What to Expect When Painting Kitchen Cabinets

It has been a while since I have written a blog post. That is due entirely to me undertaking the DIY project of painting our kitchen cabinets. Why not, since we would need to stay at home for the foreseeable future. Since moving into our house in November, I have wanted to paint the cabinets. They were this medium brown color that I was not fond of. White cabinets are what I prefer.

To me, a white kitchen is a blank canvas for both the decor and the food that is served there. White kitchens are light and airy, and that is the style that I love in a house. The rest of our house pretty much fits that bill, but the kitchen was a major outlier.

The original color

Before I painted the kitchen cabinets, I practiced on our bathroom cabinets. Those were painted black, which is a much more forgiving color compared to white. I did those in early March, before all the craziness of COVID-19 started. During this process, I learned how to take apart the cabinets, put them back together, and how to order the steps of the process.

I’ll go into greater detail on the process as a whole in a little bit, but I just want to make a note about the bathroom cabinets. I am happy with how they turned out, but I made a significant mistake. I used latex paint, which was not a good idea. It peels much more easily than a paint that hardens into an enamel finish. I had not planned to use a latex paint, but I was persuaded to do so by a store employee when I found that they did not have the type of paint I had originally wanted.

I should have stuck to my guns, because I do not think the latex paint will have the longevity that I really wanted. Oh well, live and learn, and at least I did not make that same mistake with the paint for the kitchen cabinets.

The paint that I did buy for the kitchen cabinets was Behr Premium Interior Semi-Gloss Cabinet & Trim Enamel in a white base color. It is an acrylic paint, which means it has the longevity of oil based paint, along with minimal odor, easier cleanup, and no fading or yellowing with time. I did a lot of research before buying this paint, and it has lived up to my expectations thus far.

That being said, it did require many coats to get the color and coverage that I wanted. This is not surprising, given that I was trying to cover the original brown color with white, but it is worth noting.

Getting the primer on the framework

Here is the order in which I did things.

1. Remove Cabinets Doors and Hardware — Once I figured out how to do this with these particular cabinets, it went pretty quickly. I put each set of hinges in their own plastic bag, and I put the hardware into one big bag, as they are all the same. I ended up getting different knobs for the doors, anyway.

2. De-grease — I used the Krud Kutter brand cleaner/degreaser for this, and I have no complaints. It worked like a charm, and it was reasonably priced. It was $7 for a bottle that lasted for both the bathroom and kitchen cabinets.

3. Sand — This is an essential for the primer to adhere. Many primers say that sanding is not necessary, but I didn’t want to take the chance that I might have to redo it because I cut corners on the prep work. I used a 100-200 grit sandpaper piece to do this, but I ended up preferring the 100 grit. My cabinets were a little roughed up, so the more abrasive grit was helpful in smoothing them out a bit.

4. Wipe Down — I used a wet rag to clean the surfaces down prior to the first coast of primer. Let them dry for a few minutes, and then you are good to go.

5. Primer — The primer that I chose was Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Water Based Interior/Exterior Primer and Sealer in White. It is not directly recommended by Behr, but primer is primer, right? Time will tell if I made a mistake, but I think it is fine. I thought that I was going to have to do multiple coats of both paint and primer to get the right color, and I was right. I did 2 coats of primer on each door and framework piece. It gave pretty good coverage as a base for the actual paint. I started with the back of the doors, and I did a coat in the afternoon and another coat at night. The next day, I flipped the doors over and repeated the process.

6. Paint — As stated above, the paint that I used was Behr Premium Interior Semi-Gloss Cabinet & Trim Enamel in a white base color. It gave good coverage, but it is still white, which means it needed a few coats. I ended up doing two coats with the doors off the frames (using the same technique that I did with the primer), one additional coat after they were hung up, and any required touch ups after that. I used a combination of a small paintbrush and a small paint roller, and that worked well for me. Our cabinets have many grooves and details on the front side of the doors, so a brush was necessary. The paint dried fairly quickly, but it does take a full week to fully harden, which is worth noting.

7. Hang Doors and Apply Hardware — This is the fun part! I had to do a few more touch ups after the doors were hung, as they acquired a few marks and dings during the awkward process of getting them on the frames, but that is to be expected.

8. Touch Up/Clean Up Any Paint — I am not always the neatest painter, so there is always a bit of cleanup after I am done a project. I/we had to touch up the wall paint around the upper cabinets, get up drops of paint from the floor, and clean up the underside of our counter tops. This is the project that won’t end — good thing I like how they turned out!

Much better!

All said, this project took me close to a month to do. It took me a while to get it done because I could only work during nap times and evenings, and with limited space. We do not have anywhere I can do these cabinets in bulk, so I had to do about 5 doors at a time. We have a lot more than 5 cabinet doors. It took a long time. That being said, I was warned by multiple people about the longevity of the job, so I can’t act like I am surprised (ha)!

Finally done!

While it was labor intensive, I am very happy with how they turned out, and I would do it again if I had to. They make our kitchen look so much lighter, brighter, and more welcoming. Our old, worn out cabinets look like they have a new lease on life. A kitchen is the heart of the home, and I am thrilled that we made a big step in updating ours. Now, if only I could snap my fingers and get a new sink, countertop, faucet, and lighting (ha!).

One thing at a time 🙂

7 thoughts on “What to Expect When Painting Kitchen Cabinets

  1. Amanda, your cabinets look beautiful!! I love the wall color you have. It looks so clean, airy and inviting!! Super proud of you granddaughter!!❤️❤️👍

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

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