Have you ever held back from starting a project because you’re just daunted by the sheer amount of work it would take?
Yeah, that’s how I felt about painting our kitchen cabinets. Every time I was in the kitchen, I would make a mental note of how good it would look if we painted our cabinets white. Yet, for over a year, I never got around to starting it because of all the work that would be required.
In every blog I read about painting kitchen cabinets, people would be saying things like, “Yay! we completed our makeover in TEN DAYS!” or “It only took us TWO WEEKS to finish this!”
Um… yeah I didn’t want to commit to more than a couple days of chaotic kitchen madness.
Well, the saying goes, “work smarter, not harder” right?
Because I was definitely set on doing this project, I went back to the drawing board and came up with a plan for painting my cabinets in only four days. Granted, I’m not going to lie, those four days were pretty labor intensive, but we saved ourselves tons of stress and minimized the amount of time that we would be “under construction”. We also have two dogs and one cat, so the possibility of dust and fur floating into our cabinets while the doors are being worked on was an issue for me.
I have to say, after four days of hard work, I am so happy with the results!! If you have not seen the before and after pics, head over to my reveal post. I’ll be waiting for you back here!
How did we paint our kitchen cabinets in only 4 days?
I figured that one of the biggest reason (aside from the fact that it’s just a tedious process) why painting kitchen cabinets takes so long is the fact that you’re literally waiting for paint to dry between coats. So, I figured that if you switch between different parts of the cabinet, you can work continuously, thereby minimizing the duration of the project. For us, this meant going back and forth between our two workstations (the kitchen for the cabinet boxes and the garage for the doors & drawers), which I actually liked in comparison to being stuck in one place all day.Step-by-step how to paint kitchen cabinets with guaranteed results in only 4 days!Click To Tweet
Also, I saw a lot of other blog posts where the person skipped important steps like washing, sanding, and priming. I understand that there are methods and products that allow you to do this with similar results, but (1) I didn’t want to spend a whole bunch of money and (2) from my experience of painting furniture in the past, I found that skipping steps usually comes back to haunt you sooner or later.
So, here’s my step-by-step outline of how we painted our kitchen cabinets without skipping crucial steps in only 4 days! It might seem a bit complicated, so I tried to make this easy by color coding each step by which part of the cabinet you’re working on.]
Doors and Drawers
- Day 1:
- Label and disassemble all cabinet doors & drawers from cabinet box (1hour)
- Tape off edges (1 hour)
- Doors & Drawers: prep work (4 hours)
- Doors & Drawers Frontside: prime (1.5 hours)
- Day 2:
- Cabinet Box: prep work (3 hours)
- Cabinet Box: prime (1.5 hours)
- Doors & Drawers Backside: flip and prime (1.5 hours)
- Cabinet Box: paint first coat (2 hours)
- Day 3:
- Doors & Drawers Backside: paint first coat (1.5 hours)
- Optional – Hardware: spray paint (1 hour)
- Cabinet Box: paint second coat (2 hours)
- Doors & Drawers Backside: flip and paint first coat (2 hours)
- Day 4:
- Install all cabinet doors & drawers (1.5 hours)
- Doors and Drawers (front & back): paint second coat (3 hours)
- Optional – Install the hardware and bumper stickers (1 hour)
I know this looks complicated, so I actually created a FREE visual cheatsheet and checklist for your convenience. You can print out this 3-page guide and have it handy for easy reference. Just sign up with the form below to receive it!
Do you see how going back and forth between the cabinet box and the doors & drawers streamlines the whole process? It might seem complicated on paper, but it actually makes a lot of sense. You’re fully utilizing the time it takes for paint to dry in order to finish the project as quickly as possible without skipping any crucial steps. Also, I made sure that we are allowing the paint to dry overnight for the most important and visible coats.
Some considerations for this method:
- You don’t have to be restricted to the 4-day timeframe. Instead, you can spread out the steps over a few days or weeks. However, painting cabinets this way requires a lot of space; therefore, it would be best for people like me who want to finish this project in a relatively short amount of time.
- You’re working 5-8 hours a day. However, for us, it actually took less than that because my husband and I were working together. Most of the time, we did each step together to cut the time for that step in half. Other times, we would each complete different steps simultaneously. For example, while my husband was disassembling the doors and drawers, I was taping off the edges.
