Painting Your Kitchen Cabinets: Before You Start

Hi friends! Since mid-January, I’ve been entrenched in what seems like a monster of a project: renovating the kitchen. In reality, though, it’s a lot more doable than it seems. I decided to refinish my cabinets, install a new light, paint the walls, install a new backsplash, install a new faucet, install new potracks and shelving, and buy new appliances (so really, remodeling the entire kitchen). I’m going to break down the remodel into several posts over the next few weeks, so I make sure I can give you all the details to do it yourself at home, and so I can finish my own kitchen between posts 🙂

updated cabinet drawers
My pretty new drawers!

In the first few posts, I’m going to start with painting the kitchen cabinets because there’s a lot of (mostly easy) steps and details to review. Today I’m going to talk about getting the supplies I used, picking out my cabinet paint, and prepping my space for this month-long project.

As a reminder, I am not a professional contractor. This entire blog describes how I completed projects around my own home and is not intended to be taken as professional advice. If you ever feel unsafe or uncomfortable about tackling any projects, please call a licensed contractor, plumber, or electrician.

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies

Getting all your supplies ahead of time is key to avoiding any frustration in the future. I pulled ideas for a lot of my supplies from countless Pinterest articles I read, but I added in a few of my own after getting started. Whatever you choose to use, make sure you get everything (and maybe a few back ups) before you start in order to avoid an angry trip to your hardware store, arms covered in paint marks and clothes covered in saw dust, to pick up more tack cloth when you run out (not that I’m speaking from experience or anything).

Here’s what I used to prepare and paint my cabinets:

Disclosure: The links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no cost to you, I earn a small commission if you click the link and purchase the item.

  • Degreaser and paper towels (I used Spray Nine )
  • Orbital sander with medium and extra fine sand paper.
    • Note: If you don’t have a sander and don’t want to buy one, you  don’t need to. You can certainly hand sand your entire kitchen  multiple times. But, if you’d like to save a TON of time and a LOT of sanity, invest in a handheld orbital sander. I use the Ryobi Orbital Sander since the rest of my tools are Ryobi and they have interchangeable batteries. It’s $45, so not a huge investment and  it’s definitely something you’ll use for many projects in the  future. 
    • Another Note: If you’re just buying the sander for this project,  look into the Ryobi Corner Cat Sander. It’s $39 and the  pointed end will help you get more surface area than the orbital will. 
  • Medium and Fine sandpaper Blocks (to help you get the small corners and edges the sander can’t reach)–I used these (fine) and these (medium).
  • Tack cloth (this is something I had to reorder from Amazon AND get more at Home Depot, so you can’t have enough sheets). I went through 12 sheets in my project.
  • Shop Vac–this isn’t needed but it definitely made clean up a breeze and didn’t clog my Dyson with sawdust. I have a hand-me-down version of this one from my dad, but there’s much smaller and less expensive ones if you want to invest in one but don’t want one that big or that expensive
  • Kilz Premium Primer 1 gallon
  • Paint stirring sticks
  • Cabinet paint of choice (see Step 2 for more details)
  • 2.5 inch, high quality angled paint brush
  • 4 inch roller and roller covers (8 covers total)
  • Rolling pan and liners (they make small ones for the small rollers, but I just used the big ones since I had some at home)
  • Painters tape
  • Drop cloths
  • Plastic cups (enough for 4 cups/ door front or drawer front)
  • Screwdriver (see my door knob post for why I love the Buck Brothers 6 in 1 screwdriver so much) or Power driver (the drill that screws and unscrews things for us normal people who call everything a drill)
  • Disposable gloves (to keep your manicure from becoming polka-dotted), eye shields and N95 face masks or whatever face mask you can find (to keep sawdust out of your eyes, nose, and mouth)
  • New Cabinet Hardware and an Impact Driver (only if you’re replacing your old hardware)

I bought a Home Depot orange bucket to store all my supplies in so I could stay organized. It’s $3 and you will always have use for a bucket in the future (and if not, make an emergency kit out of it—check Pinterest out for some fun ideas for this one).

bucket filled with supplies
At least some of the mess (ahem, I mean, supplies) is contained 🙂

Step 2: Pick Your Cabinet Paint

Now, here’s where most of the angst and mental struggle for the project occurred–picking the right shade of paint. I wanted to paint the kitchen cabinets white, but it couldn’t be too white, and it couldn’t be too ivory, or too gray. (Anyone else picturing Goldilocks trying out porridge here?) I looked at so many Pinterest posts about white kitchen cabinet paint that all the names started blurring together, and let’s be real, all whites look white after a while. So after days of agonizing over the right color online, I decided to do the sane thing and take my favorite few whites I found online and go to the store to compare.

