How We Saved Big by Painting Outdated Kitchen Cabinets

In December 2021, one week before Christmas, I had the genius idea to paint our outdated kitchen cabinets. We had been discussing this little project since moving into our house in July. I had looked at three different “levels” of new cabinets at Menards (our go-to for all big projects) and the cheapest level was going to be just under $5,000 (and we all know I wasn’t going for that one)!

With that price tag, it was going to be awhile before we could redo the kitchen. We did a ton of research, and talked to Ben’s Aunt and Uncle that had painted their cabinets, and decided we would give it a go. “If we hate it, it’s only putting us out $50 and we can save up to replace them,” Ben said when he came home with the color he had picked.

So right before Christmas, I had finally had enough and decided to go for it. This is how we tackled this project in one week, and saved THOUSANDS.

First up, let me show you what we were working with. These pictures are from the DAY we moved into the house, because I forgot to take a “before” picture when we started. Oops…

How to Prep the Cabinets

The first step to any project, and the most boring, is prepping the area. I split up the project in half and started with the wall cabinets. I took off every door and it’s hardware, and labeled each door, where it went and the hardware that was on it with a lettering system and a roll of painters tape.

Next up was cleaning everything to remove any dirt, oil, fingerprints, food, etc. To do this I used TSP (you can buy at any hardware store, usually in the paint section) and sponge and hot water. I scrubbed down every inch of each door, and the exterior of the cabinets that were going to be painted. My setup was simple: one bowl with 1 teaspoon of TSP mixed into 1 quart of water, a bowl with warm water and a microfiber cloth to rinse off the cleaner, and another microfiber cloth to dry.

Then I setup my work station and let everything dry for 2-4 hours.

(I then repeated this with the base cabinets once the top cabinets were done)

Time to Paint!

For painting our cabinets we ended up using Pittsburgh Paints & Stains Fast Dry in Elusion (wall cabinets) and Gibraltar Gray (Base cabinets). We tested it out on the craft table Ben built for our basement, and loved the dry times and the end result feel of the paint on wood. It hardens like an enamel, so hopefully will have a longer life before touchups are needed, compared to other paints we looked into.

The instructions with the paint said 15 minutes dry to the touch, 2 hours between recoating, and a 7 day cure time before any cleaning.

With painting cabinets everyone, EVERYONE, said to take your time between flipping the doors. I think this is to avoid any paint drips on your doors. Even though this paint said two hours before recoat, we did wait 12-30 hours before flipping doors. Here is how our “schedule” looked.

Paint one side of door, let dry 2-4 hours. Paint 2nd coat, let sit overnight.

Next morning, flip doors. Paint other side of doors, wait 2-4 hours, 2nd coat, let sit over night.

Tip From Us to You

Tip 1

Paint the backs of the doors FIRST, then do the fronts on the second day. This will keep any drips from running around the edges. Luckily we only had to fix one door by sanding the drip and repainting the second coat.

We were kind of all over the place as we went. On the wall cabinets we did half of the fronts and half of the backs first. On the base cabinets I ended up setting it all up so I could do all of the fronts and then all of the backs on the second day. THIS was the mistake.

Tip 2

I cannot stress this enough. Make SURE you mix your paint well before every single coat. I HIGHLY suggest one of these drill attachments, saves your wrist and gets a great mix to the paint. There are a few different sizes, for different purposes obviously. We got one specifically for the gallon of paint so that I didn’t have to tote around and clean the giant one for our 5 gallon buckets of drywall mud.

Tip 3

You want to use TWO different kind of rollers for the cabinets, a foam roller and a woven roller.

You want to use the woven roller on any REAL wood. Think the face of the cabinets and on the actual doors. Anything that is not real wood, the sides of the cabinets, you want to use a foam roller because they cover super smooth surfaces wayyy better.

Finished Results

When we started, both Ben and I were nervous as all hell. As I brushed on the first paint stroke we were both praying that this was going to turn out okay enough for us to live with for a few years.

Man, oh man, I did NOT expect to love this transformation as much as I do! As we hung the wall cabinet doors back up we were both in shock. The entire room was instantly brighter and the paint job looked professional. IN. SHOCK.

To this day (about 1.5 weeks later) we are still randomly telling each other to look at the cabinets because WOW.

The biggest surprise, for me, is how great the paint feels on the cabinets. I was really worried about the cabinets feeling like they were painted, and I wish I could describe what I expected, but these expectations were squashed. The enamel coating with this paint gives the paint a hard texture. Like I said, I truly think these babies will LAST.

Breakdown of Money Spent and Saved

Paint: $83.98 ($41.99 per gallon)

Knobs: $74.82

Drawer Pulls: $27.74

TOTAL: $186.54

We gave this kitchen a COMPLETE makeover for $186.54 *que jaw drop* saving us approximately $4,306.01 at the low end of cabinetry and over $13,628.74 at the high end of what we wanted! Painting the cabinets allowed us to order our countertops right away, which ended up being the cost of what we saved by painting instead of replacing with new cabinetry.

If you are looking to give your kitchen a complete makeover without spending even $1,000 I highly recommend taking a swing at painting your cabinets yourself. There are so many great paints made specifically for this purpose and the end result is just amazing!

If you have ANY questions that I haven’t answered here, please feel free to shoot me a DM on Instagram or an email at meetthehoveys@meetthehoveys

p.s we will be back with another update once the countertops are in, which should be in about two weeks! eeeek! 😀

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