Kitchen Cabinet Makeover



A kitchen cabinet makeover was one of my first BIG projects in the new house.  It was my first real test as a DIYer.  I talked about the endeavor for months.  “My ugly cabinets this, my ugly cabinets that, my new cabinets will change everything…”.

My mom came down for a visit and decided that all this talk about cabinets was just that… talk.  So, she set down her glass of wine, picked up a screwdriver, and started removing cabinet doors while I made some half-hearted excuses.  After a few minutes I realized that she was probably right.  Maybe all I needed was a little push.  And so it began… the kitchen cabinet saga.

I’d settled on the color white.  After all, white goes with everything, right?  WRONG.  Though I still believe that white was the right choice, it has since made me loathe every other part of my kitchen.  Thus, adding to the long list of projects needing completion – new sink, new trim, new back splash, new counter tops, etc.

Below is the list of materials I used for the project.  I already had most of the items, but I was able to find the rest at Lowe’s.

Materials List:

1 Gallon Kilz Original Oil-Based Primer

1 Gallon White Paint

Paint Brushes

Foam Paint Roller

Drop Cloths

Painter’s Tape

Sanding Blocks

Power Drill or Screwdriver

New Drawer Handles and/or Knobs

We (mom, hubby, and me) started by sanding down the cabinets and doors using sander blocks.  I chose not to remove the cabinets from the walls and not to paint the inside of them (too much work).  Once we had everything sanded, I wiped it all down with a damp cloth to remove the dust. We put down drop cloths on the counter tops, and used painter’s tape to protect the floors and walls.  I used a paint brush to paint the first layer of primer on the cabinets while Mom did the doors.  It took FOREVER!  I used the cheapest brushes I could find, because I had no intention of cleaning primer off of them.  Those babies were getting tossed.


My husband and mother doing physical labor while I take pictures

After the first layer of primer went on everything looked AWFUL!  I started to panic just a little bit.  I mean, these were the original cabinets.  If I’d overestimated my own abilities and ended up ruining them, replacements were going to cost me a fortune!



Here’s where the story gets good… my mother went home the next morning.  At that point, the hubby also decided that his participation in this event was unnecessary.  After all, his painting skills were not up to par, he said.  I would have argued, but that last part was a direct quote from me, so I essentially dug my own grave.  Lesson learned.

So I was left with the task of applying one more coat of primer, and two coats of paint on my own.  AND I had to sand between each layer (the most tedious, but completely necessary step).  After the second coat of primer, my fears subsided.  They were already starting to look better.  My motivation waned a little, and it ended up taking me at least another week to finally finish.  I hadn’t taken into account that each door would need to fully dry before I could flip it over to finish each coat.  So they took twice as long as the cabinets themselves.  Rookie mistake. Bah!


Each door and drawer needed two layers of primer and two layers of paint

Once the paint finally dried, I went about the task of drilling holes for the door handles.  I measured them out myself, but the drill kept slipping on the new paint, and some of them looked a little off.  I finally ended up just buying some templates from the store that helped me finish the job with better results.  I would recommend doing that from the start.

Once I finished adding the new door handles, I started screwing the doors back on and putting the drawers back in.  As I did so, a calm fell over me.  The finished product was everything I hoped it would be!

Never mind that the white of the cabinets made the cream (built-in) sink look old and dirty.  Or that the white appliances were no longer the right “shade” of white and would need to be replaced with stainless steel.  Or that the dark stone back splash was now the main focus point of the room.  Those were all items that I would add to the list of new projects.  I was just thrilled that I had new cabinets!


Quick Step Recap:

Select cabinet color

Remove doors, drawers, and all hardware (label with numbers to make reassembly easier

Use preferred sanding method (I used sanding blocks) to prep all cabinets and doors

Use a damp towel to wipe off dust

Apply two coats of primer, sanding and wiping between coats

Apply two or three coats of paints, sanding and wiping between coats

Add or replace door handles (optional)

Put all hardware, doors, and drawers back on

Marvel at your own awesomeness

Next Steps:

At some point in the future, I plan to add some crown molding to the top of my cabinets, and possibly some trim to the bottom in order to give them a more polished look.  Keep an eye out for that tutorial.

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