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How to Paint Old Kitchen Cabinets (page 1 of 2)

Learn how to give your kitchen a whole new look by painting your old wood cabinets.

More in Painting

  • Time


  • Price Range

    $100 - $250

  • Difficulty

    Moderate to Hard

Here's How You Do It:

Step 1: Remove Cabinet Doors and Drawers

Remove the cabinet doors and drawers and remove all pulls, knobs, latches and other hardware from these parts. Place the hardware and screws in plastic bags inside the cabinets where they will be easy to locate when you're ready to reassemble.

Number each door and its corresponding location as you remove them. Do not mix them up or the hinges may not line up properly when you reinstall them. If you are painting only the drawer fronts, you won’t have to remove the attached slides. If you do need to remove the slides, mark them and their locations as well.

Step 2: Clean the Cabinets

Even if they don't look dirty, grease and grime have likely worked their way into the surface of your cabinets. Following the instructions on the box, mix trisodium phosphate (TSP) with water. While wearing gloves, sponge the mixture on both sides of the cabinets and wipe off with a clean cloth.

Step 3: Repair Holes, Dents or Gouges

If your cabinets have any holes or gouges you will need to fill them. If you plan on using new hardware that is a different size than the original, you will have to fill the old hardware holes before painting. Apply tape to the back surface of the cabinet doors underneath those holes. Then fill holes with the wood filler. Wipe away excess with a damp cloth.

Next, squeeze about a 3/4" strip of the hardener from the tube. Mix with putty knife, and spread into holes and dents, slightly overfilling.

spread hardener into holes and dents

Step 4: Sand Then Clean the Surfaces

Allow the filled areas to dry, then use sandpaper to smooth out the surface of the cabinets.

If your repainting project is just a facelift for the cabinets, you don’t need to sand and paint the inside of the cabinets; mask off the interiors with painters’ tape for a clean finish and sand only the front surfaces and visible edges of the cabinet face frames.

Use a wood sanding block to prevent rounding over the wood edges. When sanding, there is no need to remove all of the old paint if it is sound and well-adhered; just roughen the surface to provide the new paint with a firm, clean base for better adhesion. Pay particular attention to especially worn areas of old finish, which typically get the most use. Also be sure to sand over shiny areas to deglaze any remaining previous finish. Stubborn finishes may require rubbing with denatured alcohol and fine steel wool.

If the old paint is flaking off in places, the original finish did not adhere well to the wood surface. This is typically due to moisture or greasy residue getting under the paint layer or into the wood itself, which can be expected in kitchens. Sand these areas to bare wood and spot-prime with a stain-killing primer/sealer before repainting. Wherever you sand down to bare wood, try to blend or “feather” the edges where the old paint meets the wood so the new paint will lay flat, and the paint edges will not be visible or “telegraph” through the new finish.

Thoroughly vacuum the sanding dust from all surfaces. If you have a pneumatic air compressor, use high-pressure air to blow the dust out of crevices or molding details. Wipe down the areas to be painted with a tack cloth to pick up any remaining sanding residue

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