How to Paint or Re-Stain Kitchen Cabinets

Written by cheryl munson
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How to Paint or Re-Stain Kitchen Cabinets
Use painting and staining to update the look of your kitchen cabinets. (Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Painting or re-staining kitchen cabinets can give a new look and new life to your kitchen, taking it from being outdated to updated. If you take on the task as a do-it-yourself project, preparation and "elbow grease" can result in a significant accomplishment. Take before and after pictures so you have proof of the transformation and bragging rights about how you designed and created your kitchen cabinets' redo.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Take time to consider and visualise your options. If the cabinets are made of wood, you can paint or re-stain them. If the cabinets are laminate, painting is your best option, as laminate surfaces are composed of composite woods, which do not lend themselves to re-staining.

  2. 2

    Focus on and stick to a specific design look. Choose a final style for the cabinets that reflects a modern, contemporary, European or traditional style.

  3. 3

    Consider different creative options that paint can provide. You can create a contemporary look by painting the cabinets in a solid colour like black or white. Both colours provide versatility. White lends itself to different kitchen design styles such as country, traditional, French or Tuscan. Black cabinets tie-in with modern and contemporary styles. Colours such as red, yellow or blue can give the kitchen a retro, "artsy" or eclectic look.

  4. 4

    Compare what you can achieve by staining your existing wood cabinets. For example, you can change chestnut cabinets to beech wood to "lighten up" the look of the kitchen. Alternatively, you can convert existing light wood cabinets to a range of darker finishes like cherry, mahogany or walnut to create a substantial look.

  5. 5

    Select your painting technique, such as "crackling" or a high-gloss finish. Discuss your technique options with paint store experts to make your final decision. If you are opting to stain the cabinets -- get several chip swatches from your home improvement store, take them home, tape them to the cabinets and visualise how the stain colours will look before making your final selection.

  6. 6

    Prepare the cabinets for painting or staining. Remove the doors and their hardware. Get envelopes and plastic bags in which to store the hardware. Mark each back panel with a small strip of masking tape as door A, B, C and so on. Put the corresponding hardware for the door into an envelope.

  7. 7

    Strip and sand the cabinet doors and frames. Whether you choose to paint or stain -- the materials will adhere and apply best when surfaces are washed free of grease build-up and have small imperfections buffed away. Consult with your paint store expert to select the appropriate "grit" of sandpaper.

  8. 8

    Prime the cabinets if you are going to paint. Be sure to use a dust sheet on countertops to avoid the stain or paint from dripping on their surfaces. Otherwise, you will have another cleanup job once painting or staining is finished. Also, cover floors with a dust sheet for protection. Allow ample time for drying in between coats of paint or stain.

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