Cabinet Painting Tips From DIYer’s

Cabinet Painting Tips from DIYer’s

We have now successfully painted one set of bathroom cabinets and most recently, our kitchen cabinets. Thanks to the help from my dad (the real-life house painter) and the years of DIY-ing practically everything in our house, we’ve picked up a few tips that helped make both projects do-able for non-pros like ourselves.

The two most important things about this type of project, in our opinion, are patience and elbow grease. Painting cabinets is no small undertaking and there’s not a lot of room for error so it’s important to go into the project with plenty of time, the knowledge that it takes awhile to properly complete, and putting the proper pre-work into it.

First, you have to have the right supplies.  Here’s what we recommend:

Cabinet Painting Supplies

Dropcloths: My dad recommends that if you will be DIY-ing in the future, it’s smart to just invest in one or two of these from the paint store from the beginning. You can certainly buy these, but you can also use old towels or even pieces of newspaper if you’re working on a hard flooring (not carpet). We’ve purchased cheap plastic drop cloths in the past that we throw away after the project, but be careful – they can be slippery at times.
– Rags: We have a stash of old t-shirts that have been cut up into small pieces to use for this type of thing, as well as old kitchen and bath towels. You can also purchase if you don’t have anything laying around your house to use.
Sandpaper: We like to buy packages of 9″x11″ sheets and tear them into the size we like. This is nice because Nate likes to use a larger piece and I like smaller pieces. For our cabinets, which were oak, we used 220 grit (a fine sandpaper).
Painters Tape: We’ve used Frog Tape, ScotchBlue and 3M – so far, we don’t have much of a preference on brand but I tend to buy Frog Tape. You’ll use this to tape off your walls, base boards, floors, etc. We also use it to piece together our drop cloths because we usually use old towels and newspapers and it covers better if they’re taped together.
Paint Can Opener: You can always use a flat head screwdriver, but we like this fun little tool so we don’t get paint all over our tools. It can be found at the hardware store and is usually under $5.
Paint Stir Stick: These are free at the paint counter but still important to remember so that your paint is mixed well before starting.
Paint Brush: You definitely want to invest in a good brush that you can use with other projects in the future. We recommend starting with a Nylon Polyester angle sash brush, in a 2 or 2.5″ width.
Primer: We went with one gallon of Sherwin-Williams Interior Latex Premium Wall & Wood Primer in White with no tint (exact code on sticker: B28 W 8111).
Paint Extender: This is the true “trick” to making our cabinets look so great. Paint Extender extends your work time and essentially slows down the speed in which the paint dries. This helps prevent the appearance of brush strokes when the paint dries and can help you touch up while you paint.
Paint: 98% of the time, we use Sherwin-Williams paint. It’s what we’re most familiar with but I’m sure you can also find similar paint types elsewhere. For both our bathroom and kitchen cabinets, we painted them white so we used Sherwin Williams ProClassic Interior Acrylic Latex Semi-Gloss in Extra White with a few drops of black coloring mixed in — you don’t see the black at all and it makes a great white color for the cabinets and helps the coverage of the paint (exact code on sticker: B31 W 1151).
Paint Brush Cleaning Supplies: Without a shop sink, we clean out our brushes in the kitchen sink using warm water and dish soap. You can soak them for about five minutes in a cup of soapy water first and then run it under warm water until completely free of loose paint. You can use a wire brush to help clean the paint out as well.

If you like your existing hardware (hinges and pulls or handles), you are good to go with the supplies above. However, if you also want to change any of the hardware, you can either replace them with new, OR simply spray paint them.

There are many economical options out there to replace your hardware but just be sure to count how many you need before going to the hardware store and if you have handles, remove one first and measure the distance between the holes (or take it with you to the store). This is important because there are many sizes of handles.

If you choose to keep the existing hinges and/or pulls/knobs, but want to spray paint them to match your other decor or update the look, you’ll also need a few more supplies. We did a combination of this; we kept the hinges (so we used the supplies listed below), but replaced the handles.

Cabinet Hardware Updating Supplies

Lacquer Thinner: You only need a small can of this and you’ll use it to soak all of your pieces.
Bucket: For the Lacquer Thinner.
Cardboard: After the hardware has soaked, lay them out on cardboard to dry completely. If you want, you can use old egg cartons to help with this as well.
Spray Paint: We used Rust-Oleum Universal Metallic Silver Paint and Primer Spray.
Handles: We picked a style that came in contractor/ project packs from Menards to get the best bang for our buck. They came in boxes of ten handles and we needed 22 so we had to pick a style that also came in individual packages. Our final choice was a style from Hickory Hardware in a satin nickel finish that was available in both contractor packages and individually.

So, once you’ve stocked up on everything you need, allow a few days to complete everything. With a new baby in our house, we tackled our kitchen cabinets in four sections. This allowed us to finish in four days and spaced out the project without the stress of keeping baby occupied during a long project.

