How to Paint Your Kitchen Cabinets

How to Paint Your Cabinet in a Kitchen: Many people, including myself, have painted their kitchen cabinets and are delighted with the results. Painting cabinets seem old school compared to today’s emphasis on tearing the kitchen down and starting over. Unless you have the skillset and tools for it, a complete kitchen redo is a budget buster. And painting your kitchen cabinets makes even more sense today than it did decades ago because today’s paints and painting tools make it so much easier to achieve top-notch results.

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And I speak from experience. I first picked up a paintbrush in 1972. By the early 1980s, I had a one-man business painting entire houses as well as the accompanying carpentry. Most of the time, I was using traditional alkyd resin paint. These were excellent coatings, but their chemical makeup was developed decades earlier. Working with them required a lot of patience, a lot of care, and a sense of timing. One slip of the brush or roller and there goes your intricate paint job.

Contrast that with today’s paint. Many of the best water- and solvent-based paints are resin mixtures, such as acrylic-alkyd hybrids and acrylic-urethane hybrids. They apply beautifully, are forgiving to work with, and (drum roll) washes off with water.

When you combine these coatings with equally advanced paint brushes and rollers, as well as a special primer known as an enamel under coater, you’re well on your way to professional results.

Here, we go in-depth on how to paint your kitchen cabinets. Read on for a list of the tools and equipment you’ll need, step-by-step instructions, and tips to help improve your chances of success.

How to Paint Your Kitchen Cabinets

How to Paint Your Kitchen Cabinets

Step 1: Clean out the cabinets.

Sometimes, there’s nothing more than cleaning the cabinets with a damp cleaning cloth. But kitchen cabinets generally require a thorough cleaning, especially with a degreaser, followed by several wipes with a damp cleaning cloth to ensure every last bit of kitchen grease is removed. The sign has been removed.

Step 2: Remove the doors, drawers, and hardware.

Remove the doors and drawers (or just remove the drawer faces). Also, remove any drawer pulls and door knobs.

Step 3: Suspend the door.

You will need to hang the doors so you can paint on one side and turn them over when the paint is dry enough to allow for a light touch. To do this, suspend the doors from a pair of sawhorses (or blocks of wood standing on the edge). Drill a 9⁄64-inch hole in the center of the top edge of the door and two holes on the bottom edge. Press 8d normal nails into the holes. Another benefit of the three-nail arrangement is that it automatically alerts you if you’re applying too much force with the paintbrush or roller. The door will tap.

Step 4: Degloss and repair any damage.

Fill a spray bottle with water and prepare three sanding blocks, one with 1,000 grit, another with 1,500 grit, and the third with 2,000 grit. There’s no one magic number for the coarseness of grit you’ll need to degloss the finish—it depends on the cabinet. Your goal is just to finish, not finish it. Try the least abrasive grit (2,000) first. Moisten the surface with a spray bottle, and try the abrasive paper, if the paper slides over the surface without cutting, try the next coarser one.

Use just enough moisture to help the sandpaper cut. When the resulting slurry dries, wipe it off with a clean, damp cloth.

As you do this, use latex wood filler to fill any gouges, dents, and screw holes (but not the screw holes for the hinges). The cabinet door frames shown here had different types of holes. Squeeze wood filler into the holes, tap it with a putty knife, then sand it smooth with 1,000-grit sandpaper.

Step 5: Apply Enamel Undercoated.

With everything clean, roll or brush on a layer of undercoat. Whether you roll or brush the undercoat, do your best to apply a smooth, consistent film. Don’t panic if you find a small run or other error. You can remove drips and uneven areas by carefully wet sanding when the undercoat is dry. Do your best to make the undercoat as smooth and even as possible. The better you work with it, the easier it will be to apply the top coat.

Step 6: Smooth the undercoat.

It doesn’t matter how hard you try. When the undercoat is dry, sand it with 1,500- or 2,000-grit sandpaper. Just be careful to remove brush or roller marks and runs. Do not sand through the undercoat. Allow the wet sanding slurry to dry, then remove it thoroughly with a clean, damp cloth.

It is possible that after wet sanding, the undercoat looks rough or uneven. In this case, apply a second layer of it.

Step 7: Apply your first top coat.

Assuming the first layer of undercoat is smooth, clean, and dry (and doesn’t require a second application), apply your first top coat. You can apply the top coat with a roller, brush, or a combination of both (roll the paint and then brush the surface to remove the texture of the roller).

When using a brush, remember to “tip off” the layer of paint you just applied. After making your first pass, you finish by holding the brush at a shallow angle and pulling it toward you with almost no downward pressure. It leaves very fine straight brush marks.

Many people, both amateurs, and professionals prefer rollers. Regardless of whether you brush or roll, apply the smallest amount of paint that will cover cleanly using the least amount of pressure that will spread it evenly.

Step 8: Smooth your top coat.

When the first layer of the top coat is dry, wet sand it using 2,000-grit paper. Keep the sandpaper damp while working. Allow the slurry to dry and then remove it with a clean, damp cloth. Continue wiping until every piece of sludge is removed.

Step 9: Paint your final top coat and touch it up.

With the surface clean, apply your second layer of top coat and tip it as before. Allow the paint to dry.

