How to paint cabinets

First of all, I must thank you for your sweet comments on my kitchen island redo. :) We love it so very much! I promised a how-to on the painting of the cabinets, so here we go…

As I mentioned, it took me almost two and half years to attack this project. Now I know why.  :)

Nahhh…it wasn’t that bad.

No really, it was.

You folks who have painted ALL of your kitchen cabinets have a special place in DIY heaven reserved just for you. Seriously.

I started with this:


Once I got the new butcher block counter on, I was all hyped up to get the whole island DONE already. So I plopped down on the floor, took off the doors and pulled out the drawers and started sanding away with my little power sander.

BIG mistake. Oh for all that is good, it created a massive mess. HUGE. And after two sanding sheets and 15 minutes, I had only gotten close to bare wood in a few spots:


After you sand, it’s all misleading because the film it creates makes it look like the finish is actually coming off. Well, it’s not. It’s just spitting dust everywhere:



Anyway, I gave up on the sander. I wiped the layers of dust away and started priming. I used the B.I.N. primer from Zinsser:020I’ve used it before and always hear great things about it. It’s shellac-based -- I have no idea what that means, but all that matters is each coat dries in 45 minutesprimer

They had me at 45 minutes. Really, I have zero patience for waiting for primer to cure. NONE. (By the way, I had to run EVERY pan through the dishwasher and clean the insides of the cabinets to get all the dust from the sander off. Fun times!)

I did two coats of primer, then four coats of black, (I always use Black Suede from Behr) sanding between each with my 3M sanding pad:

3M sanding pad

I usually use the sanding blocks, but I’m kind of loving this foamy pad thing.

I think one of most important parts of painting furniture is letting each coat of paint cure, and sanding well between each coat:


You can use a tack cloth to wipe it down, but they give me the HEEBS. So sticky and just gross. Uck. So I use the tried and true wet paper towels and wet rags:


And my very fancy paint trays for painting:

paint tray

:) Nothin’ but the best!

Because I didn’t have the primer tinted (I plan to use it for other projects as well), I had to do four coats of black.

It was after I painted the trim that I realized I had the same primer, tinted black, in the basement.


For the doors, I used the process I should have started with from the beginning. I cleaned each one with a TSP spray:

TSP spray

Then just primed with my tinted primer.


Well, at least one less sanding – I did light sandings between each coat, like I mentioned. Two coats primer, three coats black, sanding between each.

I did the grooves with my Purdy brush first, then a foam roller to do the rest of the cabs:

Because I wasn’t as diligent with my sanding as I should have been, you can see spots in the corners where I used a brush first:

But really…do I care? NO I do not. Like I’ve said before, no one would ever notice it. And if they did, I’d give them a cookie. Then I’d kick ‘em out for noticing.

I kid, I kid!!

I finished the whole thing off with a water-based polycrylic:

I usually use a polyurethane, which is oil-based, but I wanted the water-based for other projects. Regular poly can yellow, which is fine for black and over a dark stain, but not good for lighter painted projects. I quite liked this stuff – it seems to protect just as well, but time will tell.

You need to do a light sanding before your first coats of poly, and then sand lightly between each one. I use foam brushes to apply it.

I chose the satin version and it was WAY glossier than I thought it would be. Be careful with the sheen – you don’t want it to be TOO glossy. Remember glossy shows any imperfections. Flat sheens help to hide them. :)

Oh yeah, and NO, I did not paint inside the doors:

It would really make them look more custom, I know. But that extra hour of work was better spent on another project. Or eating. Sleeping. Anything other than painting. ;)

Was it hard? Not at all. Time consuming? Yes.

When I do projects, I like to be able to stop, clean up everything, and put it all back together when I’m done for the day.

It drove me batty to have the doors and drawers all over the place for two days. But that’s just my thing – if you go into it knowing your kitchen is going to be a hot mess for a few days, you’ll be golden.

Was it worth it? HECK yeah!




painted kitchen island 

(Sorry for the crappy evening picture!)

Notice the fall stuff is coming out? You know what that means – the basement decrapification is DONE!! Actually, the whole house is pretty much free of STUFF.

And it feels ahhhmazing!

I hope this helps those of you who are thinking about painting your bathroom or kitchen cabinets! It can be done – with a little bit of patience and a whole lot of primer. :)


P.S. Oh yeah…GUESS WHAT?

I am so stinking excited -- next week I’m going to see the new Nate Berkus show, courtesy of my friend Rhoda!! Whoohoo!!! I am so thrilled to take a trip to NYC with some of my favorite bloggy girls – some I’ve already met, some I haven’t.

Email me if you live near NYC and you can meet us out there! :) If you’re going, holla at me!

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