Below are the steps we took for each section of cabinets:
1. Place drop cloths around cabinets and use painters tape if needed to keep them in place. Place an additional drop cloth somewhere in your house that you can paint the cabinet doors – we used our dining room.
2. Remove cabinet doors, hinges and handles.
3. Soak all hinges and handles that you plan to re-use in lacquer thinner for about 15 minutes. Once dry, place on cardboard and spray paint with 1-2 coats of paint (you can do this while your cabinets and doors dry).
4. Wipe down all of your cabinets and cabinet doors with the rags to remove any dirt or dust. You can dampen your rag if you want, but the cabinets must be dry to sand which would add more time to your project.
3. Use your sand paper to sand cabinets and doors down, focusing on edges, cabinet seams, and any “problem” areas (cracks or warped parts).
4. Wipe down the cabinets again or use vacuum cleaner with dusting brush to remove the dust from the sandpaper.
5. Tape off walls and edges with Painters Tape so you don’t get paint on anything except for the cabinets. If you’re not painting the insides (we didn’t), you will likely want to also tape off the insides.
6. Use paint can opener to open the can of primer, stir it with the stir stick, and apply a coat of primer with your paint brush. Allow to dry for about two hours.
7. Once dry, lightly sand any drip marks or uneven areas. Wipe up any dust from the sand paper.
8. If you can see the wood grain, add a second coat of primer. We have oak cabinets (which have a large wood grain) so we added a second coat. If you have Maple or Birch cabinets (or a smooth-grained cabinet), you may be able to get away with just one coat of primer. Allow to dry at least two more hours.
9. Lightly sand again and wipe up any dust.
10. Add Paint Extender to Paint – follow the instructions on the exact brand that you use and feel free to be a little heavy-handed with it.
11. Carefully apply the paint, ensuring there are no areas of paint that drip. Because you have the Paint Extender, your paint will not dry as quickly so you can take your time to ensure perfect coverage.
12. Once you are done painting, soak your brush in soapy water for a couple of minutes and then clean it under running water until water runs clear. Gently use a wire brush in the direction of the bristles if needed (don’t use it against the flow of the bristles or it will damage them).
13. When you paint is tacky but not yet dry, carefully remove the Painters Tape.
14. Allow cabinets, doors and spray-painted hardware to dry overnight and then re-assemble.
14. If you have raised-panel doors, you MIGHT need to add caulk to the seams of the door panels in the event that they didn’t fill perfectly with the paint. You can also use caulk along the seam where the cabinets meet the wall to have a smooth line. If you choose to do this, do not use the cheapest caulk on the market. Try a minimum of a 20-year, paintable latex silicon caulk. Never use 100% silicon caulk because it’s non-paintable.

The cost breakdown:
Dropcloths: FREE (we used old towels)
Rags: FREE (we used old t-shirts)
Sandpaper: $11.97 for 12 sheets, so we’ll have more for other projects
Painters Tape: $7.88
Paint Can Opener: $1.99
Stir Stick: FREE from paint counter
Paint Brush: $21.99
Primer: $30 for one gallon of Sherwin-Williams Interior Latex Premium Wall & Wood Primer (this is approximate… we lost the receipt… don’t ask…)
Paint Extender: $7.95 for one quart of XIM Latex X-Tender
Paint: $45 for one gallon of Sherwin-Williams ProClassic Interior Acrylic Latex Semi-Gloss (see note about receipt above…)
Brush Cleaning Supplies: FREE (we used dish soap and wire brush)
Lacquer Thinner: $2.73 (16 oz. can)
Bucket: FREE (we already had)
Cardboard: FREE (we used old boxes)
Spray Paint: $6.76 for one can of Rust-Oleum Universal Metallic Silver Paint and Primer Spray
Handles: $51.96 for our tiny kitchen. We needed 22 total pulls so we bought two contractor packages for $22.99 each (10 in a package), and then bought two separate handles that matched for $2.99 each. This came out to $2.36 per handle before tax.
GRAND TOTAL: $188.23

Ok, so wanna see the kitchen results? We’ll share another blog post on the process, but here’s a sneak peek. Pretty awesome change for under $200, right?!

Kitchen Cabinet Facelift - Before and After

Kitchen Facelift - After (#1)

Kitchen Facelift - After (#2)

We are absolutely in love with the new kitchen and proud of this project – probably one of our biggest undertakings with the biggest risk. It feels like a brand new house now and so bright and cheery. Paired with our new lighting, we finally feel like our kitchen has joined us in the year 2014.

– Abigail –



6 responses to “Cabinet Painting Tips From DIYer’s

  1. Pingback: Drumroll Please, Our Updated Kitchen | Life in A Brown House·

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  3. Awesome job! I just picked up the exact same paint and I’m struggling with whites. Did the black make the paint slightly grayish? In what column did they add the black? Example 1/128 or 1/64? Thanks in advance! Tanya


    • Hi Tanya, Great questions! And, my apologies on the delay… I’ve been away from this blog for a couple of years now but am back. When we had the black added, you couldn’t tell at all. My Dad, who is a painter, insists that this must be done by a seasoned professional. We once asked someone at a hardware store to do this and it turned it TOTALLY grey, which is not what we wanted. We have had great luck at Sherwin Williams and PPG (Pittsburgh Paints) and they knew exactly how to do it. I’m not sure which column they used but when we told them the reasoning behind adding the black, they seemed to know the method. I hope this is/was helpful!


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