If you’ve been mulling over painting kitchen cabinets, I’m going to share my experience hiring professional painters, the average cost and the painting method they used for our small kitchen with you. Not only that, I’ll show you what the painted cabinets look like a few years later in case you are wondering how they wear over time.
Deciding on Painting the Kitchen Cabinets
We moved into this house in 2007, and honestly, the kitchen was really just fine, But I always hated how dark and cave like the space was due to the oak cabinets. It didn’t get much sunlight during the day. I always told my husband that in this house, I would much rather move than suffer through tearing them all out and putting in new kitchen cabinets.
So when we were looking at a kitchen update, brand new kitchen cabinets were not an option. But painting the kitchen cabinets was. It’s really a great way to get a whole new look for much much less than putting in new ones! But then we had to decide if this cabinet painting project was DIY or something we were going to hire professional labor to do for us.
Do I Make This a DIY Project?
Now, if you have started down this path at any point, you probably looked and painting your cabinets yourself first. DIY saving lots of money and all that. I am 100% with you.
After painting bathroom cabinets in our guest bath with that small square footage, I did figure out that this was not a big DIY project I wanted to take on solo. It would probably take several months to finish if I did it on my own! That’s a lot of time with a dysfunctional kitchen. Two doors and a cabinet frame in the bathroom took me about a week on my own with all the prep work. (The actual painting part is the easiest part of painting your cabinets if no one has told you.)
If you’re not going to make this a DIY cabinet painting project, the other option is to hire a professional cabinet painters to come in and do it for you. Spoiler alert: I went this route and the team of painters had my kitchen taken apart, painted and put back together in a matter of days!
The process of painting kitchen cabinets with a pro
There are so many things to think about when you paint your kitchen cabinets, and unless you’ve done it a ton of times, you aren’t going to be aware of what you don’t know. The first step in a cabinet painting project is getting an estimate. If your professional painter is good, this free estimate will also come with an education about what it takes to paint your cabinets RIGHT and make that smooth finish and bright new look last for years.
What affects the cost of painting kitchen cabinets
The average cost of painting kitchen cabinets is going to vary from kitchen to kitchen, as there are many factors that go into the estimate. Larger kitchens are, of course, going to be a tad more than my medium to small kitchen, but here’s what the pros were looking at when giving my estimate:
- Size the kitchen: They took the linear foot measurements of existing cabinets, the number of cabinets, and number of cabinet doors into consideration
- Condition of cabinets: how difficult will the prep work be? Are they in really bad shape and need extra wood filler and sanding?
- Material costs (including paint costs and cost of primer). The market is always fluctuating and the cost of paint is going up just like everything else. They’ll take the current prices into consideration when pricing up your paint job
- Labor costs. If they’re a good company and only plan to inconvenience your kitchen for a few days, they’re going to have some people working for them, and the cost of having two or four workers if you have a large kitchen in your kitchen will go into your estimate.
Call a few painters in the area you live in and get a few free estimates from companies that specialize in painting cabinets. The guys that do this day in and day out have it down to a science and can guarantee their work.
While the total cost may be a shock at first, know that you are likely saving yourself months of work and you’ll know that the job is done correctly and will last and look good once it’s done.
Type of paint for Kitchen Cabinets
If you’ve ever wandered into a paint store you know that there are a mind boggling number of paint products: latex paint, oil-based paints, water based paint, primer and on and on.
But what surprised me was that the right paint (and best paint) for this job was one I’d never heard of: enamel latex paint. It’s a pretty high-quality paint but once it goes on it doesn’t even look like paint — it looks like a hard shell around the cabinets that looks like it came that way.
When applying this paint to the kitchen cabinets it does end up using a large amount of paint, as they put on seven coats. But it dries to a hard finish in the end that is worth it!
Kitchen cabinet painting project process
The first step is always prep! The workers removed all the cabinet doors and drawer faces, leaving just the cabinet frames behind. Since these were professional painters that do this on the regular, they had a warehouse they took all the doors and drawers to to work on. Having that kind of space is utterly more convenient when you’re working on a project of this size.
After they took everything down to the cabinet boxes, they put up drop cloth, a plastic barrier really, and covered my floor, counters and anything else that was not going to get paint with paper using painter’s tape. Essentially, they made the kitchen and kitchen island one giant spray booth for when they brought the paint sprayer in.
