How to Repaint Your Cabinets – 9 Simple DIY Steps

If you have an older kitchen, you might have several projects that you would love to do. Maybe you’ve always wanted to lay some new tile floor. Maybe you need to replace the kitchen countertops because the white Formica with gold veining just isn’t doing anything for you. You might want to get brand new cabinets, but the reality might be that you just don’t have the money to spend several thousand dollars on brand new cabinets. If you want to make a major overhaul on your cabinets on a budget, painting your cabinets might be exactly the answer. It’s a time-consuming process, but painting your cabinets yourself can save you thousands of dollars, and these are the easy steps that show you how to repaint your cabinets.

how to repaint your cabinets

Prepare the Area

One of the first steps to painting cabinets is to make sure that the surface that you’ll be painting will hold the paint. Wooden cabinets are best for painting, but any surface that you can scuff up will potentially let the paint adhere to it.

Next, protect your walls with painter’s tape, and use rosin paper to keep extra paint off your countertops. Laying down a drop cloth on the floor will also help ensure that your floors stay free of paint drips.

Remove and Label the Doors

Many people who are new to painting cabinets don’t understand the importance of this tip until before they get started, but you need to take the doors off and drawers out, and you must label them all to ensure that everything fits back together properly when you’re ready to put the doors back on.

As cabinets settle, the hardware and other factors can create creases and other irregularities in the wood of the cabinets, and these irregularities will only match up with the same cabinet frame that they came out of. If you don’t make sure of which doors and drawers came out of which frames, you might find that some doors won’t close and some drawers won’t fit correctly. Additionally, the holes for the screws won’t line up between the doors and the frames.

Prepare the Surface

Kitchens are oftentimes greasy places, especially if you like to fry foods. So one of the first steps you should do is wipe any grease residue that might be on your cabinets off with some TSP. Once you’ve wiped the entire surface, follow up with some clean water to completely rid the cabinets of any residue.

The next step is to lightly scuff up the cabinets with some sandpaper. Whenever you’re working with sandpaper, don’t feel like you need to spend hours getting off all of the previous finish. The purpose of sanding is simply to give the paint something rough to adhere to. Once you’re finished, wipe the cabinets again with a slightly damp cloth to get rid of any dust that you’ve created.

Prepare the surface

Use Primer

Once all of the surfaces are prepared, wait for any moisture that was on the cabinets to dry. Then, apply a primer to all of the cabinet doors, drawer faces, and frames. Primer helps you get good coverage with fewer coats of paint, and it’s often necessary for certain types of wood that have knots because the primer can prevent oils from the wood from staining the paint.

You’ll likely need to wait several hours for the primer to finish drying, and you should make sure that the room that you’re storing the doors and drawers in is well-ventilated with dry air so that they can dry as quickly as possible.

Fill In Open Grain and Knots

Some types of wood have a heavy grain or even knots, and if you want to hide them so that you can have a smooth appearance in your cabinets, you need to fill them in at this point. While it’s perfectly okay to show off the grain in the wood, some people prefer a grain-free look, so filling with spackling is often a great option because it saves you the trouble of applying multiple coats of primer and allowing each coat to dry in between each time. You also need to sand down the surface once more after applying the spackle.

Remove Dust Again

To get good adhesion between the cabinets and the paint, you must ensure that there isn’t any dust on the areas where you’re going to paint. A tack cloth is a traditional way of removing the dust left behind from sanding.

Remove dust

Apply the Paint

When it comes to time actually paint the cabinets, there are a couple of ways that you can approach it. You can use a brush, but this process is definitely the most time-consuming. Another option is to roll the paint on with a mini roller for as much of the surface as you can, and then you can use a brush for the areas that are harder to reach.

A third option is to spray it on with a gun. If the paint isn’t completely leveling, you can also use Floetrol to make sure that the paint is thin enough to give even coverage.

Wait for It All to Dry

Painting cabinets takes several days or even weeks to do because there are a lot of crevices to go into, but also because there’s a lot of drying time. The cabinets must be dry, though, before you put them on the frame, so that the paint stays free of creases and dents.

Reattach the Doors, Drawers, and Hardware

The final step of the process is to match up the doors to the correct parts of the frames. You should have made marks where the hardware will go on the doors. Reattach the hinges and any pulls that you have, and then you’re done.

Additional reading: Must-have kitchen tools for every household

Kitchen cabinet


Painting your own cabinets is a time-consuming process, so you should expect this to take more than a weekend. But the results and cost-savings can be worth it.