How to repaint cabinets

Sep 22, 2010 at 7:08 p.m. ET

In many American homes, the kitchen is still the traditional family gathering place. And, after many years of heavy use, most of these kitchens could use a little face lift. Although painting your cabinets may be an involved and protracted project, it is still more cost effective and less upsetting to your home life than installing new cabinets. Here are the basic steps to revitalize those tired looking cabinets.

Painted kitchen cabinets

Step 1:

Decide whether you want to use an oil-based or latex paint. The advantage of oil-based paints is that they last a very long time and withstand the kind of abuse cabinets often endure for many years. Latex paints, on the other hand, are less sturdy, but they apply very easily, dry quickly, leave less odor, and are easy to touch up. Due to the heavy use the cabinets endure, high-gloss paints usually provide exceptional results.

Step 2:

Remove all your cabinet doors as well as the hardware. If your cabinets have glass panes, consider painting the interior. Otherwise, plan on painting the outside surface only—this will save the time and hassle of emptying and refilling the cabinets of their contents. If you're still unsure at this point which paint is best for your situation, take an unfastened cabinet door to a home improvement store and seek advice from someone at the paint desk.

Step 3:

Clean the surfaces of all your cabinets and doors. Most professionals use trisodium phosphate (TSP) to remove the accumulation of grunge and grease that has made its home on your cabinets throughout the years. Follow the manufacturer's instructions and allow your cabinets ample time to dry.

Step 4:

Sand all the surfaces that you intend to paint. This removes some of the previous glossy surface and creates microscopic grooves that encourage good bonding between the surface of the wood and the primer paint.

Step 5:

Prime your cabinets and doors. Applying one or two coats of the right kind of primer helps your paint spread and dry evenly. To get the best results, use a primer designed for the paint you've selected. For oil-based paints, use an oil primer; for latex paints, use a water-based primer. For the best finish, make sure to allow the primer ample time to dry. Applying paint to a still-wet primer surface will cause a multitude of visible sins.

Step 6:

Once dry, give your primed surface a light sanding to eliminate any imperfections in the surface.

Step 7:

Paint your cabinets with your selected paint. No matter the kind of paint selected, it is always a good idea to keep the kitchen well-ventilated. For the best results, use a pneumatic sprayer, if available to you. Otherwise, use a good quality 2- to 3-inch paintbrush and apply the paint in very thin coats built up over time.

Applying one or two thick coats of paint tend to run and show imperfections. Thin coats are apt to be more durable and give you many more years of satisfaction. Between each coat, you can lightly sand with 400-grit sandpaper to get a really professional look. This fine sandpaper maintains the smooth surface you created when you finished applying the primer. Apply additional coats until you are pleased with the coverage.

Step 8:

Reapply the hardware and remount the doors on the cabinets once the paint has thoroughly dried. If you've made changes to your home in recent years, you may wish to buy new hardware to match your new home style.

Home how-to

How to repaint cabinets

Painting kitchen cabinets is an easy and inexpensive way to bring old cabinets back to life. host Meghan Carter shows you how to paint kitchen cabinets and offers a few inspirational decorating ideas for really dressing up your kitchen cabinets.

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