Are your cabinets basic, boring, not sparking joy in your heart, not enticing you to come cook a gourmet meal?? Time to change that, baby!! I know it can seem daunting to overhaul your kitchen, especially when you start adding up all the costs, weighing out the timeline, looking at contractors and cabinet companies...
What if you could give yourself a gorgeous new kitchen that YOU can enjoy NOW?? What if you COULD afford to do it!! You don't necessarily have to spend thousands upon thousands on new cabinets or professional painters. You can do it yourself. You can make it look flawless. And you can do it without breaking the bank!
This amazing kitchen overhaul was done entirely with Wise Owl Paint products and it made allllllll the difference. Their One Hour Enamel (you can find it here) is 90% cured in just an hour, which means no more waiting weeks before hanging your cabinet doors back up! It also just so happens to be insanely durable so unlike other cabinet paints, you don't have to treat your kitchen like a delicate flower for a month to avoid dings and scratches. Paint your cabinets, go for a nice walk around the neighborhood, and by the time you come back, they'll be ready for hardware and hanging, Yes, it really is that awesome.
Its also water based and low VOCs so you won't put your family or pets at risk while painting and to me, that is HUGE! And as an extra bonus...the top coat is built right in so no more fussing with finicky varnishes or urethanes!
So, what does it take to completely overhaul your kitchen cabinets?? Keep reading and I'll break down the entire process, step by step, and lay out all the products used (including a couple from the dollar store to save you even MORE cash!!).
(Be sure to repeat all of the following steps for your cabinet bases and trim as well!!)
First and foremost, you need to get your cabinets clean. Not just sorta clean...really, truly clean. Kitchen cabinets tend to be coated in oils, grease, grime, and residue and nothing effects paint adhesion more than a coated surface!! So before you even think about picking up a paint brush, its time to start scrubbing. I personally prefer to take down all my doors and drawer fronts first, remove all the hardware (including hinges), and mark a little note inside the hinge cutouts so you know exactly where to rehang the doors when you are finished, all before I begin cleaning. Once they are down, grab a good cleaner and a scrubby pad and get to work. I prefer a degreaser to really eat away at the built up grime. I've got two favorites that I tend to switch back and forth on. One is a little pricey but eco friendly, the other is more budget friendly but requires better ventilation.
For a hardworking cleaner that won't risk your health, my go to is "The Amazing Whip-It". You can find it here and also at select Sam's Clubs and Walmarts. Its plant based, virtually no smell, and strong enough to even eat through paint.
A slightly more budget friendly option comes from the Dollar Tree and is called "LAs Totally Awesome Cleaner". Its pretty stinky, likely not so health friendly, but it does a great job of cutting through caked on grease and grime. If you don't have a Dollar Tree nearby, you can find it in the giant jugs here.
It's not a bad idea to grab a pick or small flat head screwdriver and run the edge along any joints or crevices in your doors to really pull out every last bit of gunk. Anything left on the surface can pop back up later to cause issues....so now is the chance to get a clean slate!! Be sure to flip the doors over and scrub the backsides as well! Once everything is fresh and clean, give it one more wash with plain water. You want to wash off any trace of the cleaning chemicals, so a fresh tap water rinse is important!!
Give everything a little time to dry and then its time to sand. Now, most cabinets don't need to be sanded down to the bare wood, but if your surface was previously painted, you may want to do just that. If the paint is chipping, peeling, etc you'll want to fully remove it either by stripping or sanding. If the cabinets are simply varnished, then you'll likely just need a quick scuff sanding to give your surface a little tooth for the primer to grip on to. A medium grit sanding sponge is perfect for this, but you can totally grab a power sander if you'd like to speed the job up! Pay a little extra attention to the trim pieces and edges. These are the areas that are most likely to get banged up, so giving them a little heavier sanding will allow the primer and paint to adhere even more, giving you a bit more protection in the long run. Again, be sure you sand both sides of each door. Once your sanding is finished, grab some water and a rag and give one last wipe down to remove any sanding dust.
Now that your surfaces are cleaned and scuffed, you can grab your primer. Since you'll be using the Wise Owl One Hour Enamel, its important to use Wise Owl's Primer. These two products were engineered to work together! For the primer (found here), you've got two color options, clear and white. If you are going to be painting your cabinets a darker color, grab the clear primer. If you plan to paint a lighter color or white, grab the white primer.
