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Painting Kitchen Cupboards

How To Paint Kitchen Cabinets Video

Before We Begin: Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Enamel Vs. Paint

You’ve probably heard the term enamel but may not know what it is. Enamel is a type of paint that dries extra hard, cleans easily, and looks beautiful. Using a true enamel instead of a semi-gloss paint on your kitchen cupboards (as many how to articles will tell you to do) will produce a more durable, longer lasting, easier to clean and better-looking finish.

Homeowner Vs. The Professional

We are about to show you how to achieve incredible, quality results when painting your kitchen cabinets. But if you are wondering how to achieve that perfectly flawless finish you see in the magazines and Parade homes, know that such finishes are done by professionals (like Capstone Painting) who do this type of work every day with top quality tools and sprayers that can take years to master.

The painters at Capstone Painting use many of same techniques that we show here.  However, there are two major differences:

  1. Our painters don’t brush on enamel, they use high-end HVLP, airless and air assisted sprayers.
  2. Capstone Painting does these types of jobs every day. Capstone is efficient and can produce unbelievable results.

Painting Your Kitchen Cabinets

Kitchen Cupboards Before 1

Kitchen Cupboards Before 2

Kitchen Cupboards Before 3

 

 

Kitchen Cupbaords Before 4Kitchen Cabinets Before 5Kitchen Cabinets Before 6

 

Prepare Your Work Space

As with any project, the first thing you will need to do is to prepare your work space.

  • Start by removing small appliances, food and other items from your counter tops, floor and cupboards (if possible).
  • Next sweep and vacuum the kitchen floor. This will help tape to stick and seal when prepping off the floor.
  • Next, run paper over the floor to prevent drips and spills from landing on your floor.
  • Lastly, plastic or paper off all of your kitchen counter tops. Don’t skip any areas; you’d be amazed at the spots paint can find!
    • CAPSTONE TIP: Run a strip of tape around the inside of your cabinets. This will help keep a clean, crisp edge on the inside of your cabinets as well.

Prepped Kitchen for Repainting Cabinets

Prepare Your Tools and Equipment

The best way to make sure your kitchen cabinet refinishing project goes smoothly is to have all of your tools ready and organized. We like to set up all of our tools neatly in an unused corner of the room we are working in.

For This Project You Will Need:

  • 2-3 Rolls of 1.5” scotch tape (we prefer Inter-tape brand tape)
  • Phillips & flat head screw drivers
  • 1 Roll of 36” brown paper (for protecting the floor)
  • 2 Rolls of 9” brown paper (for protecting the counter tops)
  • Fine felt tip permanent marker
  • 2 medium grit sanding sponges or pads
  • 2 fine grit sanding sponges or pads
  • Zip lock baggies or small plastic containers
  • Rags
  • Paint thinner (mineral spirits)
  • Shop vacuum with a brush attachment
  • Spackling paste (for filling holes or dents)
  • 5-in-1 painter’s tool or a 1” mud knife.
  • Small paint tray
  • 2” flat bristle paint brush
  • 1 quart of Penetrol (optional)
  • Random orbital sander and sanding discs (optional)
  • TSP or similar cleaner (for cleaning grease and grime)
  • 1 tube of paintable white caulk
  • Vapor mask
  • Painters pyramids (optional)
  • Dust mask
  • CAPSTONE TIP: Use this checklist to make sure you have everything before you start.

Kitchen Cabinet Painting MaterialsKitchen Cabinet Paint / Enamel

Remove the Kitchen Drawers and Doors

You will need to remove your cupboard doors and drawers to properly finish them. This also allows you to lay your doors flat while finishing them so that you can achieve the best possible finish.

  • If your kitchen is small, set up an additional work space in your living room or garage for finishing the doors.
  • Set up a drying space. Find an unused room and run masking paper over the floor. This is where the doors will sit while they dry.
  • Always remove the bottom hinge first. If you remove the top hinge first you will put awkward pressure on the bottom hinge and risk breaking or cracking the door.
  • In order to make sure that you get the right door back into the right spot, make sure to label all of you doors and the area’s from which they came.
    • CAPSTONE TIP: We use a simple numbering system and label the first door “1”. Write the number one on a piece of scotch tape and place it on the inside wall of the cabinet. Next use your permanent marker and write a “1” on the part of the door that gets covered by the door hinge (this area is not visible when the door is installed). Last, cover the number with a piece of scotch tape. This will allow you to paint right over the area without worry and remove the tape later to reveal the number below.
  • Use your zip lock baggies or plastic containers to store all of the hardware and handles that you have removed.

