Before we begin, I need to state something firmly. I am not a perfectionist.

If you’ve stumbled upon this blog post in hopes of actual advice on kitchen cabinets, you’ll get some. But not the kind you need if you’re a perfectionist. So, consider yourself warned and enjoy the spectacle I make of myself when it comes to home projects.


before the kitchen cabinets are painted
We had this house built three years ago, so the finish on the cabinets was in great shape. But the maple stain gave off an orange glow that I couldn’t stand any longer, and since my husband refused to move, it was time to get out the paintbrushes.

If it’s time for you to get out the paintbrushes, here’s what you need to do before the painting:

  1. Research kitchens on Pinterest for weeks. Ogle other people’s cabinets and read their directions. Ignore anyone who seems like maybe they have really high standards.
  2. Choose a color, but only after asking your sister and mother for advice. Vacillate wildly even as you stand in front of the paint guy at Home Depot. Don’t worry, he’s used to this. I think.
  3. Buy your supplies. I went with Behr primer (#75) and Behr Alkyd Semi-Gloss Enamel in Coast Guard Gray.
  4. Beg your mother and sister to come help you paint because you know you’ll screw it up if you do it all yourself. Set a date because otherwise you’ll talk yourself out of it for another three years.

in the middle of painting the cabinets
Painting Day #1:

  1. Clean all grime off cabinets with a strong crud-cutter.
  2. Take off all doors; remove all drawers. I have painted cabinets before without doing this, so trust me. Just take them down/out. You won’t save any time leaving them up AND it will look crappy.
  3. Sand your cabinets down, maybe? I didn’t really do this, but my finish was still in great shape. I did take steel wool to all the surfaces to buff it down a little. (The primer I picked is supposed to work on glossy surfaces, and so far so good. It took three days to come off my fingers, and I take that as a good sign.) Clean all dust off painting surfaces.
  4.  Apply two coats of primer at proper intervals. Dial up your favorite music while you perform this mind-numbing chore. I chose the Hot Sardines on Pandora, but feel free to pick your own sound track.
  5. Begin to enjoy the fruits of your labor as your orange glow disappears. Freak out a little wondering if you should have gone with the white paint instead of gray.
  6. Go to bed. Your fingers will stick together from all the primer, but you’ll be too tired to find it bothersome.

painting the cabinet base

Painting Day #2:

  1. Drink the pot of coffee your husband brews. Beg him to make a new pot when your mother and sister arrive.
  2. Hand out brushes and rollers (we used fine foam rollers) and profusely thank the relatives who have come to you in your hour of need.
  3. Paint. Paint and paint and paint.
  4. Resist the urge to lie upon your kitchen floor and die. You’ll die in a half-painted kitchen, and that simply won’t do.
  5. Feed everyone lunch and then send them home. You can’t do another coat for four hours and there’s no sense in them sitting around with you.
  6. Four hours later (I painted the kitchen walls in between) get the brushes back out and apply a second coat. This coat will go a lot faster, and you’ll be so close to the end the adrenaline will carry you through.

halfway through painting the kitchen cabinets

Painting Day #3: 

  1. Get up and go to church. Fellowshipping in the house of the Lord is far more important than getting your cabinet doors back up. Besides, they’re still tacky to the touch and you want to wait until at least this evening.
  2. Ignore your messy kitchen all day by napping and reading in another room.
  3. Just before bed, put the doors back on and the drawers back in. Leave everything hanging open all night long, just in case something’s still a little tacky.
  4. Stand back and adore your new colors.

I love the finish of the Alkyd paint. It’s nice and smooth and so far is standing up very well to all sorts of kitchen messes and abuse. I have a few areas to touch up because the foam roller left some streaks, but that will only take me a few minutes.

A word of encouragement– don’t dither any longer. If your house doesn’t feel like home, if something is cheap to fix, if you’re desperate for a change, just do it! I love the way my kitchen feels, even though it’s going to be a while before I save enough for cabinet pulls and a new light over the table.

This project cost me $55 in paint and primer, plus about $35 in supplies like special rollers. I lost 16 hours of my life I’ll never get back, not counting the 3 hours my mother and sister each donated to the cause.

But every time I walk into my kitchen, I grin from ear to ear. The lost weekend was totally worth it. It will be worth it to you, too!



6 Comments on How to paint your kitchen cabinets in 269 easy steps

  1. David
    January 14, 2016 at 5:27 pm (2 years ago)

    Anytime you want to pop across the Atlantic and paint a few walls you know where we are!

  2. Jessie Clemence
    January 14, 2016 at 5:33 pm (2 years ago)

    But can you stand my sloppy painting? I’m still finding paint in my hair, four days later!

  3. cherifields
    January 14, 2016 at 6:10 pm (2 years ago)

    Beautiful! It matches your book cover. You even have a shot of yellow with that ball. 😀
    I just got a much needed bathroom cabinet that’s perfect- except for the 70’s knobs and brown wood finish. Every time I’m in there I dream about repainting it sky blue and sand color. I’ll have to remember Behr when I ask about the best paint that doesn’t have to go on stripped down wood.

  4. Jessie Clemence
    January 14, 2016 at 8:44 pm (2 years ago)

    We could totally fix that cabinet. Bathrooms only take an hour or so– I conquered ours last year. WAY easier than the kitchen.