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Cabinet Refinishing How to Guide

How to get professional kitchen cabinet painting results

Thinking about spray painting your kitchen cabinets? You’ve come to the right place for answers about the entire process. In this post you will learn how to set up and mask, prepare the kitchen cabinet hardware, prep the kitchen cabinets for paint, tools and equipment, dust extraction, spray equipment, primers, repairs, finish coat process, handling of painted doors and drawers, and clean up for kitchen cabinet painting. 
Follow through this comprehensive post for professional kitchen cabinet painting.
Alright, so, you want to paint your kitchen cabinets. Replacement kitchen cabinets cost a fortune and the cost to paint kitchen cabinets meets your budget. 
There are a few things to check for and lots of opportunities to make your kitchen cabinets even better when painting them. Check our post about it here.

BEFORE

Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting before 3061
Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting before 3061
Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting before 3063
Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting before 3063
Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting before 3064
Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting before 3064

AFTER

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Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting after 9649
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Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting after 9659
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Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting after 9651
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Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting after 9662
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Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting after 9654
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Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting after 9664

1- Set up and masking for kitchen cabinet painting

One of the most important parts of any painting process is preparation. Spray painting kitchen cabinets give you the best finish and makes them look like they came right from the factory. With that, you’ll need to protect all surfaces adjacent to your kitchen cabinets so nothing gets ruined. 
 
Start with the floor. protecting the floor when painting kitchen cabinets is the first priority. Products like rosin paper and shingle underlayment work best for temporary protection. These products can be rolled out and trimmed to cover the floor. You’ll want to seal the edge of the masking with tape. Not just any tape, though. Make sure it is a low tack tape so the finish pf the floor is not ruined when unmasking after kitchen cabinet painting. 
 
After the floor is covered you’ll want to protect the countertops. Protecting the countertops when spray painting kitchen cabinets is done in two steps. First step is to mask with plastic so you have a watertight seal. The next step is to cover the countertops with rosin paper. The rosin paper protects the counters from over spray and the plastic underneath protects the countertops from any liquids used when cleaning the cabinets as part of the prep. Some of the cleaners used could drip onto the rosin paper causing damage or discoloration that is unseen until you remove the rosin paper after painting the kitchen cabinets. 
 
Great, the floors and countertops are covered. Now you can mask the walls and backsplash adjacent to the kitchen cabinets with more paper or plastic. Don’t forget to mask the ceiling too. Usually, you can get away with masking 2-3 feet away from the cabinets. 
 
Word of advice for masking: Be sure to bring the edge of your tape precisely to the edge item you are masking. Because you are spraying the kitchen cabinets if you leave an area unmasked it will get painted. If you mask it and it needs to be painted you will have no paint on it. Sharp straight lines with tape make sharp straight lines in the paint. 
 
There’s still one more area to mask. We’ll get to that in a few steps.
Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting masking floors 9548
Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting masking floors 9548
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Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting masking floors 9555
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Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting masking counters 9551
Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting masking counters 9552
Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting masking counters 9552
Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting masking counters 9552
Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting masking counters 9552
Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting masking floors 9555
Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting hinge removal 9564
Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting hinge removal 9564
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Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting hinge removal 9569
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Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting hinge removal 9570
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Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting hinge removal 9572
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Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting knob removal 9565
Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting stacking doors 9566
Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting stacking doors 9566

2- Doors, drawer fronts prep for kitchen cabinet painting

So, now that most of the kitchen is masked and getting ready for spraying we need to address the doors. Before removing any doors you want to mark them. You can really take away the joy of a completed kitchen cabinet painting project when you can’t figure out which door came from which cabinet. In order to skip this frustration, you’ll need to mark each door. quickest way is to apply a piece of tape to the front of each door and write a number with a marker on the tape. Do the same with the drawer fronts. 
 