Prepped Kitchen for Repainting Cabinets

Sand All Kitchen Cabinet Boxes, Doors and Drawers

You will find many online tutorials that suggest not to sand and to use some kind of de-glosser to prepare you cabinets. While this works, the only way to achieve professional results is to sand down the original finish and get a perfectly smooth starting surface.

  • Power sand doors & boxes. Typically you can start with 100 grit sanding discs.
    • If the area is extra rough, start with 80 grit; if it is in really good shape, start with 120.
    • Move on to 150 grit and finally work you way up to 220 grit sanding paper. By finishing with a fine grit like 220, you will not see any sanding marks in your final coat of paint.
    • If you are re-painting your cabinets, you may notice old brush strokes in the finish. To achieve perfectly smooth cabinets, sand these brush strokes out until they are completely smooth.
  • Hand sand all edges and grooves. Start with your medium and work your way up to the fine grit.
  • Vacuum up dust. This step is very important. You must keep a dust free environment. Even the slightest bit of dust can show in your final product.
    • CAPSTONE TIP: It is always necessary to wipe off the doors with a damp rag to remove all traces of dust.

Sanding Kitchen Cabinet Doors 1Sanding Kitchen Cupboard Doors 2Hand Sanding Kitchen Cupboard Doors

Caulk All Seams, Corners and Cracks

While gaps and cracks may not be very noticeable on natural or stain-colored wood, they will be visible once you have painted your cabinets. For the best finish, fill every gap, hole, crack and seam.

  • Run a small bead of caulk down all of the seams and corners of your cabinets.
  • Smooth out the caulk after every seam.
    • CAPSTONE TIP: The best way to achieve a perfectly smooth bead of caulk is to use a wet rage. Cover your finger with the wet rag and run your finger down the seam or gap. The rag will provide less resistance than a dry finger and the extra caulk will build up on the rag, not your hand.
  • Double check your kitchen to make sure all gaps, cracks and seams have been filled.

Kitchen Cupboard GapsCaulking Kitchen CabinetsWiping Caulk on Kitchen CabinetsCaulked Gap on Kitchen Cupboards

Apply the Primer to the Kitchen Cupboards

Now that your prep work is complete, its time to applying the primer. There are many different types of primer available; such as stain blocking primers, easy sanding primers, bonding primers and fast drying primers. Every project is different and may require a different primer.

CAPSTONE TIP: If you are using an oil based top coat (like we are in this project) make sure to use an oil based primer (water with water as well).

  • Pour 1-2 inches worth of primer into your small paint tray. This will be easier than working out of a full gallon of primer.
  • Prime the cabinet doors and drawers. Lay your doors flat on a work table (or extra counter top space) front side down.
    • If you have raised panel doors, start by painting the insides of the doors first, then the groves and finally the outside of the doors.
    • Always finish an area by making long smooth strokes from one end to the other.
    • CAPSTONE TIP: Always paint the backs first; that way the front will be the last thing painted and remain in perfect condition.
    • CAPSTONE TIP: Painters Pyramids are a wonderful tool when painting doors. They keep your doors raised off of your workspace. This will keep the edges of your doors from sticking to your table once painted.
    • CAPSTONE TIP: To achieve professionally smooth doors, add paint thinner to your oil based paints and water to your water based finishes. This will slow down the drying process of your primer and finish and thin them out allowing more time for the brush strokes to settle down.
  • Once the backs are completed and dry, flip the doors and prime the front sides. Make sure the doors are completely dry so that they do not stick when flipped over.
  • Prime the cabinet boxes. Once the doors are done, move onto the boxes.
  • Clean your brush and tray out with paint thinner. Save this thinner for later use.

Primed Kitchen Cupboard Crown

Sand the Primer

Sanding is the key to achieving professional results when refinishing kitchen cabinets.

  • Use a fine grit sanding sponge or pad to lightly sand down all of the primer. This will help to level out any brush strokes and dust particles that may have landed in your finish.
  • Vacuum all dust and wipe to remove traces left behind.

Paint the Top Coat

Now that the primer is completed, it is time to start applying the top coats of paint. CAPSTONE TIP: When applying the top coat, you must find a balance between too much paint and too little paint. When you apply too little, the brush strokes will remain in your finish and not level out nicely. When you apply to much, you will get runs, globs of paint in corners and a poor quality finish on your cabinets.

