Painting Cabinets White

If you are considering a kitchen remodel, one of the most difficult and expensive aspects of a kitchen redesign is replacing the existing cabinets. New kitchen cabinets may eat up half of your budget you have allocated to the remodel.

Rather than replacing cabinets altogether, another cheaper option is to refinish and paint the old cabinets. No matter what the cabinets are made of, they can be painted with a little prep work first.

If you are considering a new paint job, selecting the right paint is crucial. Be sure to select a high quality  latex, enamel paint with a satin finish which will help hide imperfections or any dings or scratches that may occur in the future.

Before You Begin

Before stripping or painting your old cabinets, you will need to remove all of the hardware on the cabinet doors and hinges. It is important to keep track of where each handle or hinge, the location of each drawer removed and where each cabinet door belongs, so I would advise that you make a list and number each piece as you remove it.

Sketch out the entire kitchen plan, then place numbers on the drawing representing each piece. Next, place a piece of blue painter’s tape on each item removed, and record the number on the tape using a black marker. Trust me, do not overlook this step as it will make the reconstructing process much easier later.

Create a Work Area for Painting

After removing all of the cabinet doors, drawers and hardware, you will have a lot of stuff lying around. Some people like to work in the kitchen near the area they are working by simply putting down a lot of newspaper.

However, if you have a garage nearby, I would suggest you work there. You will have more room to maneuver without having to worry about getting paint in any unwanted places inside. If you have a lot of cabinets with very little countertop space to work off of, this is a must in my opinion.

Clean All Surfaces

For this discussion, I will assume that the cabinets you are painting already contain some color of paint rather than a glossy stained finish.  If that is not the case, you will first need to strip all of the wood parts with a stain or gloss stripper which can be time consuming. However, it will allow a smooth, clean surface for you to prime and paint.

Paint attaches best when all surfaces are clean so before painting, make sure all of the grease and grime that they have accumulated through the years is removed.

Wipe the cabinets down using a rag and soap and water. Then will get rid of some of the residue before beginning the sanding process. Next, use an abrasive sponge to clean it further with the soap and water solution. Make sure the entire surface is dry before inspecting the cabinets for imperfections in the wood.

Dealing with Imperfections in the Wood

After cleaning, if you find the wood cabinets have dings or scratches, cover then with a lite coat of spackling using a putty knife.

You may also need to cover any old hinge or handle holes in the wood if you are changing cabinet hardware because the holes may not line up.

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Sanding Cabinets

Any wood surface will accept paint better when it is slightly roughed up. This allows the paint to fill all of the minute gaps.

Start by using a 120-grit piece of sandpaper, or sandpaper block and go over all of the painted surfaces.  If the cabinet doors are large, you may want to use a palm sander for the main areas.

If you cabinet doors are molded, you will need to use a small piece of sandpaper with your fingers to get into the grooves.

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Painting Cabinet Doors

If you are starting with dark kitchen cabinets , and you painting cabinets white, it is best to prime the doors before applying the final coat. This will hide the darker color so that it does not tint your new white cabinets when painted.

Begin painting the cabinet doors from the backside to the front side. This will allow you to get used to the painting surface and the right strokes and amount of paint to use with each item. If you make a mistake here, it will be much easier to correct as you gain experience.  

Brush or roller?

It depends on the size of the cabinet. Small roller brushes usually make the job go faster, however, you will need a small angled brush to get into the corners of any molding and to paint the edges

Finishing Up

After painting all of the cabinets and drawers, allow them to dry thoroughly, then reinstall all of the hardware.  This is where your prep work will pay off if you made a list of where everything should be relocated. Follow your sketch showing which door or drawer goes where on the cabinets. You should have also labeled each piece of hardware if you are reinstalling the old ones.

If you are replacing the old hardware with new hardware, the holes may not match up.  If they do not match, place each handle or pull on the door or drawer, then draw around the location of each hole. Remove the hardware, then drill a small pilot hole in each area where you sketched an outline for a screw hole.

Finally, you may want to add felt or rubber bumpers to the inside or drawers or doors to keep them from slamming shut. Another option is to use soft close adaptors or hinges so that the doors close in a smooth, soft motion.

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Painting cabinets is one of the easiest and most economical ways to give your kitchen a totally different look without spending thousands of dollars on replacing existing cabinets.

This type of project will take a couple of days, depending on how many cabinets and helpers you have assisting you. However, it is well worth your time, especially if you are considering installing a new backsplash or new counter tops.