How to Paint 70s Style Wood Kitchen Cabinets

Written by kevin mcdermott
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If you have old 1970s-style wood cabinets in your kitchen, chances are good that it's not really wood at all, but a wood veneer--maybe even plastic--over a particleboard base. Even if it is wood, it's likely to be stained overly dark, with very basic, uninteresting millwork (two classic problems from that period). Painting over that disco-era cabinet is probably the biggest favour you can do for it. Whatever the existing material, a sand-buffing preparation and good sealing primer will let you cover it with a more modern surface.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Screwdriver
  • Newspapers
  • Painter's tape
  • Vibrating sander
  • 80-grit sandpaper
  • Paint brushes
  • Flat sealing primer
  • Gloss-finish paint

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  1. 1

    Remove all hardware from the cabinets, using your screwdriver. Remove the cabinet doors and drawers and set them on spread-out newspapers. Spread newspapers under the cabinets. Put painter's tape along the wall where it meets the cabinets.

  2. 2

    Use your vibrating sander to dull the entire surface of the cabinets, taking off the glossy finish. Don't try to sand beyond the finish (if it's a wood veneer, you could end up with exposed particleboard); rather, just get the finish flat and dull. Do the same for the doors and drawer fronts.

  3. 3

    Use a dry paintbrush to brush all the dust off the surfaces.

  4. 4

    Brush on a coat of sealing primer, covering everything in a thin, even layer. Don't worry if you can still see the underlying wood grain beneath the primer, as long as it's a full, consistent coat. Let it dry for 8 hours.

  5. 5

    Brush on a first coat of paint, starting at the highest point on the cabinets and working down. Keep the coat very thin and even, with the brush strokes going with the direction of the cabinet structure (vertical or horizontal).

  6. 6

    Let the first coat of paint dry to the touch. Apply a second coat in the same fashion--again, keeping it very thin. Let this coat dry, too, and then apply a third coat, if necessary.

  7. 7

    Let the final coat of paint dry overnight. Re-install the doors, drawers and hardware.

Tips and warnings

  • Ventilate the room when priming and painting.

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