Hey girl hey! So if you have been following along with my New Home, Who Dis? Series, or follow me on Instagram, you might have seen that the house that my boyfriend and I bought came equipped with already-painted white kitchen cabinets. Sounds like a dream right? Something that I can check off our kitchen renovation to-do list right? Well, NO! The kitchen cabinets that were painted “white” were actually a yellowish color, and the paint that whoever painted them used was the WRONG kind of paint!! So it was actually a nightmare and it took us about six months to fix them. So I’m here today to share with you how to paint cabinets that have already been painted. Because it was a huge pain in the rear and I don’t want anyone else, not even my worst enemies, to go through what we had to!
So like I said above, the person who painted the kitchen cabinets first might have been a three year old or just severely lazy and careless. They used the wrong kind of paint so the cabinet paint was really thick and there were dried drops running down the cabinets in some places. Like they couldn’t be bothered to smooth it out?! And the cabinets were actually a yellow color and not white, so it was hideous. And they used the wrong kind of brush to paint with so you could see ALL of the brush marks. If buying new cabinets wasn’t $7,000+, we would have just ripped the ugly ones out and slapped some new ones up. But we are #BallinOnABudget.
So we came up with many different theories on how to fix them and make them look at least somewhat decent. Some of the theories worked great, and some theories did not work at all or just took up a ton of time when there was a much easier way to do it. So here is exactly what we did for how to paint cabinets that have already been painted:
Step # 1 – Remove the cabinet doors from the cabinets themselves. We just unscrewed the cabinet doors off of the hinges and brought them all out to the garage where were were going to work on them.
Step # 2 – Remove the knobs/handles/pulls from the cabinet doors and drawers and put them in a ziplock bag or sealed tupperware container so they won’t get lost. Trust me, you don’t want to lose a screw!
Step #3 – Remove the hinges from the cabinets and place those in another ziplock bag or sealed tupperware container so they won’t get lost. We ended up losing some of the screws that go with the hinges and it has been a nightmare!
Step #4 – Remove the unwanted paint from the cabinet doors using Klean Strip Premium Stripper and a bristle brush. Be sure to handle with care because this stuff is very strong and will burn your skin and ruin your clothes!. We used a copper cup to hold the paint stripper, then dipped the brush into the cup and blotted the paint stripper onto the cabinet door. Then we let the stripper sit for a minute and then scraped it off. We also wore gloves the whole time we used this stuff because it burns your skin! For difficult areas, let the paint stripper sit longer.
Step #5 – Remove the cabinet drawers and apply the paint stripper to the painted drawers, let sit, and then scrape off. Be careful of drippage, it will ruin your floors. That’s why we did everything in the garage! And remember to remove the knobs/handles/pulls along with the contents of the drawers 🙂
Step # 6 – Once the cabinet doors and drawers have dried and the paint stripper is all off, use a sanding block to sand the remaining unwanted paint off of the cabinet doors and drawers. This will probably take a while and will require some arm strength but you want the cabinet doors and drawers to be completely smooth. And don’t worry about getting every little bit of paint off, just as long as it is smooth and the new paint will be even!
Step #7 – Prep the area/room for sanding by removing all of the contents from the cabinet shelves or cover with a towel, and remove everything from the counters. Basically just empty out the entire kitchen or room because everything will get sand/dust all over it!
Step #8 – Use a sanding block to sand the unwanted paint off of the outside out of the cabinets/the mounted part of the cabinets. Again, this will take some time and require some arm strength but you want it to be completely smooth and have an even surface to paint over. And it will get really messy!
Step #9 – Paint the cabinet doors and drawers using a 4 ½” x ¼” Shed-Resistant Woven roller brush and Interior/Exterior Oil-Base Satin Enamel paint. We used the Wooster Pro Shed-Resistant Woven 4 ½ by ¼ inch roller brush and the Behr Oil-Base Satin Enamel white paint. This has a 24 hour dry time so you have to paint one side, then let it dry for at least 24 hours, then you can flip it over and paint the other side. And it will need at least two or three coats!! So painting this will take about a week or so depending on your schedule and how many doors/drawers you have to paint. For example: completely painting one cabinet door took us 6 days. We painted one side of the cabinet door, let it sit for 24 hours, then flipped it over and painted the back, let it sit for 24 hours, then flipped it back over and painted the front a second time, let it sit for 24 hours, and so on until each side got three coats!
