Post disclaimer: You are about to see inside my kitchen cabinets. Please do not judge us on our lack of organization or poor food choices.
Being a teacher has it’s perks, one of those perks-SPRING BREAK! A week off from work really is nice for a DIY-er and grad student. However, this spring break I thought I would get ahead with my grad work because I was out of projects to do that could be done quickly and relatively cheaply. Somehow, my mom convinced me that we could knock out a project I have been putting off for two years, painting the kitchen cabinets.
For some reason, the previous owners of our house had decided to paint over the beautiful oak cabinets with what I would call a poop brown. The color was bland and it made the kitchen seem really, really dark. I had been wanting to paint them white to brighten the room up, but had been putting it off because I knew it would be quite the project. However, we had just gotten beautiful stainless steel appliances for Christmas/my birthday and it was hard to see them in such an ugly kitchen.
I felt a slide show really showed the poor state of our kitchen….which, like a lot of the house, was stuck in another decade, and the update to the new appliances.
I did a lot of research on what other people have done when painting their cabinets and what type of products are available. Sadly, every single product had numerous good and bad reviews so, I was torn. My mom went with me to Lowes to talk with the paint guy, and I’m pretty sure I knew more than he did, so I still wasn’t sure. A family friend who is a professional painter told us to use an oil based primer and a latex paint…so we followed his advice and got that.
We used Kilz odorless oil-based primer from Lowes that cost $25.98 and Valspar Reserve in semi-gloss white for $44.98.
I want to make sure I point out that my cabinets were already painted. Because of that, we did not have to worry about sanding down the varnish of the original wood.
Step 1: Remove the doors and hardware.
Step 2: Sand down the doors and cabinet boxes.
For this, we used a 220 grit sandpaper and just sanded enough to scuff the paint up, we did NOT sand all the way down to the old wood. After sanding, we washed all of the doors and cabinet boxes down with warm water and Dawn soap to remove any grease and grime as well as any sanding residue. We stood them up out on our porch to dry overnight.
Step 3: Prime everything.
We used a good paint brush (I suggest Purdy or Wooster brand) and a small “no lint” roller to apply the primer. We put on two coats, allowing the primer to dry between coats: about 45 minutes to an hour. We started out priming the fronts of the doors, which includes most of the details, and the cabinet boxes. We allowed the two coats to dry overnight.
The following day, we flipped the cabinets over and primed the backs-following the same procedure as before. Except today, after allowing the second coat of primer to dry, we started step 4.
It was also during this stage (while waiting on the primer to dry) that we finally removed the OLDER THAN DIRT wall oven that was an eyesore, not to mention, didn’t work (ok, it worked, just not very well at all). We knew that if we wanted to remove it, now would be the time since we wouldn’t want to get out all the paint stuff again.
We pulled the oven out, Andrew dealt with the electric, and we took that ugly thing to the dumpster. A friend from church who had helped us remove our counter top stove and the cabinets underneath when we put in our new appliances told us he would be willing to help us use the doors we removed to make a new pantry area where the oven used to be. TALK ABOUT SUPER EXCITING!
The first photo below is the old stove top. When we bought the new range in late November, we had to cut out the cabinet underneath. We saved the doors and faux drawers to use later. The second photo really does not do the old wall oven justice on its true ugliness. The third photo shows what the cabinet looked like when the oven was removed- we will use the doors we saved and make a pantry in this spot.
Step 4: Paint everything-1st coat.
We allowed the second coat of primer on the backs to dry and began painting with the actual paint. We used a good paint brush (again, I suggest Purdy or Wooster brand) and a small “no lint” roller. We put one coat on the backs of the cabinets and on the cabinet boxes. We allowed this to dry while we went to dinner and then came back and started on the next step.
Step 5: Caulk to cover up cracks and fill in imperfections.
Once the first coat of semi-gloss paint was on, lots of imperfections begin to show. Cracks between cabinets, old nail/screw holes, etc. I used a molding and trim caulking to fill in those spots. There are lots of fancy tools out there for smoothing caulking, but I’m partial to my finger and a paper towel. Allow the caulk to dry and sand down.
I added some photos of the before and after caulking so you can see the difference this step made. It made the lines and edges of the cabinets look much cleaner—click on the photos to enlarge.
When the caulking is dried and sanded down, you can move onto Step 6.
Step 6: Paint everything-again.
For the sake of time, we only gave the backs of the cabinet doors one coat. They could have used another coat to really boost the shine, but we were running out of days. My thoughts were “No one will see them unless the cabinet is open, so it really doesn’t matter.” However, the two coats of primer and one coat of paint really did a great job covering, so I didn’t feel like I was doing the job half way.
After allowing to dry for a full day, we flipped the cabinets over and started painting the fronts of the doors. We had to be a little more careful of drips and runs, since this side has more of the details in the ridges of the doors. We painted a coat on the doors, went inside and painted a second coat on the cabinet boxes. We also decided to give the ceiling a touch up because it was looking mighty dingy next to my shiny new white cabinet boxes. We allowed about an hour to an hour and a half and started on the second coat on the cabinet doors, again, being careful to not have any drips or runs.
Once the second coat was on, we waited…an entire day.
Step 7: Put the hardware back on.
I always diss the previous owners, because, well you all have seen what the house looked like as we have worked on it, but they did update the cabinet hardware to something we actually liked. This was a big deal because it meant we didn’t have to purchase new hardware. This saved us SO MUCH MONEY, because hardware prices are absurdly expensive.
Step 8: Hang the doors back up and put the drawers back in.
When starting step 7 and 8, make sure the paint is not even the slightest bit tacky. If so, it is better to wait a few more hours to insure the paint is all the way dry so you won’t mess up your hard work putting the kitchen back together.
Step 9: Sit back and revel in the glory of your hard work.
This is for sure the best step! After a week of hard work (and LOTS of waiting) it was wonderful to see the finished project. This has really changed the room completely, and I don’t feel sad when I enter the kitchen anymore.
Our pantry is not finished yet (as you can tell with the big ol’ hole in the cabinets). With it being Easter weekend, we knew our friend would need some extra time to get us penciled in. I will do an update with photos of the new doors and space!
Having our screened in back porch made this job so much easier than trying to paint in the house. We were able to set everything up out there, which kept the mess outside. This was super important because we had a very unhelpful “helper” who’s tail always seems to wag in the wrong direction. He was able to sit outside and enjoy the sunshine while watching us!
If you don’t have a porch like we do, I would suggest using your garage or somewhere that is out of the way, because this project took a full week. No, we didn’t work a full week, but with all the wait time between coats, you don’t want to be tripping over this stuff.
Another tip, try to get ALL the doors set out to paint at the same time. This was kind of tricky because we did paint 21 doors, but if you can’t get them all out at the same time, your painting and waiting time will be a lot longer. My advice? Get creative. We ran out of space on the saw horses, so we used 2x4s over my porch furniture and on the floor to make it so we could paint all the doors at the same time.