November 27, 2018

Choosing to paint your existing kitchen or bath cabinets can change the entire look of your space and has some benefits vs. a major remodeling project:

  • It takes only days to paint vs. a typical major remodel that could take 2-3 months.
  • Its much more economical if you're on a budget than a major remodel.
  • If your cabinet doors or drawer fronts are in bad condition you can order unfinished replacement kitchen Cabinet Doors and Drawer Fronts vs. the cost of all new cabinets.  
  • Painting your existing cabinets might only cost $500 - $1,000 vs. a major remodel could cost between $10,000 - $20,000+.

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The cost of new appliances, counter tops, flooring and cabinets can be one of the most expensive remodeling projects. Transforming a kitchen or bath by freshening the cabinets with a new paint color can be done but there is more to it than just buying a new paint brush, some sandpaper and a can of paint.

The proper prep work is the key to the success of this project. There are many considerations: cabinets are made out of a variety of materials, offered in a wide range of finishes, from oil-based paints, stains and laminates. You can tackle this project but you'll need the right tools, the right primer, quality paint, and some patience to do the project right and remodel your kitchen or bath without going over budget.

Here's some tips for getting started:

Prepare your Kitchen or Bath Cabinets 

Priming and painting your cabinets will take several days to complete, so you'll need to plan and possibly even setup a temporary kitchen in another room of the house. We recommend wearing the appropriate safety gear (gloves, safety glasses) and make sure your have the proper ventilation whether refinishing inside or outside. For the best results, you should remove the Cabinet Doors, Drawer Fronts and Drawer Boxes and work on them in a garage or basement if possible. 

One of the first steps is to determine the condition of your cabinets. If your Cabinet Doors or Drawer Fronts are dented, cracked or worn you can easily order replacement custom-sized cabinet doors and drawer fronts. One big advantage in doing this is you can not only change the appearance or finish of your cabinets but also change the look. If you had traditional raised panel cabinet doors and conventional slab drawer fronts you might want to consider an entirely new look. Maybe a more contemporary look with shaker or slab style Cabinet Doors and Drawer Fronts. There are plenty of cabinet door styles to choose from and can easily be ordered online in just days! If you plan on painting new cabinet components then we would recommend either using a paint grade hard maple or MDF (medium density fiberboard) material and both are low cost options and easy to paint. If your cabinet Drawer Boxes are broken or falling apart this might be a good opportunity to replace those as well.

Cabinet Doors and Drawer Fronts that are already painted can be painted again but we recommend their original surfaces be removed. Stripping products are available online or at your local home improvement store. Follow the directions step-by-step and it should be easy to remove either the existing paint. Once the cabinet doors and drawer fronts dry, you can lightly sand the cabinet doors to remove any excess surface material and make the cabinet doors and drawer fronts are ready for the next steps. 


If your cabinets were previously painted and your house was built before 1978, the paint may be lead-based. Use a testing kit or call a professional for help. Always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions on all paint-stripping products.

The next steps will help but take a little time.

  • You'll need to empty all of the contents of your cabinets and drawers.
  • Remove the cabinet doors, drawers and hardware.
  • Label or mark each cabinet component so you can easily reinstall them in the right spots.
  • Do the same for your hardware - especially if you have knobs and pulls for different cabinets.
  • Clean all cabinet surfaces with a cleaner to remove any grease and dirt.
  • Repair any damaged areas on the frames or cabinet sides. Dents and holes can be filled with a wood filler. Use a putty knife to press it in and smooth it out and once dry lightly sand.
  • Don’t fill the hardware holes if you’re planning on using the same hardware. If you’re replacing your hardware, you might have to use wood filler for holes that don’t line up with the new hardware.
  • Cover your countertops, appliances and other areas. Taping off the cabinet edges is helpful as well.
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Prime Kitchen or Bath Cabinets

Before you start priming your Cabinet Doors  and Drawer Fronts please make sure to sand all surfaces using a medium grit sandpaper (120 grit or less) to help the paint stick to the surface. Make sure you get into the detailed areas on the cabinet doors and drawer fronts, and in the corners on the frames. Clean all surfaces with a vacuum and a tack cloth. Everything should be dust free before starting to prime!   
Note: Painting laminate or RTF (rigid thermofoil) components requires a special bonding primer. Check with your local home improvement store to find the proper primer. 
Once you're ready to start priming we suggest working on the cabinet frames first. Work from the inside out and if you’re painting the interior sides of the cabinets, start at the back and work toward the front. Use a paint brush to get into corners and detailed areas. You can use a mini roller on larger, flat areas and the primer doesn’t have to look perfect. Its purpose is to cover the surface and provide a good base for the finish paint. Once the primer is dry, we recommend taking a light grit sandpaper (200 grit or more) to smooth out any excess primer. Once that is all dry (might be worth it to wait a day)  you can paint the cabinet doors and drawer fronts.
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Choosing the Right Paint

  • Purchase the right paint depending on your type of cabinet doors and drawer fronts: solid wood or laminate.
  • Solid wood cabinets are ideal for painting, but any door or drawer (laminate) that can be scuffed with sandpaper can be painted.
  • Make sure your paint is a high-quality acrylic, not vinyl. Acrylic latex-based paint is durable and easy to clean up.
  • Semigloss or satin is preferred. Both of these types will make sure your surface areas are durable and east to clean. A gloss finish will make your cabinets sheen, but it may show more defects. Matte or flat finish paints can be difficult to clean. 

Paint, just like the primer can be applied with a brush and roller or a paint sprayer if you have a lot of Cabinet Doors and Drawer Fronts or cabinet area. The technique is the same as for the primer — use even strokes with the brush and finish the stroke back into the wet paint and feather out the edges.           

Note: Make sure to let all components dry and let the paint completely cure.

If you think it's needed you can apply second coat of paint. Make sure everything has completely cured before attaching your cabinet door hinges and cabinet hardware and reattaching to your cabinet frames.

Enjoy your new kitchen or bath and show it off to all of your friends!

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