Cabinets are one of the most important features of any kitchen, so painting them can make a huge difference. Not only do cabinets look better, but they also hold up well and last longer if they’re painted properly. But while a DIY-friendly paint job is possible for most homeowners, it’s best to take the time to get it right.
Before you start, read the paint and primer labels to ensure you’re getting a quality product that will stand up to heavy use. Choose a scuff-resistant or a cabinet-grade paint. Water-based latex paints are more durable and easier to work with, but oil-based options also offer a beautiful finish that’s more difficult to scrub.
If your cabinets are very heavily stained or have an old varnish, you’ll need to apply a stain-blocking primer to prevent the paint from bleeding through and giving the finish a streaky appearance. But most cabinets can be sprayed with a high-quality oil- or latex-based primer that will dry quickly and seal any surface imperfections that could bleed through the topcoat.
Once the primer is dry, you can move on to the paint itself. Prime the entire cabinet and door frame, from edges to tight spots, using a brush or roller. Apply primer across the grain, then “tip-off” (pass the brush lightly over the wet paint in a single stroke from one end to the other) to make sure you’re applying even coverage.
Next, apply the paint to each cabinet, door and drawer frame, again going with the grain. You can speed this process by using a roll-on, but for the most consistent results, paint with a small brush or foam roller. If a brush leaves spongey marks, you can lightly feather it over the wet paint with a dry brush to smooth them out.
When the paint is dry, sand each surface with an extremely fine sandpaper or a sanding sponge. This will give the primer a good base to adhere to and help your new paint stand up better to scuffing. If the sanding dust is too thick, you can wipe it off with a tack cloth before you continue with your next coat of paint.
After you’ve sanded, apply two coats of high-quality paint to the cabinet and doors. Wait for at least four hours between coats to allow the paint to fully cure.
While the first coat is drying, label the inside of your cabinets and doors with cabinet painting a raffle ticket system (use two pieces of tape that have the same number on each). This will make it easier to put everything back together once the painting is complete.
Once your cabinet and door frames are fully cured, reattach the hinges and drawer pulls. You can install hardware yourself if you’re handy, or hire a professional to do it for you.
If you have adjustable shelves that aren’t removable, remove them and paint them separately, if possible, to keep them out of the way. You’ll also want to cover them with a drop cloth before you start painting the interiors of your cabinets, which will help prevent drips.