Painting kitchen cabinets: Let's prep! 11 steps before painting

Since it's time to give one of the busiest rooms in the house a makeover, let's get ready! There's more...

Since it's time to give one of the busiest rooms in the house a makeover, let's get ready! There's more to painting kitchen cabinets than simply cracking open a gallon of paint and tossing down a drop cloth. Before you begin this kitchen project, add these 11 tasks to your to-do list.

1. Remove doors from hinges
You can't get even, drip-free coverage--or prep cabinet doors easily--while they are still hinged to the cabinets. Empty the cabinets and then carefully remove the doors from the hinges. Store the hinge pins in sandwich bags. Then, label both the bags and the doors with a small piece of painters tape. Sketch the layout of the kitchen, giving each cabinet a number. Write this number on the tape labels to make reassembling the kitchen easier.

2. Take off hardware
Once all doors have been removed, grab a screwdriver and start removing the hardware. Don't forget to also remove knobs and handles from drawers and other stationary cabinetry that will be painted. Place the hardware in the sandwich bags that correspond to each cabinet door. You'll need to grab new bags for the hardware removed from drawers.

3. Create a work space
Now, it's time to get down to work. Find a place in your home where you can work with the cabinet doors. You need space to lay them out for washing, sanding and priming. Space in the garage, basement or yard works best. Use plastic drop cloths to create a safety barrier between the project and cars or siding. You don't want a swift wind to splatter primer on your home exterior.

4. A thorough washing
After years of use, your cabinets need a careful washing. Use a scrub brush and a degreasing kitchen cleanser to remove food, cooking oil and general stains. If the cabinets are heavily soiled, pick up some trisodium phosphate, more commonly known as TSP, from the hardware store. This heavy-duty cleanser comes in both liquid or powder ready-to-mix options. Be sure to wear dishwashing gloves when washing the cabinets with TSP. Prolonged exposure to the chemical can cause skin irritation. Finally, rinse the cabinets with water. Lingering cleaning chemicals make primer and paint less adhesive. Now, let the wood dry for a few hours.

5. Fill cracks and sanding
Since you're painting kitchen cabinets, make them as smooth and perfect as possible. Grab a tub of wood filler and a putty knife. Fill in small dings and cracks. This not only makes the cabinets more visually pleasing but also strengthens the structure. After the wood filler dries, use a fine grit sandpaper to smooth the filled areas. This can usually be done by hand with a sanding block. If you filled a large crack, it's time to fire up the electric sander. Use a soft cloth to wipe away any dust from sanding.

6. Use primer
Okay, we're getting closer to painting. Before sprucing up the cabinets with a cheerful new hue, primer is a must. Don't skimp and buy a 2-in-1 paint-primer mix. For kitchen cabinets, choose an underbody primer. This works as a filler and stain blocker, while prepping the wood surface for paint. Using this type of primer is essential if you're trying to hide knots and wood grain. After applying one coat, let the cabinets air dry.

7. Another sanding
Pick up the sanding block and give each door, drawer and area of the cabinets a light sanding. This not only eliminates primer drip marks, it also roughs up the surface for the paint. After all this work, you want the paint to stick, right? Use a fine grit 150 to 180 sandpaper for a smooth finish.

8. Dust removal
Use a water-moistened soft cloth to wipe down everything. Remove dust from sanding to get your work surface clean and ready for the paint. Use a vacuum to remove dust from corners and drawers.

9. Pick out paint
Sure, you've chosen dozens of color swatches in anticipation of remodeling your Georgia kitchen. But what type of paint should you use? There's a debate between using oil-based paints and water-based latex paints. Oil paints take longer to dry, but penetrate deeper into the wood. Latex paints clean up easier and dry fast. For kitchen cabinets, a glossy or semi-gloss latex is easiest to wipe down. Buy enough paint for two coats.

10. Choose the tools
Now that you have your paint, collect your tools. When working with latex paint, choose synthetic bristle bushes. These won't absorb water-based paint, making them easier to wash and reuse. Also add the following to your shopping cart: painter's tape, drop cloths, paint trays and small edging tools to paint corners. Unfortunately, convenient roller brushes aren't a good match for painting wooden kitchen cabinets.

11. New hardware
While you're at the store, decide if your cabinet hardware also needs an update. Will your current handles and knobs match the color of the paint? Do you want to use hardware to add a new theme to the room? Or, are the knobs and pulls simply looking worn and need to be replaced? If so, choose from decorative novelty hardware such as colorful chili peppers, red apple knobs and logos from popular soda manufacturers. For a more traditional look, choose classic chrome knobs or antique style brass hardware.

Tired of this home makeover project already? Painting your kitchen cabinets is a major remodeling project that usually extends beyond a weekend adventure. Give a professional Atlanta-based painter a call for a personal quote, color suggestions and help prepping the kitchen.

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