Give your kitchen a face-lift without draining your wallet by painting the cabinets.
Wood cabinet refinishing entails removing existing paint, sanding the surface (depending on the type of paint youâre using) and repainting the bare wood. This project revives cabinets that have become scratched, faded or discolored, and it breathes new life into an old kitchen.
âRefinishing cabinets is a fantastic, cost-effective way to transform the look and feel of a kitchen,â says Dan DiClerico, home expert at HomeAdvisor, a remodeling project resource. Itâs also a fraction of the cost of doing a full kitchen remodel, which runs, on average, $22,632, according to HomeAdvisor. Even replacing old kitchen cabinets with new ones starts at about $4,000 for a typical 10-by-12-foot kitchen, according to HouseLogic, an online resource for homeowners.
The average cost to repaint kitchen cabinets is about $1,000 if you hire a professional, HomeAdvisor says. If you do it yourself, your cost would be $200 to $600, depending on the brand of paint and the supplies you have to buy, according to the Kitchn, a kitchen design and renovation website. You might already own some of the supplies youâll need.
Though cabinet refinishing isnât as large of an undertaking as a full kitchen remodel, itâs still a big project that takes time, patience and elbow grease. Before diving into step-by-step instructions, letâs look at how to choose the right paint.
A quick primer on paint
Interior paint comes in six main types: matte, matte enamel, eggshell, satin, gloss and semigloss. Either semigloss or satin is best for cabinet refinishing, DiClerico says. Semigloss is the most durable and stain-resistant, and it wonât lose its luster if you scrub it with a sponge.
Want a more modern look? âThe trend in kitchens these days is for a softer matte look, including on countertops and floors, as opposed to the high polish that was popular a decade ago,â DiClerico says.
A number of specialty paints also can be used on cabinets. Chalkboard paint, for example, âcould be a fun option, converting a cabinet or pantry door into a message center,â DiClerico says. Chalk paint (not the same as chalkboard paint) is a good option if you want to avoid sanding first. But it can require multiple coats and still appear uneven in places, says designer and artist Jeanne Oliver.
If youâre going for an antique look, consider milk paint. Its organic formula, which includes milk and color pigments, is a nontoxic option that delivers an old-fashioned, translucent finish, DiClerico says, but âspecialty paints wonât give you anywhere near the protection of a traditional high-performing latex paint.â
Whichever finish you choose, select a high-quality product. âThere are plenty of fine options in the $25-per-gallon range,â he says. âStay away from the $10-per-gallon economy stuff. Youâll end up needing multiple coats, so it might not save you much in the long run. Plus it wonât stand up to the demands of a busy kitchen.â
If you have doubts about which paint to select, ask for help at your local paint store.
A step-by-step guide
First, remove all food and kitchen items from your cabinets and drawers. Then label all doors and drawers with their respective location so you can reinstall them correctly. Put labels on the inside of doors and drawers so they donât interfere with the refinishing process, DiClerico says.
Remove the drawers, doors, knobs and other hardware with a screwdriver. (A little WD-40 can help you remove rusted hinges.) Store the items in a plastic bag if youâre going to reuse them. If you plan to install new hardware in a different style, fill the existing hardware holes with wood putty. This gives you a clean surface to drill in the new hardware later.
Next, clean layers of grease and dirt off the cabinets using a wood cleaner, trisodium phosphate or mineral spirits. âIf you donât clean them, the new paint finish isnât going to go on properly,â DiClerico says.
Afterward, sand the wood using a medium 60- to 100-grit sandpaper either manually or using an electric sander, concentrating on rough areas where the existing paint or varnish has bubbled or peeled.
Then lightly sand the entire cabinet surface in the direction of the wood grain. âYou donât want to be gouging the wood with a heavy hand,â DiClerico says. âYouâre doing a light sanding to knock the shine off the existing finish so that your new paint can be absorbed into the wood.â
After sanding, clear the cabinet surfaces of dust with a damp rag and let them dry. When dry, apply a coat of primer. A paint roller will make quick work. âPrimer not only helps bond the paint to the cabinets, but also improves their durability and decreases the chances of bubbling and peeling later on,â DiClerico says. âIf you can do this work outside, things will dry more quickly, and youâll have better ventilation.â
After the primer is applied, itâs time to paint the cabinets. DiClerico recommends applying two coats of paint using a high-quality paint brush, which will be able to reach any crevices in the door detail. (If youâre working with flat-fronted cabinets, a roller will do the trick.) For an even finish, âitâs a good idea to do a light sanding between coats with a fine-grit sandpaper, say 220-grit,â he says.
After painting, let the cabinets dry. âIt might take a full day to let them dry depending on the humidity,â DiClerico says, and it will take the paint at least a week â and up to a month in some cases â to fully cure. Most people donât want to live that long with an unfinished kitchen, but if you can wait a couple of days before reattaching the doors and hardware, that will help protect the finish. If not, treat them gently for the first week or so, opening and closing softly, and avoid cleaning the painted surfaces with a sponge or cloth.
Then step back and bask in the glory of your newly refinished kitchen.