kitchen cabinet makeover

How to Upcycle Old Kitchen Cabinet Doors with Paint

This guide was provided by Beverley Wilde of Revamped. Here she takes us through how to upcycle old kitchen cabinet doors with this step by step guide, including all the materials you will need.

Materials Needed

If you are reading this then you are probably thinking about, or have already decided to, paint your kitchen cabinets. Not only will you will save a small fortune by doing so, but you can choose any colour or pattern you desire, making it totally unique. However, repainting a kitchen is not a quick job and therefore this isn’t a quick how to guide either – so make yourself a cuppa first and get comfy before you read on.

I don’t purport to be an expert in this field, but this guide is based on my own research and experience of painting my own kitchen units and, more recently, the laminate units in my workshop. You definitely learn as you go!  I have tried to include helpful tips and advice to make the paint job as stress free as possible.  I have also included some before and after shots of some of the kitchens I’ve used this process on to keep you motivated to stick with me through all the steps!

Step 1: The Dreaded Prep

As I’ve already mentioned, painting a kitchen is no quick job and it’s probably something you don’t want to do often. So my advice is to get the prep right so your finish will last.

Firstly, try and set aside a work area that doesn’t need cleaning up at the end of each day, leaving items time to dry overnight if need be and not be at risk of damage from moving around. I would even recommend some pre-made meals that just need reheating or throw caution to the wind and eat out or have takeaways some evenings too (Maybe that’s just me looking for excuses not to cook!).

Start working in sections, ie. the top cupboards first and then the under-counter cupboards so the whole process doesn’t feel daunting. When doing it this way you can see the kitchen come together quicker and you will also get a feel for the colour and look you have chosen. 

Step 2: Still Prepping – Cleaning your Cupboards

This is a very important process and the most tedious of all. Stick with it because it’s worth it.

You must clean your cupboards and carcass/framework thoroughly to degrease the units and give yourself a good base for the primer and paint. Remove the cupboard doors and preferably number them so that they go back in the right place. This may seem like overkill, but slight warping can happen over time and this will save you a lot of hassle when putting the doors back on at the end. Do the same with the handles and hinges so everything goes back in and on it’s rightful place. Some drawer fronts can be removed by unscrewing them, leaving the drawers intact 

Trisodium Phosphate (TSP) is a great degreaser and is kind on the environment too. I used the one by Fusion Mineral Paints. Clean using a scouring sponge until you’re happy that there is no grease residue on your cabinets. Some people like to scuff sand before priming and that’s not a bad idea. However, if your cabinets are thoroughly clean and you are using high quality products like Ultra Grip or Zinsser then this isn’t necessary.

If you have cupboards coated in veneer then this is fine too, but if the veneer is coming away in places, then you need to remove it entirely. Painting won’t stop the peeling process. Just remove the veneer and clean and sand away any adhesive.

Step 3: Fill & Drill Handle Holes

upcycle old kitchen cabinets after handles
Don’t forget new handles!

If you’re looking to change your handles or knobs, now is the time to fill or drill any new holes for your new hardware. A quick drying, non-shrinking filler will be adequate for this.  Slightly overfill any holes and when completely dry sand smooth and level for your base product. (Remember to wipe away any sanding dust from your doors).

Step 4: More Prep – Tape

Tape up your walls and/or tiles with the masking tape where they meet the carcass of your kitchen and along the floor if you are unable to remove your kick boards. Try and remove these if you can as it’s much easier. Remove hinges and knobs and drawer fronts if possible and label and bag for each door.

Step 5: Primer

Once the taping, drilling and filling is done, you can start applying your chosen base product.

For solid wood kitchens a primer like Zinsser BIN or Zinsser Cover Stain would be ideal to block any oil or tannins that are ingrained in the wood and can bleed through into your paintwork. Knotty wood requires Zinsser BIN or a knot sealer.

For gloss or veneer kitchen units, then a base coat of Ultra Grip is sufficient. 

A note on clean up:

I start on the inside of the doors and then work around to the front (painting inside the doors is optional, but does give a professional finish).

Use the mini foam roller for speed and to eliminate brush marks. When dry, if you feel or see any raised parts of primer, gently sand until smooth. A smooth base product is just as important for your finish as smooth paintwork.

Repeat the process with your kitchen carcass and side panels until the section you’re working on is primed.  Now you can either start painting or continue the cleaning and priming process on other sections. If choosing the last option, remember that any fatty/oily cooking undertaken during the painting process may leave new greasy residue ON TOP of the primer and defeat the process of cleaning and priming. (Now you see where I was coming from with the pre-made meals and takeaways). 😉

Tip: To save you the hassle of cleaning your brushes or sponges overnight, pop them in a freezer bag or wrap in cling film and expel any air so that they don’t dry out. They will be ready to use again the next day.

upcycle old kitchen cabinets before

Ultra Grip was applied to these laminte doors – it goes on milky, but dries clear.

How are you holding in there – I did warn you it was a long one!

 Step 6: Painting a.k.a ‘The Best Part’

Once you’ve prepped and applied your primer or Ultra Grip you’re ready to paint.

Fusion is a great choice for this job. It is NOT a chalk paint, but an acrylic water-based paint that contains a built-in resin. This leaves you with a self-sealing, matt finish that doesn’t require an additional product like wax or varnish. As Fusion has superb coverage, the majority of colours in the range will cover your kitchen in two coats. Whites and reds will need a coat or two more (as is the case with most brands really).  

If you’re going for a white or red finish on your kitchen units, there are two options available to limit the coats required:

  1. Apply a light grey shade of Fusion (like Sterling) as your first coat and then your preferred white or red on the top.
  2. If using one of the Zinsser primers, get it tinted a light grey from a retailer who mixes paint.

The grey colour creates a good base and stops the colour of the cupboards showing through and therefore requiring additional coats.

When applying your desired colour, allow enough time for each coat to dry properly. Fusion does dry quite quickly, but do take into account the temperature/humidity that you are working in. This will affect your paint drying time, especially if it’s too cold or humid. I recommend working in good light and then leave the first coat to completely dry and preferably settle overnight. Don’t overload your brush or roller. A little Fusion goes a long way. As it is also self-leveling, the thinner the application the smoother the finish and it has zero VOCs, so it’s kind on you and the environment.

Coverage of the first coat and the end result after 2 coats of Fusion (Cathedral Taupe)

Now, you’re starting to see the end result come together on the doors and carcass. Apply your second coat everywhere and allow to dry completely. Then assess if you need to do a third coat or any touch ups in places. Once you’re happy with your paintwork and it’s all dry, you can start removing any masking tape and replacing your hinges, knobs and screws etc.

Voila and there you have it! – a ‘brand new kitchen’ at an absolute steal compared to buying new. Now you can sit back (with a well deserved treat) and admire all your skill and hard work. And god forbid anyone who dirties it. Ha ha!

Guest Blog Revamped Logo

This How to Guide was written by Beverley Wilde from Revamped.

Want to keep the upcycling going in your kitchen? Check out our DIY Kitchen Makeover Ideas.

What would you like to Upcycle Today?

Thinking of Starting Your Own Upcycling Business?

Download our free Top Tips for Brand New Upcycling Businesses
What would you like to Upcycle Today?

Thinking of Starting Your Own Upcycling Business?

Download our free Top Tips for Brand New Upcycling Businesses