How to Paint Outdated and Old Kitchen Cabinets
Painting kitchen cabinets is easy, and hands down the most affordable kitchen upgrade.
That is if you’re following the right advice. Because if you’re not then odds are good, you’ll end up with chips in your paint.
You don’t need to be a pro. Heck; this could even be your first-time painting! Follow this guide for an extremely easy way for beginners who have all the motivation and none of the skills.
Here is my tested method of how to paint kitchen cabinets so they last. Let’s dive in!
Jump Ahead Using These:
- The Easy Steps to Durable Painted Kitchen Cabinets
- Painting Cabinets FAQ’s
- Painted Kitchen Cabinets Before and After
- Pros + Cons of Painting Kitchen Cabinets
- Painting Cabinets Tools and Supplies
- How To Paint Kitchen Cabinets Video
Just a friendly reminder: This tutorial and any opinions or recommendations are genuinely mine, but this is not a substitute for consulting a professional. I also use affiliate links to earn a commission.
The Easy Steps to Durable Painted Kitchen Cabinets
Here you’ll find the five steps to painting kitchen cabinets like a pro and all the supplies I love (and trust) for this home improvement project.
Plus, I’ll show you my amazing kitchen makeover through the power of painting kitchen cabinets.
Start by downloading this step-by-step painting cabinets guide that gives the exact steps and supplies I use for smooth and chip-free results!
Step 1: Prep
The first thing you need to do is simple-remove existing hardware and hinges from all your cabinet doors and drawer fronts.
It is a good idea to cover the inside of the cabinet boxes with plastic to prevent dust from sanding and paint drips from getting in.
Place a drop cloth down to cover your floors from any drips or accidental paint spills.
You’ll also need to clean everything thoroughly. What you use to clean your cabinets with before painting is essential for durable results!! If you don’t want your painted cabinets to chip, then you have to use this cleaner and follow these steps.
Step 2: Sand
Sand down all surfaces that you are going to paint using your random orbital sander and 80 grit sandpaper. Sanding is the most labor-intensive part of painting kitchen cabinets, so as you’re working, keep reminding yourself that your prep work is the key to painting kitchen cabinets so they will last.
You are not removing the old finish completely and don’t worry about getting down to bare wood. Focus on roughing up the surface just enough so your paint has something to stick to.
Don’t skimp, or else the paint won’t stick, which means your painted cabinets will eventually chip. To get in all the tiny grooves, you will need to do this by hand by folding the sandpaper in half.
>> If you’re paint oak kitchen cabinets then there is one more essential step that you have to do to hide the wood grain. Find out that process here! Don’t worry, it’s easy, but necessary for a smooth finish.
Step 3: Repairs
If you’re using new hardware and hinges, you’ll also need to use wood filler to cover up the existing holes. To do so, apply a thin layer of wood filler, let it dry, and then sand it down so it’s flush with the rest of your surface.
I also caulked around any edges and seams on the doors and drawers. Caulking is a bit controversial because some people feel that it’s “bad” for the cabinet because it can’t expand and contrast with temperature changes.
However, after having done it both ways (caulked and not), caulking is definitely the secret to pro-looking painted cabinets. Make sure you use paintable caulk and get it as smooth as possible!
Step 4: Prime
Start by priming your cabinet frames with Zinsser 123 aka the best primer for any home improvement. I’ve used this product over and over (and over) while renovating my home and continue to be impressed by this primer.
Do not skimp and buy a cheaper primer. Aside from sanding, the quality of your primer is essential to the long-term durability when painting kitchen cabinets.
You still have to prime with something like Zinsser to help with adhesion aka your paint sticking and not chipping!
There are a few options for what to use for applying primer and paint. An angled paint brush and a foam mini roller are good choices. The foam mini roller helps to reduce brush strokes, giving you a smooth finish.
Sanding Between Coats
Next, you’ll let your primer coat dry for at least an hour (check your primers recommended drying time on the back of the can) and then give it a light sanding.
For a smoother finish I suggest sanding between each coat with 220-grit sandpaper. Before sanding you’ll want to check that the primer is no longer tacky.
The trick to getting a smooth surface when kitchen cabinet painting is to use the right sandpaper grit and apply gentle pressure. You don’t want to remove the primer; you’re just doing the slightest amount of sanding to scuff the surface between coats.
After you’ve given the area a quick wipe down with a clean cloth, you’re now ready to repeat this entire process one more time so that you’ve done a total of two primer coats.
Step 5: Paint
The next step is to apply the first coat of paint! The hardest parts of this home improvement are behind you, and you’re in the final stretch. It’s finally time to see some real progress for all your hard work!
I go into full detail about picking the best paint for kitchen cabinets in this post about the most affordable and durable paint that I used for my kitchen cabinets.
