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Everything You Need to Know About Painted Kitchen Cabinets

by Jody Scully
4 min. read

If your kitchen is looking a little dated and in need of a fresh look, a total remodel may not be necessary. Painted cabinets can save you thousands of dollars and they’re totally on-trend right now!  

Whether you’re dreaming of classic white or a pretty hue, painting your cabinets can have a big impact. But painting cabinets isn’t quite as simple as painting a wall. Here’s what you need to know to get it done right and ensure your “new” cabinets will look great for years to come. 

Should You Hire A Pro or DIY?

You basically have two options when it comes to painting kitchen cabinets. For a professional finish without all the work, your best option is to hire a cabinet painting company. They will remove your doors and drawer fronts and take them to a finishing facility for cleaning, sanding and painting. When choosing a painter, just be sure to find out if they paint the rest of the trim and surfaces or if you are expected to do that work.

If you want to save money and you have the space and time, you can also paint your cabinets yourself. With proper planning and preparation, you can achieve a professional-looking finish. But be forewarned – this is not a small job. Unless you’re tackling a very small vanity or cabinet, this is a multi-day project. Here are our six best tips to help you get good results.

1.      A Bit of Planning Goes A Long Way

It’s easiest to remove all cupboard doors and drawers before painting them. To ensure everything goes back together properly, always label your cabinets carefully. Make a quick sketch of your kitchen and give each door and drawer a number. Then write the corresponding number on the doors and drawer fronts as you remove them. This will save a lot of time and headaches when you put the doors back up. Don’t forget to remove all hinges, door handles and drawer pulls before painting as well.

Tip: write in the hole left by the hinges or cover the number with painters’ tape to avoid painting over the number.

2.      Use the Right Paint

Kitchen cabinets are a lot more hands-on than walls or ceilings. Which means they require paint that can withstand a lot of touching and wiping.

Determine whether your cabinets are wood or laminate and then choose paint specifically designed for cabinets of that material. And don’t forget the primer! Primer is a must to get a good bond and quality finish.

3.      Take the Time to Prepare

When it comes to painting your cabinets, proper preparation can make all the difference between a beautiful finish and a sloppy job. Always start with a good grease-cutting cleaner to get all the dirt and grime off before sanding or painting.

Once the kitchen cabinets are grease-free, they’ll require light sanding to help the primer adhere. Unless the surface is rough from age or a previous paint job, sand lightly with 120-grit sandpaper. Then use a tack cloth to remove all the dust after sanding.

4.      Repair Any Defects

Once the surface is clean and smooth, look for any dents, scratches or holes that could mar a perfect finish. Use a bright flashlight to help you spot any defects you might miss at first glance.

Then repair the damaged areas with wood filler or a spackling compound. Unfortunately, you will have to sand again once the filler is dry, but the extra step is worth it to get a professional-looking finish.

5.      Which Tools Are Best?

If you have the space available, a paint sprayer will give you the best coverage and smoothest finish. But if a sprayer isn’t an option, the combination of a good quality paintbrush and mini rollers will do the job. Use the brush to fill in any grooves or ridges, then go over with a mini roller to smooth out the edges. Then use the mini roller for all remaining flat surfaces.

To make painting kitchen cabinets easier (and cleaner), try using standoffs. These plastic painter’s pyramids support the doors off the ground to make drying quicker and help keep paint off the surface below.

6.      Paint in the Right Order

Start by painting the back of the doors first. Avoid painting the edges, so you have somewhere to grab when it’s time to flip the door over. Once the back is dry, you can turn the door over and paint the front and sides.

When it’s time to update a less than fabulous kitchen, consider painting your cabinets instead of replacing them. You’ll save money, and your cabinets will look equally as impressive!

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