Skip to Content

How to Paint Bathroom Vanity Cabinets (That Will Last)

Does your house have a lot of old, construction-grade oak in it? Learn how to paint your bathroom vanity for a fresh look. Our easy step-by-step method will help you cheaply makeover your bathroom.

before oak bathroom vanity with arrow pointing to after painted blue gray bathroom cabinets with new mirror.

Before Bathroom

Our house was built in 1992, and oak Merillat cabinets and molding really seemed to be the standard. One thing we know is that getting rid of the golden oak color in your home can really help update your space. 

In the past, we have gone over how we have painted other oak items in our home.

Dated oak cabinet vanity in small bathroom with blue walls, toilet and white cabinet on wall.
Before our budget bathroom makeover

Our Other DIY Painted Oak DIY Projects

From our painted fireplace mantel to doors in our basement, we have used a similar technique to help get rid of the oak color. We have even done our kitchen cabinets and all the molding in our upstairs following the steps described below.

The biggest difference is that all of those above DIY home projects turned our oak into modern white counterparts.

This time we wanted to create a nice blue-gray cabinet for our bathroom vanity.  We also got a two-toned look after painting our oak stair railing with the same paint color.

*Disclosure: I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are our own. This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission. Read our full privacy policy.

Printable simple instructions are at the end of this post.

Also, check out these wonderful painted bathroom cabinet ideas from our DIY friends. We love the different cabinet color ideas.

Do bathroom cabinets need to be sanded before painting?

Yes, you need to scuff up the surface of your cabinet in order for the primer to adhere to it. However, it is not as big of a deal as you think. You just need to lightly use a sanding block or 220 sandpaper and go over your cabinets. Your goal should be to dull the current surface.

Don’t worry the sanding part is really not bad and will take you only a few seconds which we will explain in the step-by-step tutorial. 

Bye bye dated oak cabinets with images of oak bathroom cabinets.

What primer should you use to paint bathroom cabinets?

Using the right primer is one of the most important things when painting bathroom cabinets.

We have used Sherwin Williams Multi-Purpose Latex Primer for a lot of our home DIY projects, but that does not mean that an oil-based primer may be better. If you can stand the smell and cleaning of the brushes you may want to try the Zinsser listed below.

However, we have had great success with latex-based primers and paints and really have not had the need to stink up the whole house! Here is an article from Family Handyman that may help you decide which primer is best for you.

Other Primers

What kind of paint to use on bathroom cabinets?

Behr Latex Enamel paint, Proclassic paint and Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel Paint Gallon cans.

Hands down the best water-based cabinet paint to paint cabinets is Sherwin Williams Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel. We had painted these bathroom oak cabinets before I discovered this water-based paint that doesn’t resemble your typical latex.

Behr Paint Was The Most Economical

I was able to score this Behr latex enamel for pretty cheap and I thought about giving it a try. It has held up in our bathroom and seemed to work.

I am still happy that I used the Behr paint on my bathroom vanity. The regular price of the Behr latex enamel is around $40 and the SW Emerald Urethane Trim is closer to $95. (never pay full price though for SW paints as they do have sales).

If budget is a huge factor in your DIY bathroom project, then you will still be happy with the outcome of using Behr Trim Enamel like we did.

Read More>>>Best Paint For Bathroom Cabinets

What paint would we use today?

If I were to paint them again, most likely I would use the Sherwin Williams Emerald line due to how much I love my painted kitchen cabinets and painted tile backsplash.  

The Behr was a great budget-friendly paint, but I couldn’t get over the results when I painted already painted wood kitchen cabinets.

kitchen with white and green cabinets, industrial stools and stainless appliances

Same type of paint used on kitchen and bathroom cabinets

Learn how to paint kitchen cabinets using Sherwin Williams Urethane Trim Enamel paint like in our kitchen pictured above. Our kitchen cabinets have been a painting project over the years. You can see how to repaint white painted kitchen cabinets using the SW Emerald in the best blue green paint color. We will never use any other paint again to paint cabinets!

Other Bathroom Vanity Paint Options

  • Sherwin Williams Proclassic (a little cheaper than our favorite paint listed above)
  • Behr Latex Enamel
  • Benjamin Moore Pro Advance

SW Proclassic

Sherwin Williams Proclassic line is what I have used for all other trim and cabinet painting in our house. You would be surprised at how long our kitchen cabinets and moldings have held up with 3 children banging into them.

Benjamin Moore Pro Advance

DIY bloggers also love Benjamin Moore Pro Advance. From my understanding, this paint line acts a lot like Sherwin Williams Emerald Urethane Trim that we love.