Removing the hardware and doors:  next, you should remove the knobs, pulls and handles on the doors and drawers. Place them in a bag if you are going to reuse them after painting the cabinets. now it’s time to remove the doors. To make reassembly easier you’ll also want to keep track of the hinges. when you remove the top hinge from a door you can place it on the top shelf inside the cabinet it comes from. same with the bottom hinge. 
 
place the piece of tape with the door number inside the mortise for the hinge. stack your doors and drawers off to the side.
 
Now your masking can be completed.  Now that the doors and drawers are removed you’ll need to mask the openings so you don’t spray paint into the cabinet door and drawer openings. Note: you can skip this if you are looking to paint the insides of your kitchen cabinets. 

The bases should also be free from major defects so they will be great candidates for painting.

Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting masking openings 9575
Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting masking openings 9575
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Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting masking openings 9576
Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting masking openings 9573
Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting masking openings 9573

3- CLEANING

No other step in this entire post is more important. When getting your kitchen cabinets ready for painting it is imperative that they are CLEAN. This process also needs to be done before you do any sanding. If the cabinets are sanded while dirty you will contaminate surfaces that may not have been dirty and therefore inhibit primers and paints to stick properly. 
Cleaning your kitchen cabinets for painting should be done with a strong de-greaser and scouring pads followed by a rinsing with an oil cutting solvent like paint thinner and then a final rinsing wipe with denatured alcohol. Safety warning: never mix cleaning chemicals or the rags, scouring pads soaked with cleaning chemicals. 
This process should be completed on all doors, drawers, and cabinet frames. Pro tip: Double-check the underside of the upper cabinets and any surface within 3 feet off the stove. They are dirtier than you think. 
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Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting cleaning cabinets 9580
Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting cleaning cabinets 9582
Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting cleaning cabinets 9582
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Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting cleaning cabinets 9594
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Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting cleaning cabinets 9593
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Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting sanding cabinets 9589
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Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting sanding cabinets 9591
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Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting sanding cabinets 9597

4- Sanding kitchen cabinets for painting

Sanding is important when painting any surface.There is no shortcut  paint kitchen cabinets without sanding. In the case of kitchen cabinets, you wan to be certain that you are getting the best adhesion possible. All surfaces to be painted should be sanded with a grit of 150-180 snapper and then dusted or wiped clean of dust.
 
OK, let’s recap what’s been done so far to get your kitchen cabinets ready for spray painting: We’ve masked the floors, masked the countertops and masked the walls and adjacent areas like the ceiling. The doors have been marked and the hardware has been taken off. Final masking has been done. Thorough cleaning of all surfaces. Finally, you have sanded all surfaces. 

5- Keeping dust and over-spray out:

Keeping the other rooms in your house clean is just as important as the task of painting the kitchen cabinets. That’s why you should take preventative measures to be sure the dust does not end up where it doesn’t belong. Not only do you not want the dust and over-spray to end up in another room of the house you also do not want it sticking to the freshly painted surfaces. 
 
For this, you can do two things. Temporary walls can be erected so that you contain all over-spray. Second, you can create a negative airflow by placing a fan with ducting in the spray booth you created with temporary walls. The ducting should flow outdoors or out of the spray booth and have a HEPA filter as to not spread the dust out of the spraying area.
 
Great, now you are almost ready to start painting your kitchen cabinets. Let’s talk about spray equipment and product first.
 
Spray equipment- High-quality professional paint spray equipment is a must for the best results. A professional HVLP, airless system or an air-assisted system can all be used. These systems will typically cost from $800 to $3500 and last a very long time with proper maintenance.
Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting keeping dust out EckCreativeMedia Infographics
Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting priming 3081
Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting priming 3081
Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting priming 3082
Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting priming 3082
Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting priming 3083
Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting priming 3083

6- Kitchen cabinet priming:

Primer is the foundation of a perfectly painted set of kitchen cabinets. Common primers for kitchen cabinets are White pigmented shellac, urethane modified primers, self-sealing lacquers, lacquer under-coater, or vinyl sealer. you should test the surface to find the best-suited primer for your kitchen cabinet painting needs. How many coats of primer on cabinets? Usually 2 coats with minor repairs between coats is perfect.

