Painted Cabinets

Kitchen | Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Even though a big white kitchen has always been on my wish list we never seem to buy a house that has one! Our last home had new maple cabinetry that we didn’t want to mess with so I learned to love that kitchen as it was. This kitchen on the other hand was begging for white paint.

Here’s a listing photo that shows exactly how the kitchen looked when we first saw it: l499be044-c3o

The kitchen felt dark and was in need of some serious updating. The cabinetry in the house is original which means it’s as old as me – you know,  30 years young & in great condition ;) Even though the cabinets are old it felt right for us to keep them – we’re on a budget, we love to upcycle and we figured that they’d look pretty sweet after we got our hands on them.

J and his Dad already had a lot of work in the kitchen to keep them busy. Not only were they tackling the kitchen cabinets but they also had a tongue and groove ceiling, trim work and doors to prep, prime and paint.

We began by removing all of the cabinet knobs (51 in total). After all of the hardware was removed we used Elmer’s Wood Filler to fill in the holes. The holes needed to be sanded once they were dry. That process was done twice. We found it easier to do this while the doors and drawers were still attached to the cabinets. Then the doors and drawers were ready to be removed. We made sure to label each door (and its hinges) so that everything would end up back in its original place when we were done.

We were simultaneously working on the kitchen ceiling so the room was already prepped for sanding. Our appliances were moved and/or covered, the flooring & countertops were protected and the openings to vents and other rooms were already closed off with plastic.

The cabinet bases were sanded with medium grit sanding blocks. Our cabinets didn’t need much sanding because most of the finish had already worn off over the years. I guess that’s a plus for having some old ass cabinets.

Once the cabinets were sanded we used Krud Kutter Degreaser to clean them followed by Krud Kutter Gloss Off to degloss them. We used the same process for all of the wood work in our house to prep for primer.

We decided not to paint the interior of the cabinets (with the exception of one cabinet with glass doors) so we taped off the tricky spots as well as some shelves that weren’t removable. Then the bases and drawers were primed with Kilz Premium No Voc Primer using a brush and foam roller. The bases and drawers were primed twice, lightly sanded and wiped down.

Priming Kitchen Cabinets

A crucial step not to be skipped is caulking. J went through the entire kitchen and caulked any and every gap with DAP Paintable Caulk. Since he was also working on the kitchen ceiling and trim work he spent a whole afternoon caulking everything in the kitchen.

Caulking Kitchen

At this point we were finally ready for some paint. We choose Benjamin Moore Advance in the color Simply White/Satin Finish. We used Benjamin Moore’s No Voc Line Natura for the rest of the house but chose to go with Advance for the cabinetry since it’s like using an oil based paint minus the smell and high VOC content. Advance is a self leveling paint which helps to achieve that high end finish and it’s Benjamin Moore’s recommended paint for cabinetry.

J’s a fan of foam rollers but we read on other blogs that using them with Advance could cause air bubbles. We definitely didn’t want to deal with that and after doing some research we decided it would be best to roll with small 3/16″ nap rollers. The smaller the nap is on a roller the smoother the finish will be (so no texture).

One of the cons with Advance is that the re-coat time is 16 hours. After waiting for the first coat to dry J was able to sand down the bases with fine grit sandpaper, wipe them down and re-coat. After he finished two coats of paint on the cabinet bases and drawers J was ready to start on the cabinet doors.

The same process was repeated on the cabinet doors: sanding, degreasing & deglossing. J used our Graco Magnum LTS 15 Electric Airless Sprayer to apply the primer and the paint to the doors. Using a paint sprayer is definitely a time saver when it comes to covering large areas (like our tongue & groove kitchen ceiling) or when you want to paint multiple surfaces at once.

The guys divided the garage into two sections: one for spraying and one for drying. The guys used furring strips (1″ x 3″ x 8′ strips of wood) on top of Home Depot boxes to lay down the cabinets doors. They taped plastic water bottle caps to the wood so that the doors were raised just enough to allow the sides to be sprayed and to ensure that there was no sticking. My father-in-law actually came up with the idea. Genius.

Bottle Caps for Painting

This system enabled them to carry 4 doors at a time into the spraying section of the garage and then easily transfer them back into the dry section.

Spraying Section:

Spraying Kitchen Cabinets

Drying Section:

Spraying Kitchen Cabinets 2

J sprayed 2 coats of primer (with 6 oz of Floetrol added to every gallon for thinning) to the backs of the cabinet doors. He allowed a full day in between to let them dry before flipping them over to the front side. The fronts were primed twice as well and after they dried the doors were lightly sanded and wiped down.

