How to paint your kitchen cabinets


This story is part Tips for the houseCNET’s collection of handy tips for getting the most out of your home, inside and out.

One of the most dramatic ways to update an outdated kitchen is with new cabinetry, but buying a complete set and installing it will cost you a pretty penny. A much more economical way to give those dull or dull cabinets a facelift is to paint them. It takes a while (yes, you’ll have to remove the doors), but it’s a simple process that doesn’t require any special carpentry skills.

Here I have explained how to paint your kitchen cabinets and give the heart of the house a new look and some sparkle. You can also consult our advice on how to build diy pipe shelves and how to make custom poster hangers for just $1.

Read more: Best cookware sets for 2022

Step 1: Select a paint type and color

Acrylic latex paint is a popular choice because it is consistent and easy to clean. semi-gloss, gloss and satin finishes tend to show less spotting over time. Avoid matte, flat and super glossy finishes which are more difficult to clean.

Behr Semi-Gloss Paint Pot

Semi-gloss paint is a popular choice for kitchen cabinets.


You will also want to purchase and apply a binding primer to cabinets before you paint, so pick some up while you’re at the store.

Step 3: Strip the cabinets if they are painted or wash them if not

If the cabinets are already painted, you will need to strip them. This is a tedious and labor-intensive step, so if you’re about to replace or paint, knowing that it will add a fair amount of work might help you decide.

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If they are unpainted, simply wipe them down with an all-purpose cleaner such as TSP Cleaner. Be sure to clean them as much as possible, including oil or grease stains, as these can affect the final result.

Step 4: Remove all doors and hardware

Unscrew and remove all cabinet doors and remove all drawers to set aside. You can empty the shelves if you wish, but unless you’re painting the inside or want to clean the area well, you can get away with just removing the items in front so they aren’t splashed with paint. Another option is to cover them with a small drop cloth.

Useful advice : Keep all your hardware organized so you know which cabinet it belongs to, as some hinges and fasteners are specific to certain cabinets.

man removing cabinet door

Carefully remove all doors, drawers and hardware using a manual screwdriver.

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Step 5: Fill in all the gaps

Use a wood putty and a smoothing knife to fill in any holes or large chips for the smoothest possible surfaces to paint on. Don’t worry about the inside of the cabinets because you probably won’t be painting these panels.

Useful advice : Be careful not to fill in your screw holes or it will make attaching the hardware very difficult.


Step 6: Sand the Surfaces

Using a block of sandpaper, sand the varnish or laminate off the cabinet surfaces, including the frames, doors, and drawers. Sand in the direction of the grain as much as possible. Remove as much of the finish as possible, but be careful not to sand too hard or you’ll damage the wood underneath.

sanding cabinets for women

Sand as much of the finish as you can without damaging the wood underneath.

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Step 7: Glue the Edges

Use masking tape to protect edges where you don’t want paint. This includes the interior panels where it meets the frame and any walls the cabinets abut against.

Step 8: Prime Cabinet Frames and Doors

Using a small paint brush or mini foam roller, coat the surface with primer, but don’t spread it too thick. It’s okay if there’s still some pale wood that comes out of that thin coat of primer. Again, paint with the grain as much as possible.

painting tripods with wood balanced on top

These $6 paint tripods will make priming and painting doors and drawers easier and less messy.


For unattached doors you can use painting tripods or risers to raise them so you can easily paint the sides and avoid a big paint mess. Apply a thin coat of primer to the doors, just like the frames, and paint with the grain.

Wait until the first side is completely dry before turning them over to paint the other side.

Step 9: Paint

In the same manner as applying a primer, paint each cabinet frame, door and drawer, in the direction of the grain. Use smaller brushes to paint details, nooks and crannies or embellishments if the cabinets have them. A small foam roller is best for the edges as it will give you the cleanest and most even results. Plus, it’s faster.

women painting cabinets

Use a foam roller for more even results.

Johner Images/Getty Images

Step 10: Let the paint dry and reattach the cabinets

You might be tempted to screw those beautiful new cabinet doors back into the frames as soon as things seem dry, but letting your paint dry completely will prevent you from accidentally denting or staining the surface. You can add a coat of polyurethane for extra protection, but that shouldn’t be necessary if you’ve chosen a quality paint.

Once everything is dry, all you need to do is reattach all drawers and cabinet doors using the same matching hardware. Consider using a manual screwdriver to avoid unwanted stripping.

To find out more, see what color you should paint your front door to increase the value of your homeand how to choose the right paint color for your home office.


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