A quart of primer will cover 125 sq ft, so an average kitchen will use about two quarts of primer. Using a brush or a roller, whichever you are more comfortable with, apply in thin, even coats, allowing to dry for 4 hours before applying a second coat. The primer is dry to the touch in most conditions in about an hour, so if you are looking to complete your project as quickly as possible, you can do the first coat of primer, allow to dry for an hour, then flip them over and do the backsides. Keep track of the time and once you've hit that 4 hour mark, you can flip the doors back over and apply your second coat. If you plan to work in an assembly line fashion like this, I highly recommend grabbing some painting pyramids (like these) to rest your doors on. These will allow your surface to be raised off your work space without doing any damage to your primer or paint job.
One important thing to keep in mind when applying the primer is to wipe up any drips as soon as possible. I like to apply the primer to one side of the door, and then run my finger along the underside (against the surface facing my work space) to catch any drips and smooth out any excess primer before it begins to dry. Baby wipes work especially great for this as well!! If you do find drips or imperfections after the primer has dried, grab your sanding sponge and smooth them out before painting.
Once your two coats of primer have been applied and have dried for at least 4 hours, you are ready to start painting! The One Hour Enamel (found here) comes in 16 amazing colors in quarts and gallons or you can have your own custom color mixed in gallon batches. A gallon of enamel will cover 400-450 sq ft, so the average size kitchen will typically use right around a gallon. (Remember to calculate front and back of each door, plus the cabinet bases for your square footage totals!)
To apply the enamel, I prefer two tools. I use a 4" flocked roller from Whizz (the gray, velvet style roller meant for cabinets...I get mine at Lowes) and a Cling On brush. The F40 Cling On is a great option for cabinets, but I'm also a huge fan of the S30. The smaller S30 gets into all the crevices and does a great job of smoothing out excess paint, while the F40 is perfect for those larger flat surfaces. I highly recommend you do a test door to see what application technique feels best for you. Some folks swear by the roller, some feel more comfy with a brush. For me, I prefer both so that's what I'll dive into for the purposes of this post.
I start my cabinet doors with the backsides first. This allows you to get comfortable with your technique on a side that you won't be staring at on a daily basis once they are hung up! I personally prefer to do the inner corners and crevices first with my F40, and then immediately jump in with a roller after. To do the flat panels of your doors, grab your roller and give it a dunk in your paint. I let the excess drip off a bit, and then go ahead and roll it onto your surface. You may see tiny bubbles or bumps pop up as you roll....give it about 20-30 seconds and then do a VERY light pass one more time with the roller to pop anything that's risen up. The enamel dries insanely fast (90% CURED in one hour!!) so the MOST important thing to remember is to not overwork your paint, lay it on there and let it be! You'll want to apply the enamel slightly heavier than you might if you were using a chalk style paint, to allow for the full self leveling magic to happen, but be super careful to avoid drips. Once that enamel dries, it is ridiculously hard to remove so you'll want to wipe up drips and excess spots as soon as possible. Again, a quick swipe of the finger on the underside of your door will usually wipe up any possible issues.
Allow your paint to dry for one hour (slightly longer depending on your humidity levels or the color chosen...darker colors may require just a tiny bit longer dry time) and then apply a second coat in the same fashion. I personally allow my second coat to dry for a few hours before flipping them over to do the other side. (Let's be honest....by this point, you may be exhausted and just let them dry overnight to give yourself a break!) Flip your doors and repeat the same process on the fronts of the doors. For most colors, two coats is plenty, but assess your coverage and if needed, add a third coat to take care of any inconsistencies.
Allow to dry for another few hours while you repeat the process on your cabinet bases and trim and then....you....are....done!!! Seriously! That's it! The enamel has a rock hard top coat built right in so you don't need to varnish, wax, or poly at all. Your doors are now ready for hardware and all set to be hung back up.
To recap....the average kitchen is going to require 2 quarts of primer and one gallon of enamel coming to a grand total of about $210. Throw in the Cling On brushes I love so much and your brand new kitchen is costing you around $250. Compare that to the $20,000 you might spend on new cabinets, or even the $5,000-10,000 to have your existing cabinets custom painted and I'd say you are doing pretty darn good!!
If you have any questions about the products described here (some of which include Amazon affiliate links that help keep this little blog of mine afloat!) please reach out!! I'm happy to help calculate square footage, assist in choosing colors, or guiding you along the process with video tutorials!