Kitchen Update: How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets

June 20, 2017

If you have been checking in on Instagram you probably noticed that we painted our kitchen cabinets, and actually the kitchen is alomsttt done!!! Now it’s time to catch up  on my posting back-log, because goodness knows there’s a lot to share!

Let’s chat about how we painted our kitchen cabinets. This piece of the kitchen renovation was one of the two biggest projects we tackled for the space (the other being DIY faux-crete counters, which deserves it’s a post of it’s own).

As a reminder, here’s what we started with.

The idea of painting the kitchen cabinets was daunting for us. We knew it was going to be a big, time consuming project, but we also knew it would be worth it. There are countless tutorials all over blogland detailing how and how not to paint cabinets. I feel like I read most of them (only slightly exaggerating) and yet there are still so many things I would do differently if I were doing it again.

From the first time we talked about potentially painting our cabinets Nathan wanted to paint the inside of the cabinets too. The inside of our cabinets are not high quality materials to say the least and the age of the cabinets definitely show. Some of the cabinets have very porous rough wood on the inside, while others have particle board. There was no uniformity whatsoever. They were also very sticky and smelled like potpourri despite the numerous times we have cleaned them in the 9 months we lived in our house. But, I still felt that they are the insides of the cabinets and no one sees them except for us, so why waste the time/money/energy? Because I knew painting the insides of the cabinets would made make the whole project a lot more time consuming. Nathan felt so strongly about painting the insides and he had a lot of valid reasons while we should, so we both agreed, after much persuasion on my part, that this was the best course of action for us. Especially, because we didn’t know how long this “phase 1” kitchen renovation (as we like to call us) was going to last us. We have dreams of gutting the whole kitchen and completely reconfiguring it, but that may be years down the road so we wanted to be really happy with the painted cabinets when we were finished so we don’t feel rushed to start the “phase 2” renovation.

My only request for painting the insides of the cabinets was that we would get a paint sprayer to do it because I did not want to spend hours crouching to get in all of the nooks and crannies of the inside of the cabinets. We chose this bad boy for the main reason that the paint is not held in a small canister attached to the spray gun, instead you insert a suction hose directly into the gallon of paint you are using. This makes the spray gun itself a lot lighter and smaller, which was key for painting inside the cabinets. It would have been much harder to use a paint sprayer like this to paint the insides simply because it is bulky and could not get in tight areas, at least that’s what made the most sense to us.

Once we had our sprayer picked out and our primer and paint purchased we got down to business. I detailed our process below with tips on how we painted our cabinets and most importantly how we would do it differently if we did it again.

  1. Sanding: It was important to me to have the wood grain less noticeable through the paint, so that meant we had to sand everything since our cabinets had a very prominent wood grain. We removed all of the hardware, doors, and drawers from the cabinets. Then wiped everything with Krud Kutter and microfiber cloths. This works wonders at removing the sticky gunk. We had the idea of using a belt sander to sand all of the drawers and doors. The belt sander worked great on the drawer fronts, but our cabinet doors seemed to have a waxy finish that quickly clogged up the belt sander because it got so hot. We gave up on the belt sanding and finished sanding with our palm sander and sanding blocks. Then we wiped everything down with cheese cloths. We found the cheese cloths weren’t enough and everything still felt dusty so we wiped everything down with Krud Kutter and microfiber cloths once again.

TIP: From our experience using a belt sander removed all of the finish on our drawer fronts so they were down to the bare wood. This is not ideal when painting. It made the wood VERY porous and more rough. The wood grain showed through EVEN worse once it was painted over on all of the drawers that were sanded all the way down. You want to sand as little as possible with a medium grit sand paper so the finish feels smooth when painting over stained wood. DO NOT SAND DOWN TO BARE WOOD (if you want the wood grain minimized.

  1. Prep Paint Area: We moved our refrigerator and range out of the way. We used tarps and brown paper to cover EVERY surface that we did not want painted. Since we were using a paint sprayer we knew there would be overspray. We covered every inch of counter, floor, windows and open doorways where we did not want overspray. We also created a tarped off a paint area in our unfinished basement where we sprayed all of the drawers and doors. It is best to do this in a well-ventilated area (like your garage), but we did not have that option as our garage was filled with way too many other renovation related things. Plus our basement is large and we could spread everything out easier.
  2. Primer: We applied two coats of primer to everything. Letting it dry 12-ish hours in between coats. After you are done priming (all coats) clean the paint sprayer out according to the instructions. We found it helpful to read the instructions multiple times before using the paint sprayer and before cleaning it out. It is not hard to do (it is annoying, but not hard), but it’s easy to skip a step if you aren’t paying attention.
  3. Paint: We also applied two coats paint to everything. We made it harder on ourselves because we chose to do our cabinets in a two tone finished with white upper cabinets and dark lower cabinets (SW Pure White and SW Black of Night), which meant that in between each coat of each color of paint we had to clean the paint sprayer out what were we thinking. We had initially wanted all white cabinets (which would have been so much easier), but after priming our cabinets with white primer we realized we did not like white against our tile floor. The tile is a tan/beige ceramic tile. Nothing offensive, but it is not our favorite and the white primer on the lower cabinets really accentuated just how peachy colored the tile really was and we were not fans of that. Since we aren’t replacing our tile at this point (we mighttt paint it later on), we decided to switch to dark lower cabinets at the last minute. We are so glad we did because it makes the tile color feel much less peachy.

TIP: Make sure you purchase paint that has a nice finish with both a paint sprayer and a brush/roller. The paint we selected is the contractor grade paint that is supposedly equivalent to the ProClassic from Sherwin Williams. The helpful guy at the paint store suggested this paint as it is so much less expensive than ProClassic, with still a very nice finished when you use a paint sprayer. The only thing is it does not brush or roll on well at all!! So if you have areas were you get drips from accidentally spraying too much paint you can’t try to brush or roll them out. For some reason this completely ruins the finish of the paint and makes it look matte, as compared to the semi-gloss with the sprayer. It highlights that you messed up and it almost looks like you tried to patch it with a paint that doesn’t actually match. I am still trying to figure out a fix for this.

  1. Attach Hardware: We chose to use the existing hinges from our cabinets because the design is so unique and we could not find anything like it in stores. Our existing hinges are naturally aged un-lacquered brass. We are fond of this finish anyway so we were alright with just trying to find knobs and pulls that are a close match to the hinges. We ended up purchasing these pulls and these knobs and I could not be happier.
  2. Enjoy! Now it’s time to enjoy all of the hard work.
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