How to Repaint Painted Cabinets for a Professional Finish

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Hello friends! Today I am sharing our freshly painted kitchen cabinets, and how we went about repainting painted kitchen cabinets. I have found that there are lots of tutorials for painting your cabinets, but not many speaking specifically to ones that have already been painted.

When we purchased our house back in 2019, and it had been my dream so long to have an all-white kitchen that there were NO doubts in my mind. This kitchen was going to be WHITE paint, no doubt about it.  However, we had zero experience with painting cabinets and almost zero budget to do it. So we chose an affordable cabinet paint and quite honestly, made a lot of mistakes.

You can find the blog post on our paint color choice here.

For the most part, our cabinets held up okay. But to name a few things that we didn’t do correctly. 1) We chose the wrong paint for our cabinets. 2) We did not prime well. 3) We did not sand well.  As a result, our cabinets were chipping within the first year of being painted. Not horribly, but definitely chipping. 

With all of this being said, we went about repainting painted kitchen cabinets for two different reasons. Our cabinets were truly in NEED of a fresh coat of paint, and we were ready for a change.  I’m putting this post together for those who are worried about the adhesion of new paint over old paint, and how to do it the RIGHT WAY. It was important to me that these have a smooth finish AND a durable finish.  So let’s get into how we did it! 

*With hopes to achieve the smoothest finish possible, we did spray the top three coats of paint with a paint sprayer. This being said, if you do not feel like tackling the sprayer, a high density foam roller and angle brush will do a great job, and you can still follow this tutorial!


Everything listed here for painting kitchen cabinets can be purchased at your local home improvement store (ie. Home Depot, Lowes, etc.) 

Plastic drop cloths (lots of them!). I think we used around 8. 
Painter’s Tape 
Paint sprayer (We have this $30 one from Amazon!)
*high density foam roller and angle brush can definitely be used in its place
Heavy duty cleaner
Scouring Pad (for scrubbing cabinets clean)
– Sharpie or bold pen 
120 grit sandpaper discs 
220 grit sanding discs
220 sanding block
Putty knife/paint scraper 
Angled paint brush
100 grit sandpaper sheets
– Cabinet Paint (we chose Sherwin Williams Urethane Trim Enamel in semi-gloss and only needed 1 can!) 
Bonding primer
– Paper towels or scrap cloths 
High density foam roller & paint tray 
Extra foam roller heads
– Something to prop cabinets on when painting. We used old pieces of wood trim, but you can use small water cups, painter’s triangles, vegetable cans, etc. 
Orbital Sander (you can opt to hand sand and use a deglosser, but I can’t speak to the final results) 
Drill or screwdriver 
Wood Filler (This is what we used!). This is if you plan to change to hardware that will not be the same length, OR if you want to fill old cabinet hinge holes. We did both! 
Tack cloth (for wiping dust) 


I do not want to give you false hope that repainting painted kitchen cabinets can be done in a day. The sheer dry time between coats makes this take longer than a day. Not to mention good prep work takes a good amount of time. BUT, I will tell you that my husband and I took a long weekend (with our small children at home), and got this project done in 3 days. Obviously with breaks thrown in there and lots of pauses to help kiddos. But this gives you a realistic idea of the timeframe you are looking at! 

I am putting the steps for repainting paint ed kitchen cabinets in the order that WE completed them. So for instance, you will find that

1. First step, remove cabinet doors. 

You can do this with a screwdriver or electric drill, and LABEL the cabinet doors as you go. Showing you an example in step #2. 

2. Label cabinet doors. 

It’s a good idea to create a system that tells you exactly where the cabinet doors belongs after being removed. While it might seem obvious, believe me, we made this mistake the first time and it’s not! So for instance, we wrote, “T  R-L 1.”  This means #1 on the top, going right to left for us. We do this with painter’s tape and a good ol’ sharpie and stick it to the back of the cabinet door. 

repainting painted kitchen cabinets

3. Take all that you can out of your kitchen cabinets. 

When we painted our cabinets in the past, we had just moved in and didn’t have full cabinets yet. So we did not realize this time around how much mess this would make, even inside the cabinets. Take it from us and learn from our mistakes! Unless you plan to COMPLETELY seal these with plastic or cardboard, do not leave your dishes, spices, etc. inside your cabinets. Especially if you plan to sand. So. much. dust. 

4. Prep your area with drop cloths.

Make sure you cover everything in your kitchen that you do not want getting dust and dirt with drop cloths. 

