Painting Kitchen Cabinets White Step-by-Step

by Joanna Stewart

Mon, Oct 29, 2018

Painting kitchen cabinets white Yes, your cabinets can look like this – Photo

Painting your kitchen cabinets white is an easy way to transform your kitchen without spending a fortune. But, before you start painting your cabinets there are a few things you need to know.

The painting process can be easy and fun if you have the right tools. If you’ve tried finding painting advice online you’ll know how difficult it is find the answers you’re looking for.

As an Architectural Consultant I help homeowners design and build their dream homes. Sometimes that means I draw plans and coordinate with contractors. Other times, I just point my clients in the right direction and give them the information they need to tackle a project themselves.

So, what do you need to know about painting kitchen cabinets white? Keep reading below.

Step by Step Guide to Paint Kitchen Cabinets White

One of the most common kitchen remodeling projects my clients like to take on is painting kitchen cabinets white.

Why is white one of the most popular cabinet colors? Because it’s both contemporary and timeless at the same time. A coat of white paint can transform a dated and dull kitchen into a bright and energetic space to cook.

See more timeless kitchen cabinet colors here

Step 1: Clean

I’ve seen one painting mistake repeated many times over the last few years and I’m sure I will see it again.

Chances are you’ll make this same mistake.

The sad part is that if this happens while you’re painting you may need to start over from the beginning. A waste of time and money, if you ask me.

So, how can you avoid this mistake completely?

It all starts with a simple cleaning solution called Trisodium Phosphate.

You can find it at your favorite home improvement or hardware store. While the name sounds complex, it’s actually just a simple cleaner that makes your job 10 times easier.

After you remove your cabinet doors and hardware, carefully clean the cabinets using trisodium phosphate mixed with warm water and a sponge.

If you don’t completely clean the cabinets you will be seriously disappointed with the results. Getting professional results requires preparing like a pro. There’s no doubt that you can get high-quality results from painting your own kitchen cabinets, but the quickest way to failure is by taking shortcuts.

Take your time and the results will follow.

While you’re cleaning you may notice that grease and dirt tends to collect in the corners of cabinet doors and along the edges. This residue might not be easily removed with just a sponge. Try using a small tool or putty knife to clean out these areas before priming the cabinets.

Step 2: Sand

After you’ve cleaned the cabinets and let them dry, the next step is to touch up any dents or scratches.

These imperfections may not be visible on wood cabinets, but after you paint they will be extremely obvious.

Use a wood filler or putty to fill any scratches on the surface before you begin sanding.

Be sure to fill in any open seams along the edges of the cabinet doors and trim. These gaps may not be obvious on dark wood cabinets, but once painted they will rear their ugly head.

Squeeze a thin bead of latex caulk into these open seams and pull the tip as you go. Use a damp finger to smooth the caulk after it’s applied.

Next comes the fun part: sanding!

Use a 120-grit sandpaper to sand the cabinet doors and base surfaces. Sanding is critical if you want a smooth paint finish that lasts forever. After you go through the process of painting your cabinets, I’m sure you’ll never want to do it again. So, get it right the first time!

Can you believe we’ve made it this far without even picking up a paintbrush yet?

Prep work is the extremely tedious but it is also the most important part! Don’t take shortcuts!

Step 3: Degloss

After you sand, the next step is to degloss the cabinet fronts.

Using liquid deglosser and a rag wipe the cabinets to remove any gloss that was leftover from the original finish. Even if you sanded thoroughly, there is still a chance that the stain underneath could prevent your primer and paint from applying completely.

A quick coat of deglosser could help ensure that you get great looking cabinets the first time.

Step 4: Prime

If you’re painting over stained wood cabinets this step is the most important. If you buy a high-quality stain blocking primer like Zinsser’s Smart Prime or a similar brand you should only need to apply one coat.

You’ll be applying multiple coats of base paint, so there is no need to go overboard with primer. Just one coat should be enough, but check with your local paint pros if you have any doubts.

I recommend using a 2” angled brush and a small foam roller to apply the primer before painting kitchen cabinets white.

After you finish priming and the paint has dried completely, you’ll need to sand again. Use a fine grit sandpaper and go over all the primed surfaces again. This will give your top coat of paint a solid foundation to stick to. It’s tedious, but it’s worth it!

Step 5: Paint

It might be tempting to try and save a few dollars on discount paint brands, but a high-quality paint will help your cabinets look good years down the road. So, what’s a good paint for painting kitchen cabinets?

Ideally it should be oil based or 100% acrylic latex paint. In addition, most cabinet paint comes in a satin finish but you could also choose a semigloss if you wanted more shine.

A high-quality paint will also be self-leveling to help give you a smooth and consistent finish.

You’ll need to apply two coats of paint to get a great finish that will stand up for years to come. After your painting is finished, some paint pros will recommend that you apply a clear coat or lacquer. However, clear coats tend to yellow and age overtime so you may want to avoid it completely.

A satin or semigloss paint will help reduce grime build up and potential stains as long as you wipe it down regularly.

As you can see painting kitchen cabinets white is a long and tedious process. If you want more painting tips and kitchen design ideas please sign up for my painting kitchen cabinets guide. It’s completely free!

What questions do you have about painting cabinets? Ask a question to our growing community on Facebook.

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