They used the same prep method on the doors at their warehouse as they did on the cabinet frames. First, they thoroughly cleaned the cabinet surfaces with soap and special cleaners. I can only imagine the years of stove grease some of those doors might have had!
Next, they sanded the old varnish off the existing doors and frames. The doors had to have some of the holes filled with wood filler and the finish sanded smooth, but after they were done, you wouldn’t know that there was ever an extra hole in the door. My cabinets were in good shape when they started, so prep wasn’t extensive.
Using a tack cloth, everything was wiped down to make sure no stray dust particles were left behind for best results. Super smooth cabinet surfaces are super important to getting a smoother finish in the end.
The team then came in with their paint sprayers. A few coats of primer was laid down, and once dry, they started spray painting each of the seven additional coats of paint onto the cabinet frames (and doors.)
I will add that we took an extra step that incurred some additional costs to our kitchen painting project. I really really wanted my cabinets to look a little less builder grade, so we added some height and crown molding to the top of the cabinets to make them look taller and give them a fancier finish. It made such a difference in the way they look and another great option instead of replacing them all–totally worth the extra costs! Not to mention, if you do something easy like add some decorator finishes to the cabinets, it does add to the value of your home.
I am going to fully admit I totally froze when it came to picking out colors and tile for the kitchen. The paint had to match the tiles on the floor, the black countertops had to stay, new hardware had to be picked out and the choices in tile boggled my mind. I spent a few hundred dollars to have someone else pick those things out for me to ensure I got what I wanted and didn’t regret any of the money I spent.
While everything looks like shades of white, the upper cabinets were painted white, while we went with a darker color (grey) on the lower cabinets. My family is still messy and grey shows the dirt a little less than white. It was a good choice.
The cabinet door handles were changed to a nickel finish. I really liked the suggestion of putting two pulls on our wider drawers—makes them look a little more designer.
The backsplash is probably my favorite feature. It’s a marble looking porcelain tile we purchased at Home Depot. Again, durability is an issue at my house, so caring for real marble tile was not in the cards. The porcelain tile holds up well to all manner of things spattered on it and wipes down clean every time.
Over the sink, we put up a roman shade with a grey border and then changed out the existing pendant light with an oversized shade. It looked huge when I unboxed it, but it adds nice scale to the room. The walls were painted snowy white.
Another thing I do love in the kitchen that we bought is the Ruggable rug. No affiliate link there, but with the extra padding it helps make for a comfortable workspace and adds just the right finishing touch to the area.
Final Cost of a New Paint Job
In the end, my kitchen cabinet refinishing project added a modern look and a lotta new life with its fresh paint. I definitely think it was the best way to go. In 2020, we paid $3900 for my small-ish kitchen and kitchen island with the additional crown moulding and replacing of all the cabinet handles. Compared to the quote of $25000 to rip everything out and replace when the existing cabinets were still in good condition, it was a pretty cost-effective way to remake the kitchen space in the house.
Wear Over Time of Painted Cabinets
As far as the long term condition of the cabinets and paint goes, I’d say it was really good. After three years, I’m starting to notice a few little wear spots on the cabinet that gets opened a million times a day, and on the edge of the frame on the inside of that same cabinet I see a little chip in the paint, but other than that, the paint on the cabinets has held up well. And for the abuse the cabinet that holds the glasses gets, I am not at all disappointed that it’s showing some use.
On top of painting the cabinets, we gave our eat in area a little facelift as well! We put down a square rug under the table that has, to this point, been great at keeping the stains and dirt hidden.
We changed out the dark beige and black light fixture for a white and chrome light with a huge–HUGE!–shade. I had my doubts it was going to look good when we first bought it, but I’ve got to say, the scale of it looks really great in the room.
I asked my friend Beth at Frederick Avenue to weave up a few new kitchen dishtowels for me (these are amazing and worth every penny!) to add a bit of color to the area.
The barstools also got a refresh to some night light grey chairs in a wipeable leather finish from the store Zuri–although I’ve seen similar at Pottery Barn.
Overall, we’ve been delighted with painting our kitchen cabinets and the nice light and airy feel our space has now. I’d definitely do it again, even with the wear and tear the paint is currently showing. I’ll have the shop touch up the area for me and we’ll look like new all over again!
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