  • Pour 1-2 inches of paint into your paint tray. Again, this will be easier to control than a full gallon.
  • Start by painting the back sides of the doors. Again, this keep the fronts in as good of shape as possible.
  • Finish the front sides of the doors, drawers and boxes.
  • Allow ample time for the first coat to dry.
  • Sand the first top coat. Sanding between every coat will help you achieve an incredibly smooth finish. At Capstone, whether spraying or brushing, our painters sand between every coat. That is why we produce some of the best looking cabinet finishes around.
  • Apply your final coat.
    • This is your money coat. This is the final product. Take your time to make nice, even strokes with just enough paint to level out into a beautiful, glossy finish.
  • CAPSTONE TIP: Patience is key when trying to achieve beautiful results. If you add paint thinner to your finish it will take longer but you will see better results. Remember not to rush the drying process in between coats; give the paint plenty of time to dry so that you can properly sand between coats.

Paint for Kitchen CupboardsSprayed Kitchen Cabinet Doors

 

Double Check Your Work

This is a simple step, but it separates the pros from the wannabes. Before you clean up, go through all of your work and check the cabinets, doors and drawers. You will be less likely to fix something if you find it after you have already put away all of your equipment.

Reassemble Your Cabinets and Clean Up

You will be extra happy if you labeled your cabinets before starting and will be spared from a huge headache when reassembling.

Be sure to clean all of you brushes and trays in paint thinner before they have a chance to dry out. Instead of throwing out your paint thinner, put it into a bucket with a tight lid and save it for your next project. Once thinner has sat for a while, the paint will separate and you can pour off clean thinner to re-use (that’s the best way to stay green!). If you have no plans for more painting projects, check to see if your city has a recycling center for old paint and thinner.

Enjoy Your Beautifully Painted Kitchen Cabinets!

Painted Kitchen CabinetsRefinished Kitchen CabinetsPainted Cabinets

Painted Kitchen CupboardsPainted Kitchen CabinetsPainted Kitchen After

Painting Kitchen Cabinets and Cupboards Video

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11 Responses so far.

  1. Dave Larson says:

    We have plywood doors. are the instructions the same? they have never been painted and will need priming. the surfaces are rougher than what you have shown in your video but to sand them smooth is risky, is there a filler that can be put on then sanded?

  2. Jenine Handley says:

    To reply to the person asking about the plywood…I am not a professional, however I have completely repainted the worst condo in history – cabinets (actually I built new fronts and then painted them), trim, and plenty of bare plywood shelving used in various places. I am sure the experts will eventually weigh in here, but I thought I would share my personal experience. You will need to sand those plywood doors. They are very rough to work with, I hear ya! I used a random orbit sander on my plywood shelves with 220 grit, followed by 320 and finally 400 to get them baby skin smooth. Tiny pieces in some areas did flake off and in those areas only, I used a premium wood filler in an uncolored version (don’t use any dark or colored stains, especially when painting white or cream – the coloring in the filler can eventually bleed through). Once you have applied your filler and scraped it perfectly smooth, wait a full day for it to dry hard and then sand again with 320 and then 400 grit paper. If you have small spots, you can just use a sanding block for this part. Then wipe down the doors with a barely damp rag (wood filler can be disturbed with a wet rag) and you could do so far as to use a tack cloth to be sure you get every speck of sanding dust off those doors for a perfect finish. Then paint as the experts instructed above! You can add new trim as well for a fabulous result! Good luck!

    And thanks to the experts for posting those awesome instructions – the enamel was indeed WAY better than the semi gloss, just tried it a few days ago and it turned out awesome on our bathroom cabinets!!

  3. Ryanc says:

    Jenine is exactly right. Getting plywood doors to look good is going to be a LOT of work. I would start out by sanding them down, but I don’t think that it is necessary to go as far as 400 grit on your first sand down. I would probably go 120 – 150 and then move on to a filler. For a filler I would use a hard drying product like Ready Patch. I would not however use this product in any hard to sand areas, only in flat areas that you will be able to sand with a random orbital sander. After you have skim coated your doors with a filler, I would then go from 150-220 for your sanding. Going to 400 grit will not hurt anything, but really it is un-necessary. The scratches left from 220 are fine enough where they will be covered by your primer and will not be any issue at all in your top coat. I would then prime with a good oil bonding primer like Zissner and top coat with at least two coats of Benjamin Moore’s Satin Impervo. Impervo looks amazing and has a really high build that will help fill imperfections in your doors.
    Good luck with your project. Send us some photos when you get it done!

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