I have way too much experience painting cabinets, and yet, probably still not enough. There is always something new to learn when it comes to painting, or really any renovation for that matter. There’s always something new coming along, some new trend going on, some technique you haven’t tried. And coming from someone who takes on a lot of makeover projects, I believe that we will always look at our finished display with a proud, yet criticizing eye. I know that I will usually always want to go back and fix or change something–but I guess that’s just the way it is when your hobby involves updating and beautifying.
I don’t necessarily love painting. I have a very short attention span, and I dread monotonous tasks. Not only that, but I have a few painful medical conditions that make the process of painting more uncomfortable than it should be. Sometimes my body suffers for the rest of the week after one of my renovations. I often dream of being a house flipper, but sometimes just watching all of that physical, repetitive work makes my joints ache. Still, I know that painting is one of the easiest flips you can do. It gets you a fast return for a low cost, and doesn’t involve nearly as much physical effort as most of the other improvement projects available
Okay, now on to some painting. So, yes, I know that you don’t want really want to do this (you want it but don’t look forward to doing it), but I promise you, you’re going to love your results–at least way more than what you’re likely looking at right now. I know you can do this. So strap on your big-girl attention span boots, get out your brushes (or go buy them–girl, you’re really behind on this one, but that’s okay–we’ll get through this together 🤣) and let’s go paint some cabinets.
So, to start, it kind of depends on where and which cabinets you will be painting. On this post, I will be walking you through how I fixed up our kitchen cabinets. Out of everything that I’ve done so far, the kitchen cabinets have absolutely been the most demanding–and the ones that I least look forward to ever doing again. But I will say that I would for sure do it all over again, and I’m sure that I will at some point in the future. I bought our current home knowing that right away I would be painting these cabinets. Unfortunately, I never took the time to take photos before painting the cabinets, but I was able to find one of me eating an entire cake by myself while moving into the house (moving is stressful, k??!) with the old cabinets behind me.They were a dated golden oak with brass hardware. That sort of color just gives my eyes their own type of headache. I love clean, simple and relaxing, yet bright–so much so that I still go through my house wondering what I need to take down or get rid of to declutter. But, I digress. These cabinets needed some love, and my goal was to lighten, freshen and open this kitchen up. The most simplistic and reliable way I could think to do this was to go white. There are certainly some other creative approaches that you could take instead, but I didn’t have any real renovating experience at this point. This was the first home that I had ever owned. I didn’t have much practice coordinating colors and textures. I knew that white would be reliable, and that mostly anything would match and serve as an accent. This was just going to be the backdrop that I layered each subsequent addition on top of.
Tools and Supplies I used:
- rough grit sandpaper (such as 60-80 grit): this is for the first sanding
- fine grit sandpaper (such as 220-grit) for smoothing
- sander (I used an orbital)
- painter’s tape (I ended up mostly only using this for the trim where cabinetry touches the floor)
- primer (I went with Kilz Original Interior Primer)
- paint (I used Valspar Cabinet Enamel)
- protective coat (I used Miniwax Polycrylic Water-Based Protective Finish)
- cabinet hardware, if you choose to change yours (remember hinges, cabinet door, and cabinet drawers–and I think that it looks very nice to break it up by using two different styles)
Now, y’all, let me tell you–I was not prepared for the ridiculously vast selections of different shades of white available, and I still don’t completely know what I’m doing when I go for white paints. I did finally settle on one: Valspar Creme Fraiche. I started by sanding all of the cabinets as much as I could, followed by wiping them down. You really shouldn’t skimp on wiping down. It’s not great when you look back and find things stuck in your paint. You should be wiping between each sanding, coat, and just in between as necessary–and with a tack cloth (after you’ve already wiped away all of the sanding dust with a different cloth). These are very easy and inexpensive to find at your paint/hardware store. I generally just end up at Lowe’s for everything because it’s nearby and it saves me trips to multiple places. I really do recommend using the tack cloths, especially if you have dogs. After finishing with wiping the cabinet surfaces down, I move on with applying primer. From the advice that I got online, I knew that I needed to be meticulous when priming, or else the oak would show through. I also knew that because the kitchen is a high-traffic area, I needed my paint to be as durable as possible. It was recommended that I use an oil based primer. Not saying that it was a bad choice, because it did do the job that it was supposed to do, but I haven’t used strictly oil-based since. The toxic smell is way too overwhelming indoors–and I had a lot of cabinetry to cover. I also did the recommended three priming as well, so the scent was slightly unbearable for us, and I had to take multiple fresh air breaks.
