Rule Number One When Painting Kitchen Cabinets: A Beginner's Guide

August 30, 2016

how to paint kitchen cabinets a guide

I think I've read every blog post out there on how to paint your kitchen cabinets. It's been a dream of mine for some time now. And as fearful as I was of actually undertaking the project, I finally said yes and jumped in with both feet. Right now I'm in the throes of it, and just wanted to share what I quickly discovered to be Rule Number One when painting kitchen cabinets.

{This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you click on one of the product links below I'll receive a small portion of any sales at no additional cost to you. I only share products I like and use.}

Rule Number One When Painting Kitchen Cabinets: 

Take Your Time

I'm sure it sounds lame, but it's the God's honest truth. 
I'm sorry if you expected some sort of magic answer, 
but I couldn't be more serious if I tried. 
Skipping steps is NOT an option. I mean, patience is a virtue, as Sister Lucilla always said in high school chemistry class. You need to take your time and make sure you don't skip any steps. We all know that once we start a DIY project we want it done ASAP (oh, or is that just me?), but no can do here.

So, what are the steps? I'm no expert by any means but since I'm in the trenches right now I thought I might be able to provide some insightful information you can use when planning YOUR kitchen cabinet transformation. So here goes:    

Step No. 1: Decide on a paint color(s)

paint canisters filled with colorful paint

It sounds like an easy enough task, right? Wrong! I don't know about you but I abhor choosing paint colors. It's almost as bad as picking curtains (don't ask). But it has to be done. So you need to be really sure about what colors you want to use, and look at, every day for the long haul.
paint canisters filled with colorful paint
At first glance you might think you only need to pick one color - the one for the cabinets. But what about the adjoining soffits/walls/doors/trim/ceiling fan blades/island? Yeah, it's not so easy now, is it? Our kitchen was overwhelmingly dark. With only one window and all dark cabinets and woodwork it made it almost impossible to brighten things up without painting the cabinets white. Which was fine with me since I've always loved the crisp, clean look of a white, modern farmhouse kitchen.
white paint can and brush

You also have to choose the exact shade of the color you want (of which there will be zillions) as well as which paint brand to use. Obviously, personal preference and brand loyalty will play a part here. Still, there are so many shades to choose from (even for white) that you may feel overwhelmed by it all. Take a deep breath and relax. It's perfectly normal to feel a little overwhelmed. Again, take your time. Save paint chips from Home Depot, Lowe's, etc. Scour home decor magazines for their favorite on-trend colors. Purchase small "sample" jars of your favorites and slap some on your walls and inside a cabinet door to get an idea as to how they'll look under different lighting conditions. I'll be sharing what paints I ended up using in a future post. But bottom line: go with what you really love.

Step No. 2: Calculate square footage

silver ruler

I'm no math whiz so I usually chicken out and have my math wizard husband figure this one out for me. However, I've found a few websites that can help you with the calculations. Try this Square Footage Calculator at Calculator Soup. 

You should be able to get a good idea after you plug in your numbers.

measuring tape

Square footage is tres important when determining how much paint to buy. Word to the wise - err on the side of caution and buy more paint, rather than less. And you know what they say:

Measure Twice
Cut Once 

measuring tape

Not that you'll be cutting anything per se, but I think you get my drift. Once you know the square footage you can go ahead and figure out how much paint you'll need. As a general rule, conventional wisdom states that one gallon of paint should cover anywhere from 250 to 400 square with one coat. I know that's a broad spectrum but that's the information that's out there. And most paint manufacturers provide you with their own estimated square foot coverage per gallon. Just go their website and find out! You can also read it on their label as well. 

Once you've got your square footage you just divide that number by, say, 250 square feet's worth of paint (to be safe) and that will give you the number of gallons to purchase. For example, if your kitchen is 225 square feet, you divide 225 by 250 (how many square feet that a particular can/brand will cover) and you get .9 of a gallon. So basically one gallon (or just shy of one gallon to be precise) of paint should take care of the job. You can also find more detailed information about how to calculate how much paint you'll be needing over at (How to Estimate Paint) For Dummies.

Step No. 3: Buy paint supplies

paint brushes

I will be providing you with a comprehensive list of supplies you'll need for painting your kitchen cabinets in a future post. But rest assured, today's list has more than enough items to give you a good idea of what you'll need to get started.

1. Paint
2. Primer/stain blocker (optional)
3. Paint brushes
4. Compact foam rollers, 4 inch
5. Foam roller apparatus/handle
6. Drop cloths (canvas, plastic) 
7. Painter's tape
8. Paint tray(s)
9. Paint stirrers (free from store)
10. Paper towels/baby wipes
11. Roll of plastic to cover kitchen items while painting
12. Flashlight
13. TSP cleaning solution
14. Sandpaper (various grits) and/or electric sander
15. Clean rags or shop towels

As I said this is not an exhaustive list. A series of future posts will talk about what I actually used in my own cabinet project.

