Painting cabinets is not for the faint of heart!  I shared last month how we suddenly found ourselves moving back to WA.  We had already purged our home ala garage sale style and a few dump runs since we had started the process of finally starting some renovations that had really needed to be done before we moved in.  It’s just too hard with a home full of children to do some things.   One of the items top on my priority list has been to paint the kitchen cabinets.  They are a newer set with oak cabinet door and drawer fronts.  While the case is laminate with oak front trim, it is all in good shape and the drawers have soft close slides.  Not to mention the fact that all new cabinets would have been outrageously expensive, there just really was no reason to completely replace them.  I however, find the oak finish to be very dated.  So despite the fact we are selling the house and despite my husband’s insistence that painting them was unnecessary, I was resolute that it had to be done.

I have loved this home – for a lot of reasons.  Almost a year ago, I wrote this in the article, Home – Where Your Story Begins : ” When we one day move out or sell this house it will carry new tell-tale signs of who we were in this home.   I hope the blood, sweat and tears we are putting into the fixing of this old home will mean they have to and want to do less work to it.   I hope the marks we leave and the stories they tell make the next residents smile and laugh as much as we have making them.” I meant it.  I want to leave this house better for the next owners.  We have not been lucky enough to get to stay in this home as long as I had hoped; we always thought we’d have time to do this or that later and later is suddenly now!  Unfortunately, life just kept moving fast, and we have not had near the time to actually do most of the things on our renovation list.  The cabinets however, are [almost] done!

I wanted to share this epic update with you all and include how-to details and a few suggestions about how I might do it differently next time, but as I wrote, the article just got longer, and longer and longer.  So here are the cliff notes about how I tackled this project.  I had estimated it would take me about 10 days to complete this.  It has not.  It has taken about twice that long.  Mostly because I just didn’t have the large chunks of time to dedicate to just working on them –coupled with the fact that you do have to just let them sit for long periods of time to dry.  So make sure you actually have the time to complete this project correctly if you decide to start.  Also, I opted not to paint the insides of the cabinets because I had good laminate cases in decent shape.  If painting the insides, this project will take quite a bit longer.  Ideally, this is what a 10 day time line might look like.

Day 1:  remove all doors, drawer fronts, and anything from the case/drawers if you are painting inside them.

Day 2: Wash everything that is going to be painted; a clean surface is a must if you want your paint to adhere. Wipe out the insides of the cabinets, so you have a clean area to work in.  It is so important for the floor and all the working area to be clean.  Start taping off areas you might not be able to edge in and protect your floor or other surrounding surfaces.

Day 3:  Fill any holes or deep scratches with a fast drying wood putty or caulk.  Fill your hardware holes if you will be drilling new ones or not putting hardware back on.  I highly recommend using caulk to fill all the seams of the case.  Sand and wipe down everything again.

Day 4: Primer.  Yes primer.  Even if your friendly paint store sales expert says it’s not necessary – do it.  Prime.  Prime the backs.  When dry, flip and prime the fronts, then let dry overnight

Day 5: Sand any drips or other imperfections you see with a fine grit paper.  Caulk again as necessary, wipe down as necessary and then prime again.  Backs first, let dry, flip and then fronts, allowing them to dry overnight again.

Day 6: Sand imperfections again.  Wipe down as necessary and then you are finally ready for the first coat of color!  Again, always do the backs first, then the fronts.  If your supports leave minor smudging, you can touch it up later.  You want the fronts have the longest dry time so they look the best with minimal “fixes”.

Day 7: Sand imperfections again. Apply second coat.

Day 8: Let it all sit for at least a day to insure everything is very dry.  It is very important to follow the direction for dry and re-coat times on your particular paint product.  In addition, you should know that the higher end, self-leveling paints made for cabinets involve a chemical reaction for curing that takes a looooooong time to be fully done.  You can handle them sooner; just be gentle with them for a while.  For mine it’s a full 30-45 days.  It won’t say it on the can, but your sales person should be able to tell you this.

Day 9: Drill holes (if necessary) for hardware and attach.  You could opt to drill the holes prior to painting, which I would have done if the hardware I had ordered had arrived in time.

Day 10: Hang doors and attach drawers.  Touch up paint as necessary.

The above may not seem all that daunting, but I can assure you it is somewhat brutal if you are trying to juggle children, work and more.  If you want to check out the cabinets and get more tips on painting yours, stop in to one of the open houses on Aspen Ave.  I’m happy to help you avoid some of the errors in judgement I made that would have saved me time and frustration.  Otherwise, I’ll do my best to complete the details in future articles.

I highly recommend having a good line up of podcasts and music.  However, the best remedy to losing your mind during this project is a good friend (a skilled painter preferably) to share the task with.  Thankyou Ariane!

Dr. Summer Beattie, ND is a graduate of Bastyzr University.  She has over 8 years experience as a Naturopathic Doctor specializing in women’s health with an emphasis on environmental medicine.  Having served two terms on the board of directors for the Washington Association of Naturopathic Physicians, she has also worked in the medical aesthetics field since 2008.  You can reach her at or