Home updates · Kate

Kitchen Cabinets, pt. 2

What Paul was probably thinking about me since I never cook. 😉

Otherwise known as the “What you should do, but what you’ll probably end up doing” post.

Have you been pondering giving your kitchen a face lift? Have you been dreading walking into your kitchen because you hate your cabinets?  Is the darkness of your kitchen just driving you nuts…or is your current space just too bright?? (It’s true!!! My parents had painted all their kitchen cabinets white around 1995…but they also had a white linoleum floor and my mom said she felt like she was living in a hospital.)

Here’s what I’ve decided about the process now that my kitchen update is complete. If you truly hate your space, then fix it. Major upgrades aren’t always in the budget, but with a lot of hard work and time, you can change your space without breaking the bank. Or, maybe you’ve got the money on your side, but not the time, in which case…uhh, lucky you…I can’t speak to that.

So, was it worth all the time…the late nights…the unusable kitchen for over a week?

A thousand times yes.

Follow these steps for painting your kitchen cabinets and I promise, I’ll save you a LOT of googling time.

  1. Answer these two questions FIRST. What kind of kitchen cabinets do you have? and Where’s your working space going to be?  Both of these will steer you in the right direction.
  2. Decide what’s MOST important to you and don’t lose sight of the end result.
  3. Gather your supplies…Prepping supplies, cleaning supplies, and painting supplies.
  4. If you’ve decided to take off your cabinet doors, determine if you’re going to be using the same hinges. Make sure you label your doors as you take them off. If you’re taking off the hinges (which I highly recommend) then label them, too! (In whatever OCD labeling method works for you). If you’re not taking off your cabinet doors then make sure you’ve decided whether or not you’re going to paint over the hinges before you begin.
  5. Prep your space and clean your cabinets…like really clean them.
  6. Paint in whatever method you’ve chosen.
  7. FOLLOW THE RECOMMENDED DRYING TIMES BETWEEN COATS! or in other words, have patience.
  8. Re-attach hardware….then rehang your cabinets.
  9. Stand back, admire and maybe even shed a tear or two….from the newness or the exhaustion….it’ll be hard to tell.

Now….for my specific steps….


  1. Answer to question to 1: I have 50 year old kitchen cabinets who’ve only ever been stained. I needed to take them off the hinges and sand them and really, really scrub them. Honestly, this was the only reason I jumped off the chalk paint bandwagon. I knew I’d be scrubbing them down to a non-shiny wood, so I wasn’t worried about a new coat of paint properly sticking to them. I determined that I would be brave and use the tried and true oil paint. The potential yellowing of oil paint would take so long to notice, but the prospect of cleaning my kitchen cabinets and having latex or an alkyd paint rub off or chip off would probably occur sooner…and that scared me more. In hindsight…I’d choose oil based paint again. Answer to question 2: I don’t have a garage and I didn’t want to paint my cabinets outside…this meant using an electric sander or a paint sprayer was out of the question. Which meant, I’d have to hand sand and brush the paint.
  2. Getting rid of the dark wood cabinets was my goal. Having perfectly smooth-factory looking cabinets was NOT my goal. That being said, I also didn’t want them to look like crap, so I knew following steps 4-7 would be crucial.
  3. I had the usual screwdriver, a drop cloth to put on top of my counters, and my paint supplies-a hand held paint container with several plastic liners, a purdy 2.5 all paint types brush (my dad helped and used a specific brush for oil paint) and a 4 in. roller & small plastic roller tray.
  4. The hinge debate was just about as big as the what type of paint to use debate around here. Our hinges are so old that choosing to use new ones meant drilling new holes on both the cabinet boxes and the doors. The updated versions of the same type of hinge are being made in different sizes. I don’t particularly like my hinges but keeping them & working with them sounded significantly more appealing to me than spending money on new hinges and drilling new holes and worrying about leveling and perfectly hanging cabinets. We first numbered each door, created numbered bags, took the doors (with the hinges still attached to them) off the boxes, laid out all the doors, then removed the hinges. This is where my OCD drastically kicked in. As I took the hinges off, I labeled each one (with a sharpie) with either top or bottom depending on which part of the cabinet it came from…then I wrote a T or B on the top and bottom of each hinge. Work smarter, not harder, right?

IMG_04675. I put a drop cloth down on top of my dining room table, set out the cabinet doors and got to work. Once the hinges were removed, I wiped every cabinet door down with odorless mineral spirits for a quick clean and I dried them off as I went. I then sanded using a 200 grit sandpaper and made sure I specifically got every little nook and cranny and edge. I did this for the uppers only because I was using white paint and wanted to really make sure the upper cabinets were cleaned and sanded well. Next, I cleaned them with TSP, then used a damp cloth to wipe off the TSP, then immediately dried them off so the excess water or TSP wouldn’t sit on them. I followed this up with another intense sanding and used a tack cloth right before I painted to remove the dust. The lower cabinets received a good TSP cleaning just as I did on the uppers and one sanding.

6.  Each one of the upper cabinets got two coats of primer. I used Zinsser Oil-based primer. Then they each got two coats of Sherwin Williams ProClassic Oil-Based paint. I debated on shades of white. Seriously, they exist. If I ever created a color of white, I’d call it snowman poop. Anyway, I read a blog post from a lady who decided to use SW’s Alabaster white because of it’s creamy undertones. And I debated using it to ‘warm up’ the space. Then I remembered that my countertops are already in the cream/brown family and I didn’t want anything to pull out those shades any stronger…nor did I want cabinets who would potentially look yellowy…so I went with SW’s pure white. I chose SW’s Drizzling Rain from their HGTV line…also in oil-based for the lower cabinets. The lower’s got one coat of primer and two of paint.


As soon as the boxes were painted white, I noticed the dark gap between the cabinets and the ceiling.

7. The upper cabinets got a full 48 hours drying time after each coat of primer. I remembered to use a tack cloth on the upper cabinets before painting the first coat


of paint. I wish I would ave remembered to do the same for the lower cabinets. I only gave the lower cabinets 24 hours for the primer before I moved onto the paint.  I waited another 48 hours after the first coat of paint before doing the second coat. Then I waited another 48 hours before I added the hardware and rehung them.


8. This step was by far my favorite. It was easy peasy thanks to my OCD labeling methods. I had also bought new handles so I was super excited to install them.

Old handles. A little too ornate for me.
A little sturdier. Still has a touch of brass to match the hinges.









9. It’s been 3 days since the cabinets have been finished. We also bought a rug to hide as much of the ugly floor as possible. Between the new rug and the updated cabinets, I still walk into my kitchen and feel like I’m in someone else’s house. I actually love my countertops now.

First pic I snapped after finishing hanging the lower cabinet doors. Added a solid navy (I know it looks black) valance.


No more gap by the ceiling!!! I had our painters caulk it.

I need to take a picture in the daylight…when it isn’t raining, but I’m too busy walking through and admiring the new space. I have visions of a beautiful porcelain tile-slate looking floor, but in the meantime, the pretty carpet will do just fine.

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