The cabinets are painted! The cabinets are painted! I repeat, this is not a drill: our ugly brown kitchen cabinets are FINALLY painted! So why am I so excited to share this news?! Because this kitchen makeover has been four years in the making. But it kept getting put off because my husband was convinced it was either going to be insanely expensive or end up being a bear of a project. But after both of us being seriously fed up with our tired old kitchen, we finally came up with a way to do it easily, affordably and have it completely done in one weekend! And since friends share, I wanted to let you guys know how you can do your own kitchen makeover on a budget the next time you’re looking for a game-changing weekend project.
Four years ago when we bought our house we were met with the standard khaki walls with a dark brown accent wall throughout our kitchen. And since most of our furniture was wooden (wife of an aspiring carpenter at the time, remember), I felt like I was living in a brown abyss. Thankfully we painted the walls gray pretty early on, with the promise that we would make over our kitchen cabinets as soon as we could afford to. But even once we could afford to, we were still really overwhelmed by what an undertaking the project would be.
Like I said, we really thought this kitchen makeover was going to be a beast of a project. The idea of sanding and stripping the cabinets just sounded like an absolute nightmare. Hence the procrastination.
But once we really got to thinking about it, and my husband had learned a few more tricks of the trade in his industry of carpentry, we realized not only was a totally doable project. But it could be an extremely doable weekend project!
The first thing we needed to do was ship off the baby to grandma’s. While the project could be done in a weekend, it couldn’t be done if we were trying to wrangle a toddler. So if you have little ones, make sure to arrange childcare before tackling this project. This one goes way above naptime projects, people.
Note about your supplies: All kitchens are not created equal, and amounts will vary based on the size of your space. We were working with 21 standard sized cabinets and 6 drawers. So use our amounts as a point of reference not as a rule.
What you’ll need to get started:
- 4 rolls of painter’s tape (this depends on the size of your space, but you’re going to cover and secure anything you don’t want getting overspray, so error on the side of caution and return what you don’t use)
- 4 10ft x 12 ft plastic drop cloths (like painter’s tape, over estimate for your space)
- 10 cans of Rustoleum self-etching primer
- 16 cans of Rustoleum Painter’s Touch Semi-Gloss White
- 1 large roll of butcher paper
- Tape measure
- Face masks and/or respirator
- Optional: new hardware for cabinets
We kicked off our weekend with a really romantic date night in with homemade pizza, wine, and completely taking apart our kitchen. Oh don’t worry, we had Netflix on for ambiance. We started by taking off all of the cabinet doors and drawer faces. When you do this, make sure to number each cabinet and drawer as you take it down so that you know where it goes when you’re ready to put it back. Use a small piece of painter’s tape and a sharpie and you’re good to go. Make sure to use painter’s tape, because you’ll need to move the label as you paint.
Once your cabinets and drawers are taken down, you’ll want to go through and remove any hardware. We just used a drill to remove the screws and set the hardware and screws in Ziploc bags for safe keeping. If you’re having trouble removing a screw, don’t fight it. If you’re overzealous like me, you’ll strip the nail and then you’ll have to replace it. I’m speaking from experience. If this starts to happen, try drilling at a slower speed. If that doesn’t work you may need to try a different nail bit for your drill.
Seriously you guys, I just wiped a tear of pride from my husband’s eye typing out that last paragraph…
Okay back to the cabinets, once all the hardware is gone, you’ll want to wash each one with soap and water. Don’t worry about getting them too wet (if you soak them it will take forever for them to dry and therefore delay your project), just enough soap and water to get off any grease that would interfere with your paint. If not, you’ll end up with bubbly, messy primer and nobody wants that!
Now for my least favorite part, covering everything! I seriously hate this step. It’s no fun and it takes time. When I start a project all I want to do is the fun part. Setting up for me is the absolute worst!
Thankfully, though, my husband patiently ignores me as I groan through this process and helps get the job done.
You’ll want to take your drop cloth and go through and tape off all of the openings from your cabinets and cover anything that you don’t want getting overspray. Any appliances or home decor that you can move, make your life easier and go ahead and move it. We put butcher paper down on the floor and taped that off as well. Make sure to get all the way up against your cabinets to protect your walls and floors.
Because we were working with spray paint, Phillip wanted to create a tent with the drop cloth and used his shop vac as a vacuum to keep the fumes and overspray from getting all over the house. We also opened up all our sliding glass doors and turned on all our fans for maximum ventilation.
