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How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets

This Old House host Kevin O'Connor discovers a pro's secrets for brightening up old cabinet doors with a fresh coat of color

This Old House host Kevin O'Connor discovers pro painter Rich O'Neil's secrets for brightening up old doors with a coat of paint.


1. Use a clean cotton cloth and liquid degreaser or cleanser to remove all dirt, grease and grime from cabinet doors. Wipe the doors dry with a clean, dry cloth.
2. Lightly sand the flat surfaces of the doors with a random-orbit sander fitted with 100-grit sandpaper.
3. Hand-sand the edges where the door frame meets the door panel.
4. Dust off the door with a dry paintbrush, then wipe down the surface with a tack cloth to remove all sanding dust.
5. Brush on a coat of primer.
7. Use a relatively dry brush to smooth the primer around the door frame, and then the panel; work from the corners and edges in toward center of the panel.
8. Install two screw hooks into the end of each door. Be sure to put the hooks into the bottom ends of the base-cabinet doors, and into the top ends of the upper-cabinet doors to hide the holes.
9. Set two 2x4s across two stepladders to create a painting/drying station. Install a series of screw hooks into the underside of the 2x4s.
10. For each door, insert a 1 5/8-inch drywall screw into one of the hinge-screw holes to serve as a handle.
11. Now hang a door onto the screw hooks in the 2x4s.
12. Use a paintbrush to apply primer to the back of the door; allow the door to hang from the hooks until dry. Repeat for remaining doors.
13. Once the primer has dried, lightly hand-sand the doors with 120-grit sandpaper.
14. Wipe off the sanding dust with a tack cloth and apply two coats of semi-gloss paint.
15. After the paint dries, apply two coats of water-based polyurethane, making sure to lightly sand between coats with 120-grit sandpaper.

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