Long before you can make any renovations to your kitchen cabinets, you must decide exactly what it is that you wish to have done to the surface and how you want the finish to look at the end of the project. Once you have your desired outcome in mind, there are a number of steps you must take before you reach the final goal of your project: completely refinished cabinetry fit for a modern homeowner. Not only will following the right steps help you to finish your work with professional results, but it will minimize the risk of problems which may push your budget farther than originally intended.

Cost and Scheduling

First and foremost, you must gather a full understanding of the cost associated with this project, including everything from labor to the materials needed to get the job done. The choice of getting brand new cabinets will quickly cost you thousands of dollars in one simple sitting, but choosing to refinish existing cabinetry will dramatically drop this cost into only the hundreds. Allow yourself a minimum of two full weekends to complete this project, and you will quickly find that this is the most cost-effective option, especially when you consider the minimal cost of around $900 for a professional to do the refinishing.


One of the most easily avoided and yet most common problems faced by homeowners who do this project on their own is the simple act of remembering which cabinet doors attach to which openings in the cabinetry. Although many doors may appear to be of the same size and shape, the truth is that each may vary by as small a difference as a quarter of an inch, and labeling the doors using painter’s tape will minimize this problem. Remember to remove these labels before spraying cabinet door fronts and casings with primer or paint, and then replace them once the surface is dry and ready for reinstallation.


Sanding will provide the primer and paint with something to hold onto when being applied, and it will remove any existing sheen or sealant used on the cabinet door fronts and drawers. This will also help to smooth out any existing damage to the surface, and a fine-grit sanding block or pad is ideal for this particular project. If there are heavy layers of shellac or lacquer on your cabinetry already, use a rough-grit sandpaper to correct the problem with ease.


Any professional worth hiring will utilize a high quality primer as part of their work, and you must do the same if you want to truly get professional results from the refinishing project. You will likely only need one coat if you plan to use a light color, but you may need to choose a tinted primer if you plan to use a dark color of paint. To tint your primer, add a small amount of the paint you want to use on the cabinetry to the primer and mix it well.


If possible with your budget—and it is cost-effective enough to fit easily into most—use the option of a paint sprayer for that factory finish. Not only will it look much better, but it will be completely lacking in those obtrusive paint brush marks which indicate the cabinetry was painted by hand rather than by a professional. You may choose to rent these from certain stores or purchase your own outright, although renting is always more cost-effective.