How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets

Painting kitchen cabinets.

I want to repaint my kitchen cabinets. Do I need to sand and prime them before painting? Also, what kind of paint should I use?” -Courtney

Hi Courtney,

Start by cleaning your cabinets thoroughly to remove any dirt and grease. Next, take off the hinges and knobs, and lightly sand the cabinets to remove the gloss for better adhesion (or use a liquid deglosser).

While priming never hurts, whether it’s necessary or not is determined by the type of paint (oil or latex) currently on your cabinets and the type you plan to use for repainting. If you’re changing the type of paint or painting over natural wood cabinets, then it’s important to prime the cabinets first.

If you are repainting with the same type of paint that is on them now, then priming is optional. To determine the type of paint on your cabinets, and learn more about primers in general, read our article A Homeowner’s Guide to Paint Primers.

Use a high quality woodwork enamel paint on your kitchen cabinets. Either an oil or latex paints can be used, though they each have their advantages and disadvantages:

  • Oil-based paint has a smoother surface and dries harder than latex; but it requires a solvent like mineral spirits for clean up, has a strong odor, and dries slowly.
  • Latex paint cleans up easily with water, comes in low and no VOC (volatile organic compounds) formulas, and dries quickly; but it shows brush marks more and is softer and tends to imprint, allowing items placed on shelves to stick unless shelf paper is applied.

I prefer a medium gloss (such as semigloss or eggshell) for kitchen cabinets, though high gloss hold up well. Avoid using flat paint on kitchen cabinet, since it doesn’t clean as well.

Good luck with your project,


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