How to Resurface Your Kitchen Cabinets

Painting Your Cabinets

Picking out paint colors can be stressful -- but not for these two.
Picking out paint colors can be stressful -- but not for these two.
Tanya Constantine/Getty Images

Painting is much cheaper than a DIY refacing job, so if money is tight, it may be your best choice. Some people also prefer the look of a painted cabinet to a natural wood surface. Like refacing, preparation for the job is crucial for a successful result.

Step one: Clean the surface. A clean surface is essential when you're painting grimy kitchen cabinets. Remove the doors, drawers and hardware to make everything easier. Get some trisodium phosphate (TSP) cleaner from your hardware store and be sure to follow the safety precautions listed on the product. This cleanser will remove all the greasy buildup that's sure to be on your cabinets. After you wash, rinse the cabinets with a sponge and some clean water.

Step two: Sand the surface. Lightly hand sand the entire surface with 150-grit sandpaper. After you sand, use a tack cloth to clean up the dust and then wipe it clean with a wet sponge.

Step three: Apply a primer coat. If your cabinets have never been painted, you should apply a primer coat. Primer is a base coat, usually white, that improves the bond with the paint. If you're painting the cabinets a darker color (like a red), the primer may be a lighter shade of your paint color. If the cabinets have already been painted and you're repainting in a similar color palette, you can skip the primer coat and move directly to step four. Generally, oil-based paints require an oil-based primer and latex primers are used with latex paints. Apply latex with a synthetic fiber brush -- oil-based primer needs a natural bristle brush.

Step four: Paint away. When it comes time to buy your paint, don't go with the cheapest option -- you get what you pay for. Latex paints dry quicker and are easier to clean up than oil-based paints. Oil-based paints may give you a tougher and smoother surface. There are also paints that are made specifically to stand up to the rigors of a kitchen or bathroom. Glossy finishes are easier to clean and typically have a tougher "shell" than matte finishes. This decision really comes down to your tastes, though.

You'll also get what you pay for in the quality of your brush. A nice high-quality brush isn't cheap, but it's well worth the money. Don't use foam applicators and avoid using a roller as well. The best final coat will come from a 2.5- or 3-inch brush. You'll need to apply at least two coats of paint -- maybe even three, depending on how the second coat looks.

After the second coat is fully dry, carefully reinstall all the hardware, followed by the drawer and cabinet fronts and you're all done. For more information about home renovation, please clean the paint from your fingers and click forward to the next page.

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