So, you want to give your kitchen a sparkling new look without installing a brand new kitchen? Painting your cabinets is a fantastic way to get your kitchen looking fresh and up to date.
The great news is that you can paint any surface that you can scuff with sandpaper! That includes laminate, so if you’re willing to put in the time and effort, there’s no reason you can’t have beautiful-looking kitchen cabinets by giving them a new paint job.
Do make sure you set your expectations realistically. If you paint, grains and grooves are likely to show through the paint, even if you prep and prime your cabinets properly. You can always use a filler or heavy-duty primer, but it will be more work.
You also need to ensure that you give yourself plenty of time for the project – it won’t be done overnight and could even take up to a week!
Painting your cabinets
Choose your paint
First you need to choose the paint based on the material of your cabinets. Are they wood, metal, or laminate? The material will determine the type of paint that you go for.
Tip: Don’t just choose the cheapest paint. Research your brand. Benjamin Moor paints are a really popular brand because they are high-quality and long lasting.
You should also select acrylic and not vinyl paint. Acrylic is more hard-wearing. There is special cabinet paint on the market but any high-quality paint is sufficient for this type of project.
Always remember to follow the instructions on the tin of the paint – this especially goes for any latex paint.
Decide on your finish
It can be confusing to know which type of finish you need to use, so here is a handy breakdown.
Gloss paint is highly reflective and great for cleaning and wiping down. Handy if you’re envisaging lots of dirty fingerprints and food stains. It is designed for wood but it shows up imperfections more easily.
Satin paint is less shiny than gloss paint. It still reflects some light and is easy to clean, but like gloss, can show up imperfections.
Matt (and flat matt) paint is a smooth, chalky, velvety paint which looks great but can be difficult to clean. Which can be a challenge in a room like a kitchen.
Eggshell is a great option as it’s a halfway house between satin and matt paint. It has a more subtle sheen but it can hide imperfections more easily, especially if you give it an extra coat of paint.
Eggshell and satin are likely to be best for kitchen cabinets, depending on your requirements.
Decide on your colour
Pale colours will reflect the light more, so if you want to make your kitchen seem larger, lighter colours are the way to go. However, darker colours can give a more luxurious feel to your kitchen, and bright and bold, such as yellow, can energise your space.
You want to make sure that your paint colour matches your surfaces and other furniture. Use a poster board containing a sample of the colour as a tester to help you decide if the colour works in the space.
You could even consider choosing two shades, with a lighter shade on upper cabinets and a darker shade on lower cabinets.
Prepare to paint
Make sure you have safety equipment and the right ventilation in the areas that you’re going to paint. It might be worth painting the drawer fronts and cupboard doors somewhere out of the way, like a garage.
Check the condition of your paint. If it’s poor, you may need to strip off the existing paint, which you can do in a straightforward manner with a paint stripper. If your house was built pre-1978, you need to check that you don’t have lead paint on your cabinets. You might need to use a special kit to test this or get professional help.
Protect your surfaces – tack clothes are good because they pick up dust, but you can use old sheets too! You should also place some painter’s tape on your walls whilst you’re painting to keep everything looking nice and neat.
Remove doors, drawer fronts, label them as you go. If you paint everything whilst the doors are still on, the paint will chip and crack, particularly around the hinges.
Remove hardware. This includes screws and hinges. When you’ve removed them, put them all somewhere safe like a tub or jar. You also need to make sure you label these too so you know what goes where.
If you’re using new hardware, you may need to fill in the holes from the old hardware. Wood filler is a good thing to use for this.
Clean everything down. Kitchens are greasy and grimy – even the clean ones! Hoover up dust and debris then use a grease remover. If you don’t do this, you are likely to get poor results. Unclean surfaces can also mean that the paint won’t stick properly.
Sand your surfaces
Even if your wood seems super smooth, you need sand it so that the paint will stick. Don’t go crazy – just sand enough to remove the sheen of the surface – this also goes for laminate.
For sandpaper, use a medium grit. It can be difficult to get into tricky corners with paper, so you could try using a scouring pad for awkward areas.
Clean your cabinets again to get rid of dust and debris from the sanding process.
Prime the cabinets
Primer stops stains leaking through over time, and it hides some of the imperfections in the wood. Don’t be tempted to skip over it!
Laminate requires a specific bonding primer, so make sure you have the right type of primer. And, just as with paint, always follow the instructions on the tin.
Prop the doors up on painter’s pyramids or create your own out of wood. Prime one side at a time and make sure the primer on the first side is totally dry before you flip the door. With the front of drawers, just paint the front itself so that you don’t have any issues with the drawer sticking.
It tends to take a few hours, although, you can pick a fast-drying primer if you want to get the project done more quickly.
When applying the primer, use even strokes which finish back in the wet primer. A foam roller is good for the flat and wide parts of your cabinets. Don’t worry about it looking really neat as it’s only your primer – you just want an even spread.
When you’ve applied a coat of primer, you want to use a dry roller or brush to go over the primer to pick up any areas that are uneven. If you apply more than one coat of primer, make sure to sand lightly between coats.
Use a bright light to check that the surfaces are ready to paint.
Paint the cabinets
Check the specific paint tin for instructions and ensure that you follow them.
A great tip is to use paper cones to strain your paint. This gets rid of any lumps. It can take a bit of work but if you want a professional looking paint job, don’t skip this step.
Unless you’re an expert painter, I’d suggest sticking with a roller and brush rather than messing around with air sprayers, which can be tricky to get right.
Paint the backs of the doors first in case you open them accidentally and smudge the paint – this way, the smudge will be on the inside. Let them completely dry before turning them over to paint the other side.
Use a mini roller and a brush to get the most even spread. And go with the grain or in a W shape with your roller.
And one really important piece of advice is to buy a good-quality brush – not a cheap one. You get you pay for when it comes to brushes.
As you did with the primer, use even strokes which end in the wet paint, and always sand lightly between coats. And, as you did previously, go back over each coat with a dry brush or roller to remove build-up. On that note, paint can build up along edges, so wipe with a sponge or brush.
Remember – don’t go undoing all your hard work. It’s crucial that you wait a few days for the paint to dry properly.
Rehang your cabinets and attach all of the hardware
Now it’s time for the hardware and to put your cabinets back together.
You may even want to refinish your old hardware instead of attaching new hardware. This is one where you’ll want to use spray paint to get the most even spread. And make sure you clean it all off and let it dry before you start.
Finally, you can rehang your lovely, dry, fresh looking cabinets. Your labels that you created earlier on in the process will come in handy now, and you can start enjoying your updated kitchen. Well done!
If you follow all of these steps carefully, once you’ve hung your cabinets back up and attached new hardware, you might just feel like you have given yourself a brand new kitchen! All at a fraction of the cost!
Remember, always follow the instructions on the tin and try to use high-quality materials to give yourself the best chance at fabulous looking cabinets.