Architectural Home Designs & Decorating Ideas

Paint Your Kitchen Cabinets Like a Pro

4 minute read

Want to give your kitchen cabinets a fresh new look but don’t want to deal with the dust and mess of extensive sanding or paint stripping? With the right prep work and paint products, you can easily transform the look of your cabinets without hours of sanding or chemical stripping.

We’ll show you how to achieve a smooth, updated finish without taking on major demolition work.

Supplies You’ll Need

Painting your kitchen cabinets is an affordable DIY project that can make a huge visual impact. Here are the main supplies you’ll need:

Choose paint products designed for high-traffic surfaces like cabinets and furniture for maximum durability. Have everything on hand before you start.

Prep Work

Prepping your cabinets thoroughly before painting is the most important step for getting a smooth, lasting finish. Here’s how to prep cabinets for paint without intensive sanding or stripping.

Clean Cabinets and Remove Hardware

Start by taking cabinet doors off and removing all hardware like hinges and knobs. This lets you easily clean the cabinet boxes and doors. Use a degreasing cleaner or TSP substitute to remove any built-up grease or grime. For doors, a mild soap and water solution works well. Let everything dry completely.

Fill any holes or imperfections with wood filler, let dry fully, and sand smooth. Proper cleaning removes residues that could cause paint adhesion issues.

Lightly Sand Surfaces

For most cabinets, there’s no need to completely strip off the old paint or stain. Light scuff sanding is sufficient for preparing the surface for new paint. Use 180 to 220 grit sandpaper and focus on damaged or peeling areas.

You don’t need to sand every inch of the cabinets, just scuff up the surface enough for the paint to adhere. Smooth any rough areas with a final pass of 220 grit paper. Clean up dust with a tack cloth.

Degloss and Clean Again

For cabinets with an existing glossy paint or clear coat, deglossing will help the new paint stick. You can use a liquid deglosser or an ammonia and water solution. Apply the deglossing solution and let it sit for 15 minutes before wiping clean.

Make sure to remove all residue from the deglossing chemicals, then do another round of cleaning with soap and water. Allow the cabinets to fully dry before priming.

Prime Cabinets

Priming is extremely important before painting cabinets. For light cabinets, an all-purpose primer works well. If painting over darker cabinets, use a pigmented shellac based primer for best coverage.

Use a good brush and apply the primer in thin, even coats. Avoid drips or brush marks. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for drying time between coats.

Painting Cabinet Boxes and Doors

Now comes the fun part – painting! With prep work done, the painting process is straightforward.

First Coat of Paint

For painting cabinet boxes, use a small roller and high quality brush. Cut in the edges with brush then quickly roll the center area. Maintain a wet edge as you work in sections.

On doors, brush painting works best. Apply paint in thin coats, being sure to get full coverage in recessed areas.

Allow Proper Dry Time

It’s important to let each coat of paint dry thoroughly before applying the next, according to manufacturer specs. Cooler temperatures require longer dry times. Proper dry time helps avoid drips, rough texture, or adhesion issues.

Apply Second and Third Coats

Most cabinets need 2-3 coats of paint to achieve full, even coverage and color saturation. Lightly sanding between coats will help achieve a smooth finish.

Continue brushing and rolling in thin, smooth coats. The previous coat should be completely dry before adding another. Finish sheen and color will build with successive coats.

Finish Options

Once your cabinets have proper paint coverage, you can leave them as-is or choose to add a clear protective top coat over the painted finish.

For added protection on worn, high-traffic cabinets, consider applying a clear polyurethane or varnish topcoat. This seals the painted finish and adds extra durability.

If using chalk paint, apply a coat of clear wax to help protect and hydrate the matte chalk painted surface.

You can also choose different sheens from matte to high gloss. High gloss has a shiny, reflective finish that is most resistant to cleaning and wear.

Your freshly painted kitchen cabinets will need some time to fully cure and harden. Avoid cleaning or placing heavy items on cabinets for at least 2 weeks after painting.

Clean painted cabinets gently going forward using only mild soap and water. Avoid abrasive scrubbers. Day to day care will help your updated finish maintain its good looks.

With the right prep work and painting techniques, you can achieve a dramatic transformation without sanding cabinets down to bare wood or using dangerous chemical strippers. Prepping properly, applying primer, using quality paint, and allowing full cure times are the keys to success.

In just a weekend, you can take tired old cabinets from dated to dramatic. Follow these steps for gorgeous kitchen cabinets without the dust and mess of sanding or stripping!