Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Hand Painted Cabinets

Hand Painted Cabinets @ Made it on Monday

A little over a week ago I shared with you how I resurfaced my countertops, and today we’re going to talk about how we repainted the kitchen cabinets.

Kitchen makeover before and mid way

That before and mid-way makes me happy. I’ve since painted the walls in the kitchen and decorated above the cabinets. Want a sneak peak at the final product?


I just need to do a little more cleaning (again) and I can take the final pictures to show you!

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I am loving my white cabinets! I’ve heard from a lot of people that they’ve wanted to paint theirs, but they were worried it was too much work. We painted ours entirely by hand, and I’ll be honest here—it is A LOT of work. I’m very happy with the results though. If you look closely you can see a few brush strokes or a spot or two where we didn’t sand between layers as well as we should have, but 95% of the surfaces are really, really smooth. And from more than two feet away, you don't see any of the imperfections.


The products we used are a Sander/Deglosser from Home Depot, Kilz Oil Based Primer from Walmart, and ProClassic Alkyd Interior Enamel from Sherwin Williams. The color I chose for the cupboards is Pure White. It’s a bright white. I chose it because I wanted to be able to use the same paint on the cupboards as on the baseboards when we redo the floors. And the doors and the trim around them in my house are bright white, and there are two doors in the kitchen. I didn’t want there to be a big difference between the cabinets and doors. Once we were done painting but the walls were still the dingy original white, I started second guessing myself. I was worried it was too white. But then I got the new wall color up and I now LOVE it.

A tip for you when choosing white—see if they can put a smear of the actual paint in that color on some paper for you. The color swatch looked a little blueish to me in the store, and the lady working at Sherwin Williams explained that sometimes it can take on a slightly different color because of the paper it’s painted on. The actual color was as the name describes—pure white.

After reading several tutorials for painting cabinets, we settled on a method that seemed like it would work well for us, and I am pleased with how it went. My favorite thing about our method is that we didn’t have to do any sanding before priming and painting.

1. Remove All Doors and Drawers
Pretty self-explanatory, right? We didn’t mark which doors came from where and I wish I had with the few doors that were the same size as each other. Luckily, we have baby locks on the lower ones, so it was just a matter of matching which ones lined up correctly when we put doors back on.

2. Clean/Prep Surfaces
We began with first cleaning our surfaces to make sure there weren’t any leftovers on the cabinets. Then, we didn’t do any sanding! We used a liquid sandpaper product, soaked an old t-shirt with it and wiped everything down twice. This product was great. Our doors are just veneered with a very high gloss finish. To sand enough for the primer to grip the doors and boxes would have taken SO MUCH WORK.


3. Prime & Sand
I started with all our cabinet bases/boxes/frames and gave them a somewhat light coat of primer. The lady at Sherwin Williams recommended using an oil based primer, so that’s what I went with. I used the spray form when we refinished Reese’s dresser but rolled/brushed it on this time. After letting it dry completely, sand it to make sure you have a smooth surface to paint on. This is key! If you don’t get your primer coat smoothed out you’re going to have to do so much more sanding after the first coat of painting.


4. Paint & Sand
I went through and used a brush on all places that a roller would have a tough time reaching to begin with. Use a NICE brush—like a Purdy. The nicer the brush, the nicer the results. Then I went over the larger surfaces with a small foam roller. Don’t skimp on these either. I used a nicer roller on the lower bases than on the uppers, and there was a visible (to me) and feel difference. Once the paint is dry, go through and give it a light sanding with a  fine sandpaper. Feel what you’re sanding. Sand and then run your fingers over it. If it feels super smooth, you’re set. If you feel some grit, sand some more. Repeat. I did 3 coats of paint before I was happy with the finish.


Nolan set up 2x4s across sawhorses in the garage and we painted all the doors out there. We started with all the lower doors and then when they were completely finished did the uppers. We primed the back, primed the front, sanded. Painted 1 coat on the back. Painted, sanded, painted, sanded, painted on the fronts. I used the same method as before—going around the detail work with a brush and then all the flat surfaces with the roller. Drawers used the same steps.

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And then all the doors were hung and drawers back in place. Hardware was bought from Home Depot and then installed. And then I fell in love with my kitchen. I can’t wait to see how it looks with the new flooring, but that will come after we’re done painting way.too.much wall space. The beauty of painting before you replace flooring is that you don’t care if you drip or make a mess.

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The hardware makes me so happy. And I’m so pleased with the quality of the paint/finish. Because it’s an enamel, you don’t have to use a top coat. When I bought this kind of paint for Reese’s dresser it was described as drying first, and then over the next two weeks curing into a really hard finish. It’s easy to wipe down and cleans up so nicely without wearing out. Reese’s dresser stands up to Jace scraping his footstool against it on a very regular basis.

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It’s a lot of work. It’s exhausting. But it’s so worth it. We did everything while the kids were napping or in bed at night, except for one Saturday when Jace spent the night with his cousins. It is a good project for doing it in sections—obviously we couldn’t just work at it straight through to completion. I’m happy with the finish, but it isn’t the same as having it professionally sprayed, or probably even spraying it yourself if you have a good enough sprayer. But I am looking it with the most critical eye (just ask my husband!). If you’re worried about the grain of your wood, or have a more flexible budget to work with, my suggestion would be to paint the bases yourself and hire someone to paint the doors.

kitchen makeover phase 1 and 2

Check out how we painted the tile backsplash and the full kitchen reveal HERE.

Thanks for stopping by!


  1. Thanks for the tips! I have a bathroom cabinet painting project coming up--I've painted cabinets before, but kind of did a rush job on them. I want to take my time this time this is very helpful!

  2. Hi there! I just wanted to drop by and let you know that I gave you an award for having such an awesome blog!

    Come by and have a look if you like!

  3. The kitchen looks awesome! Great work:-)
    I'm curious to see how you like the white cabinets. I really wanted white in our laundry room but I decided that I'm not a good enough house keeper for white cabinets or, well... anything.


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