4 varieties of white paint from Sherwin Williams
All Sherwin Williams whites (although they looked a lot more white on Pinterest)

I chose Sherwin Williams paint, because everything I had researched said to use a better brand than your hardware store paint (even though I use Behr for essentially everything else) and Sherwin Williams is the closest paint store to my house. I also wanted a self-leveling paint (it helps hide brush strokes after the paint is applied) and a little advice on the best paint line to choose from.

With my few favorites in hand, I walked into Sherwin Williams to look at color swatches, and I ended up picking up a completely different color– White Tail. All the colors I walked in with just felt too ivory and not enough white when I looked at them in the store. We were worried about making the cabinets white-white, but I didn’t want them to be true ivory either. So, I just made a snap decision and went with White Tail.

white color of paint
I know you’re thinking in your head, “This looks exactly like the ones she said were too ivory.” But, I promise, in real life it’s much lighter.

The Sherwin Williams guy recommended ProClassic Interior Acrylic Latex paint line. It’s self-leveling, and he said it’s specifically designed to paint cabinets (the label says trim and doors, and I feel like cabinets are a little bit of both). We picked a satin sheen, because we didn’t want it to be shiny, but you could go with semi-gloss if you don’t mind a bit of shine.

paint can
And, I just noticed my paint can says Semi-Gloss—did I get duped?!?!

If you want to test your paint before committing, you can buy tester sizes of your favorite color. I didn’t, as you aren’t going to know the true color of the paint by trying it on the wall or existing cabinet since you’ll be sanding it  and priming it before applying your final color. And let’s be honest, I didn’t have the  patience to add time to the project. But, if you do, or you’re really unsure  about a color, go for it! Just make sure you test it on a cabinet sanded and  primed so you know what the color will truly look like in your kitchen. And, if you don’t go with that color, make sure you sand it off, re-prime, and re-paint.

I only bought one gallon of paint, but if your kitchen is any bigger than mine (8’x12′) or if you want some for touch ups for when you scratch the utensil drawer when you make your first dinner in your fancy new kitchen, you’ll need more than 1 gallon. After 2 coats, I don’t have any left for touch ups in the future, and I’m waiting for a 30% sale at Sherwin Williams to buy some to have on hand.

Step 3: Set Up Your Space

This is a super important step that I didn’t take enough time on. This is where you prepare yourself for taking everything out of the kitchen and putting things in other rooms until you are done. You also need to clear out wherever you’re keeping your doors and drawer fronts as you paint them. Think about what you need access to every day, once a week, and rarely, and use that to help place your items in your new ‘kitchen’.

messy dining room table
Not trying to stress you out with another messy picture, but anything we used every day is on this table, but so is our grilling equipment (it was January when I painted), some painting supplies, and a dog nerf gun. If I had thought things through a little better, I would have just kept our every day kitchen supplies here (knives, pots, tinfoil).

It took me about a week to gather the supplies, aka wait for my Amazon deliveries, make a few trips to Home Depot and Sherwin Williams. And, it took me an hour or so to move everything out of the kitchen that I didn’t want to keep in. I left a lot my food and other covered items in the kitchen–things I didn’t mind getting dust on the outside because they were easily wiped off. But, if you want to paint the inside of your cabinets, or don’t want dust on everything, budget a few more hours (and maybe another room in your house) for you to take everything out .

Ok, that’s all for today. I’ll be back in a few days, and we’ll talk about taking the kitchen cabinet doors down, cleaning, and (our absolute favorite) sanding!


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