Even the most gorgeous cabinets need makeup. After all, how good do we look pre-face wash at 6 in the morning?

A vibrant paint job brings cabinets to vivid life, accenting a kitchen and brightening the heart of a home. Plus, a paint makeover is a heck of a lot cheaper than investing $3,000-plus into new cabinets.  This Old House estimates new cabinets account for nearly 40 percent of a kitchen’s renovation costs.

The natural question is: What color tone and paint will work best for my cabinets.

But the first question you should ask before even going to the paint store: Can my cabinets be painted? Industry experts note wood is the best cabinet surface to paint, but any material that you can scuff up with sandpaper so that paint adheres is viable. Only hard-to-paint surfaces like laminates are no-goes. Stained wood and glossy finished cabinets can be painted, but must be de-glossed first with a liquid sander like Wil-Bound.

Prep Work As Important As Painting

Before you start, know this is not a one-and-done lazy Sunday afternoon project. Painting cabinets right requires time. Good Housekeeping pegs the average prep and paint time needed for an ideal cabinet repaint at 4-7 days.

Don’t dive into the paint before ensuring your cabinets are ready for their closeup. Empty cabinets completely and clean them thoroughly, making sure all grease and dirt are gone. Remove knobs and handles and check hinges. Remove drawers and label them so you know where each.

Next, tape off paint-free cabinet parts, like hinges, countertops and appliances. Repair holes and imperfections with a wood filler. Then, call in the sand man. Use a rotary sander for flat areas and hand sand hard parts like cabinet door edges. For stained cabinets, use 220-grade sandpaper. For painted and rough cabinets, use 120-grade paper before moving to a finer paper. You’ll know you’ve removed the finish once the sheen is gone. Use a dry paintbrush or a wet/dry vac to remove remaining dust before wiping the surfaces with a tack cloth. This is not a step that can be winged.

The moral of this kitchen cabinet paint story: DO NOT SKIP SANDING.

Prime Time

After prep, priming is critical to ensuring a sharp-looking, lasting paint job. Avoid an all-in-one and paint products, which don’t fully prime the surface. Oil primer and paint adhere to surfaces best and give longer-lasting results. Water-soluble waterborne paints like Benjamin Moore’s Advance also work well. Make sure you chose a primer guaranteed to deliver a chemical grip bond.

“Wall primer is designed to fill the pores in drywall, allowing the paint to form a mechanical bond,” Rich O’Neil, president of Masterwork Painting in Woburn, MA., told This Old House. “Cabinets won’t have pores, so use primer that grips chemically.”

For cabinets switching from a dark to light shade, tint the primer to match the final color. Remember, after your base coat drives, sand the cabinets one more time as part of your final prep for your dress coats.

Skip Generic Paints

Remember, these are your cabinets, a major kitchen investment you’ve sunk thousands of dollars into. Forget the cheap Acme and Brand X paint, invest in the good stuff. You will get better coverage, shine and results with quality paint like Farrow & Ball, Benjamin Moore, Sherman Williams and Pratt and Lambert. Remember, this is a two-coat process. For the nicest finish, use a brush with an angled 2-2 ½ inch fine bristle or a 4-6-inch foam roller to cover the sides of the cabinets and their face frames.

Whatever paint you select, ventilate the room for safety. Direct a fan out the window and wear a paint mask.

The Power of The Remarkable $200-$300 Cabinet Makeover

Remember, the right fresh paint and application brings aging kitchen cabinets to stunning, vibrant life at a fraction of the cost of new cabinets.

“What you don’t need is a whole lot of money, as the transformation will cost you a fraction of even the cheapest new cabinets,” This Old House.com notes. “That’s news that should light up your day.”

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