**Note: That EXACT brush and that EXACT paint made all the difference. That roller brush evenly coated the doors with a thick layer. And the oil-base satin enamel paint looked 10x better than every other kind of paint that we tried!
Step #10 – Paint the mounted cabinets using the same roller brush and the same Interior/Exterior Oil-Base Satin Enamel paint. With all of the drawers taken out and the cabinet doors and hinges taken off, this should be fairly easy to accomplish. Again, it will take a few coats to get the paint thick and even and will take 24 hours to dry in between coats. We painted the mounted cabinets while the doors and drawers dried in the garage to save time!
Step #11 – Once everything is dry (not sticky anymore), you can add the knobs/handles/pulls back to the cabinet doors and drawers and re-install the hinges and hang everything back up! I bought these Bronze Classic 3” Center Cup Pulls from Wayfair to go on all of the drawers. And I bought Bronze cabinet knobs similar to these from Target. I just had to screw in the knobs and my boyfriend had to drill new holes into the drawers to install the pulls because the ones before were those really long ones that get caught on sweaters!
So that is exactly what we did (that WORKED) for how to paint cabinets that have already been painted! We tried some other strategies along the way that did not turn out so well… But if you stick to the method above, you will not be disappointed. Of course, just buying all new cabinets that are painted by professionals will always look the best but it will also cost you thousands of dollars, so we had to make do with what we had and what our budget would allow. But I still think they look great and a HUGE improvement from what they looked like before!
Here are some FAILED strategies that we tried that you should definitely steer clear from! Learn from our mistakes!!
Failed Strategy #1 – We tried to SOAK the cabinets in the paint thinner INSIDE of a storage bucket. It seemed like a really quick and much easier strategy than hand-coating each cabinet with the paint thinner. But this strategy failed because 1.) the storage containers didn’t fit all of the cabinet drawers, 2.) it required SO much paint thinner and it stunk up the whole house, 3.) it didn’t take off as much paint as we would have liked so we still had to go back and hand-do it.
Failed Strategy #2 – We tried to HANG the cabinets from the ceiling in the garage and use a paint SPRAYER to “evenly coat” all of the cabinet doors. Usually painting with a paint sprayer is easier and applies the paint much more evenly on the surface, but in this case we couldn’t get far away enough from the cabinets to paint them evenly without painting the entire garage.So there ended up being some really thick spots on the doors. So don’t try to use a paint sprayer unless you have A LOT of room to do it correctly!
Failed Strategy #3 – We have been using the water-based paint all over the rest of the house because it looks better on the walls and isn’t super thick and gooey looking after it dries, so of course that’s what we tried to use on the cabinets originally… However, it would have taken a million coats if we were to continue using the water-based paint. And the water-based paint didn’t look as white as the oil-base paint that we ended up switching to. We had one cabinet painted with one layer of the water-base paint and we painted another cabinet with one layer of the oil-base paint and it was a night and day difference! The oil-base paint 1.) LOOKED so much better, and 2.) SAVED so much time!!
And one last thing about how to paint cabinets that have already been painted, the oil-base paint will be affected by the atmosphere while it is drying!! Here in Houston, Texas, we have so much dang humidity!!! And well, we were painting these cabinets in the garage so some of the humidity had made its way into the garage and it made the paint SO STICKY! We were afraid that it had ruined the paint, but it ended up drying fine! I think the humidity just made the paint take a little longer to dry than it should have, so don’t panic if your paint is sticky and being affected by humidity or moisture in the air! It will dry (eventually…) haha!
So there you have it folks! This is how to paint cabinets that have already been painted! We were happy to be the guinea pigs in accomplishing this so that everyone out there with painted cabinets that need to be repainted don’t have to spend as much time doing it as we did! So go forth into the world and repaint those cabinets like a boss and turn your house into your dream home!