Behr Cabinet and Trim Enamel

However, the price is the main reason I decided to give this Behr a try. I was able to get a gallon for around $30 because I had a coupon and they were already on sale. I will have to update this post next year with how the cabinets are holding up with this brand of paint.

Do you need help deciding what color of paint to use?

We recently just tried Samplize and it totally beats having to buy individual paint samples. These 9″ x 14.75″ samples will get shipped directly to you and save the hassle of clean-up (we loved that).

Check out the brands you can get here. You can also check out our post, see our review and hopefully get the answers to those frequently asked Samplize questions.

Samplize peel and stick paint sample on cabinets
Here we are using Samplize to help us pick our lower kitchen cabinet color.

Recommended Supplies

Oak bathroom vanity with blue laminate countertops
Just one more view of the ugly and dated bathroom vanity!

Bathroom Cabinet Painting Tutorial

Step 1: Remove All Drawers and Hardware

Take all doors and drawers out. Take off hardware (hinges as well). Place in a bag and label clearly. You also want to put a piece of painter’s tape inside the drawers labeling where they came from. 

Hinges in bag from bathroom vanity

Step 2: Scuff Up Surface With 220 Sandpaper

Lightly sand with fine sandpaper to rough up the gloss on our current surface. This always allows the primer to stick a little better. Make sure you go with the grain.

Lightly sanding oak cabinets before painting

Step 3: Wipe Down With Deglosser

Use a deglossing agent with a rag to wipe down cabinets, drawers and doors. Make sure to completely clean all parts. You do not want anything greasy left over.

Use a deglosser before priming oak cabinets

Step 4: Tape Out The Back Of The Drawers & The Side Of The Cabinet

Tape any spots that you feel you will not be able to trim well with a brush. I only taped along the wall where the cabinet and wall meet. Use your fingernail or an old credit card to really push the tape on.

painter's tape on drawers

Tape drawer fronts on the back so that you can prime and paint the backs of the drawers easily. 

Step 5: Prime Hard To Reach Areas With Brush

Use a primer with a brush first in areas that can’t be rolled. The biggest thing is to make sure you cover everything, while not having drips.

White primer brushed on bathroom cabinets before painting

If you’re painting cabinet doors and they are like our standard construction-grade cabinet from the 1990s, make sure to not have extra drips in the grooves or ridges.

Oak cabinets getting primed and painting

Step 6: Check For Drips

Once you complete the door, just go back and check to make sure that you give a quick brush to any spots that appear to have too much. Continue to also prime the spots a roller could not go on the cabinet frame back in the bathroom.

Small foam roller used to apply primer to cabinets

Step 7: Prime With A Small Foam Roller

The large flat areas can have primer applied with a small foam roller. The same principle applies to full coverage while making sure not to have drips.

Step 8: Let Primer Fully Dry

Let your primer dry. The front and back of the front of the drawers should be able to be painted/primed at the same time because you should be able to prop them up. Once the primer is dry, you will have to flip the door over and do the backside. 

Pro Tip: Saving your brush and roller in a Ziploc bag is a great tip so that you can save the hassle of having to wash your brush every time. 

How long does it take primer to dry?

The primer should be dry in a few hours (I believe Sherwin Williams says 4 hours). However, I also call myself the naptime painter so I always paint in steps during naptimes and just continue the next day.

Therefore, I did the back of the door later that day but waited to start with my semi-gloss latex enamel paint until the next day.

Step 9: Start Using Latex Enamel With Brush

Using a paint brush to add gray latex enamel paint to cabinet door

Step 10: Continue Painting With Roller

Following the same brush and roller procedure, apply the latex enamel paint. Let dry and then add a second coat to the drawers, doors, and cabinet base. If you think you need a third coat, feel free.

Read this full tutorial on how to easily paint cabinet doors before starting your cabinet painting project.

Painting bathroom vanity cabinets gray

Step 11: Cover All Surfaces With One Coat Of Paint

Make sure that you evenly paint the sides and all parts of the bathroom cabinet. It is very easy to miss a spot. Look at your cabinet and vanity parts from all angles to see if you missed any spots. 

Painting cabinet base gray

Step 12: Let Paint Fully Dry and Paint Second Coat

Repeat the steps with the grayish blue paint at least twice. You may decide to add a third coat depending on how thickly you applied the paint.

Bathroom vanity cabinet without sink

See more about how we replaced the old laminate counters and products we used in this bathroom. But once the counter was completely redone we were able to complete the following makeover ideas.

