top of page

DIY Kitchen Cabinets - Painting Uppers

OK. So originally I had budgeted to re-face my upper cabinets, but decided against it after I removed the doors. I thought hey, I might as well paint them white to see if they look good or not.

Anyways, this was my FIRST project with the kitchen remodel, enjoy!

After I took the faces off I threw them out, so there was no going back now! Anyways, long story short, these cabinets made me break a decent sweat. It is hard, and I did not want to take them down in case for some reason we could not mount them again. IF you feel sure about being able to put them back perfectly, go for it!

Just a few notes before you start:

1. It took 1-2 coats of primer, and 2-3 coats of paint to cover the dark brown color. It takes a lot of time if you have darker cabinets.

2. If the cabinets are finished, oak.. etc you will need to sand the inside. Mine were already "raw" inside so I did not have to do as much work. MAKE SURE YOU WIPE THEM CLEAN. Mine were very yucky from the oven grease, etc.

3. My cabinets are pure wood, not "fake" wood, so if you have "fake" wood inside, I would do some extra research. "Fake" just means the shiny board that looks like wood.

4. The wall behind my cabinet is uneven, so blue painters tape didn't work very well. Although, I was able to just go back afterwards with a small craft paint brush to touch up where the white cabinet paint hit the wall.

5. I didn't paint the TOP of the cabinets (no one will ever see up there). Plus it is a pain in the butt to get a brush in such a tight place.

6. I had some hinges that made indents instead of just holes, so you can still see where my doors were, but only if you were looking for them. (I will go back eventually and attempt to fill them in - a good sanding should flatten this out.)

7. Open concept is cool and all, until your dishes get a layer of grease above the oven. (I plan to add pane doors above the oven and BIG cabinet at the end within the next year to prevent this from happening)

Shopping List: (Feel free to buy your own brand, this is just the stuff I used)

- Kilz Primer (interior/red can)

- Polyurethane (small can, a little bit goes a long way)

- Sponge brushes (for the polyurethane)

- Paint (semi-gloss, gloss, satin) these sheens help with easier cleaning

- Wood filler (If you are doing open concept you will want to fill in the hinge holes)

- Plastic sheet (for dust.. unless you like dust/sanding remnants all over your kitchen)

- Mask (W/ COVID-19 going on I would assume we all have one)

- Storage baggies for your brushes... (DIY: cut a small hole in bottom of ziploc bag and seal shut)

- Sanding block and paper (I would go with fine if you are just roughing up the surface)

- Latex paint brushes (I used the same one with primer and paint)


1. Prepare your work area with plastic.

2. Sand the surfaces of the cabinets with 120 grit (or sandpaper of your choosing). You will want to do this by hand. (I did not have fun with my power sander... it was too powerful).

3. WIPE the surfaces down, you do not want to paint over dust.

4. Fill in your hinge holes / imperfections (unless you are putting doors back on). If you are doing this, you may want to wait 1/2 a day for the wood filler to completely dry.

5. Use latex brush (of your choosing) to apply 1-2 coats of primer. I would let this dry overnight. Don't forget to put your paint brush in a "brush baggy"!!

6. Use your latex brush and apply as many coats as needed of your paint choice. Let this dry overnight as well.

7. Finally! Use your sponge brushes to paint polyurethane over the bottom of shelves. You can definitely paint the outside and rest of cabinets with the polyurethane if you'd like. I still have work to do on mine so I didn't do anything other than the shelves inside to protect from scratches.

8. Ta Da! All done, and new fresh cabinets.

Thanks for reading!

Let me know if you have any questions!

71 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page