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  1. Blog
  2. You can DIY: How to repaint kitchen cabinets
Add value to your home
21 January 2020

You can DIY: How to repaint kitchen cabinets

Rosie Hamilton
Writer & Researcher
freshly painted kitchen cabinets in modern kitchen

Table of contents

  1. 1. Things you’ll need
  2. 2. Step 1: Remove doors
  3. 3. Step 2: Clean, and cover everything
  4. 4. Step 3: Sand (and spackle)
  5. 5. Step 4: Prime
  6. 6. Step 5: Sand again
  7. 7. Step 6: Paint
  8. 8. Step 7: Let the paint dry

Kitchens undoubtedly add a huge amount of value to a property, both financially, and emotionally. They are the heart of the home and one of the first places a buyer will see. Estate agents suggest that redoing a kitchen is the upgrade that adds the most value to a property. But, it’s probably one of the most expensive things to do. It might even seem quite pointless to do a full refresh or upgrade if you’re moving anyway, and you’re not guaranteed to recoup the costs when you sell.

An accessible way of making your kitchen look smart is to repaint your kitchen cabinets. Repainting your cabinets will give your kitchen an instant refresh, and can quickly make it look more modern. Repainting works best with wooden cabinets, and worst with laminate, because of the way the paint sticks to each surface.

Although you’re not investing as much money, you will need to invest a reasonable amount of time. For an average sized kitchen, you’re likely to need more than a weekend, and maybe up to a week to prep and paint all your kitchen cabinets. If this feels like too much to do all in one go, work in batches, painting two or three cabinet doors each weekend.

Things you’ll need

  • Sandpaper in a few different grit levels.
  • Cleaning cloths
  • Household detergent (or a pre-prepared cleaner from a hardware store)
  • Primer (avoid all-in-one primer and paint)
  • Paint (enough for 2 or 3 coats)
  • Polyfilla (optional)
  • Paint brush (preferably a 2-2.5 inch angle sash brush)
  • Mini paint roller (optional)
  • Painter’s tape
  • Screwdriver
  • Cloth or paper to cover surfaces
  • Painter’s pyramids or similar to prop up whilst painting
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Protective mask

Pro Tip: Paints with a finish such as ‘Satin’, ‘Gloss’ or ‘Semi-Gloss’ will last longer than matte or flat finishes, and are easier to clean, making them more practical for use in the kitchen.

Step 1: Remove doors

  • Use a screwdriver to carefully remove the doors from their hinges.
  • Create a map and label each of the doors and cabinets. A piece of masking or painter’s tape works quite well as a label that you can write on in biro.
  • Cover anything you don’t want painted in tape - preferably specially designed painter’s tape, which won’t cause any damage, and seals tighter to avoid paint leaking under it. This includes hinges, and if you’re not painting the handles, either remove them or cover them in painter’s tape.

Step 2: Clean, and cover everything

  • Removing kitchen and hand grease allows the paint to stick better. Even if you keep the kitchen clean, it’s likely there’s a slight surface from your everyday use that you can’t see.
  • Use a gentle household detergent (or specialist cleaner if you prefer) and a cloth to clean the oil and grease off, rinse with warm water and leave to dry.
  • Create a painting space and cover anything in the near vicinity - including the floor - with cloth or paper that you don’t mind getting paint on.

Step 3: Sand (and spackle)

  • If you’re painting wooden cabinet doors, the grain will show through if you go straight into priming and painting. If you want a smooth finish you’ll need to ‘spackle’ first, (create a smooth surface).
  • Regardless of the material you’re painting, you’ll also need to spackle any obvious dents or blemishes, because paint can draw attention to these imperfections - and you want those cupboards to look their best in your listing photos.
  • To spackle: smooth polyfilla evenly in a thin layer over the cupboard door with a putty knife or paint scraper.
  • After you’ve spackled (or not) give everything a good sand down with 220 grit sandpaper (or ask for advice from your hardware store if your original doors have a special finish). Always sand with the grain of the wood, and try not to press down too hard. The aim is a flat, smooth surface.
  • This step is going to be messy and there will be lots of dust. Make sure that you open the windows and wear a protective mask.
  • Hoover up thoroughly after. You should also gently hoover the cabinet doors with the brush attachment, or wipe them down, so that there’s no dust that’ll get caught in the paint.

Step 4: Prime

  • Lots of paint shops offer paints that include a primer as an ‘all-in-one solution’, but these aren’t as good as using separate paint and primer. The time saved is not worth the worse results.
  • Pour some primer into a paint tray. Use a paintbrush to apply the primer around the edges of the area you want to be painted. Brush away from the painter’s tape to keep the primer from pooling and leaking underneath. Once the primer is applied around the edges you can switch to a roller for the main surface area if you prefer, or you can stick with the brush.
  • Make sure you cover the entire area without making the layer too thick.
  • Leave to dry completely before moving onto the next step.

Step 5: Sand again

  • Once your primer has dried, it’s time to get that sandpaper out again. This is to smooth out the filler and primer, and make sure you have a completely flat, smooth surface that’s easy for the paint to stick to.
  • It seems pedantic, but trust us, completing this step will give you a much smoother finish, and is the difference between a job that looks like a DIY project and one that looks professional.
  • Once you’ve sanded everything down, make sure to thoroughly wipe/hoover off all the dust.

Step 6: Paint

  • Now for the fun part. Start to paint in the same way as you applied the primer, drawing a border with your paint then filling in the main surface area. You’ll need to paint about 2 or 3 layers, so don’t make each layer too thick. Wipe the edges with a cloth so you don’t get a build-up of excess paint.
  • Sand gently with a less coarse sandpaper (and remove dust) between layers, but make sure the paint has thoroughly dried first.
  • If you’re painting both sides of the doors, using painters pyramids can be useful so that you have access to the whole surface area without having to touch the wet paint.

Pro tip: If you’re using more than one can of paint, mix all the paint together then pour back into the cans, this will get rid of any slight difference in colour and make the paint job more uniform.

Step 7: Let the paint dry

  • Seriously. Don’t rush this. If you smudge the paint by picking up the door before it dries, you’ll have to start the process all over again.
  • The back of the paint can is your best guide on how long to wait.
  • Once you’re confident the paint is completely dry, carefully re-attach your cabinet doors to their hinges, and admire your hard work.

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