Painting Kitchen Cabinets

I’m echoing YHL’s droopy but spirited happy dance following cabinet-painting completion.  This project now tops my “most time-consuming” project ever.  Blowing my reupholstered wingback chair project right out of the water.  But it was COMPLETELY worth all the time and energy it took.  My kitchen looks totally different now– in an amazingly awesome kind of way.

Oh, and I fully understand why it seems to cost an arm and a leg to pay someone else to paint cabinets for you– it’s not for the feint of heart, or for someone who struggles to finish projects.

Here’s what I needed:

  • Sandwich baggies – FREE
  • Phillips Screwdriver – FREE
  • Electric Drill – FREE
  • TSP – FREE (a good thing to own)
  • Palm Sander – FREE, purchased for my farmhouse table build, but only about $30 to buy
  • 120 or 150 grit Sandpaper – $3.97
  • Primer* – $48 (Benjamin Moore Advance Primer)
  • Paint – $48 (Benjamin Moore Advance paint, Satin sheen, color: Distant Gray)
  • Quality paint brush – FREE (I used a 1″ Purdy brush.  I like 1″ better than 2″ personally, but a 2″ brush is usually recommended)
  • Paint tray – FREE
  • Small roller – FREE, purchased for my newly-painted front door
  • Roller pads** – $7  (Microfiber)
  • Bumper guards for cabinet doors – $4
  • Install guide for hardware – $7
  • Hardware – $110.46 (purchased on eBay $95.40 & the two long ones at Lowes $15.06)

TOTAL $228.43

* I was incredibly disappointed with the primer I purchased.  I couldn’t find the Zinsser Smart Prime in any stores near me, so I opted to go with the more-expensive primer that shared the same name as my paint.  Learn from me– use a Zinsser primer.  I had stain bleed-through and ended up (after my second coat of top coat), using a Zinsser primer that I had in my shed to spot treat certain spots and then putting a third coat of top coat on top of that.  Save time– use the right primer.

** These roller pads were recommended to me by my Benjamin Moore paint guy.  I hated them.  Perhaps it was just because my cabinets were so smooth, but the roller didn’t, well, “roll” much.  So I ended up globbing a bunch of paint on the roller and pushing it around with the roller.  Thankfully the BM Advance paint is “open” for a long time and does a really good job at self-leveling.

Here is what I started with.

Day 1: Took all the cabinet doors off and pulled all the drawers out.  As you’re taking the hardware off, put it in an individual baggie for each door.  Number the baggie and put the appropriate number on painters tape on your cabinet door.  You’ll thank me later– unless you only have a few doors that are not easy to confuse.  I also sanded, de-greased (TSP), and laid all my cabinets out for painting.  Don’t try to do this all in one day, unless you have help.

Sand the doors evenly, enough to take the waxy/shiny finish off, but not too much.  You just need someone for the paint to adhere to.  I used a palm sander, but with almost 40 doors/drawers to work on, it took me HOURS to sand them all.  Be thorough– you don’t want your paint to peel later.  I was also too lazy to remove all the things out of cabinets, so I just placed butcher paper over the openings before I sanded.  Ridiculous, but effective.

Day 2: Paint primer on backside of doors & cabinet frames in kitchen.  Start with your brush, paint around edges the roller can’t get into, then use the roller over everything you can.  The paint is good, but the fewest brush strokes is best.

Day 3: Turn cabinet doors over and paint front side of doors & drawers.

Day 4: Turn over and paint first coat of topcoat on backside of doors & cabinet frames in kitchen.

Day 5: Second coat of topcoat on backside of doors and cabinet frames in kitchen.

Day 6: Let dry

Day 7-8: No time to paint 😦 busy evenings

Day 9: Turn cabinet doors over, paint first coat of topcoat on cabinet doors & drawers

Day 10: Second coat of topcoat on the front side of the cabinet doors and drawers.

Day 11-13: Let dry

Day 14: Install doors & drawers, drill for hardware holes, and repair any nicks with paint

Day 17: Install hardware.

My kitchen looks about a million times better now, and since I was silly enough to undertake this project in the middle of the winter, I now have half of my home back (for two weeks it was littered with butcher paper and half-painted cabinet doors).  The transformation makes all the HOURS of prep and painting worth it.

In that token… here is a breakdown of my time…

  • Taking doors off: 1.5 hours
  • Sanding doors: 3 hours
  • De-greasing: 1  hour
  • Laying out doors/drawers: 1 hour
  • Painting cabinets (primer/paint/kitchen wall color/touch ups): 30 hours
  • Installing doors/drawers: 2 hours
  • Drilling hardware holes: 1.5 hours
  • Installing hardware: 2 hours

Total: 42 hours.  Yep, in two weeks, I basically worked a 22 hr/wk job on top of my day job.

