If you follow Practically Spoiled, you’ll see I’m on a mission of complete oak-elimination from my house. (See my gel stained oak banister makeover here)
When we bought our house, the kitchen was partially upgraded: nice new travertine floors, not-my-first choice granite and an “eh” backsplash. But the elephant in the room was the flaming orange, grainy, ugly – yet good condition, solid wood oak cabinets. SIGH.
I agonized for months over exactly what to do with the cabinets (Chalk Paint, Alkyd Paint, Re-staining, Gel Stain, Refacing, Waiting until my husband was out of the house then smashing them to pieces so we’d be forced to get new cabinets … etc.) and finally landed on the no-sanding, prime and paint method.
I know there are tons and tons and tons of tutorials on painting cabinets (I’ve read just about every one, twice… maybe three times), but why not add another one to the mix?
Here are the steps I took to take my ugly oak kitchen cabinets from HATE (an orange oak nightmare) to GREAT (a dreamy, creamy off-white):
This project requires NO major sanding and a lower-intermediate DIY skill level.
This project isn’t technically hard, but it was very time and space consuming. Allow yourself about 4 WEEKENDS for a comparable sized kitchen. Yes 8 hour days, both Saturday & Sunday, for 4 weeks to finish the project. Also prepare for cabinets to take over the majority of your living space and to be eating a lot of pizza and Chinese food. Pick a season when you can have windows open and a fan going, because the best DIY projects always come along with a bit of stink.
Finally, before you begin this project, make sure you’re comfortable with the materials and process. I encourage you to do your own research. This exact process and the exact materials I used worked wonderfully for me, but as always, DIY at your own risk.
• TSP substitute, a scrubby sponge and gloves for cleaning.
• Foam rollers. (Don’t use regular rollers, their fibers will get stuck in the oak and the finish won’t be smooth.)
• Some quality paint brushes. I used a 2.5″ & 1″ Purdy brush and a fine art brush like these for the tiny crevices and around the hardware. (Don’t cheap out here, I promise a good brush makes for a good finish.)
• A paint tray & painting cup.
• A gallon of Zinsser 123 Water Based Primer. (This is key to the paint sticking to the cabinets!)
• About two gallons (for a kitchen the size of mine, see pics) of Sherwin Williams ProClassic Interior Acrylic Latex Paint in Satin, in your choice of fabulous color. (NOTE: Sherwin Williams refers to this paint as: “ProClassic Waterborne Interior Acrylic Latex” on their website.) The color I used is Antique White and I flippin’ love, love, love it.
• A quart of General Finishes High Performance Water Base Polyurethane Topcoat in Satin. (I did A LOT of homework on the topcoat and this stuff is expensive, but beloved, because it cures rock hard! Highly recommend!)
• Staining pads to apply the poly.
• Elmer’s Wood Fill, if you are moving the location of your hardware OR if you need to repair any dinks, dents or oopsie-daisies in your cabinets before painting.
• An extra fine sanding block (for the wood fill and for a quick, light sand after priming/before painting – only if needed!)
• A pack of tack cloths.
• New door bumpers. (You’ll be removing the old for painting.)
• A show to binge watch & a heaping dose of PATIENCE!
Step #1 – Woodwork. (Optional)
First, I tackled the woodwork. I removed bead board that was on the peninsula which revealed some unfinished wood that was underneath. To dress it up, I added some DIY wainscoting using basic window casing. I also added it the to the side panels of the bottom cabinets and added trim to the bottoms of the upper cabinets. These details make my stock cabinets look a bit more custom, and only took about $125 in materials and about 2 days of Home Depot trips, measuring, cutting, recutting, nailing, caulking and filling. Totes worth it.
I won’t go through a whole tutorial on how to do it, but here’s all the stuff I used for the woodwork:
• Pre-primed, basic window casing for the wainscoting.
• Pre-primed cap moulding for under the cabinets.
• My most favorite tool ever, the Ryobi Airstrike Brad Nailer. Seriously, I love this thing as much as my handbags, my Pinot Grigio and my husband (he’s ok with that.) It’s so easy to use and has taken my DIY abilities to the next level. I swear I wasn’t paid to say any of that.
