Transform your outdated kitchen on a budget.

You’ve seen all those pictures on the internet of freshly painted kitchen cabinets that completely transform an outdated one to one you drool over. Now you’re ready to tackle this endeavor so you can finally love your kitchen. It’s not simple, but it’s not impossible. If I can do it, so can you. Trust me, it’s worth the effort. Some paint can absolutely transform your kitchen.

The house was built in 2001, and the kitchen had the light wood stain (more yellow than anyone would want) with no hardware (yikes!), black and white appliances, and laminate countertop. We needed to make some changes fast, but on a budget. The house is located in the North Fork area of Long Island in New York. We planned on using the house for some family getaways, but of course to AirBnB it the other times (I will get to the AirBnB post soon). We needed to make changes fast and on a very tight budget, and one of the biggest impacts you can make is with paint.

What do you think of the color? I went with Sherwin-Williams Retreat in the Emerald Satin Enamel. It’s a greyish-green hue that I think will be timeless. My family thought it was a bold color choice at first, but once it was done they loved the results. My goal was to bring the outdoors in while creating a relaxing focal point. The house has an open floor plan so the kitchen is completely open to the dining area, and living room. I knew wanted to make sure there was a balanced flow of classic and modern throughout the house.

Remember, we were on a very tight budget and our plan was to update only the absolute essentials keeping it under $3000. We needed to get this done quickly to not miss the important spring/summer season of the North Fork. We replaced the appliances with Whirlpool stainless steel appliances from Home Depot because we know they will match any price and the delivery is reliable, added an over-the-stove microwave with a built in hood which would free up counter space, replaced the faucet with a Kohler, and added hardware from CB2. Who would have thought CB2 for hardware, but I found a beautiful brushed brass one with great texture and weight. We would have loved to replace the countertops, but it just didn’t fit into the current budget. After the painting, new hardware and appliances, I have to say that countertops didn’t bother me as much at all. So we will wait. We went over budget by $75.70 – not bad for the transformation we got!

Original kitchen

Before you get started, let’s go over the common mistakes you should avoid. This will help prepare you, and make sure you’re getting the kitchen you’ve always imagined.

  1. Make sure you allot enough time for the project. It’s not something that can be done in just a short weekend. And if you have a family, understand the inconvenience of not having the kitchen fully operational which will add more time to the painting process. But with some thoughtful planning this could easily be completed in 3-7 days.
  2. Clean, clean, clean. Even though you think you’re a clean person, your kitchen has probably seen a fair amount of oil, and over time can create a film that you need to remove for the paint to adhere properly. Don’t skip the cleaning step! A pretty good one to get is Krud Kutter and it’s non-toxic.
  3. Remove all doors from the hinges, drawers, and hardware. Don’t skip this part to get to the painting faster. You won’t like the outcome, and if you do someone paint it skipping the part you’ll start seeing the chipping right away.
  4. Don’t skip labeling cabinet doors. If the kitchen isn’t too big like mine you can probably skip this step, but if it’s larger you’ll have an easier time figuring out where the cabinet doors belong. Use painters tape, and write: cabinet above the stove, etc.
  5. Don’t skip the sanding. I know some primers say you don’t have to sand, but one of the reasons you’re sanding is to make sure you have a nice smooth surface. Use 150-200 grit sandpaper. You’re just buffing and removing the sheen (not necessarily sanding it down to some new surface).
  6. Make sure to raise the cabinets before painting. You need to prop up the cabinets when painting, otherwise, you’ll have sloppy edges or edges not painted at all; or painting all over your covers. You can use painter’s pyramids. You can also use old paint cans, but who has 8-14 old paint cans lying around?
  7. Primer please. If you don’t prime, and skip right to the painting…in a couple of months you may start to see some changes to the cabinet color, and the wood knots coming through. It’s not worth it. I like using a bonding primer like INSL-X bonding primer – it provides great coverage, and protection for kitchen cabinets that are handled so often, and seals the wood in. You can use this primer and many other surfaces.
  8. Don’t choose the wrong paint. You’ve decided on the color, but when you go to the paint store they ask you which line and finish and you decide to guess. You’ll regret it, so let’s make sure you pick the right paint, and finish. You’ll need a durable, and washable paint – it is the kitchen. For Benjamin Moore go with Benjamin Moore Advance, and Sherwin-Williams always go with Emerald. These are the more expensive lines, but you want to make sure your paint will last, and look beautiful for a long time. I personally prefer satin finish for cabinets because I don’t like the cabinets to be too shiny, but semi-gloss is very popular as well. Satin is the minimum finish you will want for cabinets so you can maintain them easily throughout the years. One more thing, if your cabinets have deep wood grains definitely go with satin – it’ll show through the paint less and offer a smoother finish.
  9. Don’t skip the second coat. Even if you think you applied a nice heavy coverage, you have to remember that you’re creating a new surface. For the paint color to fully come through, and have a consistent surface throughout it’s best to do two coats of paint.
  10. Last, but not least, don’t rush the drying process. I know you’re eager to get done, but who wants any dents or chips after all that prep work. I let the bonding primer dry for a minimum of 2 hours, and each coat of paint to dry for up to two hours.