Once the priming was done, I realized that I should have removed all of the cabinet doors, so at this point I did. After removing all doors and hardware, I continued to the next step–applying the paint. I opted to go with Valspar Cabinet Enamel paint. It is an oil-enriched, semi-gloss, which contributes to it’s extra endurance against the traffic that a kitchen has to withstand. This paint is more pricey than some of the others, costing roughly between $50-$60. I did forget to mention that it is suggested that you sand in between each coat. I think that I only did this prior to priming and after my first coat of primer. So, back to the painting– I rolled the first coat of paint on all of the cabinets, and made my way out to the garage to work on the front side of the removed cabinet doors. This was probably the worst part of the entire process for me. I did not have a saw horse, so I laid every door out on the garage floor. I had 28 doors and 9 drawers! Keep in mind: you have to prime and paint both the front and the back. By the time that I was supposed to flip the doors over to do the other side, I was over the process. I told myself that I would get to them later–and I did–nearly two years later.
I was able to complete this project in two days, but that was out of pure desperation to get my kitchen back in order. The two things that I regretted: not having the patience to complete the backs of the cabinet doors, and not taking the time to apply the finishing coat. I eventually did this nearly two years later, when I painted the backs of my cabinets. Something that resulted from the waiting was that obviously the paint was not as durable as it should have been. Kitchen cabinets, doors, and drawers take tons of abuse. They are always being touched and cleaned. This is especially true when you are dealing with the color white. Everything shows up on them. So when I went back to paint the backs and apply the clear protective coats, I had to go back and first paint the front of all my cabinets once to touch up and fix the spots that had become worn. It really wasn’t too bad, because as you may know, its really the first coat that is the most time consuming. Once you have that first coat on, it doesn’t take nearly as much time or effort to roll on subsequent coats of paint. The finishing touch was adding new hardware to the doors and drawers. I went with an oil-rubbed bronze (which sneak peek–I hated later and we have since changed them to nickle). You can also go without any knobs. I know a lot of cabinets come that way and look just fine, too. If yours come with knobs, but prefer to lose them, you can easily fill in and sand the holes prior to painting. In my case, I thought knobs would add some character, so I chose to upgrade ours.
The tools that I relied on throughout were cabinet paint rollers, trays, and an angled paintbrush to get to those areas that a roller couldn’t. I can say that after I was done with this project, I never wanted to see paint again. Spoiler alert–it wasn’t long before I started painting again. I was very satisfied with the results. I loved the kitchen so much more after the painting. They have stood up to wear and tear extremely well, and they are much easier to maintain if you do regular wipe downs. I try not to use harsh cleaning products, such as Clorox wipes, often because they can be really rough on the paint. Most days, as long as I am able, I go with a simple wipe down with a warm, wet rag to just remove the spills and stains from the day. I would definitely recommend this project. Just be prepared for a time consuming task. Have some coffee, wine, or whatever you need to get through it, as well as some good music nearby. I really think that you will be happy with the outcome.
We are currently working on replacing our counter tops in order to better compliment the kitchen. I have wanted to replace these so badly! They are an ugly sandy color Formica. We will be going with laminate to save money, and we will also be tiling the back splash. I am so excited that we are going to be able to do this, and I cannot wait to see it all finished! And I will finally get my new sink and back splash tiling that I’ve been wanting to do as well! I will most definitely be taking pics and writing about how we completed the job. There’s always, always, always more work to be done MUAHAHAHA. So if you have any interest in completing those projects yourself, stay tuned for that post.
Also, what do you think: cabinet door knobs or not? What do you have in your own house?