A 10 Step Guide to Painting Kitchen Cabinets
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A 10 Step Guide to Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Of all the rooms within your home, the kitchen offers the biggest return on investment. If there’s only one room you can renovate, experts in realty and home design recommend that it’s the kitchen.

Kitchen cabinets are one of the easiest and most cost-efficient upgrades to make. Adding a fresh coat of paint to your cabinets can transform an outdated kitchen. It’s a simple fix that enhances style and function in the home.

Follow these 10 steps for painting kitchen cabinets like a pro.

1. Set up a Workstation

A designated workstation will make it much easier to prep and paint kitchen cabinets. It helps to have ample space to sand, paint, and give cabinets time to dry.

You can set up shop in a garage, basement, or spare bedroom. Make sure the area is well cleaned and dust free. Dust and pet dander will stick to wet paint and show up on your cabinets.

Set up a work table to allow you to paint doors and let them dry. You can use standoffs for extra support.

Make your own using small pieces of wood with screws sticking out of the top. This way you can paint the entire door without having to wait for one side to dry.

Be sure to prep your kitchen workspace too. Use painter’s tape to protect walls and counters near your cabinets.

You’ll also want to cover counter-tops with brown builder’s paper to protect them. Unless you plan to buy new counter-tops to complete your upgraded kitchen design.

2. Pick the Right Paint

For professional looking results, it’s important to pick the right type of paint. A water-based paint will give you a smooth finish.

Glossy paint is easier to clean and will keep fingerprints and food from sticking to the paint. Milk paint is also becoming a popular choice for cabinets. It creates a nice texture and does not need to get primed or sanded beforehand.

Choice of color also makes a huge difference in painted kitchen cabinets. Updating to more neutral shades can increase the value of your home.

Lighter colors will make your kitchen space seem larger, while darker shades tend not to work as well in smaller kitchens. Here is more on how to choose the best cabinet color for your kitchen.

3. Remove All Hardware and Doors

This can be the most tedious task when repainting kitchen cabinets. Yet, it’s best to remove all doors and hardware so it’s easier to paint the entire door of the cabinet.

Use an electric screwdriver to remove all handles and hinges. Then take off cabinet doors and drawer fronts.

It’s important to label everything beforehand. This will make it easy to put things back together afterward. Put hardware and screws in small plastic bags so you don’t lose anything.

4. Prep Your Cabinets

Prep work is the most important step in how to paint kitchen cabinets the right way.

You’ll want to give each cabinet a deep cleaning. This will remove all cooking grease so the fresh paint can adhere better.

If cabinets are not too dirty you can use dawn dish soap with warm water. Tougher jobs call for TSP. This is a trisodium phosphate cleaning agent.

It contains harsh chemicals so use gloves to protect your hands. Also be sure to rinse the cabinets after then wipe them dry.

5. Sand Em’ Down

Your cabinets will need a light sanding to help the paint stick. Some cabinets also have a sheen or clear coating on them. You’ll want to sand this down before applying paint.

All you need is a light sanding using a 120-grit paper or sponge. Be sure to remove all sanding dust afterward.

Use the brush attachment on a vacuum to make clean up quick and easy. Then go over with a tack cloth to remove any remaining dust.

6. Apply a Coat of Primer

Most paint jobs will need a coat of primer first. If your old cabinets are a dark or red color you’ll have to prime them first. Priming will also help seal in any oil from the cabinet wood.

Use a fast-drying brand for quick results so you can move on to cabinet painting. Once dry, go over with a light sanding paper in 220-grit. Again you’ll want to remove the dust with a tack cloth.

7. Now You’re Ready to Paint

A roller brush is an easy tool for applying your first coat of paint. Check your local hardware store for a special roller made for painting cabinets.

Follow a v pattern to spread the paint throughout the full surface area. Then roll back over in an up and down motion until you have a smooth surface.

If your cabinets have a special design, you may need to use a small brush instead. Or you can use a paint sprayer to get the job done fast.

When painting, start with the back of the cabinet. Then flip it over and do the edges. Save the front side for last.

Give your doors plenty of time to dry before applying your second coat.

8. Consider a Top Coat

This will depend on the type of paint you used. Some paints call for a special clear coat that goes over your paint. This can add sheen and protect the paint from chipping after years of use.

A polyurethane finish is a popular choice for protecting cabinets further. It shows up clear and is available in low or high gloss varnish.

9. Reassemble Your Cabinets

This step is easy as long as you keep everything labeled throughout the entire process. You may have trouble getting old or warped cabinets back in. Here are other signs you may need to invest in new cabinets.

You may want to consider adding new hardware to your cabinets. It’s a small change that makes a big impact.

New hardware will not likely fit the same as your old hardware. So, you’ll need to fill cabinet hardware holes in with putty. This step happens after you remove cabinet hardware and before sanding.

10. Enhance Other Elements of Your Kitchen Design

With freshly painted cabinets, your entire space will become transformed. It will turn an outdated design into something creative, innovative, and clean.

Yet there’s also much you can do to further enhance your kitchen design. Consider adding new counter-tops or creating a beautiful backsplash. Flooring is another element that can transform your space.

Your Kitchen Transformation: Painting Kitchen Cabinets or Buying New?

While painting kitchen cabinets is an affordable upgrade, it’s not for everyone. It’s a huge time-consuming commitment that takes a lot of work and attention to detail.

If cabinets get worn and damaged, a fresh coat of paint may not be enough. Paint can also chip over time if cabinets have not gotten prepped the right way. Or it may be time to update your kitchen cabinet style to blend in with the rest of your home design.

Most people choose to paint kitchen cabinets as an immediate upgrade. Then they go on to buy new cabinets later. Learn more about kitchen cabinet redesigns that fit your style and budget.

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