Apr. 16, 2020

No, Painting Cabinets Isn’t Easy. Yes, You Can Do It!


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Last updated:
Sep. 7, 2022 @ 3:18 pm

When we bought our home three years ago we set out on the great mission of painting cabinets. No, this was not just some small vanity or cupboard. This first attempt at a room-changing challenge was going to be our full-blown kitchen. Painting cabinets. A design enthusiast’s greatest DIY moment, right? HGTV had taught me that this journey would have me smiling as I rolled on the first spot of paint, laughing as paint splattered on my spouse’s face and the whole project would go from drab to fab in a thirty-minute episode. Best DIY ever.

If you haven’t caught the sarcastic tone, I’m calling it out here. Painting cabinets is nothing like what you see on HGTV. Truthfully, it almost broke us. Like actual sweat and tears in quantities that I can’t even summarize. But, we came out on the other side with beautifully bright and updated kitchen cabinets and it made a huge difference. What do I wish I’d had? Calibrated expectations. This home update is not for the faint of heart and there are five things I learned and am sharing with you here so that you can determine whether or not painting cabinets is the right DIY for you.

Things You Must Know Before Painting Your Cabinets

You Can’t Rush Perfection

A solid finished product is going to take time and this is a terrible DIY to cut corners. We’re not talking about simply sanding and painting. There’s waiting for your cabinets to properly dry, sanding in between coats and properly cleaning between each sanding (what?!). It can be exhausting, mundane and a total mental challenge. Do your research and know that, depending on the size of your kitchen, a properly done project could take a few weeks if you’re working solo.

It Can Still Be Pricey

While we definitely saved money on cheap labor (AKA me and my paintbrush), the supplies were still fairly expensive. You will save money in the long run with self-painted cabinets but know that, if you invest in the proper paint and supplies, this project can still run you a pretty penny. Our total supplies (not including new hardware, which is optional) cost close to $700. Get the good paint, you won’t regret it.

A Mess That Can Add To The Stress

Your kitchen is going to be a pretty little disaster for some time. Keep in mind the amount of time you spend on a daily basis in this space and how it’s going to impact your living. Cabinet doors will be off, drawers will be out and you’ll come in from a hard days work not knowing where anything is. Also know that, while you can sand and paint those pieces outdoors, the base cabinets aren’t going to move (unless you’re a total champion!) and there will be dust and paint in your home from working on them. Just embrace the chaos.

There’s Beauty In The Blemishes

Contradicting my first bullet… you can take all the time you need and use the absolute best supplies and things will not be 100% perfect. Even hiring professionals, nothing is ever totally free of blemishes. Painting your cabinets is hard, there are tons of nooks and crannies and imperfection is all part of it. Embrace the Wabi-Sabi and appreciate the fact that you’ve undertaken this truly challenging task.

The End Is Always In Sight

That first stroke of paint was so exciting. Then I got to the second coat and was so over it. This might seem like a harmless DIY but the process of painting your cabinets will test you emotionally. It wasn’t until the fifth coat of paint (We had six coats in total including primer.) that I started to see the progress and envision the finished product. If you’ve created a mood board or have a photo for inspiration, hang it up in your kitchen to remind yourself of what you’re working towards. It will definitely help to remind you of why you’ve taken on this crazy task!

Remember that you’re a self-motivated DIY master and you can do this. Setting the right expectations, getting HGTV out of the head and being kind and patient to yourself in the process is all that you need!

Have you painted your cabinets? Have more questions? Share in the comments below!

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