In an effort to improve our kitchen, we knew we had to do something about the honey-toned builder grade cabinets. Since we’re not remotely prepared to rip anything out of the walls, we decided painted kitchen cabinets were our best option. Here’s a rundown of our cabinet painting process, aka, what we’ve been doing the past three-ish weeks!

1. Sand and Degloss

I sanded the doors and cabinets with 60 grit paper, then followed that up with 220 grit paper. The rough paper cut into the shiny surface and the finer grit paper smoothed the surface.

I had to sand the edges and grooves of the doors by hand, but it wasn’t too bad. I enlisted the help of Ryan and we knocked it out in a day.

After sanding, I wiped all the to-be-painted wood with liquid deglosser not once, not twice, but thrice. The dust from sanding was everywhere, so everything needed a thorough cleaning. This left me with a nice, open wood surface to prime.

sanding for painted kitchen cabinets

I highly recommend sealing your doorways with plastic tarps. I kind of regret not doing that – it took us days to eradicate the dust, and it had even migrated to the living room.

2. Prime

Most resource for cabinet painting say to use an oil-based primer. I couldn’t do it – the fumes make me too headachey, even days after curing. Instead, I used the next best thing: a high quality water-based primer that promises to act like an oil-based primer and block stains.

I used a brush to apply primer in the nooks of the doors, then applied more and smoothed out the primer with a high density foam roller. Thin, even layers is the key. Drips and thick paint are not your friend.

priming kitchen cabinet doors

The first layer of primer soaked in quickly, so I lightly sanded with a high grit sanding block and applied another layer of primer to all the cabinet doors. I painted the backsides first and finished with the front side up. That way, if something happened to the paint, it would at least be on the inside of the cabinet.

I repeated the process with the cabinets attached to the wall. This part was kind of annoying because I had to pull out the oven and fridge, so if you do this, I recommend being prepared to eat out for dinner that day.

3. Paint

I let the primer cure for a day and repeated the priming process, but with paint instead. I used Benjamin Moore’s Advance formula, which has a good reputation as a cabinet paint.

Again, the high density foam roller and thin, even layers were the key. The Advance paint requires 16 hours between layers, and since I wasn’t about to mess up this important paint job, I followed the directions. It took a while, but I eventually had everything painted! It only took two layers, thanks to a well-primed surface.

painted kitchen cabinets process

4. Install Hardware

After the final layer of paint, I installed hardware on the doors and drawers. The cabinets didn’t have any hardware before, so we had to drill all new holes. I found some handles I liked at Home Depot, and with an elusive $10 off coupon, I only paid $90 for all the hardware. I also picked up a hardware template guide, which was super helpful in measuring and marking where each hole was to go before drilling.

I drilled a pilot hole with a small bit (to minimize any wood splitting) then drilled the larger hole and screwed in the hardware. Time consuming, but easy peasy.

5. Hang

With some teamwork, Ryan and I reinstalled all the hinges and hung the cabinet doors. I placed a couple of felt bumper stickers on all the doors to prevent wood-on-wood banging.

painted kitchen cabinets benjamin moore glacier white

The other side:

painted kitchen cabinets glacier white benjamin moore

A long view. I love the pop of green from the front door.

painted kitchen cabinets benjamin moore glacier white

Old kitchen vs. New kitchen:

painted kitchen cabinets before after

Overall, painting kitchen cabinets is easy, but it’s incredibly time consuming. In all, it took us two solid weeks. Granted, we only worked on it at night and on the weekends, but we crammed a lot into those nights. Next up, we’ve got to do something about the counters, because the white-on-off-white is not doing it for me, haha.

Have you thought about painting your kitchen cabinets? Or have you already painted them? Tell us about your experience or ideas!

(PS: Budget breakdown – about $160. Hardware: $90; paint, $50; primer, already owned; the rest of the budget went towards paint brushes, rollers, sand paper and sanding blocks, painters tape, etc.)

4 Responses to How To Paint Kitchen Cabinets

  1. Merridy Menna says:

    Love the Glacier on the cabinets. What is the wall paint ?

  2. Colleen says:

    Hi, what color of BM did you use on the cabinets?

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