Spraying Kitchen Cabinets 3

J followed the same process with the Advance paint and used 6 oz of distilled water per gallon to thin the paint for spraying. The only major difference was the drying time. Even though the actual spraying goes really fast (30 minutes to spray 30 doors) the project as a whole still takes awhile. No matter how you cut it prepping, priming and painting cabinetry takes a LONG time. We knew going in that this wouldn’t be a weekend project but nothing could have prepared us for how long it actually took. We figured it would be 2-3 weeks but with all of the other projects we had going on in the kitchen it took almost two months. Yikes!

Our cabinet doors have exposed hinges so while we were literally waiting for the cabinet paint to dry the hinges were cleaned with Krud Kutter Degreaser and spray painted with Rustoleum Professional High Performance Protective Enamel in Flat Black. We tried finding new hinges that would fit our cabinetry but had no luck. I’ve read mixed reviews on how spray painted hinges hold up so we’ll have to wait and see how they do after some heavy use but so far so good.

Like most oak, our cabinetry has a lot grain. I’ve seen other bloggers use different techniques to minimize or hide the grain in their oak cabinets but for this project we preferred the look of some grain showing through. It was important to us to keep some of the original charm and we’re really happy with how the cabinetry came out. We wanted the cabinets to look like wood cabinets that had been painted (but painted WELL) and that’s exactly how they came out. The techniques J used left a factory finish – everything is super smooth and streak free. I absolutely love them and the job looks 100% professional. It was definitely worth all of the time, patience and effort to achieve these results.

Painted Cabinet Drawer



Painted Cabinet Door

Here’s a shot of the CHAOS in the kitchen as the last few pieces were coming together. We chose Benjamin Moore’s Natura in the color Overcast/Flat Finish for the kitchen walls and the color will continue into our two story family room and foyer. So far we are both in LOVE with the wall color and can’t wait to see it in our family room. We also got rid of the dated brass light fixtures and replaced them with new. When the kitchen is ready for a final reveal I’ll be sure to include the details.

Kitchen Painting in Progress

We let the cabinet doors dry for 5 days before hanging them back up. All I have to say is THANK GOD we labeled the doors and hinges because it made that part of the process go smoothly. We left the doors open for over a week before we added the hardware to give the paint more time to cure. We chose matte black knobs and cup pulls that we found at Lowe’s to match the hinges, lighting and appliances in the kitchen.

Kitchen Cabinet Knobs

Kitchen Cabinet Cup Pulls

The kitchen island ended up becoming a mini project. We were thinking of painting it black and distressing it for contrast but in the end we decided to keep it white.  The process was pretty much the same (sand, degrease, degloss, prime and paint) except for a few extra touches like adding beadboard and new base molding.

Beadboard Island

J also added new toe kicks to the bottoms of the base cabinets as well as 7 inch baseboards for the walls which continue into our family room, foyer and dining room.

When I look back at the original pictures I can’t believe that we are living with the same kitchen. The stained glass window, granite countertops and wood floors really pop now and the kitchen feels cheery and bright. I’m so glad that the vision we had really came together in the end.

Kitchen Cabinets Simply White

We still have a lot left to do in the kitchen. We need to paint the pantry and laundry room doors, figure out window treatments, finish unpacking and accessorize the space. We found an awesome antique dining set on Craigslist that fits perfectly in our breakfast nook that we plan on refinishing once we complete some other projects in the house – but for now all of the major hard work in the kitchen is DONE! We even made our first batch of cookies the other night :)

Isn’t it amazing how painting can transform a room?

We have to thank my father-in-law who stayed with us for 2 months to help J work on the kitchen (as well as a bunch of other projects) before we moved in. J and I have always done projects like this together but my pregnancy put the kibosh on that this time around. It was hard not being able to work side by side with my husband but my father-in-law was the very best stand in we could have asked for and we couldn’t have done it without him. We’re very thankful and lucky to have such a great Dad who was willing to help us conquer this project. There’s no way we could’ve had this amazing kitchen ready without all of his hard work and help. Thanks Dad!

I also have to thank all of the other crazy people out there who painted their kitchen cabinetry and shared their stories and photos with us on the web. I hope that by sharing projects like this we’ll give other people the inspiration they need to go for it in their own homes. It’s an incredible feeling when the project is complete. Was it tiring? Yes. Exhausting. Yes. Painful at times? Yes. Worth it in the end? ABSOLUTELY!

For now I’m off to go enjoy my new kitchen…until the next project :)