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Painting Kitchen Cabinets

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One of the most challenging projects I’ve ever taken on is painting kitchen cabinets.  If you’re one of those people who can’t stand their kitchen, but can’t afford to reface their existing cabinets, let alone buy new ones, then painting them is definitely something to consider.  I know there are people who frown on the idea, but you really can change the look of your kitchen dramatically without spending a fortune.  Just be prepared to invest a lot of time.

Before I tell you how long it takes to do something like this, let me show you what the cabinets I painted looked like before.  They were your standard, builder’s grade cabinets in an oak finish.  And, the owner wanted dark cabinetry.

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The first thing I did when I took on this project was number every single cabinet drawer and door on a small piece of painter’s tape before I took them down.  That way I’d know exactly where to put them all back when I was done. If I recall correctly, there were 20 doors and 10 drawers because of the island, so I even put a “B” for bottom and a “T” for top just to keep track of them all!  

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I took all the doors and drawers down and removed all the hinges. (Please, don’t ever paint over the hinges.  That’s just wrong!) I placed all the hardware in a giant ziplock bag for safe keeping.  Then I got to work cleaning off all the grease and sanding.  When I sanded one side of the door, I’d simply move the small piece of numbered painter’s tape to the other side.

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People ask me all the time, “Do you really have to sand?”  The answer is, “Of course, not.  Only if you want the job done right.”  It’s a little extra effort, but worth it in the end.  Once everything was sanded, I wiped off all the dust and was ready to prime.  You can buy paint with primer in it, but for this job, I wasn’t taking any chances.  I primed, and I bought the better grade paint that’s special for kitchens and baths.

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When the primer dried, I was ready to paint. I painted the inside of the doors first, and waited for them to dry before flipping them over to paint the front.  Why the inside first?  Because paint takes so long to cure, and the front is what matters most.  I didn’t want the a freshly painted front side laying flat on anything while I painted the other side.  Make sense?

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I had quite the assembly line going.  Did I mention, this was all done in my garage?  The homeowner I was doing this for had two little toddlers running around her house, so it was the most practical solution.

NOW, HERE IS WHERE I LET YOU IN ON MY OWN LITTLE SECRET:  I almost NEVER leave anything painted flat.  Once everything had two coats of paint on it, and it had dried, I added a second, slightly different color.  I do this to almost everything I paint.  In this case, I took a damp sponge, put just a few dabs of the darker paint on it, then rubbed it all along the edges.  It gives the cabinets a little more dimension.  Can you see the difference?  It’s huge.

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You’ll notice that I moved the painter’s tape onto the drop cloth, just beneath each door while I allowed the paint to dry.

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The doors and drawers stayed drying, just like this, in my garage for two days.  That’s when I went back to the home and painted the face of the cabinets and the kitchen island using the exact same technique.  Then, all I had to do, was put everything back in place.  Thanks to my numbering system, the plastic baggie full of hinges & screws, and my trusty drill, putting it all together wasn’t too difficult.  Although, it does help to have a second set of hands.  

Here, again, is a look at the end result:

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Painting children's rooms, exterior murals, exterior paint, faux finishes, interior murals, canvases, holiday canvases, wooden plaques, beds, cabinets, dressers, furniture, party decorations, props, and other DIY crafts!