Can't swing a renovation? This budget-friendly home improvement will freshen up your space.

By Krissy Brady
February 15, 2019
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If your outdated kitchen cabinets are cramping your style but you're not ready for an expensive remodel, painting them is a cost-effective way to make them new again-and give yourself the stylish-looking kitchen you deserve.

"Painting kitchen cabinets can make a significant visual impact on your space," says Jessica Barr, national trainer and painting expert at Behr. But don't expect overnight results. This particular DIY project can take a week or more to complete-proper planning, prep, and execution is essential to rocking the process-not to mention, a ton of patience.

Bottom line: If you try to rush your cabinet makeover, it will show, says Kentucky-based interior designer Jaclyn Journey. To make sure your finished cabinets are everything you want (and more), we spoke to the pros for these expert tips.

Materials:

  • Dusting cloths

  • Painter's tape

  • Pen

  • Plastic or drop cloths

  • Screwdriver

  • Small storage container

  • Sponges

  • Soap and water

  • Protective face mask

  • Medium grit sandpaper

  • Shortcut brushes by Wooster

  • Wood filler

  • Putty knife

  • Mini paint roller

  • Painter's tripods

  • Bonding primer

  • Paint

Step 1: Choose Your Paint and Primer

Cabinets are typically made from solid hardwood, plywood, MDF, particle board, wood veneer, or stainless steel, each of which will require one coat of primer and two coats of paint-but the primer you purchase will depend on what your cabinets are made out of. "Review the primer labels in order to ensure that the primer will adhere to your cabinet's surface before considering the project," says Barr. When selecting a paint for your cabinets, she recommends using a semi-gloss finish, such as Behr Alkyd Semi-Gloss Enamel. It's a great option for kitchens, as it's more resistant to hand oils. Barr's motto: "The higher the sheen, the easier it is to clean."

As for color: "We're seeing a lot of color creativity happening in kitchens right now, with more designers and homeowners opting for colored cabinetry, rather than neutrals," she says. Don't be afraid to consider shades of blue, black, or even green to add visual interest or a pop of color to your space.

Step 2: Prep the Area

Start by removing all hinges and hardware from your cabinets and place them into a small storage container for safekeeping. As you take off each door and pop out each adjustable shelf, label them using a strip of painter's tape and a pen. (This will make the reassembly process that much easier once you're finished painting.) Next, protect your countertops, stove, sink, and floors from sanding dust and paint splatters by securely taping plastic over them. Finally, give your cabinets a thorough cleaning with some soap and water. "This will remove dirt and oil build-up, creating a clean surface to which the paint can adhere," says Barr.

Step 3: Sand and Prime

Fill in any holes (think: hinge and handle holes if you're replacing them with a new size) or imperfections with a paintable interior wood filler. Wait for it to dry, then lightly sand the areas that were just filled in to match the smoothness-or uniformity-of the cabinet. Using a medium grit sandpaper, sand down your surface as much as possible, with the goal of removing the old finish, says Journey.

"You'll know you're done when the sheen of the finish is removed," she says. The same goes for coated stainless steel cabinets-keep sanding until the coating is gone. (For uncoated stainless steel cabinets, no sanding is required.) Once you're done sanding, vacuum the area and thoroughly wipe down your cabinets with a dusting cloth to get rid of any debris. Now that your cabinets are dust-free, it's time to prime. "Priming provides the perfect base for painting," says Barr. "It's essential in order to create a smooth surface and allow the paint to evenly flow, level, and develop to the desired sheen." Prime your cabinets with one thin layer of bonding primer using a shortcut brush. Let the primer dry overnight, then use your dust cloth to wipe down the surface again, just in case any dust particles found their way back to the cabinets.

Step 4: Paint Your Cabinets

Now for the exciting part. With a mini roller and shortcut brush, paint your cabinet frames, starting on the inside and working your way outward. Once you get to the doors and shelves, it's helpful to prop them up on a tripod such as HDX Painter's Tripod to let each side dry, says Journey, who suggests using one for each corner. Make sure you let your first coat dry completely (overnight) before moving onto your second. "Between coats, lightly sand the cabinets to give your second coat of paint more texture to bond to," says Journey. Once your second coat has dried (again, overnight), inspect to see if a third coat is needed-though, more often than not, two are enough.

Step 5: Reassemble

"Let your paint cure for a few days before putting hardware back on or reattaching your door hinges," says Journey. "This will ensure no nicks, scratches, or damage before the paint has completely hardened." Once you've got the all-clear, reinstall your shelves and doors. But before you put away your items, use this opportunity to organize your shelves. Assess, order and, organize efficiently using our tips. Enjoy your beautiful cabinets.

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