How to Paint Kitchen or Bathroom Cabinets

cabinets-painting-rail-ssBenoit Daoust / Shutterstock.com

Painting existing cabinets is a great way to give your kitchen an entirely new look on a budget. You can use a brush for a first coat or primer, but we recommend a short-nap roller for finish coats.

A fresh coat of paint is a quick, inexpensive way to give your cabinets a new look. Whether you want to lighten up dark and dingy cabinets or liven up your room with bold colors, paint can provide an instant makeover. Not all cabinets, though, can be painted.

Solid-wood or wood-veneer cabinets take paint well, as do metal ones; cabinets and face frames covered with plastic laminate or thinner melamine plastic cannot be painted because paint will not bond properly to these surfaces.

There are three basic tools you can use to paint cabinetry: a brush, a roller, and a spray gun. Brushing paint on large surfaces will leave brush marks. Sprayers are expensive and require an enclosure to contain overspray. Rolling is fast and inexpensive, and it works exceptionally well on large surfaces; a short (4- or 6-inch) foam roller is a good choice because it lets you cover the face frames with a single stroke and quickly handle the wider doors. As for paint, satin enamel is an excellent selection-it covers well and is easy to clean.

If you are installing new hinges and pulls, make simple drilling jigs that will allow you to position the hardware accurately. A drilling jig is nothing more than a scrap of 1/2-inch plywood with holes drilled through it at screw-hole locations and strips of wood glued to two adjacent sides to hold the jig in position.

Remove all hardware.

 

1Remove screws, hinges, knobs, and pulls, and set aside whichever ones you will be reusing. Empty the drawers, and pull them out. (Although you can try to paint your cabinetry with the doors and drawers in place, it is a lot easier to remove them.) Number the doors, drawers, and hardware to make it easy to replace them when you are done painting.

 

sanding kitchen cabinets

Clean and lightly sand all surfaces.

2Thoroughly clean the cabinets with trisodium phosphate (TSP). Rinse the surfaces completely with fresh water, and allow them to dry. If you will be installing new hardware, fill all the mounting holes with putty, and allow them to dry.

Next, sand all surfaces with 150- grit open-coat sandpaper, and vacuum to remove any dust and sanding grit.

 

 

 

paint cabinet face frame

Paint face frames first.

3Mask off all adjacent surfaces, and position dropcloths to protect countertops and flooring. Begin by painting the face frames, and then turn your attention to the doors and drawers.

 

 

 

 

paint cabinet door

Next, paint the door insides.

4Paint the insides of the doors. While the doors dry, paint the drawer fronts. Then paint the fronts of the doors. Depending on the paint you are using, you may or may not need additional coats. If you do need additional coats, allow the first coat to dry overnight, and then sand all surfaces with 220-grit wet/dry sandpaper. Vacuum thoroughly, and apply the next coat.

 

 

 

Drill to install the pulls

5Install the drawers and attach the doors once the painted surfaces are dry. Carefully lay out and drill holes through a jig at the desired hardware location. Position the jig on each door with the strips butted firmly against the door’s bottom and side, and drill through the holes in the jig into and through the door. Finally, install the pulls.

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Kitchen Cabinets

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