9 Mistakes To Avoid When Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Dodge these missteps during your next makeover.

How to give your kitchen a face-lift without having to undergo a pricey remodel? Repaint your cabinets for a fresh new look. This project can easily be completed without calling a professional, but keep a few important tips in mind for success—like not underestimating the amount of time this task will take (longer than a weekend) and not skimping on the prep work (yes, it really does matter). Here, are 9 common mistakes to avoid when painting kitchen cabinets.

Amie Corely Kitchenette Dining Area
Ashley Gieseking

1. Not removing doors, drawers, and hardware.

Before starting this project, take off the cabinet doors; pull out the drawers; and unscrew the knobs or pulls. Empty the drawers and cabinets as well. Make things easier on yourself during reassembly by labeling where the pieces should be returned after painting.

2. Not washing cabinetry.

Over time, grime and grease have probably built up on your kitchen cabinets' surfaces. Clean them with a combination of liquid grease-fight dish soap and water; apply with a soft cloth. Use to toothbrush for hard-to-reach crevices and corners. Disinfect the insides and outsides of drawers, along with the fronts and backs of cabinets.

3. Not scraping off old paint.

If already-painted cabinets are still in good condition, then it's ok to apply a new coat on top. Old paint that's chipping should be scraped off. To make this step easier, buy a specialized paint stripping product at a home-improvement store.

4. Not covering up your cabinets’ imperfections before repainting.

Fill in holes, dents, or scratches with wood filler or spackle. Use a putty knife to smooth it out, and then sand it down once it's dry.

5. Not sanding.

Don't skip this step; paint will stick better to a freshly sanded surface. Be sure to sand corners and crevices of cabinets and drawers too. You should also sand after each coat of primer and paint before applying the final layer to ensure a smooth finish.

6. Not priming.

Coating cabinetry in a primer will help the paint stick later. Primer also helps cover up and smooth any imperfections on the surface.

7. Not applying a second coat of paint.

Polish off your cabinetry's fresh new look with a second (and final) coat of paint.

8. Not allowing enough time to dry.

Follow directions on paint cans for dry times. Don't mess up your hard work by smudging damp cabinetry while trying to put it back in place or flip over for another coat.

9. Not picking the right paint.

Choose the right type of paint for a kitchen—paints with a higher gloss or sheen (like egg-shell, semi-gloss, or gloss) are easier to wipe clean. Then pick your perfect color—one you won't get tired of in a few weeks. Go with a tried-and-true neutral or go bold with a saturated hue.

Ready to give your kitchen a makeover? Follow these steps for repainting cabinetry yourself.

  1. Remove drawers, doors, and hardware. Label where the pieces should return after the paint job.
  2. Wash doors and drawers.
  3. Fill in any holes or dents.
  4. Sand.
  5. Prime.
  6. Paint.
  7. Let dry.
  8. Reassemble.
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