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Should I paint my kitchen cabinets?

If your kitchen cabinets are an eyesore but you don't have the budget to replace, consider how paint can be used to transform kitchen cabinets.


Painting kitchen cabinets is an affordable way to give a kitchen an instant update, but there are things that you need to consider before grabbing that paint and paintbrush. We look at what needs to be done before painting, and also at the pros and cons of different types of paint, so that you can consider painting your own kitchen cabinets.

Before you paint

Before you consider painting, take a close look at your kitchen cabinets. There's no point in wasting money on paint if they are chipped, the laminate is peeling off, or the doors have water damage. If this is the case, it might be better to look at replacing damaged doors or re-facing cabinet frames with edging beforehand.

Replacing doors is an easy DIY project that you can do yourself, or hire a carpenter/handyman to do it for you. However, it's not easy to source older design doors, and these may have to be specially ordered. Alternatively, if you don't want to go to the expense of having to have one or two doors specially made, it will probably work out far cheaper to replace all the doors and have these with a simple design that can be routed, or a basic Shaker style design.

Prepping kitchen cabinets

Choosing to paint your own kitchen cabinets will save you a bundle, but you have to be prepared to put in the time and effort. If you don't want to go this route, and would prefer to have someone paint the cabinets for you, there are plenty of companies that offer a kitchen cabinet painting service. These companies specialise in cost effective alternatives to replacing your drab cabinets and cupboards.

GOOD TO KNOW: Find all the tools, materials and supplies for your kitchen project at Builders Warehouse.

After assessing the condition of your existing cabinets and doors - see tips on kitchen cabinet repairs here - and undertaking necessary repairs or replacements, you will need to remove doors and fittings. Number the doors to make it easy to re-fit once the project is complete.

Make sure to have a space where you can work unhindered for the duration of the project. Doors and drawers will need to be sanded according to the finish and paint you apply, plus you'll need space to do the painting. You may need to sand down the edges of the cabinet face frame if you are changing the colour, so invest in a sander that has a micro filter, or have a vacuum cleaner handy when sanding to suck up most of the dust.

Sanding kitchen cabinets

You're going to want to equip yourself with a variety of sanders, especially if you have cabinets with detailing. Depending on how many layers of paint or varnish have been applied over the years, if the doors are foil-wrapped or laminate, you need to at least de-gloss the finish before applying primer and paint. Even chalk paint requires a light sanding before application, to ensure a long-lasting finish.

An Orbital Sander is great for large, flat areas, and you'll save time and money with an orbital sander that accepts rectangular Velcro or smooth pads, where you can also substitute with regular sandpaper. For hard-to-reach areas on doors and cabinets, or where detailing is involved, you could consider a multi-function tool with sanding attachment, or a multitool and sanding ring. However, if you don't want the expense of buying additional tools, you can use a sanding sponge and sanding block.

Painting kitchen cabinets

Now that all the prep has been done, you're ready to start painting the cabinets. Modern paints give you plenty of options to choose from for painting your kitchen cabinets. So many, in fact, it can be overwhelming to choose the right one. The easiest ways to determine the best paint for the project is to consider budget, time and style.

Chalk Paint: We chose chalk paint first as it's easy to apply and requires very little sanding beforehand. This ultra matt finish is suited to most kitchen designs and the colour selection is on trend. Unless you opt to go with the spray-on Rust-Oleum Chalked, application is with a paintbrush. It is essential to apply a protective top coat after application.

Rust-Oleum Spray Paint: We've gone with Rust-Oleum because of their vast range of spray paints, the coverage they provide, and the durability of the finish. You can also choose between a matt, satin or gloss finish in colour or metallic. Follow the instructions on the can for correct application and work in a well ventilated space, with plenty of drop cloths to cover up and protect from overspray.

Acrylic Paint: Today's acrylic paint is ideal for a wide scope of applications, including kitchen cabinets. Application is done using a paintbrush and foam roller combination to ensure a smooth finish, or you can use a Bosch PFS spray system for a professional finish. You also have options as concerns the finish for your painted cabinets. Choose a matt paint that is easy to sand for a distressed look and top off with 2 to 3 coats of clear acrylic sealer, or apply a sheen/gloss finish for a modern kitchen.

Waterbased Enamel Paint: The gel formula for most waterbased enamel paints make them easy to apply with a paintbrush and they offer a high level of protection for kitchen cabinets.

Select the best paint for your particular project and apply to cabinet doors. Take your time and don't rush this step - you want a professional finish that doesn't look as though it has been painted in a rush.

If necessary you may also have to paint the cabinet frames to match the doors.  

Finish off your painted kitchen with new hardware that complements the look.


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