Put some paint on it: Kitchen upgrade season two

Late last August, I was musing about what we might do to our kitchen eventually. I painted one of the walls, got the right paint for the kitchen cabinets and started painting them. However, it still looks exactly like the picture below since the only work I did was on the other side. Guess we need a second season of Extreme Makeover: Kitchen Edition.

It certainly needs an update. The last owner put in fake cherry wood laminate flooring without regard for the medium oak cabinets or cream and black appliances. The brass handles aren’t to our taste, nor is 1980s wanna-be 1920s pool hall ceiling fan. The laminate countertop is disintegrating where it has gotten wet over the years and the cabinets themselves aren’t in great condition.

That said, complete kitchen remodels are expensive and even for our small galley kitchen, we’ve been unable to secure an estimate under $6,000. That doesn’t include the appliances or flooring. We recently replaced our refrigerator, and the dishwasher and oven still work, but both have their issues and are clearly going to need to be replaced sooner rather than later. Even if we were trying to sell, there are very few condos in our development with upgraded kitchens. So rather than sink a bunch of cash into remodeling, we’ve decided to upgrade it piecemeal as time and budget allow. We’re going for better, not perfect, and it’s not going to happen overnight. Sorry if that’s not super inspirational.

I actually started this process last fall, but got involved with my business and other projects. So now I’m back at it. The first step involves paint. Namely: on the kitchen cabinets.

As far as I’m concerned, the only thing these cabinets have going for them is that they’re flat. No annoying recessed arches or other funky molding. So luckily that makes painting them pretty easy. But “easy” is sort of relative. Any painting project like this requires a lot of prep work.

First of all, we took everything out of the upper cabinets on the right side of the kitchen. One of the reasons this project has been so annoying is that I have to do it in stages instead of being able to do the whole thing at once. We don’t have space to paint all the doors at the same time so I have to repeat the same basic steps four times. Not ideal, but we do what we have to do.

Then Doug took all the doors off the cabinets. We’re following Young House Love instructions on this one, by the way. They painting all the kitchen cabinets in their second house and they looked really good and really professional so that’s what we’re hoping for too.

Next, we took off the old handles and hinges. We’re going to be reusing the hinges, but not the awful, ugly hardware. I put each set of hinges in plastic bags marked with which door they go to.

Then we sanded them with my palm sander and 80 grit sandpaper to rough up the surface and give the paint something to grab onto.

Then I wiped down the door faces with a deglosser. Assuming there was any finish left after I sanded, it just dulls the glossy surface so the paint will stick and takes off any accumulated grease. If you don’t regularly wipe down your cabinet doors, you might want to do this step first.

It was really hot out there so we brought everything back inside for the next step, which was using wood filler on the old hardware holes and anywhere else that felt nicked, dented or places where I though the grain of the wood might show through the paint.

And that’s as far as we’ve gotten thus far. The wood filler has to dry for a minimum of 2 hours before you can sand it so I let it dry, then filled the hardware holes from the back too. Now that is done, I want to leave it a minimum of 24 hours before I do the final sanding and start with primer.

When I did the bottom cabinets on this side of the kitchen, it was about a two week process with all the pausing to let each coat dry completely before sanding and applying the next one. It’s worth it though. The bank of cabinets we did then has held up quite nicely.

Have you ever painted kitchen cabinets? Did you find it just as time-consuming?

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