Worth it?  You bet.

Here’s another before and after.

Have you been up to any cabinet painting lately?


18 responses

  1. Pingback: Total Kitchen Makeover $550 | DIY Project-aholic

  2. Excellent post. I really enjoyed reading through it. I have been a rather consistent reader of your blog of late, as you always have loads of great info, however I decided I’d finally turn from lurker to commenter 🙂 Have a good one, look forwards to seeing more!

    • Sure Denise! My “degreaser” was TSP, sold at local home improvement stores in the paint section. I think it stands for TriSodium Phosphate. Regardless, it’s a great first step to any painting project, especially in a kitchen or bathroom because it removes all the surface oils (hand, cooking, etc) from the surface, allowing much better paint adhesion. Plus, oils have a tricky way of bleeding through paint- something I’ll post about soon because I didn’t use enough degreaser in spots. Essentially you just wipe the TSP all over before you start. I’ve also heard the recommendation to wear gloves while youre using it- it can be really strong. Let me know if you have any other questions! Good Luck, I’d love to see your cabinets when you’re done!

  3. Pingback: Painting Kitchen Cabinets | DIY Project-aholic | Kitchen Cabinets Ideas

  4. I’m undertaking the same project and I have to say, I have to agree with you about the Advance primer…there are yellowing, darkish areas showing through and I feel like this primer is not designed to handle stained wood surfaces. I’m a total novice at painting cabinets and I never understood what stain bleeding was, but I’m pretty sure this is what’s happening.

    • That was my problem too Mitch! I think the BMW Advance primer wasn’t made to block stains, I just assumed it would & I was disappointed when it didn’t. I ended up using a Zissner water-based primer to spot prime the bleed through parts & then brushed on another coat of the regular Advance top coat paint over the Zissner. You could tell once I was done & I didn’t have further issues with the bleed through. Good luck!

  5. Your post has given me a little more confidence to do this project in my kitchen with a brush and roller. Thank you!

    Which Zinsser primer should I use? The BM guy says I should buy the Advance primer, but I’m thinking the Bulls Eye 123 water-based is what I need. Thank you again for your post.

    • Hi Robert, thanks for stopping by!

      BM recommended that I use the Advance Primer too, and I HATED it. It did NOT block stains like I wanted. I’ve heard great things about the new Zissner Smart Prime but I couldn’t find it anywhere near me. I’ve used the Bulls eye 1-2-3 Zissner primer before, and I’ve heard good things about B-I-N shellac too. As long as you go Zissner, I think you can’t go wrong. Good luck!

  6. Just one more question; what about brush marks? The finish on your cabinets looks smooth. Maybe it’s hard to tell from the pictures, but I really don’t see any brush marks at all. Thank you again.

    • Hey Robert, no problem. You don’t see brush marks because I don’t really have any. That’s the beauty of the BM Advance paint. It applies/cleans up like a water, but goes on like an oil (so it’s open longer). And since it’s “open longer” it takes longer to dry, which also means that it has a better chance for paint strokes to flatten, which is what happened for me. I recommend using a small roller (I used a foam one) for anything the roller can cover and then using a nice Purdy brush for anything else. Don’t glob the paint on, because then you’ll have drip marks, but be sure to apply enough paint so that as it dries it flattens with no brush marks. Good luck! And let me know if you have any other questions– I’d love to see how your cabinets turn out!

    • Oh! Also know that BM Advance paint goes FAR. I did two coats on all the fronts/backs of my cabinet doors, plus the frames, and only needed 1 gallon of paint. It’s definitely worth the investment.

  7. Nice job! I’m getting ready to do this myself. I bought Cabinet Coat (Insl-x), which says you don’t have to prime, but I think I’ll prime anyway. Don’t want the paint to come off when I sell my house in 10 years.

    I bought Smart Prime through Havent’ found it anywhere locally–very strange!

    • I really wanted to use Smart Prime, so you’ll have to let me know how it is! I wasn’t able to find it locally either, and too impatient to order it online and wait for it to come. Smart choice though, the BM primer that I used on my cabinets was awful. I wasn’t happy with it’s stain-blocking at all! I’d love to see your cabinets when you’re done!

  8. I have the exact same cabinets and was planning on just painting the doors but after seeing how gorgeous yours turned out, I think I will do the whole cabinet. Seriously, I am so happy I came across your blog! You did a beautiful job and the cabinets look like they were originally white! This project was starting to make me nervous and freak me out a bit, but now I feel much more confident about going forward with it. I am taking all of your advice and I hope I can do as good of a job as you did. Beautiful work! Thank you for sharing this! Stacy

  9. I have the exact same cabinets and have been torn between BM Chantilly Lace, Decorator’sWhite and Distant Gray. I love this!!! Hope my cabinets look as beautiful as yours when finished!

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