The edges of the doors, especially the top and bottom edges, will need to be touched up. Remove the nails from the edge, wet-sand it with 2,000-grit paper to even out any runs and rough spots, and clean it up. Fill the nail holes in the top edge and the two holes in the bottom edge. Smooth the filler and touch up the edges. Note that for doors on lower cabinets and sink bases, you don’t need to worry too much about touching the bottom edges. The flaws there are not noticeable.

Step 10: Reassemble.

Replace the doors on the cabinets and install new knobs and pulls to complete the new cabinet look.

If you left some nail holes until the door was installed, there is no need to remove the door for this touch-up. Press some filler into the nail hole, hit it with a putty knife, and wait a few minutes for it to set before touching it up. mission accomplished.

Ten Tips for a Great Paint Job

Check your brightness.

The higher the sheen in the paint, the harder it is to apply. High-gloss cabinetry looks a bit institutional, but if that’s the look you’re shooting for, apply a glossy enamel. However, in most cases, you’re better off with a semi-gloss or satin finish. Of the two, a satin is more forgiving of painting mistakes.

If you can get a sample of your paint color, apply it to birch plywood or medium-density fiberboard (MDF). Remember, apply the undercoat before the top coat pattern. The undercoat coats the surface of the topcoat in a continuous thick layer with a uniform gloss.

Test your painting techniques/tools.

Buy a 2ft x 4ft piece of MDF and make some test strips. Put the enamel undercoat down first, then apply your top coat. There are three ways to apply both undercoat and cabinet enamel: roll it with foam, velour, or flock roller. Brush it on or roll it in first and then brush it back.

If you don’t want to spend money on an MDF test panel, you can experiment on the backs of cabinet doors.

Note that many people like the lighter consistency of orange peel that the roller produces. If you paint the inside of your cabinets, rolling is the way to go.

Paint the backs of the doors first.

Even after choosing your painting method, take the extra precaution of painting the door panels first. You may want to do some final work with your method before painting the edges.

Clean your tools thoroughly after each session. No soaking.

This is not a house painting. This job requires impeccably clean tools at the start of every painting session. Clean your tools thoroughly after each paint session. When you’re done, wrap your paintbrush, and stand your roller on the end.

Activate the velor and flock rollers before use.

Read the wrapper your roller was packed in. This is valid on first use and every use thereafter.

Use a fresh utility knife blade to remove paint globs.

You’re bound to sprinkle a little enamel on the inside of the cabinet as you work. The easiest way to remove it is to hold a fresh utility knife blade vertically and move it over the globe in a scraping action.

Use a fresh utility knife blade to remove paint globs.

You’re bound to sprinkle a little enamel on the inside of the cabinet as you work. The easiest way to remove it is to hold a fresh utility knife blade vertically and move it over the globe in a scraping action.

Watch the water content when wet sanding.

Wet sanding is not a sloppy mess. It is exact. With a spray bottle, use only enough water to apply to the sanding block, surface, or both. If the paper sticks during your sanding, add water. If a puddle forms, you have added too much water, clean it immediately.

Spray the sanding block frequently with water and wipe it clean with a shop towel or clean painting rag. The more sludge that builds up on it, the harder it is to move to the surface.

Allow the slurry to dry.

Slurry tends to disappear into the surface when it’s wet, and it’s possible that you won’t be able to completely remove it when you clean it at this stage. Allow the wet sanding slurry to dry, and when it becomes too visible, wipe it off with a clean, damp cloth. Check your wipes. When it shows no residue from wet sanding, the surface is ready to paint.

Improve your effort.

Painting kitchen cabinets is a lot of work, and if you’re not careful, it can leave you feeling overwhelmed. Doors at eye level and in the most conspicuous places require the most painstaking work and the greatest attention to detail. Lower doors require slightly less attention to detail (as mentioned, you won’t have to bother filling the nail holes in their lower edge).

This is not an excuse for sloppy workmanship, as if paint runs or other gross imperfections are acceptable on these doors. They are not. However, a slightly lower quality level is acceptable on the backs of these doors, their low-visibility edges, and their bottom edges.

Unless you have all the time in the world to paint those cabinets, you should do your best in the most visible parts of the job. And no matter how you look at it, these are not professionally spray-painted doors. You can get perfectly crisp and acceptable surfaces with hand tools. So do your best, but don’t obsess over every little flaw.

Roll inside the cabinet.

Although we didn’t show it here, if you want, you can paint the inside of the cabinet as well. Use a mini 4-inch roller. This leaves a slight orange peel texture but is desirable on the inside of the cabinets (again, it’s not realistic to achieve a dead smooth finish with hand tools). Do a clean job inside the cabinet and call it a day. Much of the interior surface is not particularly visible anyway when the cabinet contents are placed inside.

What are the three types of cabinets?

There are three types of cabinets: partial overlay, full overlay, and inset. Cabinet door styles are the specific way the door looks. There are many styles of cabinet doors available today.

What is the price of a kitchen cabinet?

Pricing wise, they’re listed in order—stock cabinets are cheapest, at around $60 to $200 per linear foot, semi-custom cabinets will run you around $100 to $650 per linear foot, and custom cabinets usually cost between $500 and $1,200 per linear foot.

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