How To Prep and Paint Kitchen Cabinets

It's all about the prep work.

Never underestimate the power of paint. Give your kitchen a makeover without having to undergo a major renovation by applying a fresh coat of paint to your cabinetry. It's also a cost-efficient alternative to ripping out your current cabinets and replacing them with new ones. If you still love your cabinets' style—like traditional shaker or sleek flat fronts—give them a face-lift with a new paint color.

The biggest mistake to avoid when painting kitchen cabinets is overlooking the prep work. Matt Birdwell, director of custom homes at Jacksonville, Florida-based Riverside Homes (who built our 2019 Idea House in Crane Island)—says that prep is the most crucial step for painting cabinets. "The most important part of painting kitchen cabinets is the prep. The prep stage is what will drive the final results," Birdwell says. "The prep should include cleaning the doors, sanding the doors, applying any necessary filler, priming the doors, etc. "

Maison Studio WaterColor, FL Neutral Kitchen with Shiplap Wall Backsplash
Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Buffy Hargett Miller

If your cabinets are already painted and in good condition, then it's ok to paint over them. If not, you'll need to scrap the old paint off before applying a new color. Stripping products can be found at home-improvement stores to make the task easier. Dirt and grime have probably built up on the cabinets over time. Combine a liquid grease-fighting dish soap with water and apply to cabinets with a soft cloth. (You might even want to use a toothbrush to really scrub the crevices.)

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After the cabinets are clean, move on to priming and sanding. Don't skimp on these steps. "The doors will take at least two coats of paint after the primer, and they should also be sanded after each coat before the final coat is applied," Birdwell advises. Carefully completing all the tedious front-end work will pay off. "If the prep is rushed, then the final results will show it," Birdwell says. "But if the prep is a labor of love, then the final results will reflect a better-looking final product."

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