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Kitchen Cabinet Facelift

Lana Hawk

Back in September, of 2015 the husband and I bought our first home. It is a simple 2 bedroom condo down in the suburbs of Denver. It was a fairly “move-in ready” place at the right price and available when we needed it. After moving in, we decided a few upgrades were in order to make it feel more like us and more like home. Our biggest project was the kitchen. The cabinets were this awful pinkish color with the cream roll out vinyl floors. Basic, but definitely not our style and not what we wanted to look at everyday.

What we started with…

As we began planning out our updates, we wanted a kitchen that was clean, simple and modern that didn’t break the bank. Our biggest goal in this place is to avoid overspending on things we can’t take with us when we move. So floors, countertops, etc. needed to be done in an inexpensive way. Translation: no new cabinets or custom kitchen. No problem. We decided on new floors, new countertops, and a little DIY paint job on the cabinets. A little intimidating to tackle the paint job, but lucky for me, my friend Jennifer over at Midwest Eclectic (follow her on instagram) is a PRO at kitchen cabinet paint jobs. Not to mention, she has impeccable style and design sense. You can read more of her tips and tricks on Curbly as well. Seriously. I can’t say that I am an expert in the kitchen cabinet painting department, but here is the basic tutorial she gave me for our kitchen re-do.

    1    Remove all cabinet doors, drawers, and hardware, including hinges.

    2    Tape off all the edges and lay down drop cloths.

    3    Clean cabinets with TSP (example here).

    4    Scrub down cabinets with a deglosser (example here).

    5    Clean cabinets again with TSP.

    6    Paint cabinets with a bonded primer.

    7    Paint cabinets with Benjamin Moore Advanced Paint (we used semi-gloss and high gloss).

    8    Paint cabinets AGAIN with Benjamin Moore Advanced Paint

It was quite the process, but the end result was certainly worth it! The paint job alone was a HUGE improvement, even with the still ugly vinyl flooring in place. We were truly amazed at the end result and the quality of the paint. We have had no issues with chipping or scratches on the paint and the cabinets still look great. Here are a few things I learned along the way.

  • Scrub Sponge: For the cleaning with TSP, I used a scrubber sponge to help break down the finish on the cabinets. I really wanted to avoid sanding and the TSP/degloss/TSP process, along with the sponge helped make that happen. I just used a simple rag for deglossing.
  • Air: Take a break regularly during the deglossing process. That stuff packs a major punch and will leave you a bit dizzy if you don’t get some fresh air!
  • Tape: Tape off edges carefully and thoroughly. This will save time later on with touch ups.
  •  Edging: Although not ideal, if you are getting new countertops, it is probably best to paint edges AFTER the new countertops go in. We painted before and had a major touch up situation on our hands at the base of the countertops. The old countertop used to hang over and the new quartz countertops do not. Back to the beginning to complete the process.
  • Tylenol: Take tylenol because with all the crouching your legs and back will hurt.
  • Timing: Pay attention to dry time and time needed between coats. The whole process took us a good 3-4 days to complete with dry time included. The doors are the hardest because you need them to dry thoroughly before flipping. Don’t rush the process. Better to be slow and purposeful rather than risk having to start over.
  • Rollers: Rollers are tricky. We tried a couple different rollers to figure out which ones worked the best and were the least “streaky”. We used short fat ones for edges, long skinny ones for the bigger sections, and a couple other random ones. Find what works for you and keep your rolling direction consistent to avoid streaks.
  • Drips: Watch for drips. If you don’t catch them early, they become permanent and will require a bit of sanding and a restart. We did pretty well with only a few that need to be fixed. I’m sure that will happen right before we move.
  • Add Hardware: We also added hardware after doors were reinstalled. This, paired with the paint job, updated the kitchen and made it feel much more put together. We went with simple knobs from Lowes and they turned out great. We went with round knobs all around to keep the install as simple as possible.

We were really happy with the end result and the cabinets have held up over the last few months. We opted out of painting the insides of the cabinets to save our sanity. The inner trim and the inside of the doors were a must to ensure a finished look. Ideally we would go with stainless steel appliances, but the refrigerator and stove were less than a year old. Hard to spend that much money to replace something in such good condition. So white appliances it is!

*Additional updates: We added simple hardware to the cabinets (found at Lowes), new countertops and floors, a new faucet, and finally a new sink.

**Sidenote: We hired someone to do floors and countertops because of some leveling issues with the floor. Plus, some things are best left to the professionals and worth the money to save us time!

The painting…

And the finished product…