If contemporary pop culture is any indication, we are currently obsessed with the home makeover. From shows like Queer Eye to Flip or Flop to The Home Edit, there’s something about that dramatic reveal of a renovated fixer-upper that has us at the edge of our to-be-reupholstered seats.
If you’re ready to go beyond reality television and go all Bobby Berk in your culinary space, here are some tips and tricks on how to paint kitchen cabinets like an expert, compliments of the pros.
STEP 1: CONSIDER COST AND TIME
We’re not going to sugarcoat it: Tackling a kitchen cabinet paint job is not exactly something you can finish by noon on a Saturday. But tackling the project yourself does pay off—literally. A professional paint job can easily top $6,000 for an average kitchen, while doing it yourself can come in as low as $200 for paint and supplies. As for project length, a full kitchen takes six to seven days, so plan on a few nights of eating out.
STEP 2: EXAMINE YOUR CABINETS
Rule number one: Before you break out the roller, take a look at the condition of what you’re working with.“Any small chips or cracks to the doors can also easily be repaired with a wood filler,” Berk says. But keep in mind, not all cabinet doors and drawers are paint-worthy. If the veneer is peeling or the woodwork is warped, you might be better off buying new unfinished drawer fronts and doors to replace the beat-up ones.
STEP 3: PREP THE SPACE
We know, you’re eager to put brush to paint. But a little upfront prep ensures that your countertops and backsplash don’t get an unanticipated paint job of their own. Empty the cabinets, clear the counters, and move furniture that’s in the way, so you have plenty of work space. Give the room a thorough dusting to prevent particles such as pollen from settling on the wet paint. Next, cover the backsplash, counters, and floor with brown builder’s paper or plastic tarps.
STEP 4: REMOVE THE DOORS AND HARDWARE
Yes, it’s a major time suck. And yes, you will be tempted to go rogue and skip this step. But removing the cabinet doors gives you access to all surfaces of the cabinet. So unless you are going for a bolder free-form flair, don’t cut this corner and do remove that door. Starting at one end of the kitchen (working clockwise or counterclockwise) use a drill or manual screwdriver to remove the cabinet hinges, doors, drawers, and hardware. If you’re painting only the door fronts, you do not need to remove the sides.
STEP 5: APPLY LIQUID SANDPAPER
In the past, you had to clean, strip, sand, and generally break your back to prep a surface for paint. But the home improvement industry has evolved beyond soap and scrub brushes—and even sandpaper. There’s a product called M-1 Paint Gloss Remover (you can also use liquid sandpaper) that cleans and deglosses the surface. Sans sawdust. “This stuff is by no exaggeration a miracle product,” Brabham says. “Nobody sands cabinets anymore.” To use, wipe the M-1 gloss remover all over the cabinet doors—on the sides, across the top, on the back—and it will be dry in 20 minutes.
STEP 6: CHOOSE YOUR PAINT AND APPLICATION TOOLS
You’ve gone Pinterest happy on dream kitchen colors and you’ve maxxed out your phone storage space with apps to help you find the perfect paint shade. But you’ve now come to your moment of reckoning. While we can’t tell you what color to choose (Berk says green kitchen cabinets are his new obsession), a word on paint type (there are two main categories, latex and oil-based paint) might help with the decision process.
STEP 7: APPLY PRIMER AND PAINT
Armed with the right tools, you’re ready to put paint to the surface. Prepare the sprayer or paint bucket, and begin with your first layer of primer. Start with the backs of each door, lining them up on the two-by-fours. Let those dry, then flip them over and spray the other side. “This is the part of the process where everybody gets scared, as that first layer of primer is going to look like something a six-year-old went to town on,” Brabham says. “Don’t panic. You’re just giving your cabinet a good base, and each layer gets progressively better.”
STEP 8: PUT IT ALL BACK TOGETHER
Now you are ready to return everything to its proper place for the final reveal. Using the same drill or screwdriver, reattach the drawer fronts and doors to the hinges and hardware. Slide the drawers back in place.