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The Pros and Cons of Painting Kitchen Cabinets

When helping folks on the Design side, I’m often asked about painting kitchen cabinets.  My eyes light up every time.  I absolutely love the transformation that can take place when sad, old cabinets are painted.  There are so many options!  You can paint one color on the uppers and a different color on the lowers.  You can paint the uppers and stain the lowers. You can paint or stain them all one color.

And let’s not forget about the island, if you have one.  The island is the focal point of the kitchen, as the kitchen is the focal point of the home.  It’s okay to jazz it up, get crazy and use a punch color different from the other cabinets.  See…options! Makes my creative brain so happy!!

A kitchen remodel is probably the most expensive renovation you can make in your home.  You can save a few bucks by going the paint route, but there are a few things you should consider before you decide.  Let’s pick this apart and explore the pros and cons, shall we?

Pros:

  • Painting your cabinets is cost effective, the biggest pro on the list.  The money you save will allow you to buy that new Kitchen-Aid Mixer and other shiny, new appliances you’ve been pining over, or maybe the more expensive tile for your back splash.

Side note:  You could save even more money by tackling this project on your own.  Painting cabinets takes a tremendous amount of time.  Time=Money!  I’m talking about labor fees here, folks.

Caution: Regardless of the cost savings, if you are an extremely meticulous, impatient, busy person, you should most definitely back away from the paint brush and place this project in the hands of professionals.

  • Painting your cabinets will give your home a major visual overhaul.  Huge impact at a fraction of the cost of replacing your cabinetry.
  • Painting your cabinets will take your sad cabinets from UGH! to Whaaaaat!!!  The potential for your cabinets to look like new is real.

Cons:

  • The first thing you need to ask yourself is “Can these cabinets be painted?”.  You have to be honest with yourself about the current condition of your cabinets.  Sometimes they’re just too far gone from age and wear and tear and you may need to look into replacing or refacing.
  • “What kind of wood is this?”, is the next question you’ll need to ask.   Once you know you will need to make sure the idea of painted cabinets you have in your head is the reality of the project at hand.  For example, if you have oak cabinets, you will need to be okay with seeing the grain of the wood through your paint (unless you’re going with a dark color) as the grain is nearly impossible to hide.  Maple, Poplar, Birch, Alder, and MDF these are all nice smooth woods that look magnificent painted.

Side note:  Oak cabinets look great with a little distressing.  It helps bring the personality of the wood to the forefront, suddenly that deep grain has character.

Caution:  Maple, Poplar, Birch, Alder, and MDF all have their own little quirks such as absorbency of the product being used, fuzzing when sanded, and softness.  Notches, pitch pockets and mineral streaks can all bleed through the paint if not primed correctly.

  • Painting your cabinets is a long process.  You must remove all items from the cabinets, label, sand and prime.  Next, you’ll have to paper, plastic and tape, then paint, allow it to dry, paint again, dry again, then clean up.  Putting everything away will be no small task.  It’s almost like moving!  It’s a commitment, ya’ll!
  • Your paint will chip and get banged up no matter how careful you are.
  • Oooh, that smell!  My favorite scent in the land is au de paint, but it can get pretty gnarly while painting cabinets.  For safety reasons, you may need to find somewhere else to sleep for a couple of nights.

I’ll conclude with a little secret…It all comes down to preparation. You must take your time and make sure that every surface is ready to accept the product you are using. This is where the true test of your patience enters.  Personally, painting cabinets is a project I would NOT tackle, as patience is not my strongest personality trait.  Thankfully, I work for a painting company (wink, wink!).

There you have it!  I’ve either made you want to start painting your cabinets right this minute or I’ve turned you off completely.  Good luck and happy New Year!!

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Jeanne Werth
February 20, 2020

We've used Unique Painting for several projects. They've painted the exterior of our house, painted an add on to the house and most recently painted and stained the trim in our kitchen and formal living room. What I appreciate most is that they show up when they say they are going to show up. That has always been the biggest hurdle for us with previous contractors. Other positives include, they finish when they say they are going to finish, clean up after themselves and are responsive to follow-up requests. We have recommended them to several neighbors and family members and everyone has been happy with the work.