The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Painting Kitchen Cabinets
This is Part One of the Kitchen Renovation. Stay tuned for the rest of the photos of my DIY Kitchen Renovation on a budget over 10 years (at least I’m honest?).
Before we get started let’s get one thing clear. I didn’t say this is the easiest way to paint kitchen cabinets (if you want that one, hire someone else;). Nor, did I say the best or even the fastest way. Nope, it has been none of those but it definitely has been the laziest.
I had nothing to lose experimenting with my cabinets because this is what I was working with: water damaged, builder grade doors with laminate cabinet boxes. I did go back and forth about whether or not to paint all the cabinets white (except the island which I painted dark grey first as I wanted it to blend in a bit). Ultimately, I thought the dark grey would hold up better so painted the cabinets around the sink grey to match the island. To be honest, I think the white may show less drips but I do like the dark and light contrast- adds a bit of a modern touch.
Waiting for paint to dry is about as fun as watching grass grow. However, this step might be the most important for good coverage and durability. Chalk paint is extremely fast drying. In fact, I could recoat in as little as 30 minutes meaning by the time I was done with one coat, I could go through and do the second. However, the sealant did require extra drying time and added a few days to each section of the project. I broke my mid-sized kitchen into four sections as I didn’t have the space or the time to do all the cabinets at once. I also took my time as I didn’t want to do the job twice.
Another positive for chalk paint is that it takes very little prep. I lightly sanded and wiped down my kitchen cabinets, but I didn’t do anything before I painted my bathroom ones and they are holding up superbly months later. It’s important to note that chalk paint will get water stains if you do not seal it quickly. I learned that the hard way with the bathroom cabinets, luckily not much but the water stain did bleed through my additional coat of paint. Speaking of sealant, the Rustoleum sealant in the same line is more durable than wax but less difficult to work with than polyurethane. After doing some reading, I would not recommend using wax on kitchen and/or high traffic furniture. I did find the sealant sometimes took a little paint off but that most likely was a material issue as I found it happened most on the laminate cabinet frames not the doors themselves. I also think it happened more when I did fewer coats or didn’t sand beforehand. Don’t be lazy like me- make sure you sand all your surfaces.
Here’s the part that was not so easy. You really need to remove the doors to paint them evenly. I successfully painted my bathroom cabinets with the doors on. They aren’t in a high traffic area and the little spots I must have missed aren’t going to be noticeable. However, there are too many kitchen cabinets for this to be successful. Taking all the cabinets off and painting them would be quick if A) I had space for them or B) I didn’t have four children. As it is I’ve had to work in sections which just means that the project has seemed to drag on and on. So just so you know the lazy version of kitchen cabinet painting is not necessarily the easiest or fastest version. But, it is the most fool proof for the reasons above and one more.
Chalk paint naturally has a bit of a brushed look. Therefore when your finished look has a few imperfections, it just looks like chalk paint. Now, if you hate the chalky look, by all means don’t count this as a positive. But, for me, the lazy girl, this is a big plus. Because though I’m lazy, I’m also a perfectionist, which is why I’ve waited ten years to paint those darn things. I hate when painted cabinets look chipped and worn so my hope is the combination of the natural brush strokes and the incredible staying power of chalk paint will help keep them looking nice.
I’m optimistic that the Rustoleum sealant will be wipeable. I’ve had my island painted for about four months now and it’s been pretty easy to wipe. I haven’t had any major food disasters yet- with four children that’s bound to happen so I’ll update you if that ends poorly.
If you don’t want a fast, easy, or perfect finish on your kitchen cabinets read my step by step guide to painting cabinets with chalk paint:
Round Chalk Paint brush (this helps get in nooks and crannies do not skip these)
Foam Paint Brushes (These do break down, I bought the Wooster ones and they’re worth the extra dollar or two because they hold up longer. Buy several to get you through your project. I used four in all.)
Drop cloths, painting tape, and other things painters seem to use (but I didn’t for the most part- I did use one old sheet and some 2×2 boards we had laying around in the garage for lifting the cabinets from the floor- again this is not a step you can skip- don’t try to just place the doors directly on a flat surface)
- Remove the doors (one section at a time, if like me, you don’t have room to do it all at once) and carefully keep hardware labeled for each door (just kidding, I didn’t do that- I’m just glad we didn’t lose any in the process).
- Lightly sand and clean your cabinets and frames (but not too well, a few dust bunnies or hair in the paint never hurt anyone right? And, those crumbs just make it an authentically mom with toddlers project).
- Note that nothing sticks well to laminate as you paint 2-3 coats on the cabinet frames. This is another plus for chalk paint- I’m not sure regular paint would have held at all to my cheap cabinet frames, the chalk paint did for the most part and if it didn’t, I hope it was not in a noticeable spot.
- Paint the front and backs of your cabinet doors, recoating immediately but leaving 12+ hours between sides for drying. I used two coats for the darker paint but three for the white. This took a while but I think it will be key in the durability of the job. I’ve had most of my kitchen painted for three+ months now and no major damage even on the high traffic ones (both colors).
- Wait at least 24 hours (it says eight on the can but from experience it wasn’t long enough) and seal the cabinets with two coats (wait at least 1-2 hours between coats). For this step, I kept two foam paint brushes around so I could wipe away excess more easily. It will get cloudy if you do not wipe away all the white of the sealant- this was especially importantly for the darker cabinets.
- Paint all the cabinets except one section. Wait three months. Get frustrated, start the 3-4 day long project, realize you lost your can of sealant, and then yell at everyone to not get water in the kitchen until you buy more. Oh wait, this last step may only apply to me 😉.
There you have it. How to take four months longer to paint your kitchen cabinets than anyone in their right mind really should. But, as a bonus, if you like chaos, clutter, or just really enjoy not being able to wash dishes for three days straight while your children insist on using three sippy cups a day, this is definitely the guide for you. You’re welcome.
Coming next week, the full kitchen reveal and details on how to fully renovate your kitchen without a budget or a timeline aka the Lazy Girl’s way.