How to paint cabinets

DSC_9853.jpeg

Following our Dream

     My husband Putter and I have always had a vision of what our dream home would look like.  When we purchased our house we didn't exactly have a "dream home budget" so we looked for a nicely laid out home that we could update and enhance to fit out style.  One of the areas that we were most excited to change was the kitchen.  Having always dreamed about a bright and spacious kitchen, we knew that we were going to have to invest some time and money in our kitchen to make it look the way that we wanted.  A big part of this vision was changing the color of our cabinets.  Rustic looking cabinets with a dark stain just weren't what we had always dreamed of.  To solve this problem without breaking the budget we decided to paint our cabinets.  

Budget friendly changes

     Painting your kitchen cabinets is a big decision, and it can be rather intimidating.  However if you are unhappy with the look of your cabinets and don't want to pay a lot of money to replace them, painting is definitely the way to go. We recently completed a budget friendly kitchen makeover, and instead of spending thousands of dollars on new cabinets, we painted ours for just under $100.  Now that's what I call bang for your buck!  Even better, you don't need any special skills or experience to paint your cabinets.  I promise, this project is beginner friendly!  So if you are looking for an easy to follow guide to help you make a big change in your kitchen with just a little bit of money, you have come to the right place.  Stick around and I will lay out all of the supplies and steps that you need to take in order to paint your cabinets too! 

Here's our kitchen shortly after we moved into our new house. It was nice, but much too dark for our taste.

Here's our kitchen shortly after we moved into our new house. It was nice, but much too dark for our taste.

Color Selection

     If you are interested in painting your cabinets, the first thing that you need to figure out is what color you would like to paint them.  This will depend on a number of things, including the color of your countertops, flooring, the amount of light in the room, and of course your personal preference.  When selecting a paint color we were initially drawn to white.  We have always loved white kitchens, but since we were putting up a white backsplash at the same time we went with gray to give the room a bit more contrast.  This was the perfect color choice for us because it complimented the other finishes in our house and made the space feel a lot brighter.  After trying out a number of gray paints,  we settled for "Flannel Gray" using Behr Marquee paint in a satin finish. Since paint always looks different in your space than it does in the store, it's a good idea to bring some paint samples home and try them out before making a big decision like this. 

I've never seen the movie "50 Shades of Gray". It's about painting kitchen cabinets, right?? On the wall you can see the original "greige" color that our house was painted where we removed the cabinet, and around it you can see the light gray that we painted over it with. We actually didn't end up going with any of the sample colors that we bought, but instead chose the same gray that we had painted our guest bedroom with.

I've never seen the movie "50 Shades of Gray". It's about painting kitchen cabinets, right?? On the wall you can see the original "greige" color that our house was painted where we removed the cabinet, and around it you can see the light gray that we painted over it with. We actually didn't end up going with any of the sample colors that we bought, but instead chose the same gray that we had painted our guest bedroom with.


Supplies

     When doing a project I always like to plan ahead and make sure that I have all of the supplies that I will need.  Running out midway through a project because I need one little thing is one of my least favorite things to do, so I try to plan ahead and avoid it at all costs.  Luckily the supply list for this project is pretty short and simple, you might even have some of these things laying around at your house.  All together, the painting part of our kitchen makeover cost us less than $100.  This included buying the best quality paint that we could find.  Here are the supplies that we used:

paint supplies.jpg

Paint: 1 gallon of Behr Marquee "Flannel Gray" in Satin finish.  This was the biggest expense of the project at $45, but I only ended up using about half of the paint.  I will keep the rest on hand if I need to make any touch-ups in the future, and may even use it to paint bathroom cabinets too!

Primer: Priming is super important when you are painting your cabinets.  Cabinets typically get a lot of use and you want to do everything that you can to make sure that the paint adheres properly to get the best finish.  I used Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Primer in white.  I bought a gallon, but could have easily gotten away with a quart.  If you are painting your cabinets a dark or vibrant color, you can have this tinted at the paint counter or purchase the gray version of it to help you achieve better coverage.  Since we were using a light gray paint, the white primer worked well for our project.

Brush: I used an angled paint brush similar to this one for cutting in and edging on the detailed parts of the cabinets.  I really like the brushes with the flexible handle because they are so much easier on your hand! 

Roller: For the flat parts of the cabinet boxes, doors, and drawers I used a 4" high density foam roller like this one that is specifically meant for painting cabinets.  These provide a relatively smooth finish and are really easy to use. 

Tape: My favorite painters tape is Frog Tape.  In my experience it sticks better and provides a more crisp line than the blue painters tape.  

Drying stand: We have a few of these nifty Bench Cookie finishing cones, and they work great for painting 2 sided objects.  However, with 21 doors to paint there was no way that I was going to purchase enough of these to have a set for each door.  Instead we took some scrap wood and drilled long screws through them, creating our own rough version of a finishing cone.  Note: This could be done with nails too.   Just make sure that whatever you use is longer than the wood is thick, so that you will have just the tip of the screw/nail touching your cabinet door while you paint the other side.  You will need a set of 4 of these per door.  To avoid wasting time and materials making a set for each door, we made enough so that I could paint half of the doors, then transfer them to a spot where they could lean up against the wall with minimal contact while I painted the other half.  This worked really well for me.

Optional: Wall repair kit- This part of the project is optional, depending on your needs.  We needed some DAP DryDex and a putty knife to fill in the large knots in our cabinets and to fill the hardware holes on our drawers since we were switching from knobs to pulls.   


