What is the Best Way to Paint Cabinets?

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  • Originally Written By: Paulla Estes
  • Revised By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Lindsay D.
  • Last Modified Date: 06 October 2019
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Painting cabinets is a fairly easy and inexpensive way to remodel a kitchen or bathroom. Applying a fresh coat of paint helps revive the look of old, chipped, or faded cabinets, and using a new color can completely change the feeling in the room. While painting cabinets is fairly simple, it can be a lengthy process and usually needs to be done in stages. Make sure you have all the necessary supplies and prepare the cabinets before you begin. A primer should be applied first to ensure the paint sticks well.

Proper Supplies

Start by gathering the necessary tools to paint cabinets. You'll need several paint brushes, and may want to use foam brushes and rolling pads; painting tape and rags or paper towels will also be needed for clean-up. Floor protection, such as newspapers or drop cloths, is a good idea, and you should also set up several tables covered with newspaper or other protective covering, for use when painting the cabinet doors. Of course, a can of bonding primer and several cans of the right color of glossy paint are also necessary.


Taking Apart the Cabinets

Before you start to paint cabinets, you should take the doors off and remove all of the hardware. The doorknobs, hinges, and their corresponding screws should be placed into small zippered sandwich bags and then put together in a larger bag. Taking the time to do this will help keep everything organized; labeling each bag can also make it easier to reattach them later, especially if some cabinets have different hardware.

Preparing the Surfaces

Once the hardware has been removed, you'll need to prepare the cabinets before you can paint them. Some mild sanding is often necessary, especially if the old paint or wood finish is exceptionally smooth and glossy. You just need to sand them enough to roughen the surface, allowing the new paint to adhere more easily.

After the doors and surfaces of the cabinets have been sanded, they should be cleaned with soap and water. This removes any debris, cobwebs, dust, and grease that may be built up. When the cabinets have dried completely, apply painting tape next to the edges of the cabinets on the walls, counter tops, and other surfaces. This keeps paint from going on where it's not wanted.

Priming Before Painting

Once sanded and cleaned, the cabinets are ready for priming. Brush on the bonding primer just like paint. It is usually best to use one brush for primer and different ones for paint. Two coats of bonding primer are typically recommended, with a four-hour drying time between applications.

This is where it becomes time consuming to paint cabinets. When painting the cabinet doors, for example, you'll need to apply primer to one side, allow it to dry for four hours, and then apply it to the other side. When timed correctly, two coats of primer can be applied to both sides of each cabinet door in one day.


After the primer has dried completely on all appropriate surfaces, then you can paint cabinets with steady, easy strokes. Painters often use traditional brushes for this, though foam rollers can make it easier to avoid visible brushstrokes in the dried paint. Allow each coat of paint to dry for at least four hours between paintings, and plan to apply two to three coats. It's important to properly ventilate any room that is being painted, especially small bathrooms where fumes can quickly build up.

Wait at least a day for the paint to dry before re-attaching the doors to the cabinets. First put the hinges on the doors and then put the doors back onto the frame. It's important to make sure the hinges are tight so that the doors hang correctly. Then put any doorknobs back in place and remove the painting tape to reveal the finished cabinetry.


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Post 11

I painted my bathroom cabinets the same color as the tiled countertop. The faucets and light fixtures are bronze. Question is, what color do I paint the hinges. They are visible so do I go white or bronze?

Post 10

Take the doors off. It makes it easier especially if you (like me) find that you end up having to do multiple coats. I love the way my new cabinets look but my gosh, what a huge job! It's August and I'm doing it piecemeal so it might be done by Christmas, if I'm lucky!

Post 9

I read the earlier comment that suggested not using a brush as it would leave brushstrokes on the finish. This is not true. If you buy a high quality brush, use smooth, even strokes, and do not go back over partially dry surfaces with more paint. It is true, oil-based paints have superior wear; unfortunately the petroleum distillates they contain are tough on our lungs.

Post 8

Dear 19201: Thanks for the advice.

Post 7

If you are going to take the time to do it, do it right. I just went through this process and yes, you need to remove doors and all hardware.

Post 6

It'll be a lot easier to to remove the doors and paint than paint them while the doors are attached. If you are that lazy, it'd be best to hire a painter instead.

Post 5

If there are two different shades of paint - they either didn't mix the paint in between lag times or the paint store didn't do a good job of paint formulating colors.

Post 4

I agree with everything on this article except for one thing. Do NOT use paint brushes to paint your cabinets. Use Foam rollers. They can be found at walmart, lowes, home depot, anywhere that sells paint rollers. (they are actually made for painting things like cabinets. They are short and can paint anything without leaving brush strokes and you don't have to worry about fuzzies coming off and getting in the mix of your paint and getting on your cabinets, like you have to worry about with regular rollers. They also provide you with a tip, when most rollers do not have a tip. That tip can help make everything go so much easier. the rollers get into deep edges

like no one's business. I love them. However they can wear out easy, and you'll have to buy several. But, they are inexpensive and so well worth every dime in the end. Also, you might want to mention that people need to use oil base paint. It won't come off as easy like latex. We had to learn the hard way, but luckily with something that was easily fixed. We have painted all of our trim, built in book case, fire mantel, chair rail in dining room, cabinets, anything wood in our house, LOL, with this and everything looks great. We have an average american home that was built in the 80's and it has really made the value of our house go up. I have a friend that has a $300,000 home and her mantel, doors, everything have brush strokes and doesn't look near as good as ours. And all that had to be done was just to use the sponge rollers. I don't do any paint project without them. =)

Hope you find this interesting and maybe you can post this for all those who need these tips. =)

thanks, Rachel Phillips of Calhoun City, MS

Post 3

I just spent a fortune painting my new kitchen cabinets. They are paint grade wood. When the painters put the drawers back (inset) they do not match the stiles! They used the same paint but the two surfaces are different shades of white. Anyone ever encounter this problem and have suggestions?

Post 2

You would probably regret it if you painted without taking the doors off. If you wanted the cabinet doors red and the cabinet itself white and the paint got on the white. Besides, it will be easier to have the doors right in front of you to move around freely instead of having to stand on a chair and paint.

Post 1

Man, it is so tempting to paint without taking the doors off! Is this step really necessary?

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