When painting existing kitchen cabinets:
- Clean the cabinets thoroughly to remove any grease.
- Sand the cabinets with 220-grit sandpaper to remove any gloss.
- Wipe the cabinets down to remove any sanding dust.
- Prime with an oil-base or alkyd primer.
- Fill hinge holes or other imperfections with two-part automotive body filler.
- Sand the body filler down flush with the cabinets.
- Prime any patched spots.
- Sand the primer lightly, and remove any dust.
- Apply two topcoats of oil-based or latex enamel paint.
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An old set of kitchen cabinets can easily be updated by painting the cabinet boxes and installing new doors and drawer fronts. Ordering the doors from a cabinetmaker or home center is the easy part, painting the cabinet boxes takes some effort and much of that is in preparation.
The first step is sanding the old finish to remove the gloss from it. 220-grit sandpaper will do the job, but it goes much quicker if you use a pad sander instead of doing all of it by hand. After sanding you’ll need to wipe the boxes down to remove the sanding dust before you apply a coat of primer.
The pros use an oil-based or alkyd primer to seal in any stain that remains in the wood and create a surface that the topcoat of paint can bond to securely.
If you’re filling in any holes from old hinges, you’ll want to do that now using a two-part automotive body filler. This stuff dries much harder than typical wood filler, but that also makes it harder to sand, so don’t over-do it. The filler dries quickly and once it does, it should be sanded down with the surrounding surface.
After a light sanding on the rest of the primed surface, the cabinet boxes are ready for finish paint. Again, many pros prefer oil-based paint for cabinets, but there are also some very rugged latex enamels out there. The key here is to continue working the wet edge of the paint to minimize any brush strokes.
After two coats the boxes will look like new. Install your new doors, and the project is done.