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Refreshing your kitchen? What you should know before you paint your kitchen cabinets

Refreshing your kitchen? What you should know before you paint your kitchen cabinets

Painting your kitchen cabinets is an affordable way to update and brighten your kitchen. There are some things you should know before you paint your cabinets if you want your cabinets to look amazing.

This isn’t my first rodeo. When we purchased our manufactured home in 2001 we upgraded the cabinets to oak meaning the doors were solid. While oak is nice, I never really liked the color of oak. The first time I gave the cabinets a face lift I removed all the doors and sanded everything down. Then they got a cherry wood stain finish. It took about one week to complete.

Before the before kitchen cabinets stained dark cherry

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As you can see, though, it wasn’t a great look for our kitchen. This was the Tuscany phase and it wasn’t a good one. Too dark. You really can’t even distinguish the cabinets from the hardware.

After a few years, I decided it was time to tackle the cabinets yet again.

This time I wanted to brighten the space. I also wanted to spend less time so didn’t take the cabinet doors off. Rather used a liquid sander to wipe on-wipe off technique. The other decision I made was to paint the uppers white but worried if the lowers were also white I would never be able to keep them clean. So I painted them with a latex navy blue paint I already had on hand and then sealed them with a polyurethane. Not a good idea.

Before the kitchen cabinets get painted white

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Definitely brightened up the kitchen but found out rather quickly why short-cuts and the navy blue paint on the lower kitchen cabinets was a no-go.

The ugly truth of why dark painted kitchen cabinets didn’t work

Besides the worry of white showing all the dirt, I worried that too much white wouldn’t look good. I happened to have quite a bit of the navy latex paint leftover when I created this farmstyle faux planked accent wall.

Now this is really embarrassing. Yes, the dark didn’t show the dirt. Because of this they obviously didn’t get wiped down as often as they needed to. So gross! Really believed we were a lot cleaner then this. Shame.

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The other issue was when I tried to scrub the lower cabinets, could never quite get them clean. In fact the paint began to come off!

Once again I was ready to tackle the kitchen cabinets but this time I wasn’t going to cut corners.

Painting your cabinets the right way you must:

  • remove the cabinets and ALL the hardware (if you are reusing hardware, place in sandwich bags and mark what cabinet they go to)

  • sand and clean the surfaces of what will be painted

  • prime before you paint (even if your paint is a primer in one)

  • use a roller AND the right paint brush

  • invest in quality paint



How to prep your kitchen cabinets for new paint

Begin by removing all the cabinets and the hardware.

Since I was going to replace the hinges and pulls I didn’t worry about storing and marking the hardware. However, if you do plan on reusing, then you will want to place the hinges and the pulls in a sandwich bag and note which cabinet/drawer they belong to. THIS MATTERS as when you place the cabinets back, the wrong hinge may mean your cabinet door doesn’t hang right.

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Painting your kitchen cabinets the right way isn’t quick nor is it easy

Because I invested in a good primer, Zinsser BIN which you can read about here, I sanded all surfaces just enough to rough ‘em up. This allows for the primer to adhere to the surface better. Then I hosed them down really good to remove all the dust.

But that wasn’t good enough.

The next thing to do is to clean all surfaces with a water and vinegar solution. Avoid soap. I know…weird, right? Soap is like an oil. When it dries, your paint may not adhere because of the soap residue.

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Why investing in the best primer for your kitchen cabinet makeover matters

With everything sanded, cleaned, and dried it’s time to prime everything. I mentioned above that the primer I used was Zinsser’s BIN primer. This stuff is awesome! It’s what I used to prime my bathroom vanity before I gave it the faux wood graining technique. After several months, I am happy to report the vanity is still holding up nicely. I credit that to the primer. Not only does it adhere to just about any surface but it also allows for the paint to adhere better as well. Hope that makes sense.

This primer dries pretty fast. The first coat will be light. If you try to put too much on it gets tacky and you don’t want that.

Use an angled paint brush first. Prime all the edges. Once that is done, then take a roller to prime the rest of the smooth surfaces.

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Tips for painting your kitchen cabinets

When you prime and paint your cabinets, begin with the inside first. I used two different rollers: one for the primer and one for the paint.

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Each cabinet and drawer received two coats of the primer and two coats of the satin enamel designer white paint. Satin enamel takes longer to dry but is more durable. It’s perfect for kitchen cabinets.

Remember when I said be patient. This is why. Paint and wait.

You want to allow for each coat to dry before adding another. In addition, you want to give the cabinets and drawers at least 24 hours to cure. Curing is important! When you allow for the paint to thoroughly cure, you have less chipping.

With the cabinets and drawers now primed and painted it’s time to add the hardware.

Why you should invest in new kitchen cabinet hardware

When I thought it was a good idea to cut corners and leave the cabinets on, I painted the hinges. Over time this is what happens…

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They were pretty ugly.

The other issue was the pulls we had weren’t quite big enough. Our finger nails kept scraping the cabinets. Over time we ended up with nicks.

You can get hinges in bulk, saving you money.

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I found it easier to actually attach the hinge to the base before attaching to the cupboard. If you have someone to help, you might do it differently.

The pulls came with screws but because of the width of our drawers, had to use the old screws. So don’t toss the old ones quite yet!

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I can’t tell you how happy I am that I decided to invest in new hardware. Really made the cabinets and drawers pop.

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Amazing before and after kitchen cabinet makeover that brightens small kitchen.jpg

It did take some time to complete this project. Just for the lower cabinets I would say about a week. The uppers I just added the new hardware and touched up the paint.

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Phase 2 of our budget kitchen makeover is done. The only purchase we needed to buy were the hinges and knobs.

Painted Kitchen Cabinet Makeover Cost: $90.90 (doesn’t include tax)

You can check out Phase 1 of our kitchen budget makeover which was to give our boring kitchen peninsula some much needed character.

I hope you found this post helpful. If you are considering painting your kitchen cabinets, make sure you research the pros/cons of the different paint types. We’ve been living with our painted cabinets for a little over a month now and I am loving them. No fingernail chips and they are super easy to keep clean. Plus, all white cabinets really brightened up our kitchen.

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