All Your Questions About Painting Kitchen Cabinets, Answered

published Oct 10, 2017
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(Image credit: Diana Liang)

Painting kitchen cabinets is a big job (even if you have a tiny kitchen!), so it makes sense that you’d have a lot of questions about the process. Here, we attempt to answer your biggest, most pressing questions.

(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)

1. Will my landlord let me paint my cabinets?

Maybe! It really depends on how old your cabinets are. We interviewed a few-dozen landlords and many of them were okay with the idea as long as the cabinets were decently old. A silver lining! We also got some tips on how to help convince them to give you the green light.

2. Should I do it myself or hire someone?

That really depends on how detail-oriented you can be and how much time you have to give to the project. Real talk: It’s a time-consuming task that requires a lot of prep work. If you’re down for the challenge, then by all means, do it! If you’d rather throw some money at the problem, we can help you estimate how much it will cost.

3. Is it better to spray the cabinets or paint them with a brush?

You’re going to find a mix of people on Team Spray versus Team Paint. We asked Chris and Lexi Dowding, of Michigan-based SwatchOut (the husband-and-wife team who showed us how to do the job right), and they always recommend painting with a brush and a roller. For one, the sprayer is just an extra piece of equipment you have to rent, buy, or borrow. Also, learning how to use and adjust the sprayer without getting a drippy mess is tough. And Chris says the paint is often more likely to flake off when you spray it.

4. Do I really have to take the doors off the frame?

Yes. Yes you do. You can’t really hit every inch of the wood if doors are still on the frames or drawer faces are still on the drawers. And then you also run the risk of painting over the hinges, and that could lead to problems over time. Not only do you have to take the doors and drawer faces off, but you also have to keep track of what goes where.

(Image credit: Diana Liang)

5. Do I have to sand before I prime?

Nope! This may go against everything you think you know about painting, so hear us out. “The problem with sanding down to the wood is that it creates the potential for moisture to seep in or out of the wood,” says Chris. Moisture and wood can obviously be a bad combination. And there’s obviously lots more moisture (steam! Spills! Splatters!) in a kitchen than, say, a bedroom where you may want to paint a wooden dresser. Instead, Chris and Lexi use a strong resin-based primer that works as a sealer and then they sand after priming to create a surface the paint can stick to.

(Image credit: Diana Liang)

6. What’s the best kind of paint?

Walk down a paint aisle in even the smallest hardware store and the number of options is overwhelming. For this job, there’s one can that many pros swear by: Benjamin Moore Advance. Another good option? Chalk paint.

More on Paint for Kitchen Cabinets

7. How long will painted cabinets look good?

We get it! If you’re going to go through the whole process (or pay someone else to), you’re going to want it to hold up over time. And it will — especially if you keep a few things in mind.

Do you have any more questions? Leave them in the comments and we’ll try to get you some answers!