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DIY: Painting Your Kitchen Cabinets

Day-lab DIY posted before and after photos of the process of painting her kitchen cabinets, along with simple instructions for her readers to do the same. She went for '40s style inspired green cabinets with a white trim. The photos are so inspiring, especially for those of us burdened with dingy '60s cabinets, and not intimidating in the least. So, I thought I'd pass this project along.

Oil-based paint is the suggested paint of choice because it provides a lasting coat that won't peel off over time. If you're on a budget you can go for acrylic latex paint, but at least get a semi-gloss.

Here are the steps:

  1. Remove the cabinet doors completely.
  2. Remove the hardware.
  3. Sand the cabinets until no glossy sheen is left.
  4. Clean well with tack cloth.
  5. Prime with a latex primer (i.e. Klitz).
  6. Paint three coats of latex paint onto the cabinet surfaces and trims (i.e. green and white), or 2 coats of oil-based paint.
  7. After the final coats dry, apply three clear protective coats of Polycrylic (if you used latex).

For more photos, tips and details on fixing your ugly cabinets,




  • Don't ever paint when it's raining. The paint will not cure properly, and your cabinets will have to be stripped and repainted.
  • Latex dries and can be re-coated in about an hour. After 45 minutes, make sure it doesn't feel sticky. If it does, wait until it feels dry and smooth.
  • Polycrylic water base dries in about 30 minutes to 40 minutes.
  • Oil base takes 24 to 48 hours to dry for one coat. So, it's faster to to do 6 coats of latex and polycrylic than 2 coats of oil base.
  • Latex washes up wet with soap and water, and dry with a little spritz of windex.
  • Oil base paint won't wash up with water, but will with some mineral spirits.
  • If you're replacing '60s hardware too, look for new hardware with screws spaced similarly, so they will fit the existing hardware.
  • If you're painting over old paint that is sloppy or drippy, there is no need to strip the old paint off. Just sand down the bumps and roughen up the rest of the surface, prime, paint, and seal.
  • An angled trim brush will give you more control, and small detail brushes are good for drips and panels.
  • See day-lab DIY's post.

Join The Conversation
bernerowner bernerowner 8 years
I refinished our kitchen cabinets and although it was quite a huge project, it turned out great. My project is featured in the 'Be Jane' book. My cabinets are wood and were dark brown and I swear they seemed like they hadn't been washed since the house was built in 1986! I started out cleaning them with TSP then got tired of doing that so I sanded them lightly instead. I removed all the doors (all twenty of them) and the hinges. Everything was sanded then primed then painted with a satin French Vanilla latex paint. I applied a sage green faux finish on just the doors and because the cabinets never had handles, I bought antique flatware from Ebay and my husband and I attached them to the cabinet doors. I only used spoons and forks and my husband bent them and drilled little holes and attached them to the cabinets using machine screws. I painted the kitchen a brick red (ceiling too) and my husband and I installed new counter tops. If I could post photos here I would show you how beautiful the kitchen is. This project was nothing compared to the fake rocks I put on two walls in my house. I used joint compound and actually 'formed' flagstone rocks on the walls. I then faux finished them to look as natural as possible and everyone thinks they are real.
ragus ragus 9 years
wow great job!
lindaloo lindaloo 9 years
I wish I would have had this guide when I painted my cabinets. They still need a final coat or two!
chancleta chancleta 9 years
wow what a difference congrats!
gvsb gvsb 9 years
i did this last spring... and they turned out great!
beingtazim beingtazim 9 years
thank you SO much for this Casa! i've been considering doing this to my mom's cabinets but wasn't sure exactly how to - but these instructions are great! i'll bookmark this page for sure and do this next summer!
MamaD MamaD 9 years
I've done this so many times in the past!!!! It's easier than you would think!
JessNess JessNess 9 years
I helped my mom redo her kitchen cabinets. We had those ugly varnished black country hardware cabinets that seem to be found in every ugly kitchen ever. We had to scrap off 40 years of varnish, smoke, grease and more varnish. It was NASTY but the end results of pretty clean painted cabinets was nice
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