How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets – Forbes Advisor


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Working time: 12 to 20 hours
Total time: 3 to 5 days, depending on coats, climate, size
Skill level: Easy to medium
Project cost: $200 to $400 (depends on kitchen size)

Completely remodeling a sizable kitchen can cost thousands of dollars. A coat of paint will cost at most several hundred dollars and make a kitchen feel fresh.

Repainting kitchen cabinets, while often a tedious process, presents the best way to transform a kitchen on a budget. Simple tools needed for this project include paint brushes, a screwdriver, sandpaper and safety gear like masks and goggles.

When to Paint Kitchen Cabinets

Wood offers the most convenient material to repaint. Refinishing laminate or thermofoil (a vinyl film applied to a substrate that resembles the look of real wood) cabinets isn’t advisable. If the cabinet surfaces peel dramatically or fall apart with use, it may be better to replace them entirely. A coat of paint can do a lot, but it won’t fix everything.

The ideal times to paint kitchen cabinets are when the paint has only just begun to chip, your mood demands a change or when the kitchen in your new place is that disgusting yellow the previous owner decided to paint everything.

If scratches or dings in the surface of wood cabinets annoy you, refinishing offers a labor-intensive solution. Low humidity seasons are the best time of year to paint kitchens, as moisture can seep into the wood when not well protected (this is especially important when sanding cabinet surfaces).

Paint Advice

Do you have to use a primer? Should you use all-in-one paint and primers? Oil or latex? What is water-based paint? Stain-blocking primer? Should you spray, roll or brush?

Avoid using all-in-one paint and primers for this project. More protection can be assured using an oil primer-sealer or a latex primer-sealer and good topcoats. Stain blocking? Most should be already.

All-acrylic latex paints have improved significantly and can provide plentiful protection, but oil is still the gold standard in terms of protection for high-use areas like cabinets and trim. Research the cleanup methods, budget and hassle involved with each before choosing paints. Water based paints work too. Semi-gloss water-based paints can provide nearly as good protection as the high-gloss finishes of the past and it’s easier to work with.

Spraying provides more consistent coating, but requires much more practice and experience to be good with. Rolling and brushing work on different cabinet surfaces. Again, some research of basic painting techniques will go a long way.

We cannot emphasize this strongly enough: buying cheap paint is almost never worth it. Always buy the best paint you can afford—especially with something as high-wear as kitchen cabinetry.

Safety Considerations

Whenever using any power tool the use of shatterproof eyewear, gloves and ear protection is highly advisable. When sanding, use of protective goggles and a face mask is imperative in order to prevent any debris from entering the eyes or nose.

Wearing gloves can protect hands or fingers from abrasion. Always open windows or doors for proper ventilation while painting; inhaling fumes from primer or paint can be toxic. Wearing a face mask (now sold everywhere near you) while painting is always a good option, but especially in confined spaces.


  • Rotary sander
  • Sanding block
  • Screwdriver (what type depends on cabinet installation screws)
  • Putty knife
  • 4-6 inch square paint brush
  • 2-2 1/2 inch angled paint brush
  • 4-6 inch roller
  • Drill (if creating new screw holes for hinges)


  • Primer
  • Paint (color of choice)
  • Face mask
  • 220-grit sandpaper (if there are barely any imperfections)
  • 120-grit sandpaper
  • Wood filler
  • Masking tape (Writer’s recommendation: Frog Tape—aka the “green kind”)
  • non-residue cleaning solutions


1. Prep Your Space

Empty the cabinets completely of food (eating everything in order to do this is ambitious, but I support you) or “other kitchen stuff” (that’s the technical term, I’m sure) and, unless a rainbow toaster is the goal, move it all to another room. Clear kitchen counters, as well.

Use drop cloths, rosin paper or canvas to cover the floor, appliances, countertops and backsplash. Masking tape should be used anywhere a cabinet meets a wall, backsplash, floor or any surface that shouldn’t be painted.

The last bit of setup involves finding a workspace to paint cabinet doors once removed. Set a dropcloth down over a large table or open floor where cabinet doors can spread out and dry.

2. Remove Cabinet Doors, Shelves and Drawers Completely

Remove all cabinet doors, shelves and drawers. Remove all knobs or handles and set aside. Unscrew every hinge, roller, screw or other…

Read More:How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets – Forbes Advisor

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