How to paint wooden kitchen cabinets

If you’re looking for a cost-effective way to give your kitchen cabinets a new look, a new coat of paint can work wonders on worn and tired cupboards.

What tools will I need?

  • Fine grit sandpaper
  • Sanding block
  • Tack cloth
  • Steel wool
  • Paintbrush

What materials do I need?

  • Primer sealer
  • Masking tape
  • Semigloss paint
  • Denatured alcohol
  • Trisodium phosphate

Remember, preparation is the key to painting your kitchen cabinets. Wooden cabinets can usually be re-painted without too much difficulty. Flat-fronted doors and drawers are easiest to paint. Raised panels and routed profiles or detailing will require more preparation and time to paint. If your woodwork is damaged, badly worn, or warped, you can have new unfinished doors and drawers made which you can paint along with your existing cabinetry.

When it comes to painting, you could use a spray applicator, roller, or a brush. Take time to consider how much wood is to be painted and your own style of working when choosing your medium. It’s also important to think about the type of paint you are applying.

Step 1 – Removing the Doors

Begin by removing your cabinet drawers and doors, unfastening any pulls, knobs, latches or hardware as you go. If you place the hardware and screws into little plastic bags and store them in the cabinets, they will be easy to find when everything is ready to be reassembled.

Faintly number each door and its location prior to removal so that, if they get mixed up, the hinges may not align correctly when reinstalled.

Step 2 – Clean the Surfaces

Clean the surfaces carefully. It’s common to find steam residue, grease and food splatters in the kitchen, and they often find their way onto the cupboard surfaces. Clean all surfaces which are to be painted with a solution consisting of one part sodium phosphate and four parts water.

It’s important to rinse, yet not soak your cabinets and give them time to dry fully.

Step 3 – Sand the Surfaces

Sand every side and face of your doors lightly. Using a wood sanding block will prevent you from accidentally rounding the edges of the wood. If you are just brightening up your cabinets, there’s no need to sand and paint the insides, simply mask them off for a clean finish.

You don’t have to remove all of the paint if it is well adhered. Roughening the surface will give the new paint a firm and clean base which ensures better adhesion. Sand over any shiny areas to remove any previous finish; steel wool and denatured spirit may be needed to remove stubborn finishes.

Flaking paint shows that it did not adhere well to the surface the first time around. Sand such areas to reach the bare wood and blend the edges of the old paint with the wood so that the newly applied paint will lie flat.

Vacuum the sanding dust from every surface, including in crevices and mouldings and wipe down with a tack cloth to pick up resilient sanding residue.

Step 4 – The Primer-Sealer Coat

Applying an even coat of primer-sealer to every surface will guarantee a fully bonded finish. Primer-sealers provide a solid base for semi-gloss or water-based paint. Water-based finishes resist stains and water as easily as high-gloss enamel paints which were once the preferred choice.

Step 5 – Start to Paint

Begin by painting all the inside edges, the openings of the frames, and then the outer sides of the cabinet. Finish with the face frame fronts. Working in this manner means you can work quickly through less critical areas and correct any smudges or drips which appear on visible areas.

Move onto the cabinet doors and drawer fronts then the mouldings, making sure that you flow the paint into any crevices and corners of raised or routed features. Don’t allow paint to accumulate in these areas.

Apply thin and light coats which cover all areas and leave fewer visible brushstrokes. Thinly coated coverings are quick drying. Applying the finish thickly or applying too many brushstrokes will produce air bubbles in the finish. Bumps and pits will be noticeable when the finish dries.

Give the paint a minimum of 4 hours to dry between coats. When the paint dries, lightly re-sand every surface to prepare for the second coat and use a tack cloth to wipe away any sanding dust before repainting. Two coats are usually enough, however, a third coat will provide added protection from cooking heat and daily use.