Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Repainting Kitchen Cabinets

I’ve wanted to do something with my cabinets since I moved in. That was 15 years ago. I’m a slow mover on my own. I called in “the girls” to brainstorm and make a plan. ~MJ


  • Can’t afford to replace the cabinets. Is there anything we can do?
  • They are in good shape and function fine. How do I justify a change?
  • Could those darn things even be painted?

Action Plan:

  • Paint ‘em and change the knobs and pulls.
  • Poke around online initially. We searched for “painting kitchen cabinets”.
  • Talk with quality paint suppliers about cabinet paints. We took a door in to them so they knew what we were working with.
  • Just try it, what the heck.

How we did it:

Step 1: Select a color. We got several sample pints (any brand will do) and test painted 1’x2’ or larger boards. It was worth it to see the colors options large, with my lighting, in my kitchen.

Step 2: Remove the cabinet doors from the boxes. “Boxes” are things you put your dishes in. They are fixed to the wall. You could think of them as the frame. We marked each box and corresponding door so we’d know where to return them.

Step 3: Fill the existing handle holes with spackling paste (since I wanted to replace/reposition the hardware).

Step 4: Sand the surfaces just enough to rough it up. Safety first! We used dust masks.

How to repaint Kitchen Cabinets

Step 5: Remove sanding dust with Tack Cloth.

Step 6: Set-up a factory style painting area. We used my basement table and a sawhorse set-up. Laid the doors horizontally to reduce the possibility of paint drips.

Step 7: Lunch

Step 8: Prime (with tinted primer) the surfaces being careful not to leave drips. Quick even strokes, but don’t overwork it. Paint like you know what you are doing. We had one person priming the boxes up in my kitchen and other 2 of us priming the doors and drawers in the basement.

Step 9: Paint ‘em. Mine needed 2 coats, even with the tinted primer.

Step 10: Install new hardware and put the doors back on the painted boxes.

Kitchen Cabinet makeover paint samples

Before: MJ’s Cabinets

Kitchen Cabinets repainted

I ended up painting the walls as well. Oh, and that is a new dishwasher – mine had been broken for years and I found one on sale.

Someday I’ll replace my fridge. Could be another 15 years.

Our supplies:

  • 150 grade sandpaper
  • Benjamin Moore Kitchen & Bath satin-finish paint
  • Benjamin Moore Superior Primer
  • Tack Cloth
  • Spackle paste (non-shrinking)
  • 2” and 3” quality paint brushes
  • Satin Nickle finish pulls and knobs. I bought mine with credit card bonus points. Score!
  • Dust  masks
  • Sawhorses
  • Lunch

What can go wrong:

Drips. If that happens:

  • After the paint is dry, use 220 grit sand paper to lightly sand the drip and the surrounding area.
  • Run your finger across the area to make sure it is smooth. Remove sanding dust with a tack cloth.
  • You’ll need to prime again if you sanded down to the original surface.
  • Lightly paint sanded area.

Lead is deadly.

  • It’s a good idea to get your paint tested for lead if you are not sure it is lead free.
  • We’ve used NVL Laboratories in Seattle, but there are others. It’s worth it and is cheap insurance ($30-$40) against brain damage.

Counter depth caution:

  • If you are replacing appliances make sure your countertop depth is deep enough. Countertops in older homes are sometimes not standard depth.

Last thoughts:

It was daunting to start. But the girls showed up and we immediately started removing doors and drawers. Before I knew it, we were on our way.

After the initial work party everything seemed to fall into place. I worked in the multiple coats of paint over that week and rehung the doors/drawers the following week. Ta da! After 2 weeks and about $200 in paint and supplies my 15-year old procrastination was over. Over, I say!

I’m not certain about the long-term durability.  I’ll let you know how it all holds up over time.  Stay tuned.

8 thoughts on “Painting Kitchen Cabinets

  1. Pingback: Ready to Tile? – Part 1 | Hammer Like a Girl

  2. Linking back from your Armoire post of Aug 2013. We’ve been looking at homes for two years now and the kitchen is usually not MY style. I’m not a fan of maple cupboards but seems half the world is. Trouble being the sellers have usually just reno’d, so maybe this would be an option next time we see an fugly maple kitchen in a reno’d house….don’t know if I’d be brave enough to start….mmmm will think on it. I fancy that blue/green wall colour too. How’s it all holding out? 2 years?

    • I fancy that you are such an awesome fan :). I’m glad you asked how the cupboard/cabinet are holding up. It is going great! I’ve noticed some minor wear and tear around a couple knobs on doors I use all the time, but other than that nothing a quick knob removal, sanding and a swath of paint can’t heal. I also thought about simply purchasing new cabinet doors in the style I like and leaving the boxes as is. Another inexpensive idea that I may still do one day…but, as Heidi and I say when we trying to gain perspective…”I’m 50. Does it really matter?” :) Thanks again for your fandom. We appreciate it.

  3. What color did you end up using for the paint on the cabinets? Also – how long did you allow to dry in between the primer and paint, as well as in between the 1st and 2nd coat? I think it looks great! Thanks!

    • DRYING TIME: We followed the instructions on the can for drying time and then added some time. We didn’t want the doors sticking to the cabinet boxes so we made sure to wait out the dry time. Annoying, but hey, there was no way we wanted a do over.
      COLOR: White Sage – Glidden GLC 32. We didn’t use Glidden Brand Paint. Benjamin Moore, Kitchen & Bath with a Satin Finish. The people at the Benjamin Moore Paint Store were the most helpful so we went with their brand. And we’d recommend you do the board painting no matter what color someone recommends. The lighting is so crucial when looking at colors. And its never what you think it will be. Those we thought looked awesome in swatch form turned out looking way different when they were larger and sitting in the room. A little more work up front, but again limits the do overs and we like that! Hope this helps and thanks for checking out our blog.

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