7- Repairs

Repairs should be made after priming your kitchen cabinets. Dings and dents can be filled with glaze and spot putty. If there are scars or marks from the old hardware they can be filled. Maybe you are changing the handles and need to fill the old holes. Now is the time to repair them. After filling you will need to sand and remove dust.

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Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting repairs 3087
Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting repairs 3089
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Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting repairs 3085
Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting repairs 3086
Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting repairs 3086
Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting priming again 3084
Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting priming again 3084
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Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting priming again 3091
Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting priming again 3092
Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting priming again 3092

8- Prime again

Apply a second coat of primer to your kitchen cabinet doors, drawers and frames. Once dry you’ll need to lightly sand all surfaces in advance of the first finish coat.

Kitchen cabinet painting; paint or lacquer? People often debate whether you should use paint or lacquer or even the best brand of paint for kitchen cabinets. Today there are more options than ever. Lacquers are often left to the pro with a spray booth because they were highly flammable which made it a poor candidate for at-home spraying of kitchen cabinets. Currently, there are options for water base lacquer so fire safety is nil. Paints can be used with success too. Cabinet paint lowes. There are many cabinet specific paints on the market. These are also water-based so no worries of fire when spraying in your home.
 

9- Finish Coats

Apply 2 finish coats of paint or lacquer with the proper dry time between each coat. Be sure to sand between coats.

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Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting finish coat 3094
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Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting finish coat 3097
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Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting unmasking 3102
Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting unmasking 3103
Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting unmasking 3103
Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting unmasking 3104
Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting unmasking 3104

10- Quality check - unmasking

Check all surfaces to be sure you have the results you are looking for. If not, you can touch up as needed while your kitchen cabinets are still masked. If everything is satisfactory and your kitchen cabinets look amazing its time to unmask the frames and floors and countertops. 
 
Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting unmasking 3105
Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting unmasking 3105

11- Door and drawer installation

You may wish to cover the countertops with a towel or drop cloth so you can rest your freshly painted kitchen cabinet doors and drawers on them without marring them. 
Place each door in the corresponding numbers position they came from. Pro tip: apply a new clear rubber bumper at the inside top and bottom of each door so they do not get damaged from slamming.
Install your drawers and put on new bumpers at each inside corner as well.
 
Now step back and look at your beautiful new painted kitchen cabinets.  Great job!!
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Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting door and drawer 9634
Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting door and drawer EckCreativeMedia Infographics
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Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting door and drawer 9626
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Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting door and drawer 9631
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Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting door and drawer 9639
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Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting door and drawer 9635
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Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting door and drawer 9674
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Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting door and drawer 9636
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Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting door and drawer 9675
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Castle Complements Painting Kitchen Cabinet Painting door and drawer 9638
So, let’s recap how to paint your kitchen cabinets. We walked through the masking, cleaning, sanding and preparation of your kitchen cabinets. We also covered types of primer and the best paint spray machines for application of primer and paint to your kitchen cabinets. There’s some great pointers on how to avoid complications with where the doors came from when reinstalling and not spending too much time with alignment by keeping track of the hinges. Lastly, using things like new rubber bumpers on the doors and drawers will keep you from having damage to the freshly painted cabinets. 
We hope you enjoyed this tutorial and can see how much attention and care goes into spray painting your kitchen cabinets. If you would like more info on types of products, how to prep in certain scenarios or even technical help with application feel free to reach out to us. Thinking about  painting your kitchen cabinets and don’t want to rain a finger for the process? Message us with pictures of your kitchen and what you’d like done and we can get a conversation started about the cost and process involved to make your kitchen the envy of your neighbors. 
 
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