DIY Home

Kitchen Face Lift: Part 2

I enjoy painting the walls of my house but I’ve never really enjoyed painting kitchen cabinets. Over the years, the paints have gotten so much better, it’s not that big of a deal anymore, though still a lot of hard work. Thankfully, I have an orbital sander. I love that tool.

When taking off the cabinet doors and removing the drawers, I made a map and tagged each door with its original location so they would fit properly when reattached. Notice the blue tape in the photo below on each piece. I did not remove the front panels on the drawers as these are old cabinets and I wasn’t sure if I would damage them in such a way that I couldn’t get them back on.


I put on a mask, gloves and goggles to strip the cabinets first. Instead of TSP (Trisodium Phosphate), I used Klean Strip Easy Liquid Sander Deglosser. These cabinets had been painted numerous times over the years but the finish was missing in many places. If the finish is thicker, or you feel you need more power, use TSP. I went with Klean Strip because it is biodegradable and can be used indoors. Make sure you research safety tips when using TSP.

I then filled in holes with Plastic Wood. This stuff is amazing. It really does a great job hiding imperfections. Next, I used the orbital sander to remove the rest of the paint. There were still a couple of layers but I was able to get down close to the wood without making it uneven or leaving round indentations. My inclination is to grind the heck out of it but if the doors are old, you run the risk of an uneven look and the door breaking apart. There is some serious satisfaction when removing all of that old, gunky paint. If you’ve used an orbital sander, you know what I’m talkin’ about. 

I set up shop in the garage to paint. I put down plastic then wrapped the drawers to protect them from excess spray. You can lay the doors across saw horses but I discovered these little plastic points at Home Depot that lift the doors off the ground a few inches and I can stand over them for better coverage. 

Let’s talk paint. You need a good base coat, preferably tinted to your top coat, and it needs to adhere like glue to your cabinets. One of the best is made by INSL-X.  Prime Lock is used a lot but I went with a tinted Aqua Lock Plus. Its multipurpose, 100% acrylic, stain blocking, mold resistant and great for high humidity areas. I have a convection oven and bake a lot so between the steam escaping from the oven and the constant cleaning of the counters, my cabinets are exposed to wet.

For my top coat, I used Benjamin Moore Advance in Midnight Dream (satin). The pros swear by Advance and they would be right. It’s an alkyd paint and can stand up to abuse. It’s low VOC, covers well (no bumps), and cleans up like a latex paint. I slightly watered it down to thin it when using my Wagner paint sprayer for the doors. Some people use sprayers, some just use a roller. It’s up to you and whether you want to buy a sprayer, rent one or wing it. There are some great roller naps now that put a nice even coat on flat surfaces. I used a mini paint roller with a 1/2 inch nap to cover the drawer fronts and edges. I keep them on hand in case I need to touch up the cabinets. It freshens them up as time goes by and you can’t tell you painted over an area. It’s one of the many reasons I love this paint. 

While the cabinet doors were curing, I painted the face frames. You can see in the left photo above the gray tinted INSL-X primer and in the right photo the finished Midnight Dream black. Allow 24 – 48 hours for the primer to dry before applying the top coat.  

I let the cabinets cure for seven days before reattaching them. Some say five days, some seven, some longer. I waited another week before installing the new aged brass Strande Collection hardware from Restoration Hardware….a wonderful birthday present from my best friend, Rebecca. It’s really nice and adds some modern class to the kitchen. See the first photo in this post to view the hardware.