How to Prep Your Kitchen Cabinets for Paint

Monday, June 4, 2018


I always feel so teased when I see progress posts on my favorite blogger's pages while I know they're in the middle of a big makeover but I couldn't not share my progress because I want to share the good, the bad, and the ugly with y'all and I'm afraid if I wait until the end of this project I'll be so blinded by my dreamy white kitchen that I'll forget all the hardships along the way.

I'd be totally lying if I told you this project was easy but I'd also be lying if I said it wasn't worth it. My goal here at R&R at home is to always keep it real and share the truth about all of my home projects. This is absolutely the most challenging and labor intensive DIY I've ever attempted. I've had about 15 breakdowns and spend one morning crying in the Menards parking lot (I'm not sure if the tears were from exhausting, being overwhelmed or not having eaten breakfast that morning but they were real).

When I set out to paint our kitchen cabinets I did as much research as I could possibly do. I watched videos, read articles, read fellow blogger's tutorials, sought out advice from family, avid DIY'ers and my amazing Insta friends so I felt fully prepared. I think the biggest hurdle so far has been realizing that nothing can prepare you for this big of DIY project. On paper, it was simple; 1) Disassemble cabinets 2) Clean Cabinets and Frames 3) Sand/Degloss cabinets and frames 4) Prime 5) Paint 6) Happy Dance. What I wasn't prepared for? To have absolutely zero idea what I was actually doing.

You see, you can watch all the YouTube videos and read all the tutorials in the world but when you're sitting in you garage applying deglosser and not seeing any difference on the cabinets it's a scary, scary place to be. How am I supposed to know if I'm doing this right? Is this the way primer should look? Am I applying too much paint? All questions that I did not have the answers to. I am not kidding when I say I feel so lucky to have Instagram stories because I pop on there and ask a question and immediately get replies from several people who help me to not feel like a crazy fool (thank you all!!!!).

So, without further ado here is my progress so far...

(Side note: I will be including this process in my full kitchen makeover post once this project is complete.)

Day 1: Disassemble Kitchen (1 hour)

I thought this part would be the WORST of it, I really did, but it was actually pretty simple. I made sure to label our cabinets by simply using numbers and putting a piece of tape on the inside of the frame where the coordinating door/drawer belongs.





Day 2: Clean Cabinets (2 hours)

I was honestly prepared for our cabinets and drawers to be so dirty that I'd have to spend hours cleaning them but it wasn't as bad as I thought. I tried a few different methods and finally settled on spraying each cabinet/drawer with a TSP substitute solution (came in a spray bottle) and using the rough side of a sponge to scrub them down. Using this cleaner I didn't have to scrub too hard.


Once I had scrubbed them down with TSP, I used a different sponge and some warm water to 'rinse' each cabinet and remove any residue left behind.




Then, I simply patted them down this a clean towel to remove any excess water.


Day 2: Sand Cabinets (1.5 hours)

After cleaning my cabinets, I let them dry for about 30 minutes. Then, I started sanding. I really went back and forth on this step. I first tried using deglosser but honestly did not know what I was doing and couldn't tell if anything was happening. There was also some weird white residue being left behind so I decided to simply use sanding blocks.


I'll be real honest, I still don't know if I sanded the cabinets enough because I never felt like any gloss or sheen was really gone but I decided to just give every surface a light sand and then hope the primer did it's magic. Some people skip the sanding and/or deglossing step all together so I felt confident in this decision (er... somewhat confident... we will see over time!).


Day 3: Prime Cabinets (4 hours)

Once the cabinets were cleaned and sanded it was time to start priming. I'm afraid what I'm about to say may scare some people but after sanding I decided there wasn't enough dust to justify a second cleaning so I simply used tack cloth to clean them one last time before applying the first coat of primer.


I chose to use Kilz Max primer simply because I had seen it recommended by several other bloggers. I'm not sponsored or endorsed in any way, shape or form here just a product I liked!


I started with a small 1 inch. angled brush in the corners and detailed areas applying a very thin coat so as not to let any paint pool in the corners.


Then I went back with a small 3/8 nap foam roller. I chose this roller because it is supposed to be most like spraying (which I wish I had the guts to do..... I won't tell you that I have a paint sprayer and didn't use it for this project... whoops I just did).


This is what the first coat of prime should look like.


I repeated this process on each side of each cabinet, then again for a second coat. It is completely up to you whether or not to do two coats of primer but I had a few people tell me they wish they had so I went for it. In total, priming the cabinets took about 4 hours (over two days with drying time).

Day 4: Prep & Prime Frames (4 hours)

Prepping your frames to be painted is similar but also a much different process than your cabinets and drawers. You will still want to clean them the same way (TSP Substitute + Rinse with water + Towel dry) but then you also need to tape off all the edges and corners. It is completely up to you whether or not you'd like to paint the inside of your cabinets but I chose not to. I did, however, paint any of the inner corners that were a dark brown.


I'm the worst blogger ever and completely forgot to take before pictures of everything taped off but it is a pretty self explanatory step.


Now you're ready to paint!

I must note that after drafting this entire post I went about my day and dropped my phone near the Island that was freshly painted with two coats of primer and the primer did scratch so I will have to update everyone on how things hold up once the paint is applied!

Do you have any tips you can share for painting kitchen cabinets? Please share them with me in the comments below! Thank you for visiting R&R at home!






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