Step 13: Let Your Painted Doors And Drawers Fully Cure

It is important that you don’t rush to put the hardware back on immediately. Once we felt the paint was cured enough, we decided to add our cabinet pulls. I absolutely love the larger pulls we added. Normally, we do not pick larger hardware but thought this was a great way to cheaply modernize our bathroom vanity. 

Optional: Add Or Paint Hardware

Before, putting our brass hinges back on, I used silver spray paint to update the look and match our hardware. You can also purchase new brushed nickel hinges (of the finish of your choice) pretty cheaply.

Easily Paint Old Cabinet Hardware and Cabinet Hinges

Use an old piece of cardboard so that you can stick the screws in so it is easier to spray the heads with silver spray paint. This will allow you to get full coverage on all parts that you will be adding back to your newly painted cabinets.

Read our full tutorial about painting cabinet hardware with spray paint.

Silver spray paint to update hinges for bathroom vanity

These large pulls came from Amazon and are only plated brushed nickel. The price was right for our kid’s bathroom makeover.

They came very well packaged with limited scratches or blemishes. I think ordering 5 this size from Amazon was cheaper than anything I could have found at a big box store. 

Large brushed nickel pulls for bathroom vanity makeover

See what else we used this same blue gray paint color in our home! We weren’t going to let a gallon of paint go to waste.

Other Places To Shop For Cabinet Accessories

If you want unique handles or pulls, check out World Market for different hardware options. I love using their hardware on our refurbished furniture projects. 

You still should be very careful, as it can take paint 30 days or so to really cure or harden.

Step 14: Add Cabinet Protectors

After about 5 days, add plastic drawer and door protectors on the inside to limit the banging of the drawers and doors.

Vanity Makeover Options

In addition to painting the cabinets, we added a few extra items to our small bathroom.

  1. Paint vanity cabinets (it isn’t as hard or as inexpensive as you would think).
  2. Add new hardware.
  3. Replace countertops, sink and faucet (if you want).
  4. Frame out an old construction mirror, purchase a new one or leave your current one.
  5. Consider painting old light fixtures or there are so many inexpensive ones out there that you buy.
  6. Add some new fun accessories or repurpose what you have.
  7. Add bathroom shelves
  8. If you need to cover up spots inside the inside of the cabinet, use a fun shelf liner. It can really add some fun to your cabinets. Not to mention, extra protection from future mishaps. I know we need that with our crew.

Another note about replacing the countertops is that premade countertops are not that expensive, so we figured we would try to completely update the vanity. 

Other Bathroom Vanity Counter Ideas

Whatever choice you go with make sure to measure twice before ordering and that you get what you need for your specific space. Most of these simple and inexpensive white sink tops (Amazon) that were interested in only had a small lip on the back.

If you don’t have kids or you have a stand-alone vanity that you have painted, the two link options from Home Depot and Amazon may be a great choice for you.

Tutorial FAQs

What other items did you add to your bathroom makeover?

Since this bathroom will mainly be used by our children, we went with this countertop and sink and ordered an extra side backsplash for the corner. 
We also had to purchase a new faucet. We went with a highly rated, but under $100 modern-looking Kohler faucet in brushed nickel. I love the new trend of gold hardware, but we don’t have any in other rooms, so we just went with the safe brushed nickel.

What would this vanity makeover look like without replacing the countertop?

We could have left the blue laminate countertop, cleaned it up a little and been all done. You can see how we only painted the bathroom vanity in our basement bathroom in the image below. We didn’t think we really needed to do much more to update the small space.SW 6176 in small basement bathroom with painted oak bathroom cabinets with blue laminate countertops.

How much did the bathroom cabinet makeover cost?

If you are like us, then you only had to buy paint and hardware. If you assume that you already have brushes, rollers, etc. then this bathroom vanity makeover was done for under $75 and I have a lot of primer, paint & deglosser leftover to use for future projects. 

What is the best finish for bathroom cabinets?

The shinier the surface the easier it will be clean. We like using semi-gloss or satin on cabinets. Semi-gloss will wipe clean a little easier than satin.

What if I don’t want to see the cabinet or oak grain?

You can use these fillers before sanding and oil-based primer that I see other DIY bloggers or pro painters recommend. 
It really doesn’t bother us, therefore we didn’t take this extra step.

Before and After Painted Oak Bathroom Cabinets

Before oak cabinets are painted gray

Yes, I am so happy to share with you the updated bathroom look. So drumroll…

The “After” Painted Bathroom Vanity

Behr painted oak bathroom cabinets

From the Charcoal Blue cabinets to our SW Grayish walls we love how the bathroom came out. The only thing we need to do is spray that vent black! (Thanks for the comment and suggestion from one of our readers).

