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 have still done a number on them. I absolutely knew I wanted to repaint our white kitchen cabinets in our 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 newly 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.
Learn how to we painted oak kitchen cabinets white and then repainted the already painted cabinets
How hard is it to paint kitchen cabinets?
Honestly, the prep is the biggest pain when painting cabinets. Cabinet painting 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. We love that painting projects do not have to include a lot of tools and normally can be done pretty inexpensively.
If you are completely new to painting, I would not recommend starting with cabinet painting. Maybe try painting walls in a room with your favorite color first to see if you are up for all the elbow grease involved. We do love how paint can change a space, just know that it will take time for you to fully paint your kitchen cabinets.
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 Urethane 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 DIY ways to modernize the home. See how we decided on what paint color to use. It honestly was a 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 by clicking the link to our post). You can see how they have held up after 7 or now 8 years, hint pretty well, but after 8 years it was time for a change.
I still wanted to work on updating them more. I thought let’s add a fun color to my kitchen island. However, I needed to figure out the proper way to prep my cabinets for the Emerald Urethane Paint I planned on using.
Painting over SW Proclassic paint with SW Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel
For reference, we are painting over Sherwin Williams Proclassic Latex Enamel with SW Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel paint. At the Sherwin Williams store, we were told there was no need to prime and that you should lightly scuff up the surface. They noted that you should sand any areas where you see brush marks or other imperfections because the SW Emerald paint will self-level and show all of that.
Note that we had one or two areas where I didn’t even notice the dings on the drawer fronts. The SW Emerald really does self-level well and those spots did become noticeable. I should have used wood filler in those areas first if I would have noticed them. They are tiny so really not that big of a deal.
I just thought I would share this so that you really make sure your surfaces are as smooth and ding-free as possible before your painting project.
The easiest way to paint cabinets
We like to use a small foam roller, small paint tray and 2.5″ good angled paintbrush as we did in our painted our bathroom cabinets. 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.
I just feel like I have more control with a small foam roller and it is what I always use. The idea of taping out your whole kitchen and using plastic wrap just sounds like too much for me. A roller allows you to slowly paint your cabinets at your pace and not have to get everything done right at once. And for this busy mom, that is super important.
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 use 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) or
SW Emerald Latex Enamel Paint (new favorite cabinet paint)
Looking for links to all of these items in one place? Check out this photo collage with shoppable links.
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 on 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, 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 of paint. Choosing SW Rookwood Sash Green was a 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.
Printable Instructions here!
- Peel and Stick Paint Samples (if you need help finding color)
- Deglosser (paint prep)
- Extra Fine Sandpaper
- Painter's Tape
- Sherwin Willams Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel Paint
- Take off all cabinet hardware including hinges. Label and place in bags.
- Create a map of the doors and label them in the corner under where the hinges will go, use painter's tape or label on your drop cloth.
- Set-up paint station for drawers and doors.
- Tape drawers so that you are only painting the wood part, but not the whole drawer.
- Lightly scuff already painted cabinets with extra fine sandpaper or green Brite pad. Pay extra attention to brush marks and imperfections. Now is the time to fix those.
- Wipe down cabinets and all surfaces to be painted with a deglosser.
- Make sure cabinets are completely clean and dust-free.
- Trim out areas on cabinets with a brush that the small foam roller will not be able to get. You want to work in stages.
- Once you have trimmed a few areas or ridges in the doors, use a small foam roller to paint all flat areas. with high-quality paint like Sherwin Williams Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel. Working in thin layers will be your best bet.
- Let the first coat dry and repeat the painting process for at least 2 coats of paint.
- Look at your cabinet from multiple angles to make sure you are painting all areas evenly.
- Let the paint cure for as long as you can (at least a few days).
- Put hinges back on and put doors and drawers back in.
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