Step No. 4: Prep all surfaces properly (This is HUGE, people!)

A). Clean

Really, this step is Huge. Failing to first clean your cabinets properly can result in a less-than-stellar paint job. Again, we all want that DIY project DONE, but taking your time here will really pay off in the long run!

I like to use Liquid TSP Substitute. You mix it with water, then apply it to your cabinet doors and cabinet boxes with clean rags or shop towels. You'll be amazed at how much gunk has built up on your cabinets over the years (especially the ones over the stove!) No rinsing is needed, just a little time to air dry.  

B). Sand

In order to rough up the cabinets (so they'll hold the paint better) you'll need to sand them down. First with a 150 grit sandpaper, then with a 220 grit sandpaper. You can sand them all by hand (ouch) or use an electric sander. In all honesty, if you have a big kitchen, you'll want to use an electric sander. If you have a small-ish kitchen you might consider doing it all by hand. After sanding you'll have to wipe everything down with a wet cloth or wet paper towels to remove all the dust.

C). Apply stain blocker/primer

Depending on the age and color of your cabinets (and type of wood) you may need to apply stain blocker and/or primer. You see, a funny thing can happen after painting wood cabinets. Something called tannins (brownish discoloration) can seep through your meticulous paint job and ruin the whole project. There are pure stain blockers, pure primers and combination stain blocker/primers-in-one. I highly recommend asking your local hardware store paint department employee their opinion on what you'll need. When all else fails, google it. 

Step No. 5: Begin Painting 

Whew! This is the step we've all been waiting for, finally! See what I mean about taking your time? Not to be a tease here but I can write an entire post about the painting process (which I fully intend to do). Right now just let me say that once you begin painting, the project takes on a life of its own. You'll really need to be able to go with the flow because I guarantee you will come up against various unexpected roadblocks along the way, figuring out how to deal with them as they occur.

My kitchen cabinet reveal is currently in the works. Chronicling such a big project is no small feat, so it's taking me longer to put together than it does for one of my usual posts. And if you've actually stuck with me and read this far, you get a treat: a sneak peek of the final project!
how to paint kitchen cabinet transformation by charm bracelet diva at home

 I'm not sure if you remember the "before" of this part of the kitchen, but trust me when I say it's like a totally new kitchen! You can see the painter's tape on the baseboard still, it's a work in progress! Sorry but I don't want to show you too much here. I've got LOTS of pictures and painting information for you in the works so stay tuned! I think you're really going to like the full reveal!

I hope you enjoyed reading about 
 Rule Number One When Painting Kitchen Cabinets.

Thanks so much for spending time with me today!

Don't forget to Pin it!

Dont miss another
thrifty DIY
home d├ęcor post!
(sign up for emails in my sidebar

or at the top and bottom of this page)


Leave a Comment!

Cecilia said...

That's for sure! And for the record, I want it done yesterday! :)
Have a good one,

My thrift store addiction said...

Kathleen, I am so with you on wanting my DIY projects done yesterday, lol! Having said that, of course you are absolutely right and I had to practice the same advice last year when I chalk painted a yard sale sofa. A year later, it looks and feels just as I'd hoped, and I'm convinced it's because I adhered to taking the time to apply multiple thin coats and then taking more time to wait 24 hours in between each coat. Your gorgeous sneak peek of the results speaks for itself! I'm sure following your progress will be so helpful for those needing to tackle similar projects. Perseverance has its rewards ;) said...

I'm proud of you for being brave enough to jump into a big project like that! Yes, you're right, prep is everything. It will be interesting to see the final result. And yes I agree, I want it done yesterday!

Sharon @ Blue Willow House said...

Girl, you are braver than I am. I would love to paint my kitchen cabinets but just don't have the nerve. I might get up the nerve to do the cabinets in my bathroom. Your sneak peek looks great.Can't wait for the final reveal.

GranthamLynn said...

Great post. Lots of good information! Thanks for sharing this.
I'd like to invite you to come over to The Fabulous Fall Party and link your Fall Theme posts. The party is over here:
Link any Fall Posts until Oct. 30. Let's party!

Unknown said...

Good for you, Kathleen! Painting kitchen cabinets is no small feat. We painted our cabinets (by hand) over five years ago, and I say never again. Did you consider buying a sprayer? Not only are they a huge time saver, the smooth finish you can achieve is amazing. Looking forward to your final reveal. Loving the sneak peek! Cynthia

Related Posts with Thumbnails