The actual work is more tedious than complicated. As long as you’re able to use a brush and roller, you won’t have a problem in terms of skill. Even I did it, remember? The results will be totally worth it! I promise!
This post contains affiliate links. If you click a link and make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you. Please be assured, I only add links to products that I have personally used and/or recommend. For the full disclosure, please visit my Disclosure Policy page.
I’ll go over my tips and tricks for painting kitchen cabinets in 4 days. It’s easy to get the steps mixed up, forcing you to take long breaks to wait for the paint to dry, so make sure you have the cheat sheet handy for reference!
1. Label and take out all the cabinet doors & drawers
Be sure to label the cabinet doors and drawers with their corresponding cabinet boxes. I used washi tape to make for easy removal later on! Also, here’s a tip: remove the doors from the hinges, but leave the hinges on the box. You can flip them into the box so they’re out of the way.
2. Tape off edges
Tape off any areas you don’t want the paint to get on. That includes any appliances that are in contact with the cabinets (microwave, fridge, dishwasher, range, etc.)
3. Prep the doors & drawers
Many people think that the final coat of paint is the most important step, but actually, PREPPING IS THE MOST CRUCIAL STEP!! It is also the most time-consuming. Beware, omitting this step may directly affect the quality of the final results. Here’s what “prepping” consists of:
- Remove the bumper stickers
- Wipe surfaces with TSP or substitute – having said that, I used Clorox wipes, as I heard from a DIY friend that it works well too!
- Sand down the surfaces. We used our Ryobi One+ Orbital Sander, which saved us a lot of time, but you can use a good ol’ sanding block to do the job.
- Wipe all surfaces thoroughly with a tack cloth.
4. Prime the front side of the doors & drawers
Tip: Use a pair of 2X2’s or 2X4’s to create an assembly line for the cabinet doors. We used cardboard boxes to prop up the assembly line so we don’t have to bend too far (saves your back!).
Now, for the actual priming and painting, you can use a brush to cut corners and get into the grooves and a roller to get the flat areas. Like I said, my husband and I teamed up: he used the brush and I followed with the roller!
I recommend that you do not skip this step even if you are using paint with primer in it. I have a feeling that even if you skip using a separate primer, you would need to apply 3 coats of paint anyway and the results inferior.
The first coat of primer will not look pretty, but it’s normal! The purpose of the primer is to prep the surface so the paint sticks better and more evenly.
1. Prep the cabinet boxes
You can go through the same steps that you did for the doors and drawers.
- Wipe surfaces with TSP or substitute (or Clorox wipes like I did)
- Sand down the surfaces.
- Wipe all surfaces thoroughly with a tack cloth.
2. Prime the cabinet boxes
Like you did for the doors & drawers, use a paint brush to get into the corners and grooves. Use a roller for the larger areas.
Ugh, I’m cringing so hard right now.. just the fact that I’m opening up the insides of my cabinets to the internet… As you can see, clutter is something I need to work on this year!
3. Prime the backside of doors & drawers
Flip over the doors & drawers and prime.
4. Paint first coat on the cabinet boxes
Fortunately, primer usually dries fast, so by the time you’re done priming the doors & drawers, the cabinet boxes should be ready to have their first coat of paint! Touch the surface with your hands and as long as it feels dry, you should be good to go!
If you see any major brush marks or unevenness in the dried primer, you can easily go over it with the sander to smooth it out. Just remember to wipe it well with the tack cloth after sanding to get all the dust particles!
1. Paint first coat on the backside of doors & drawers
You don’t need to flip the doors & drawers, just paint the first coat. I purposefully planned the order this way to minimize the number of times you need to flip the doors & drawers, as it’s easy to ding the surface when flipping.
2. Spray paint the hardware
I chose to spray paint my existing stainless steel hardware to save money. The Rustoleum brand is my go-to spray paint for a realistic looking oil-rubbed bronze color. I don’t think anyone will be able to tell that it’s not actual bronze!
