Kitchen |Cabinet| Makeover

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. 

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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.


This is the brand I used, Alex Flex. There are many brands, I’ve just used this for all my projects so it’s my go to when I need to caulk something.

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.DSC_0192DSC_0191DSC_0189DSC_0185DSC_0180DSC_0187

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!


Side notes:

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! DSC_0157.jpg

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.





Hardwood Flooring Overhaul- Part 4: The Reveal

I’ve been waiting to reveal the finished flooring until we showed our family and FINALLY finished painting the millions of eleven doors to match the new trim.

Honestly the change that these floors have made to the house is crazy. It truly looks like a completely different house. The process was grueling, expensive and stressful but as I sit here and look at everything, I wouldn’t change a thing.

We still have a few things to complete (an area rug to pick out and purchase and some pictures to hang) but we could not be more thrilled with how the floor turned out.

**Click on a photo below to enlarge it and open the gallery**

Hardwood Flooring Overhaul-Part 3: Install

With over 700 sq. feet of installation to complete, in addition to putting up the baseboards, our installer Lenny had us on the books for 4 days, Tuesday, January 26th-Friday, January 30th. He started early on that Tuesday and was able to get the padding put down throughout most of the house as well as get a lot of the living and hallway finished.

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Seeing the wood finally on the floors made all of handwork the week before worth it. Andrew and I had to move some furniture around that night/the next morning so he could start on the bedroom the next day.

The next afternoon when I got home from school, they were finishing up the the bedroom by installing the baseboards so we could go ahead and move the bedroom furniture back in and not have to sleep on the floor somewhere. To say we were THRILLED was an understatement!

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On Thursday, Lenny finished up the dining room and hallway. The amount of work he put into making this floor look complete blew our mind. Under each door frame he had used a drimmel to ensure the flooring laid perfectly under the frame, and since we have 7 doorways in the hallway, this was quite a feat.

On Friday, we had our first “big” snow of the year that resulted in covered and ICY roads. I was on a two-hour delay for school and the news was warning drivers of treacherous conditions. The interstate had experienced some serious accidents that had it closed both directions at one point and I was a little upset because I didn’t figure our flooring would get finished that day. Lenny called me at 7 to ask if he could still come up and finish the install, which we were surprised and thrilled. He came up and finished our entry way, stairs, and the remaining baseboards to complete our project.

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Stay tuned for the final reveal, once I FINALLY finish the never ending project of painting and re-installing the remaining doors!



Hardwood Flooring Overhaul-Part 2: Prep

With all the old floors gone, we were ready for the second part of this massive project-prep. To really update the look and feel of the house, we had decided to accent our new dark flooring with a clean white trim. Again, to save some money, I planned to paint the existing door frames and doors to match the new baseboards we were having installed. We also had other parts of the house the needed the wood that couldn’t be removed, for one reason or another, to be painted as well. A few weeks prior, we removed the wood spindles that I have HATED since the first time I stepped into the house. 2015-01-03 13.21.58  2015-01-03 13.28.13 I now needed to touch up the ceiling and railing these things had previously been attached to. I used the same process as the stair trim-sand (and touch up), prime, paint, and caulk. While I was working on this, I also had to paint some trim on the wall that used for decorative purposes but that could not be removed. 2015-01-19 13.19.22 2015-01-19 15.34.53 2015-01-19 16.03.15 After this was done, I moved on to painting the dining room and kitchen openings as well as working on all SEVEN doorways in the hallway. Everything had to be hand sanded and taped off. Then I went door by door to prime, and paint. The most time consuming part was the first coat of paint. The primer and second coat went on easily and quickly.                              2015-01-24 18.58.26 2015-01-24 18.58.07   2015-01-24 19.51.04 2015-01-24 19.50.56 2015-01-24 19.08.49 I also had to paint the attic door and trim because once everything else was white, it stuck out like a sore thumb. This was tricky because the door could not be removed (easily, at least) so it had to remain open while painting so as not to paint it shut. 2015-01-24 19.55.30 2015-01-25 14.58.41 2015-01-25 14.58.02   The next part of the prep phase was pretty easy. We had to paint the 16 foot long baseboards. Luckily we purchased primed baseboards so all we had to do was paint each with one coat of white paint. We laid 5 or 6 out on the saw horses at a time and finished those things in no time. 2015-01-27 20.35.54-2 With the prep completed, we were ready for installation!!!!! ****The last part of the prep project (that I am STILL working on, 2 weeks later) is painting all the doors. This has been a major undertaking that is TIME COMSUMING. With 7 doors in the hallway, plus 2 additional doors in the hall bathroom, the master bath door, and master bedroom closet doors, I am beginning to think I will never finish. Each door must be sanded, primed and get 2 coats of paint on EACH SIDE. It takes about 2 hours to dry between coats, so about 6 hours per door. I am working on the last 3 doors and will get those installed before we do our REVEAL.***** 2015-01-29 17.15.06

The Art of Packing

As a math teacher, moving in the middle of the school year just wasn’t ideal and was not something we had planned. Our lease would be over in July and we had planned to start looking for houses in January in hopes of finding one we loved in time to move over the summer.

Somehow, our plan didn’t work as we had thought (plans rarely do) and we ended up falling in love with the very first house we went and looked at. Thinking back on it and talking with my parents made me realize how easy the process of finding the house was, with the ability to use the internet. My parents told us how they looked at hundreds of houses before finding the house they would later buy, while Andrew and I only physically looked at two. We used the internet to search and were able to take homes off our list based on what we saw in the pictures. There is nothing better than home shopping while drinking coffee and lounging in your pajamas.

But, I digress….. moving during the school year seemed insane and completely impossible. I leave for school before 7 and usually don’t leave my classroom in the evening until about 4, run a few errands, come home to cook dinner, and when Andrew gets home around 5:30-6:30 (the window varies) we like to spend the few hours we have together in the evenings watching CSI, or most recently the Sochi Winter Olympics. With all of the normal activities to do, when I thought of finding time to pack our things, I panicked.

Luckily our townhouse is so small that most of our belongings are still packed away from when we got them for the wedding, but there’s still the idea of trying to pack everything else up. When we found out we got the house, I made a plan….and I’m really good at making plans. I would pack a few boxes a night and so far that has really worked. But now that we are less than a week away from closing, I’m starting to feel the pressure.

Today I will use our unexpected snow day (they said there was only a 30% chance of snow with little to no accumulation) to really kick our packing into gear.

Today’s goal? Pack the spare bedroom/office and the rest of my decorative items I have sitting around the house.  To successfully pack, I’ve created a list of must haves:
1. Sturdy boxes (and plenty of them): I saved ours from the wedding and went to Walmart and other grocery stores asking for their shipping boxes.
2. Packing tape (and plenty of it): I splurged and bought the “easy-see end” tape because I was getting really frustrated with searching frantically for the end of the roll each time I had tape something.
3. A permanent marker for labeling.
4. Bubble wrap for breakables.
5. Newspaper for breakables.
6. Good music (I prefer country).
7. A room to start and finish in (or a type of item: decorative, cleaning supplies, linens, etc)
Have you ever moved? Got any good tips for an OCD person like me who can’t stand the utter chaos packing has left our house in?