Painting Kitchen Cabinets

It has been chaos in here! We have been painting and doing minor improvements to our house. Since we have some financial goals to achieve this year (like, I might be going to Uruguay this year! yay! I’ll tell you later WHY) our updates involve the most economical method: PAINT. Our kitchen was outdated, our house is 16 years old and that oaky-orangey color, plus dirt and grease, were driving me nuts. I always dreamed of a white kitchen and subway tile…our kitchen is not very big so painting the walls a lighter color and the cabinets White Dove white made a BIG difference! Today I will be sharing the method we used to painting them. I know, there are a gazillion tutorials, but this is what worked for us. Trust me, I researched this for over 2 years thinking if I dared to do it and if the job was going to turn out nice. It actually turned out great so I am glad we did it.

Step one:
The first step is removing all doors and hinges. I was lucky that my hinges are on the inside and are not seen. I numbered the doors starting from right to left and then from bottom left to bottom right and I wrote a number in the space where the hinges go. I used ziploc bags to put all the hardware in and numbered them. Trust me, you WANT to do this, otherwise you will go insane trying to figure out which hinge go in which door.

Step two:
After that I removed everything from the cabinets and stored them in boxes. I could not believe how much junk I had, I threw away a lot of stuff that was unnecessary or that we barely used. WARNING: your house will be a MESS! Make sure you eat take out and have a lot of cereal on hand! haha!

Yes, my daughter decided to bring her toys upstairs too, see the play washing machine?

Step three:
Cover everything! There will be a lot of spills and dust!

Step four:
Clean them really good. You will find gross stuff! We used TSP diluted in water. Sorry if this makes you barf…ewwwwwwwwww

Step five:
This is the worst step of all: sanding! I know there are other tutorials out there that say they did not sand them and just used a really good primer like BIN or one of the Zinsser ones. I decided to do this even though it was going to take us longer. This enhances primer adhesion even more so why not? You will be covered in dust. After you sand, vacuum and clean them really well. We used an orbital sander and 120 grit sandpaper first, then 320 for in between coats. Yes, if you thought you were done sanding on the first step…nope! But I promise the results are great!

This is what the sanding will do to the cabinets, that glossy finish is gone! And the surface becomes more porous.
For the doors, make sure you take them outside to the garage and create sort of a painting station in which they do not touch the floor, like this:
Step six:
This one is optional, but since it is the KITCHEN we decided to do it and believe me, it was a key factor in the success of this project. We used wood filler to fill the oak grain. Just plain ol’ Elmers. I applied a THIN coat, let it dry and then sanded it with 320 grit sandpaper. We vacuumed and cleaned again! My arms were numb…

Step seven:
The painting starts-FINALLY-!
We painted a couple of coats with a GOOD primer. We used one from Valspar that adheres to anything. It is formulated for cabinetry. Let dry for at least 8 hours. 24 hrs is better but if you are as impatient as me you can try the 8…

Step eight:
PAINT! Make sure you use a REALLY GOOD quality paint, I recommend  Benjamin Moore products. I used the INSUL-X paint from BM in White Dove, they can tint it to any of the BM products. This paint is especially formulated for cabinets, is self leveling, it dries fast and the finish is awesome. It hardens like enamel. It is pricey bit it is still a LOT cheaper than replacing your cabinets! I used a good quality brush for the corners (get the PURDY brand) and a small roller for super smooth surfaces. If you can, you can get a spray painter for an even better job. I gave three coats and it took me two days on this part.
These are the steps. I am not going to lie, it is a tedious process, but the results are awesome. The kitchen looks now bigger and modern. We also painted the walls in BM Moonshine. The final reveal will come soon, for now you can get a peak…

Sharing at:
The 36th Avenue A Bowl Full of Lemons

8 thoughts on “Painting Kitchen Cabinets

  1. HI there! I found your post through Pinterest. I am doing a lot of reading on painting cabinets because in a couple of weeks I will be starting my second cabinet project. Last fall I painted 15 ft, top and bottom of new to me maple cabinets from the 90s. I too cleaned them with tsp, but I used Annie Sloan chalk paint in Old White with a clear wax finish. I am curious why you went with the BM paint verse chalk paint? Since it has only been six months and the cabinets have knobs, I can't really say how they have held up because they are in my laundry room and do not get a ton of use. I look forward to any advice you can offer!

  2. Hi Lisa! Thanks for your reply. The reason I went with BM paint is because it is specifically formulated for cabinets. It is the insul-x version. It is awesome! It hardens like enamel without any brush strokes, and it has a satin finish that you can wipe and wipe again, scrub and scrub again (I have little kids). I never tried chalk paint on cabinets only on furniture. My concern with calk paint is that the finish could be more porous and not very smooth, and also the paint coming out when cleaning. It is true that if you use BM paints you will have to sand and prime for better results, but I promise that they pay off at the end! Good luck to you on your painting journey! Keep me posted and send a pic when you are done. Blessings to you! And my antique buffet that I painted a while ago I used the Old White from A.S and I love it!

  3. Hi Vivian, Thanks for the great tutorial! We are about to start our kitchen cabinets as well but I have a couple questions. Why did you fill in the wood grain? Were there large gaps after you first sanded? Also, do you happen to remember which Insul-X paint you used exactly (not color, but type)? There are a bunch on the BM website but I can't seem to find the one that says for cabinets and I thought I'd ask before I hit up a store. Thanks so much!

  4. Hi there! We decided to fill in the wood grain because I did not like it showing that much after being painted. Oak shows up quite a bit. The wood filler did wonders even though some grain still shows. I sanded them good and vacuumed everything, and started priming right away. I think the longest wait was after the primer, to let it cure. The Insul-x paint was the one that says for cabinets, there is only one kind, make sure it says “hardens like enamel” and “for cabinets.” It is not sold everywhere…make sure you research where in your home area you can find this, amazon works too if you have prime membership 😉 The insul-x comes always in satin finish and in a white color but you can have it tinted too, we used the “white dove” color. If I were you I'd also use the insul-x primer too, we used one from Lowes but I wish we used all BM products. Good luck and show us your finished product!

  5. Did I understand you correctly–to fill in the wood grain you used straight, not diluted, Elmer's Glue? As in the school glue? You just painted it on? I too have oak cabinets that we want to paint white or cream and are debating on hiring it done (I know I won't like the bid) or doing it ourselves. I haven't been impressed with other's painting their oak woodwork white–I can still see the grain and it isn't shiny when they are finished–I want to do it right!
    Thank you!

  6. Hello there! We did not use glue, we used Elmer's wood filler. In Home Depot, it is located where all the caulking materials are. It is like a paste, you apply it and then smooth it out. Once it dried, I sanded it….a LOT I think this step was very important in order to archive smooth results. Good luck!

  7. Hi there! As many other here, I found you through Pinterest and am in the middle of redoing our kitchen as well! Thankfully, I literally have have the same layout/appliances/taste as you! I was so incredibly happy to see someone be so successful and do such a good job on their own! As I was browsing through your pics, I noticed that you did a subway tile backsplash. It looks like you did it after you did the cabinets. Do you mind letting me know how you did that? Did you do just a standard tile and grout situation or did you do something different? Was there a reason you did it after the cabinets vs before? I just replaced our countertops (olds were pretty bad), sink, and faucet. So I am curious if I should hold off doing backsplash until I paint our cabinets. Thank you for sharing your home with the world, I really do appreciate it!

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