​10 things NOT to do when you paint kitchen cabinets

Johannes van Graan Johannes van Graan
Industrial Design, Dauby Dauby KitchenCabinets & shelves
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Doing some touch-ups around the house involve many different projects, from painting focal walls to changing wall art. And when it comes to splashing a new coat of paint on kitchen cabinets, many DIYers see this as a no-brainer, easy home improvement project. However, this undertaking actually has many potential pitfalls if not executed properly. 

We understand that you want those kitchen cabinets to look as beautiful as possible, which is why some planning is crucial. Don’t jump head over heels into this project and be surprised when the results are less than perfect – or plain hideous. 

Let’s take a look at the potential problems that so many people encounter when painting kitchen cabinets, and how to avoid them.

1. Having unrealistic expectations

Although the new paint can make the cabinets look fantastic, they will not transform them into ultra smooth surfaces. If the cabinets have a visible open grain, the grooves will show through the paint. 

Although it can be time consuming and challenging, you can fill the grain with putty before painting if smooth surfaces are non-negotiable to you.

2. Not allowing enough time

Don’t think of this as a quick Saturday morning project; allow yourself between four to seven days to complete this project properly, with proper prep time and snack breaks factored in, of course.

3. Not cleaning the wood

Walnut Curved Kitchen with White Corian Worktops George Bond Interior Design KitchenAccessories & textiles ​Kitchen Interior
George Bond Interior Design

Walnut Curved Kitchen with White Corian Worktops

George Bond Interior Design

Ensure that you wipe all surfaces clean with a grease remover before starting, even if you think that your kitchen is already immaculate. 

Adding a water-based paint to an oil-covered surface will cause the paint to not stick properly.

4. Not removing the doors and drawers

Esher Kitchen Lewis Alderson KitchenCabinets & shelves
Lewis Alderson

Esher Kitchen

Lewis Alderson

Don’t think that keeping these elements in will save you time. 

Take off all the doors, pull the drawers out, and remove the hardware knobs and hinges. Otherwise your newly painted cabinets and hardware will start to chip and show signs of wear within a month, probably even sooner.

5. Not labelling where the doors, drawers, and hardware must go

What is being removed will need to go back to where it was, which is why it is definitely worth using numbered labels to help you remember where everything goes.

A piece of masking tape stuck to the back of each piece will do just fine.

6. Skipping sanding

Pure PMC furniture pull and Pure PFL furniture knob in Raw Bronze Dauby KitchenCabinets & shelves Kitchen cabinet

Pure PMC furniture pull and Pure PFL furniture knob in Raw Bronze


Even if your cabinets are in perfect condition, some sanding is required so that the paint will stick. Use sandpaper in the middle of the spectrum (150 or 200 grit is good) and treat the surfaces to a quick buffing. 

Remember that you are just trying to take them from glossy to matte, not get down to the bare wood.

7. Painting a dusty surface

Small kitchen, big bold colour! Hallwood Furniture Eclectic style kitchen
Hallwood Furniture

Small kitchen, big bold colour!

Hallwood Furniture

Make sure you vacuum up all debris before bringing a paintbrush near those surfaces. Just a few pieces of dust can ruin the look, causing a gritty finish on your paint job. 

To fix this, you will have to sand it and start your painting from scratch. 

From painters to plumbers, we have them all here on homify, and much more. Check out our professionals page.

8. Not priming

Fallowfield | Traditional English Country Kitchen Davonport Classic style kitchen Wood Green

Fallowfield | Traditional English Country Kitchen


It can be quite tempting to skip this step. However, your painted cabinets can look fantastic for a few weeks before knots in the wood will start to bleed through. 

Use a stain-blocking primer to avoid surprise blotches as the paint cures.

9. Picking the wrong colour

The right colour depends on your look and style, but this is not a project that you are going to want to redo any time soon if the finished tone is not what you expect. 

Test out that paint first. Paint a big poster board with a tester can and hang it up next to your backsplash and the appliances. Remember that lighting also changes the colour, so ensure those hues are 100% perfect before you commit to painting your cabinets.

10. Rushing to put the cabinets back

Of course it can be annoying to wait a few days before putting your newly painted cabinets back. But consider this: smudging the paint will mean sanding the doors and repainting.

Patience is a virtue, especially when it comes to this particular project! 

In the spirit of stylish inspiration, take a look at these: 45 Stylish Cabinets To Make Your Kitchen More Practical.

Got any more good kitchen cabinet painting tips to share?

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