Getting started

Step 1: Prepping- Let's get this party started! First we removed all of the cabinet doors and hardware. We decided to reuse the original mounting hardware so after I removed them I put them all together in a large container to keep them handy.  We purchased new knobs and drawer pulls, but if you plan to reuse yours you should find a separate container for those too.   Then we labeled each door and it's corresponding location to make it easy to put the doors back where they belong once we finished the project.  This was a great idea, but after all of the sanding  and cleaning, none of my labels would stick to the doors anymore and I was just too lazy to make new ones! Luckily, all of our cabinets are different sizes, so I just threw the labels away and it wasn't too hard to figure out how to put things back together.  At this time I also did some taping where the cabinets met the walls to keep all of my edges clean and crisp.  

Step 2: Sanding- Next we sanded, and sanded, and sanded.  Originally I bought a sanding deglosser in the hopes that I could skip the sanding part, but the current finish on our cabinets was not done very well so we felt that sanding them was the best choice.  This took care of all of the little bumps and bubbles that were left on the cabinet doors from a clear coat that must have been sprayed over the stain to protect the cabinets.  

For this part of the project we used this Makita sander from the Home Depot and this detail sander from Amazon).  They both worked really well, and I can't say enough good things about that little detail sander.  It has made my life SO much easier, as I do a lot of projects that require sanding.  Once everything was good and sanded it was time for some heavy duty clean up.  Seriously, our ENTIRE house was covered in a thick layer of sawdust.  If your cabinets are relatively free from imperfections, the sanding deglosser is probably the way to go.  However, I'm so happy with how the cabinets turned out and I'm glad that we went through the extra effort of sanding to make them look smooth and beautiful in the end.  After all of the clean-up I used our wall repair kit to fill all of the knots and the hardware holes that we no longer needed.  You can skip this step if you don't have any holes or imperfections to fix.  

Putter helped me out with some of the sanding. When sanding cabinets, don't have to sand the entire finish off of the cabinets. Just do enough sanding to rough them up and remove the glossy finish. This will allow the primer and paint to adhere properly.

Putter helped me out with some of the sanding. When sanding cabinets, don't have to sand the entire finish off of the cabinets. Just do enough sanding to rough them up and remove the glossy finish. This will allow the primer and paint to adhere properly.

Step 3: Clean-up- Seriously, our ENTIRE house was covered in a thick layer of sawdust.  If your cabinets are relatively free from imperfections, the sanding deglosser is probably the way to go.  However, I'm so happy with how the cabinets turned out and I'm glad that we went through the extra effort of sanding to make them look smooth and beautiful in the end.  My clean-up process included vacuuming the whole house, paying special attention to the cabinets that I had just finished sanding.  Next I wiped the cabinets down with some warm soapy water, and once they were completely dry I finished by wiping them off with a tack cloth.  Make sure that you get your cabinets as clean as you possibly can, because after you go through all of the work to paint your cabinets you do not want to find that the paint didn't adhere properly because you skipped a little clean-up.  Note: After all of the clean-up I used our wall repair kit to fill all of the knots and the hardware holes that we no longer needed.  You can skip this step if you don't have any holes or imperfections to fix.  

 Step 4: Priming- Next it was time to prime the cabinets.  Throughout the priming and painting process I repeated these steps: paint the back of the door/drawer, let the paint dry, flip it over to paint the front and sides, let it dry some more.  While the back side of the doors and drawers dried, I went back to the kitchen to prime the cabinet boxes.  The primer dried pretty quickly, so I only waited an hour for each side to dry before flipping them over to paint the other side.  One important thing to remember about priming... it won't look good! As long as you are sure to achieve a smooth, full coverage it will be just fine.  Don't worry about the uneven look.  

Step 5: Painting- I was so excited when I made it to this point in the process.  Finally being able to see the color that we selected on the cabinets after all of that prep work made me feel like I could finally see a light at the end of the tunnel! Just like when I was priming, I painted the back of the cabinets first.  While the backs were drying I went to the kitchen to paint my first coat on the cabinet boxes, then returned to flip them over and paint the front and sides.  This allowed for the recommended 2 hour dry time between coats.  After painting the front and sides, I allowed the cabinets to dry overnight before flipping them to paint the second coat.  The next day I repeated the same process to apply the second coat of paint.  Each coat took me a couple of hours per side to complete.  I could have painted a bit faster, but achieving a smooth finish was very important to me so I made sure to take my time and make sure that everything was smooth and there were no runs in the paint.  

 Step 6: Reinstallation- Reinstalling the cabinet doors and drawers was SO rewarding.  By this point I had spent the better part of 3 days prepping and painting, and I was so exciting to see the finished product! Since our cabinets were so new, we used the original mounting hardware to attach the doors to the cabinet boxes.  If your cabinets are older and you are unhappy with the mounting hardware, now is the time to change them out.  While we were reinstalling the cabinet doors we swapped out the knobs on the doors and installed new pulls on the drawers.  Putter installed the new pulls using this Kreg Cabinet Hardware Jig and he couldn't get over how quick and easy the jig made this job.  

Time to celebrate! The cabinet painting project is complete!

Time to celebrate! The cabinet painting project is complete!

The Big Reveal

Seriously, we couldn't be happier with the way that the cabinet painting turned out.  Since I had never painted cabinets before, I was pretty nervous about this process.  Now that I am on the other side I can confidently say that even though this project took a lot of time (3+ long days) it was not hard at all.  If you follow the steps that I took to complete this project, I promise that you can paint your cabinets too! I am so in love with how the cabinets turned out that I'm planning to paint the cabinets in both of our upstairs bathrooms too! As you can see by comparing the before and after photos, painting the cabinets was only one part of our kitchen makeover, so if you want information on the whole project you can check out my Kitchen Makeover post.  

Happy painting,

Lindsey