The method of using the vacuum with the tent worked amazing, but I would only recommend it if you have access to a respirator. I wasn’t able to stand it with just a face mask, but Phillip was just fine with his respirator. If you choose to go with the tent you really want to make sure you have real professional protection. You can pick up a quality respirator at your local hardware store.
But if you’re not wanting to commit to the respirator, rather than making a tent, I would recommend just covering anything that could potentially get overspray. So if you live in an open concept space and your couch is on the other side of your bar, I’d go ahead and cover the couch just to be safe.
Once you have anything good and covered, you’re ready to go!
First, you’ll start by going through and putting a coat of primer on the back side of each of your cabinets and drawer faces (make sure to move your labels so you don’t paint over them). Painting with primer is a great time to practice with your spray paint if you’re not super confident with your skills. The better your technique the higher quality your project will look when you’re all done. Or so Phillip tells me. 😉
So tips to keep in mind:
- Before painting, shake the paint can upside down for at least 2 minutes
- Spray a little test spray before you actually apply any to your project
- Do your best to spray steady strokes from left to right and then right to left overlapping the previous stroke to minimize lite spots.
- Don’t forget the outside edges
- Spray along the sides of any grooves your cabinets may have from the opposite direction to maximize coverage.
- Be mindful not to over paint or it will take forever to dry.
It may sound like a lot, but once you do one, you’ll pick up a rhythm and be just fine. Trust me, if
I can do it, you can do it! Once you’ve got the back side primed, set them aside to dry.
While the cabinets are drying, you have the perfect time to come inside and put your primer coat on the kitchen cabinet framing.
By the time you’re done with your primer coat in the kitchen, the backs of your cabinets should be dry enough for you prime the fronts. Check by touching them. If they’re sticky go ahead and prime. If they’re wet, wait a little while longer.
You’ll want to prime the fronts just like the backs, again remember to move the labels. And set aside when you’re done to let them dry.
Now you can come inside to paint your first coat of paint on the framing of the cabinets. Same technique as you did with the primer, just this time with your pretty white paint!
By the time you’re done with that, your cabinets should be good to go and it’ll be time to paint your cabinets again!
We painted the backs first again because we knew the backs would only be getting one coat. We weren’t sure initially how many coats the front would get but figured it would be easier to get the backs out of the way.
So that’s what we did! Did I forget to mention there was a lot of back and forth with this project?! Sorry about that. But when you’re feeling antsy about it just remember how beautiful it’s all going to look when you’re all done!
Alright, so once the backs are dry enough that they’re sticky to touch you can go ahead and paint the fronts of the cabinets. We let ours set out in the sun for until they were sticky, then we brought them inside to cure overnight in an effort to protect them from humidity. I highly recommend that if humidity is an issue where you live as it will impact their drying time.
But get excited, because once they’ve cured overnight, it’s time to start putting your kitchen back together!
I was seriously flipping out Sunday morning after all of the drop cloths were torn down and we could start to see the white. Such an exciting moment!
Side note: we found a few spots where overspray snuck under our covering. Don’t freak out if this happens to you. Just scrub with a little magic eraser and it will come right up. I had to do it on multiple surfaces and each handled it fine.
Okay, so now for some more tedious work, you’re going to start replacing the hardware. If you’re not fooling with knobs, just skip this part. If you already had them, you’ll go ahead and replace them. If you were like us though and are adding them you’ll need to drill holes first then place your knobs.
Then you’ll go ahead and place your hinges. Start by finding the original holes and re-attaching the hinges in the same position. Making sure to match your cabinets with their numbered spot, you’ll want to make sure to use a level and tape measure to evenly space and hang your cabinet doors. And then just drill them in place!
Before you know it you’ll be done and surrounded by the kitchen of your dreams.
I seriously can’t stop staring at my kitchen. The second we finished it instantly looked brighter and refreshed. The only thing that frustrates me about this whole thing is that it took us so long to do it! It has completely transformed the feel of our space and I couldn’t be happier.
So if you’re like us and are dreaming of making over your kitchen by painting your cabinets but are still on the fence about it, do it! It doesn’t have to cost a fortune or be a never ending complicated process. One weekend, a quick run to your hardware store and you’ll be staring at your dream kitchen too.
Want to make the project even easier? Click here for a FREE step by step printable with shopping checklist!
What do you think?! Would you ever think of giving this kitchen makeover a try?