Painting kitchen cabinets that are already painted
We knew we wanted to update our painted kitchen cabinets recently. Even though we did a pretty good job painting our old oak cabinets the first time, 8 years and a few children had still done a number on them. I absolutely knew I wanted to repaint our white cabinets in our kitchen island a fun & deeper color to go with our walls in our living space.
Spoiler Alert: I honestly still can’t get over how much I love our new painted island. Soon I will be doing all of our lower cabinets and painting our backsplash to completely update our kitchen for probably under $200.
How hard is it to paint kitchen cabinets?
Honestly, the prep is the biggest pain when painting cabinets, but it is a pretty easy DIY project that can really impact your space. You just need patience, proper prep, and dry wait time. Most people probably run into problems when they try to rush the cabinet painting process.
Is painting kitchen cabinets a good idea?
Yes, when done properly. Don’t expect it to be a fast DIY project where you can just messily slap on some normal latex paint. We recommend using the proper paint (either a latex enamel or Uretheane Trim Enamel Paint) as well as a proper primer. If you are not willing to prep the area properly or take your time doing this DIY painting project the right way, then you may not want to take this on. However, it is honestly one of the cheapest ways to modernize a space. See how we decided what paint color to for. It honestly was a more bold choice and I am so happy I just went for it.
How to paint cabinets that are already painted
We first painted our oak kitchen cabinets white (see the whole process in this post). You can see how they have held up after 7 or now 8 years, hint pretty well…
but I still wanted to work on updating them more. So I thought let’s add a fun color to my kitchen island. However, I need to figure out the proper way to prep my cabinets for the Emerald Urethane Paint I planned on using.
For reference, we are painting over Sherwin Williams Proclassic Latex Enamel with SW Emerald Urethane Trim paint. At the Sherwin Williams store we were told there was no need to prime, that you could lightly scuff up the surface. They noted that you should sand any areas that you see brush marks or other imperfections because the SW Emerald paint will self-level and show all of that.
Therefore, I decided to lightly scuff the area with extra-fine sandpaper and wipe it down with a deglosser. We always use a deglosser before any painting project.
The easiest way to paint cabinets
We like to use a small foam roller, small paint tray and 2.5 good angled paint brush like we did in our bathroom vanity makeover. I recently purchased a paint sprayer, but just like the simple way of using a small foam roller and brush. Note: I had no problem using the Emerald paint with a small foam roller, but some people in reviews said they had higher success with a little more nap on the roller.
What to use on kitchen cabinets before painting?
At Sherwin Williams they said you really just need your cabinets to be clean. If you do have brush marks from a previous paint job, then you really will want to sand with extra fine sandpaper. They also mentioned you could use a green Scotch-Brite pad to just rough up the surface. We also always using a deglosser to help prep any surface (even previously painted cabinets).
You can read more of our cabinet painting tips and FAQs in this post.
Our favorite cabinet painting supplies
Painter’s Tape (this brand)
Small Foam Rollers and handle
Caulk and Caulk gun (optional)
Primer if first time painting cabinets (We have used Zinsser and SW Muti-Purpose Latex Primer)
Sherwin Williams Proclassic (old favorite cabinet paint)
SW Emerald Latex Enamel Paint (new favorite cabinet paint)
How to repaint painted cabinets
- Take off all hardware including hinges, doors and handles. Depending on how many doors and drawers you have you may want to label the doors, draw a map and put the hardware in labeled baggies. While this is a pain to do in the moment, you will be happy you did it when you are putting your kitchen back together.
Cabinet Painting Tip:
Don’t take the hardware out completely on the drawers, just enough so that the front is smooth and not sticking out.
2. Set up a painting station for your drawers and doors. While I love the finished feel of the Emerald paint, the biggest con is that took a while to not feel tacky. Therefore, the longer you can just leave your drawers and doors somewhere else to dry the better. We set up sawhorses in our basement and just take the drawers completely out.
You could take the drawer fronts off, but I like to stand up the drawers in my paint area to save my back and not have to set up more sawhorse. I would think this is probably the recommended way professional painters do it so that they can clean lines in the inside. We made the mistake of using blue painter’s tape and not our favorite tape when taping the inside of the drawers. We did have a little bleeding.
4. Put deglosser on a rag and wipe all surfaces completely clean. DO NOT SKIMP on cleaning your cabinets. The last thing you want is dust getting stuck in your nice smooth surface.
5. Optional: Use painter’s tape anywhere you think you might not get a straight line. I felt I could easily paint the lip of the cabinet without taping, but you might want to.
6. Begin using an angled 2.5″ brush to trim out places that the roller can’t get to on the box and drawers, doors. I like to do this first, so that you can use the roller to help smooth out the areas after and lightly feather in on top of brushstrokes.
7. Use the small roller to apply your first coat of paint.
8. Let dry before painting a second coat. You don’t want your paint to be tacky to the touch. Read the paint can label to find out your dry time. Sherwin Williams Emerald Paint takes 4-6 hours to dry.
Remember the roller is great on the edges of the doors (you will get a much more even coat).
9. Repeat all painting steps for a second coat.
10. For your doors, you have to be extra patient. Due to painting two coats on each side. We recommend making sure your last coat of paint is on the front to ensure the smoothest surface. Click on the link for our full detailed tutorial on how to paint cabinet doors.
11. Let everything cure as long as possible. I honestly felt that with the surface of this paint, that a week was the ideal time to keep the doors and drawers off. We are going to wait even longer to put the hardware handles back on.
12. Once you do put the doors and drawers back in, make sure you add small rubber stoppers to help your doors and drawers from rubbing against the cabinet box.
Our Before White Painted Kitchen Cabinets
In the image below you can see the areas that were worn and why we needed a fresh coat or paint. Choosing SW Rookwood Sash Green was great complement to our granite and Liveable Green Wall color. We plan on updating our glass backsplash soon!
Our After Modern Green Kitchen Cabinets
See what our kitchen looks like now!
And guess what??? We finally got around to painting our tile backsplash and the other lower cabinets. You have to see what a difference it made in our kitchen. We still can’t believe that we were able to update our kitchen with just paint.