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  • Writer's pictureBetsey Dempsey

How to paint kitchen cabinets and vanities

Painting your kitchen cabinets and bathroom vanities can save you a lot of money over replacing them. There are plenty of tips and tricks to give you that factory finish. The most important thing to do? Not to skip steps! It takes time and patience to get a factory finish look. I like this instructional video from This Old House. They follow the same process that I do when I paint cabinets.



Step 1: Remove your doors and drawers. If you are re-using your hinges, number the doors, hinges, etc. so everything goes back in the same place. Lay doors on a flat surface that is away from the wind and dirt, if outside. A garage or basement away from pets is a great spot. Saw horses topped with wood makes a convenient space to lay doors down. Stand drawers up so the front is facing the ceiling.


Step 2: Prep your doors and drawers. My Tip: I put my doors right in my kitchen sink and wash them roughly with soapy steel wool and let dry. They must be cleaned of all grease and dirt. Next, use a medium grit sandpaper to rough up the existing finish, then wipe well with a damp cloth or tack cloth.



Step 3: If your cabinets are not already painted, you'll need to put on a coat of primer. Primer may be desired depending on how dramatic the color change will be for pre-painted cabinets. My Tip: "On, In, and Out" - I like to roll on the paint first, just to get enough paint on the door. Then, I use my brush to get it in any grooves and make sure it's completely covered - then get any excess out of those grooves. Thinner coats are better than a thick coat because they won't pool paint. Immediately after, I take a good quality brush and drag from top to bottom without stopping, if possible. By dragging, the brush removes any "orange peel" look leftover from the roller, and smoothes it all out. My Tip: Invest in a quality, 2" angled brush. You'll see a difference in brush strokes between a cheap brush and a quality one. Clean it well after use and it can last you 20+ years.


Step 4: After the primer dries for 24 hours, take a fine grit sandpaper and lightly sand the primer, then wipe with a damp cloth. Sanding between coats is an important step if you want a smooth finish. My Tip: Painting in a cool place without a breeze is best as it will make the paint dry slower. The slower it dries, the more time there is for the paint to "level" or flatten out the brush strokes.



Step 5: Time to paint the doors! Follow the same steps as in Step 3 and 4, but use a cabinet paint.


Step 6: Apply a second coat of paint, following the directions in step 3. No sanding needed after this coat. Let dry for at least 24 hours. A few days is better. The paint will be dry to touch but not "cured" yet, so be gentle with the cabinet.


The frames of the cabinets should be painted using the same steps. You just won't be able to lay them flat, of course.


That's it! Well it's not as quick as it sounds, but you'll be amazed at the change in your room. Now's the time to re-hang the doors and put on the pulls.


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