5. Clean the cabinets THOROUGHLY. 

We used TSP-PF heavy duty cleaner and scouring pad for this. It’s a great xleaner to use to degrease and prepare surfaces for the adhesion of paint. It’s cheap and a little goes a long way! It only takes 1 tablespoon for a whole 2 gallons of water. 

6. After cabinets have dried, sand down cabinet doors with 120 grit sandpaper. 

This is a VERY important step for repainting painted kitchen cabinets. We used an orbital sander for this part to ensure we roughed the cabinets up enough for paint to stick to. Again, I know there are tutorials that say you can use a liquid deglosser / liquid sandpaper and get away with not sanding. But I cannot speak to the long-term durability of this, as I’ve not done it myself.  

You do not have to completely strip your cabinets of paint or go down to completely bare wood. I read conflicting info on this, but I am here to assure you that if you sand them well with a medium grit sandpaper and give them a good coat of bonding primer – completely stripping them is unnecessary. This is an important step to ensure paint adhesion, so I strongly recommend not skipping this! 

I used a 100 grit sandpaper disc to get into the fine grooves of our cabinet doors. I’ve listed 100 grit sandpaper sheets in my supply list, as I wished I had more sheet to work with for this part. 

7. Apply wood filler to hardware holes of cabinet doors and drawers (optional) and let dry for a few hours. 

Again, this part only applies if you have screw holes in your cabinet doors that you need to cover. We are switching from a handle to a knob, so we had one hole too many on all the upper cabinet doors. 

repainting painted kitchen cabinets

8. Sand down cabinet frame with 120 grit sandpaper.

Again, we used an orbital sander for this. 

I want to reiterate this again. This is so unbelievably messy! I strongly recommend clearing the inside of your kitchen cabinets or COMPLETELY sealing them with plastic (even then, I can’t promise they will be safe from the dust). We even tried to do this while holding a shop-vac next to the sander to eliminate some of the dust, and it’s still a serious amount. 

Make sure you have plastic drop cloths covering counters, floors, and anywhere in the nearby vicinity that you do not want coated in dust. 

9. Apply wood filler to any screw holes you’d like to cover (optional) and let dry for a few hours. 

This only applies if you will not be using the same hinges. We opted to go with hidden hinges after re-painting! 

Look at the stuff still in our cabinets…. rookie move over here. 

10. Sand cabinet doors and drawers with 220 grit. You will also sand off any wood filler at this time. 

The cabinets should be smooth-ish after the 120 grit sanding, but the 220 will ensure they are completely smooth and ready for priming. 

Gently sand over any wood filler at this time. 

repainting painted kitchen cabinets

11. Clean cabinet doors well. 

Once everything has been sanded, make sure to remove all remaining dust. We used a leaf blower and damp microfiber cloth for this. 

12. Apply first coat of primer to the front of your cabinet doors. 

We opted to use Zinsser Cover Stain Bonding Primer and only used one can of this as well. After not choosing the right primer the first time, I was not going to be wrong this time! This is a crucial step for repainting painted kitchen cabinets and while some skip it, I just wouldn’t.  This primer is great because it sticks to surfaces even without sanding! So the fact that we sanded gives it EXTRA durability and ensures that our paint has something to really stick to. 

We chose to use an angle brush and high-density foam roller for this. 

13. While waiting for the first coat of primer to dry, sand down your cabinet frame with 220 grit sandpaper.

14. Clean dust and prepare kitchen area for primer.

The dust on the inside of our cabinets, yikes!  We cleaned this up with our shop vac and damp microfiber cloths. 

15. Use painter’s tape to prep your cabinet frame for primer. 

Make sure you are taping any area where you don’t want paint to end up! Walls, tile, shelves, appliances, etc.  We opted not to paint the inside of the cabinet. 

repainting painted kitchen cabinets

16. Apply first coat of primer to the cabinet base. 

We chose to use a high density foam roller, sponge brushes, and angle brush for painting the cabinet base. 

After the first coat of primer on the top half of our cabinets, I enjoyed a homemade latte overlooking the complete chaos of our kitchen. 

repainting painted kitchen cabinets

The first coat of primer will not be pretty. Do not be alarmed! 

17. Apply primer to the back of your cabinet doors and give drawers a second coat. 

18. Once the first coat of primer dries on your kitchen cabinet base, give it a second coat of primer.

This one will go MUCH faster. 

19. After the back of cabinet doors are dry to the touch, flip them over and give them a second coat of primer. 

As you can see, the second coat of primer really makes a world of difference! This stuff is SOLID and not going anywhere.  But as you can see, because this primer is so thick, the surface is not completely smooth after it dries. This is why it’s important to not miss sanding!