Here are the items you’ll need to get started:

Let’s get started!

  1. Empty the cabinets and drawers. If you ever planned to reorganize your kitchen cabinets this is a great time to finally start. Empty everything out of the cabinets and drawers, and throw out anything unnecessary, expired, or just anything you don’t love. You’ll be happier you did so when it’s time to put everything back.
  2. Protect your countertops. With the painters tape, tape paper, plastic, or cloth drop cloth to protect the countertops from drips.
  3. Open some windows and start to clean. Using the degreaser and cloth, clean the cabinet doors, drawers, frame, and interior (you don’t have to clean the interior, but I like to since it’s a good opportunity with all the contents out.
  4. Remove cabinet doors from hinges, and remove all hardware. Put them in a bag for safe keeping. This is the time to label doors and drawers. Remember, if it’s a relatively small kitchen no need to label as it’ll probably be easy to figure out.
  5. Tape off. Using the painters tape, start taping off all the areas where the cabinets frame meet the walls, floor, appliance, etc.
  6. Start sanding. In a circular motion, start to sand all the areas you’ll be painting. It’s just light sanding to remove the sheen and provide a good surface for the paint to adhere to so you can do it by hand, or use a hand sander. I personally have not found the need to use a hand sander especially with the bonding primer.
  7. Vacuum and wipe down. The sanding process will create a lot of dust, and very important to remove all before priming/painting, otherwise, you’ll have some gritty cabinets. First vacuum the dust everywhere on the cabinet doors, cabinet frames, and in the surrounding areas. Then will a damp cloth or sponge wipe down all the surfaces.
  8. Prime time. These are instructions for only painting the cabinet doors, and drawers and frames. We did not do the interior because paint would get badly chipped with use, and also painting inside is just not necessary. If you opted to label your doors, and drawers, keep the tape you used nearby each piece so you can easily reapply when done. Using the brush, apply primer to the corners and details. Then without loading the roller with primer, go over the primer in the flat areas you just applied to smooth it out and remove build up. This is called “laying off”. Load the roller and now apply primer to all the flat areas making sure to smooth out any build up anywhere. It’s very important to smooth out any build ups, and drips if you’re going to have a nice smooth finished look. When priming the cabinet doors, start with the backside. It’s not important for the primer to look pretty, but smooth. Make sure the primer complete dries, and the primer will take longer that the paint.
  9. Let’s paint! It’s time to start the first coat. Using the same technique as the primer begin with the back of the cabinets. I like practicing so why not practice on the back of the cabinet doors – practice makes progress! Remember to apply the laying off technique and constantly checking for drips and/or build up. Let the first coat dry completely, and finally begin the last coat of paint.
  10. Reassemble the cabinets and drawers. Once you’ve assessed all the paint is completely dry it’s time to reattach all the cabinets and drawers using the labels you created for reference. Screw on all the hardware, and then you’re done! See not so bad, right?

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