• My second most favorite tool, my 12″ Compound Miter Saw from Harbor Freight Tools. (If you’re in the market for one, don’t forget to use a 20% off coupon!)
Step #2 – Paint Prep. (This is a long one people, but stick with me…)
Take everything in the way, out of your cabinets. I didn’t paint the inside of my cabinets, so I was able leave most stuff in there.
Grab a screwdriver and remove all the hardware (excluding hinges.) Then CAREFULLY, using a utility knife, remove the plastic bumpers on the interior of the doors.
Now clean all the paintable surfaces! Using a little TSP substitute and a scrubby sponge (while wearing gloves in a well-ventilated space), give the cabinets a good scrub down. Wipe off all cleaner with a clean wet rag. Let everything dry completely.
Take the painter’s tape and tape off anything around the cabinet boxes that you don’t want to get paint on. The walls, the floor, the interior of the cabinets, under the countertops, etc.
Label all the doors and drawers. Draw a quick diagram of your cabinet layout and number each door/drawer. Doesn’t have to be fancy or even remotely resemble cabinets, as long as you understand it. Using painters tape and a sharpie make corresponding number stickers and place them inside the hinge on the door. For drawers you can just write the number middle of the backside (after you remove them), as no one will ever see it.
Remove all the doors and drawers, leaving the hardware attached to the doors. Place all the screws in a plastic baggie and put them in a safe, memorable place. You do not want to lose them! (Anyone notice I just said baggie?)
Now here’s where having lots of workspace helps tremendously. It’s amazing how much space cabinet doors take up, but it’s important to take them down to paint. The paint self levels so you won’t have any unsightly drips. Cover your work space with plastic or newspaper, then find something to prop the doors up on so you can easily paint the sides. We wanted to buy these nifty painting pyramids, but with the sheer amount we would have needed, it would have cost like $200. So, instead we wrapped the tops of cans in tin foil and laid the cabinet doors on them. That’s right, our garbanzo beans, soups, crushed tomatoes and artichokes all got put to good use.
Step #4 – Quick fixes.
Any dinks or dents that need to be repaired? Planning on drilling new holes for the hardware and need to cover the old? Grab your wood fill and fill the areas using a putty knife. Once dry, use the sanding block to create a smooth, seamless finish. Use a tack cloth on the cabinets after sanding to make sure you have a nice, clean surface to paint on.
Step #5 – Primer Time.
You’re finally ready to prime! This exciting stuff is quite liquidy and requires two coats for a good base for the paint to grab onto. You can brush or roll it on, though I found it went on better with a brush. Aim for nice even strokes, don’t layer it on too thick. No matter what you do, it will be uneven looking and that’s okay. It’s just primer.
If you’re looking to minimize (not completely get rid of, but minimize) the grain of the oak, go for three or even four coats of primer. It builds up in those nasty grain crevices to reduce their unsightly appearance.
After the primer is dry, only IF you were sloppy and find drip marks that create an uneven surface, you can give those spots a quick very, very light sand to even them out. Follow immediately with a tack cloth to remove the dust.
Step #5 – Paint Party.
Is your primer dry? Great! Grab your pre-rinsed and dried brushes (to remove any loose bristles) and let’s get-a-paintin’.
So why Sherwin Williams ProClassic Interior Acrylic Latex Paint paint you ask? After LOTS of research it checked the most boxes in terms of what I was looking for: 1) High viscosity for thick, pigmented coverage. 2) Durable, this paint is intended for interior doors and trim that take a lot of daily beating. 3) Water based, as I didn’t really want to deal with harsher chemical paints like an Alkyd or Oil base. 4) Self-leveling, because I wasn’t buying a paint sprayer this was SUPER important. I wanted a professional, smooth finish from rollers and brushes and this paint allowed me to achieve that. It is expensive, but in the case of painting cabinets not any old paint will do. Sign up for Sherwin Williams emails and wait for your coupon – they run monthly specials to get as much as 40% off, which is substantial when you’re talking about $60 gallons.