20. Give back of cabinet doors a second coat of primer.

21. Once primer on the cabinet base is dry, check for dried paint drips and carefully sand 220-grit sanding disc or sanding block.

You want this smooth, but you do not want to sand off the primer. I found that using a 220-grit sanding disc on our orbital sander and gently sanding down the rough edges worked well. The primer dries quickly and sands down nicely into a powder. Alternatively, you could use a 220 grit sanding block and use more elbow grease.

22. Once dry, run 220 grit sandpaper disc over the front of cabinet doors. 

You can use the block for this, but I found that I can be pretty precise with the orbital sander on the door front and it goes much quicker. 

If you use the same primer we did, you’ll notice there’s a definite thickness and rough feeling to the finish. This step ensures that your cabinets are smooth to the touch. 

You do not want to sand off the primer whatsoever, so do not sit still anywhere. You will continually and quickly move the sander around, seeking a smooth to the touch finish. 

repainting painted kitchen cabinets
repainting painted kitchen cabinets

23. Thoroughly clean cabinet base and cabinet doors. You are ready for paint! 

I used a leaf blower to blow any remaining dust off cabinet doors, and then wiped them down with a damp microfiber cloth. 

Inside, I inspected the cabinet base carefully and wiped everything down with a damp rag – making sure no dust was left behind. 

24. Prepare an area to spray cabinet doors. 

Depending on where you do this, you may want to be more particular about your set-up. We used our garage and laid down plastic drop cloths. We used old wood trim as a “stand” for keeping the cabinets off the ground. 

I used the sprayer on a lower paint setting to ensure that I didn’t blast paint all over the garage, but even so, it’s messy! It’s best to lay a drop cloth down underneath and behind the area you will be working. 

I really wanted a professional finish and knew spraying would be my best bet. 

This being said, we have rolled kitchen cabinets in the past and they looked very nice! If you do not have access to a paint sprayer or have no desire to spray, you can definitely opt to roll your cabinets and get great results. 

25. Set up your paint sprayer according to manufacturer’s instructions. 

We used this paint sprayer (it’s the cheapest one on Amazon I believe.) We’ve had it for 2 years and used it for multiple projects and it’s still going strong!  I’m here to say that it is SO much faster and more precise than rolling. 

26. Spray cabinet door fronts and drawers with paint color of your choice.

There are many cabinet paints out there, so you may want to do your own research on the best paint for your cabinets. But if you’d like to save yourself a ton of time and benefit from the countless hours of research and planning I did for this, go with Sherwin Williams Urethane Trim Enamel. This is a HIGH-quality paint. So quality in fact that we only had to use ONE CAN! So if you think about it, another paint may be half the price, but you may end up needing two cans of it. 

Spraying them honestly goes super fast After the initial set-up and practice with the sprayer, the paint sprayer really speeds things up and is worth the prep in my opinion. This is also the best way to achieve a super smooth finish and avoid brush strokes. 

As soon as I sprayed one cabinet or drawer front, I carefully moved it aside to dry and headed to the next. 

27. While cabinet doors dry, paint your cabinet base! 

We chose to roll our cabinet base. 

28. After the front of cabinet doors are dry, flip them over and spray the backs. 

29. Using a 220 sanding block, gently sand kitchen drawer fronts, clean, and spray second coat. 

30. If you plan to spray anything indoors, now is a great time. 

We opted NOT to spray our cabinet base as to avoid the necessary taping and prepping for that. But I did want to spray our oven hood as to get the smoothest finish possible. 

repainting painted kitchen cabinets

31. Gently sand cabinet fronts with 220 grit sanding block, clean, and spray second coat of paint.  

Once the back of your cabinet doors are dry, you will flip them over, gently sand with 220 grit sanding disc/orbital sander, clean with a microfiber cloth to remove and dust, and spray your second coat! Alternatively, you can use a 220 grit sanding block, but I learned throughout this process that the orbital sander does a better job with half the work 😉

repainting painted kitchen cabinets

32. Repeat as necessary! 

I found that our cabinets looked amazing after 2 coats primer and 3 coats of paint, making sure to sand with 220 grit between each coat.

I think 3 is the magic number for most when repainting painted kitchen cabinets, but you may find that yours look great after 2! It really depends on several factors like wood grain, quality of cabinets, etc.

33. Allow cabinets time to dry, and then re-install and add hardware! 

We opted for hidden hinges this go-round. I will have a blog post coming on this soon!

I hope this tutorial for repainting painted kitchen cabinets helps you in your own kitchen cabinet makeover! It honestly feels like we have new cabinets, and we are THRILLED.


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