3. Paint second coat on cabinet boxes
I found that 1 coat of primer and 2 coats of paint are sufficient to achieve the smooth, white finish and color I was aiming for. However, one thing I would do differently next time would be to add floetrol to the paint for a longer drying time and smoother results. Alternatively, you could buy the self-leveling type of paint, although those tend to be more expensive. The HGTV Sherwin Williams Infiniti brand that we used is pretty thick and dried fairly quickly, so sometimes brush marks were inevitable. You can’t usually see the brush marks due to the bright white color, but it’s visible sometimes when the light hits at a certain angle. They’re not significant enough for other people to notice, though.
4. Paint first coat on frontside of doors & drawers
You should be a pro at this by now, right!!??
1. Install all cabinet doors & drawers
One thing we did differently from other people is that we chose to install the cabinet doors & drawers before painting the second coat. Our reasoning is two-fold:
- To get done with the project faster. This way, you can just paint the second coat and leave it out overnight to dry, and you’re done! You can wake up to your new kitchen the next day!
- It would be a bummer to paint the second coat and wait for it to dry, only to ding it during installation.
See? We had it all figured out because our priority was to get this done right, in the quickest way possible.
If the doors get dinged a couple times during installation, no worries! Just smooth out with a sander before painting the second coat.
2. With the doors and drawers installed, paint the second coat on the frontside and backside.
When I completed the first coat of paint and let it dry, I was a bit disappointed to see that the color wasn’t the clean, white color that I wanted. Instead, some of the brown color underneath was still shining through and the whole surface appeared blotchy. But I found that the second coat makes all the difference. After applying the second coat, there were absolutely no signs of the dark color underneath, and it dried to a bright, even finish.
In terms of technique for painting the doors while they’re attached to the cabinet boxes, my advice is to paint the frontside, open the doors, then paint the backside. Then, you can leave the doors open to dry.
3. Install hardware and bumper stickers
Once the second coat of paint has at least 3-4 hours to dry, you can install the hardware and bumper stickers. Be careful, though, since the paint probably hasn’t fully dried hard! The screws for the hardware are installed through the backside of the doors, so we didn’t have much trouble installing them without dinging the paint.
On another note, if your cabinets don’t already have the holes for the hardware, I would wait until the paint is completely dry before drilling new holes to install the hardware.
So that’s it! I tried to explain all the steps as thoroughly and clearly as possible, but if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments section!
Materials Used and Total Cost:
- 1 Gallon of your preferred color paint – I used the HGTV Home Infinity Interior Semi-Gloss Paint in Sherwin Williams Extra White – $48.00
- 1 Gallon of Zinsser Bullseye 1-2-3 Interior Latex Primer – $19.98
- TSP cleaner or substitute – I actually used Clorox wipes that I already had!
- Painter’s Tape – I used Frog Tape – $8.99
- Tack cloth (X 3) – $3.99
- Sand paper (X 2)- I used 120 grit – $7.94
- A good angled brush (X 2) – I used the Wooster Pro Angled brush – $18.94
- Roller for cabinets (X 2) – $11.98
- Additional roller covers – $8.99
- Paint trays (X 2 – for each color) – $5.99
- Plastic drop cloth – $3.98
- Gloves – $1.98
- Ryobi One+ Orbital Sander
- If painting the kitchen island a different color, another pint or gallon (depending on surface area) of paint would be needed. We bought a gallon of the same paint in Sherwin Williams Contemporary Grey – $48.00
- Spray paint for hardware OR new hardware – $6.76
So, I hope all this information is pushing you toward painting your own kitchen cabinets soon! Also, be sure to sign up to grab my FREE Cheatsheet for Painting Kitchen Cabinets to have handy when going into this project!
Want to paint your kitchen cabinets the right way in only 4 days?
Grab my Kitchen Cabinet Cheatsheet designed to help you get it done in no less than 4 days.
Plus you'll gain full access to our exclusive printable library!
Update 4/7/2017: We finally finished our kitchen makeover, knocking out everything on the list! Follow my kitchen makeover journey here:
- Our Kitchen Plan and Inspiration
- Before and After Painting Our Kitchen Cabinets
- How to install subway tile
- Final Kitchen Reveal – Full Source and Before & After
Any questions about this process? I would be happy to answer all your questions in the comments section!