did not let the paint to dry long enough. That would only start much of the entire process all over again. Bummer!

Step 8: Replace the Cabinets

After they are completely dry, you can replace the cabinets. Be sure to return them to the exact spots where they came to ensure a secure installation. You can thank yourself here for carefully labeling the cabinets in Step 1 of the process.

Step 9: Enjoy

Enjoy your freshly painted kitchen cabinets!

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