Did I mention it’s been years, and I don’t have a single chip, and any drips or spills wipe off my painted cabinets like a breeze! The paint I used may surprise you, because it’s not Sherwin Williams.
To paint your cabinets, you simply repeat the steps you did in step 2 and 3 (except with paint in place of primer).
- Don’t rush the process, make sure to let the paint dry for a few hours in between coats.
- Don’t skip the second coat of paint because this is essential for durable results.
- Don’t apply too much paint at once. The easiest way to ensure a nice finish is to apply thin coats of paint.
Step 6: Finishing Touches
Congratulations, you’re done painting kitchen cabinets (happy dance). But don’t go using these just get!
Allow enough time for the final coat of paint to cure. Curing is different than drying, so check the time needed on your paint container. Once cured, attach the hardware and hinges, and enjoy!
Painting Cabinets FAQ’s
Q: Should I paint the inside of the cabinets?
If you’re trying to decide about painting the inside of your kitchen cabinets then before you do anything, read this post! The answer may surprise you!
Q: How do I prevent brush strokes?
If you are using a brush, the right way is to paint in the direction of the wood grain. Apply thin layers and sand between each coat.
Q: Do I need a paint sprayer?
I painted my kitchen cabinets by hand, so it is possible, but if you have $90-ish dollars to spare, I highly suggest investing in a paint sprayer because of how much time you’ll save.
With a little guidance and practice (I mean a little), a paint sprayer is a game-changer for your DIY projects. Say goodbye to tedious brushwork and hello to the fastest and the most professional looking painting projects.
Check out my review on this budget friendly paint sprayer, which has more than paid for itself with the time I’ve saved using this thing. Not to mention the level of durability and how smooth everything looks!
Q: Should I apply a topcoat?
I did not. And the reason being, the paint I use has a built-in layer of protection. I also hate working with poly and did not want to risk my results looking streaky. Deciding to add a topcoat or not is totally personal preference.
Q: What paint finish is best?
The higher the gloss finish, the more durable the paint is. But that also means shinier. I used a satin finish in Behr’s scuff defense and have no issues after years of regular maintenance + cleaning.
Q: What color are my white painted cabinets?
I love Alabaster white, but to prevent my cabinets from looking yellow next to the white subway tile backsplash, I used Simply White by Benjamin Moore.
Q: Can I re-use the original hardware and hinges?
Yes, and no.
You can re-use your original hardware either by cleaning it or (my favorite) giving it a budget-friendly makeover with spray paint.
However, I don’t recommend doing this on your hinges. Either re-use the original as is, or buy new ones. The paint will not last on a hinge because of the movement.
Painted Kitchen Cabinets Before and After
These pictures give you a glimpse into how a fresh coat of paint gave my kitchen a whole new look. The power of paint never ceases to amaze me!
Pros + Cons of Painting Kitchen Cabinets
- Did I mention I totally transformed my kitchen cabinets by painting them for less than $100? The greatest thing about this home improvement project is how incredibly affordable it is to complete.
- Painting cabinets not only saves money, but it is also good for the environment. My cabinets were solid wood and in excellent condition, so removing them would have been really wasteful!
- Another benefit to painting kitchen cabinets white is keeping the existing countertops, that is, if you like your counters. If you were to replace your cabinets, you would also likely need to replace your countertops due to potential damage from the removal process.
- Have you priced out countertops? Here’s a hint, it’s insanely expensive to replace them! If you’re on a home improvement budget, saving your countertops is a big way to stick to your budget.
- If your cabinets are not in good shape or made of something other than solid wood, it may not be a good idea to paint them.
- You’ll be without cabinet door for as long as it takes you to complete this project.
- Another con to this painting kitchen cabinets is the amount of time it takes. But if you’re anything like me, you have more time than money and love a good budget project. So, the lengthy time commitment is not enough to outweigh the benefits of painting kitchen cabinets.
Painting Cabinets Tools and Supplies
I have listed all my favorite tools necessary to paint kitchen cabinets:
- Cordless drill
- Cordless orbital sander
- Sanding discs
- 220 grit sandpaper
- Krud kutter
- Painters tape
- Zinsser 123 primer
- Short handle paint brush
- Mini foam roller
- Super finish max paint sprayer
- Here is a link to the gold hardware I used
- Here is a link to my modern farmhouse kitchen fixtures and decor
- Here is a link to this on LTK where you can find a complete list of the tools and supplies used for this home improvement project
>> If you need help picking out new cabinet hardware then here’s an entire post about picking the best hardware for white kitchen cabinets.
How To Paint Kitchen Cabinets Video
You asked how to paint kitchen cabinets, and I delivered all my best tips and tools. I hope you’re feeling more confident about this home improvement project now that I’ve given you these simple step by step instructions to painting cabinets.