How to Successfully Paint Your Cabinets

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Are you nervous to tackle a big project like painting your cabinets? Well, I was too! I recently moved into a new home and have a long list of projects. The biggest project is our kitchen.  I initially wanted to replace the cabinets, but the most conservative price for the cabinets was $2o,000. That did not include installation, hardware or updated appliances. Just the cabinets. Once we moved in and I was able to get a better look at the cabinets.  I realized that they are solid oak and great quality, but just not my taste. With our growing list of projects for this house, we are definitely looking for ways to conserve. Painting them seems to be the best option. We consulted a professional. His quote was over $4,000 and that did not include paint or hardware. Plus, there was an additional fee to change the hinges and drill holes for new hardware.  I decided to do it myself… but I wanted a smaller trial project first.  I took on the bathroom as my trial. If I ruin these, it will be much cheaper to replace instead of my entire kitchen.

I read on several DIY blogs to clean your cabinets with a tri-sodium phosphate solution. I also read that if you don’t get the solution completely rinsed off, it will ruin your paint job. I opted out of this solution.  I used Dawn Liquid Soap and water and I will explain why later in this post.

Here is how to successfully paint your cabinets.

1) Remove the hardware and doors.  If you plan to change the hinges and knobs or handles, save a set to compare when you are choosing your replacements. This is important for replacing the hinges. Also, be sure to have a system set up so you can keep your cabinet doors organized. Take a picture of the cabinets and number the doors.  Number a piece of tape and stick it beside the door when you paint it so you know where it goes when you are ready to hang them back up.

2) Clean your cabinets with hot water and Dawn Liquid Soap.


A professional painter gave me this tip. Dawn is designed to remove grease and perfect for cleaning your cabinets. It is important to use this specific brand. I scrubbed with a sponge and wiped them down with water afterwards.

3) Fill in any holes you won’t be using with wood putty and lightly sand the cabinets.   Wipe them again with a damp rag. You want a clean, smooth surface. I made sure the cabinets were smooth where I filled in old knob holes. The rest of the cabinets were just a light sand to scuff off the varnish. There is no need to go crazy sanding.

4) Paint your cabinets with a primer.*You may be able to skip this step depending on the surface you are painting and the color you choose. I chose a dark paint for oak cabinets. The paint soaks right in and I did not need a primer for this project.



5) USE HIGH QUALITY PAINT!! This is so important!! I made the mistake of using a low grade paint a few years ago on some french doors I installed. They looked awful and I had to go back and paint them over with Benjamin Moore. I used Benjamin Moore ADVANCE for these cabinets. I purchased a pint and have more than half a can left. I painted the cabinets with a brush and tried to use smooth, light strokes. I painted 2 coats.

6) Let the paint dry and add your hardware. This paint took a couple of days to dry.  I changed the knobs to pulls and it completely changed the look.



I am pleased with how these turned out and confident in my skills to take on the kitchen.  I do want to update the lighting and swap out the old faucets for these …  retro-faucet

..but other than that, this bathroom is complete and I saved hundreds.






















Feel free to contact me if you have any questions and stay tuned for the big kitchen makeover!!!



American wife to this Indian life. I am a right-brained, American woman married to a left-brained Indian man. I love art, design, up-cycling and multiple DIY projects at the same time. He loves simplicity and order. Follow us on this cultural collision as I combine our personalities and cultural differences through art, design, food, and raising kids. When I am not working on a craft or project, I co-host a lifestyle/entertainment show called "Daytime Blue Ridge," on our local NBC affiliate, WSLS 10.

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