Follow us on Pinterest, Youtube or Facebook for more DIY inspiration!

What other tips do you have for painting a bathroom vanity? We would love to hear about your DIY projects!

More DIY Bathroom Projects

Make sure to ask any questions at the end (we love getting comments from our readers and helping out DIY nuts like ourselves). Sometimes, the only thing holding you back from completing a DIY project is just fear. I am telling you to just go for it. Paint can always be painted over.

Painting our bathroom vanity cabinets was one of the best and cheapest ways to refresh our small bathroom.

grayish painted walls with charcoal blue painted cabinets with fun shaped silver mirror

How To Paint Bathroom Cabinets

Step-by-step cabinet paint tutorial to makeover your oak bathroom vanity while staying on a budget.
Print Pin Rate
Keyword: bathroom cabinet painting, how to paint a bathroom vanity, how to paint bathroom cabinets, painting oak cabinets
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Active Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Author: Erin
Cost: $100

Recommended Supplies

Instructions

  • Take all doors and drawers out.
  • Remove all hardware and hinges as well. Place hardware in a bag and label it.
  • Lightly scuff the surface of your bathroom cabinets with fine sandpaper.
  • Use deglosser on a rag and wipe down all surfaces getting painted.
  • Use painter's tape to tape spots that you do not want to get painted. Consider spots such as a long wall, around the drawers and inside the bathroom vanity.
  • Begin using primer with brush and small foam roller.
    Pay attention to cleaning up any drips. Let primer completely dry.
  • Clean brush.
  • Once bathroom cabinets are dry, use a latex enamel in the color of your choice to paint. Use a brush for hard-to-reach spots and a small roller for the rest.
  • Let paint dry and repeat for at least two coats of paints.
  • Remove painter's tape.
  • Let paint fully cure for a few days before putting cabinets doors and drawers back in.

Notes

Optional: You can spray your cabinet hardware or purchase new to complete your bathroom vanity makeover.
Tried this Tutorial? Tag me Today!Mention @theDIYNuts or tag #thediynuts!

Recipe Rating




I accept the Privacy Policy

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Erin McQueen

Wednesday 7th of September 2022

Hi Erin!

I am contemplating updating my son’s bathroom. He also has the old oak look. My question is about the hardware. I absolutely love the handles on the cabinet (my vanity doesn’t have drawers). What size hole centers did you purchase?

Erin

Thursday 8th of September 2022

Hi Erin! The handles we purchased were the 6 1/4 inch wide ones. Just note that these were an economical choice and aren't solid metal. They have worked fine for our upstairs bathroom and I have even spray painted them in our laundry room. Good luck with painting your bathroom cabinets!

Gina

Thursday 31st of March 2022

Can you tell me now how well the Behr held up after a year and a half or maybe it's longer?

Erin

Friday 1st of April 2022

Hi Gina. On our bathroom cabinets, the Behr has held up surprisingly well. On the railing right outside, I would say I wish that I would have used a more expensive paint. This is probably due to how the railing gets touched vs. the cabinets. The painted bathroom cabinets look as good as they did when we painted them over a year and a half ago. Good luck with your bathroom cabinet project.

Ella

Thursday 3rd of March 2022

Thank you for sharing your process! I got my kitchen a few weeks ago and ever since I've wanted to update my bathroom cabinets. I think I'm going to try your process out on my downstair bathroom vanity this weekend, and I'm crossing my fingers that it turns out as good as yours!

Julie

Saturday 19th of February 2022

We followed your directions to a T and my bathroom vanity turned out great! Thank you so much for the tutorial. I was very intimidated by the thought of messing up and having to spend $1,000 on a new vanity, but this gave me the confidence to try it and I’m so glad I did. I would include photos but it doesn’t give me the option. Thank you again!!

Erin

Sunday 20th of February 2022

Hi Julie! Thank you so much for the kind words. I am so happy that your painted bathroom vanity turned out so well!! I would love it if you would share your images with us at [email protected] I could even share them with our email list with your permission!

Marco

Friday 26th of November 2021

Red Oak furniture/cabinets are highly sought after for their beautiful grains and strong durability. I would have refinished the vanity and gone with a modern rustic look. To each their own, but it now looks like any cheap, "modern" piece made out of MDF.

Erin

Saturday 27th of November 2021

Hi Marco. To each its own. The sides of our cabinets were not completely solid wood, so I am not sure that was an option. We did gel stain other ones in our house. Good luck with your future DIY projects and thanks for sharing your ideas.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.