You’ll need two, possibly three coats of paint. Use the small brush to paint around the hinges you left on. If you get any paint on the hardware, rubbing alcohol takes it off. Again, nice even strokes. Use the roller for as much of the cabinet as possible, going in with the brush in tighter spaces and edges. This will ensure the smoothest finish. Make sure you let each coat fully dry before applying the next or flipping a cabinet door over to do the other side. We don’t want to mess anything up this far in, now do we?
Step #6 – Put it back together.
Do you even remember what your kitchen looks like all put together? I know, it’s taken for-like-ever, but that blazing orange is gone, isn’t it? Almost done!
Once the paint is fully dry, find that bag of screws from the hinges (you put it in a safe place, remember?) and using your handy dandy diagram you drew, start putting the cabinets back up – CAREFULLY! You don’t want to scratch the paint job…
Step #7 – Poly Party.
Ask your nearest parrot if, “Poly wanna party?” Did they say yes? If they answered and you don’t have a pet parrot, open a window the fumes are getting to you.
Take a shallow plastic container, like a large yogurt container and pour some of the mixed poly into it. Wearing gloves, take a staining pad and dip it into the poly. Ring it out so it’s not soaking, but not completely dry. Using long, even strokes, going with the grain, apply the poly to the cabinets. Once you wipe over a section, try not to go over it again immediately, as it begins to dry quickly and can get streaky. When it’s dry, add new bumpers before closing the doors or drawers.
The more coats, the more protected your paint job will be. Wait for each coat to dry before you apply the next. I personally did three coats. It dries in 24 hours, but it takes 30 days to completely cure, so handle with care until then.
Step #8 – Hardware.
Guys, this is the crowning jewel, the hardware. If you’re reusing the old, easy peasy, screw it back on. If you’re putting on new, you may need to drill some new holes.
I hunted for hardware for a while, and I was ready to pay some big bucks for nice pieces. But then I found some oil rubbed bronze beauties on Amazon that were not only really inexpensive, but also had excellent reviews. For the drawers I used these cup pulls and for the doors I used these knobs. I was totally skeptical because of how inexpensive they were, but I was pleasantly surprised by their weight and quality in person.
Step #9 – Regain your weekends and sanity.
Step back and look… You did it!!! Grab the nearest bottle of wine and consume it in 3 gulps. You deserve it.
At this point, all of the hard work, hermit-like behavior and take out meals became 110% worth it. Spending around $350 ($225 on painting supplies and hardware and another $125 on trim) I was able to take my kitchen from HATE to GREAT in a month. BIG shout out to my husband who played a major role in this project and to mom, who assisted with the painting!
If this doesn’t prove that a little paint (and a little trim) go a long way…
And here’s the before…
And now after…
It looks like a whole new kitchen! I also installed inexpensive soft close hinge adapters, so now they also feel new! (Read all about that here) Who knew oak could look so good? Now it’s time to figure out what to do with the oak bathroom cabinets… hmm?Curious how the cabinets are holding up? Check out my update: From Hate to Still Great!
Incase you’re wondering where everything is from:
Appliances: Kitchen Aid
Lighting: Quorum Vesta 3 Light & Quorum Vesta 6 Light (NOTE: The glass drops on this chandelier have changed and may not be reflected in the picture! Email before you order. I found this out when I ordered another matching chandelier for my hallway and it did not come with the long “icicle” looking glass, but plain “rain drop” shaped glass instead.)
Chairs: Basset, no longer available!
Under cabinet paper towel holder: Ballard Designs
Faucet: Pfister Wheaton
Iron Wall Decor: Pier 1, no longer available!
Wall paint color: Benjamin Moore, Revere Pewter
Granite color: Not 100% sure, as it was here when we moved in, but the best guess is “Bordeaux Bahia”. It’s a slab that errs on the less “pink” side.
Floor and Backsplash Tiles: Unknown. Like the granite, the previous owner did these upgrades and unfortunately I don’t have any information on them.
This post is not sponsored, all opinions and instructions are my own. Please DIY at your own risk. This post contains affiliate links.
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