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Kitchen Cupboards Painting vs. Replacement

Updated on November 19, 2012

To Paint or not to paint - That is the question

First off, if you are thinking of painting your cupboards with a brush and or roller then you'll get what you pay for. Your kitchen will have a new fresh look but will in a short time become an old look. You can purchase new cupboards and spend a pile of money on an older home. Or you can buy the right tools, spray paint your cupboards and have a fantastic result.

Brush and roller painting

Painting cupboards is not new. In fact, it is a great way to spruce up an old kitchen. I have painted more than my fair share of kitchen cupboards in my 18 years of painting experience. Most of the cupboards that I have painted are in much older homes and rental units. For the first number of years I would use a brush and roller. The roller needed to be one of those smaller ones that still have a good 10mm nap but it needs to be only 5 or 6 inches wide to fit inside the cupboards. A quick roll of the top back and sides of each open space will speed up the painting process but the brush is needed to finish off the inside corners. Now make sure you don't overload the roller or brush. You don't want it to run. In fact, you want to do two or three fine coats inside the cupboards for a premium finish that is much more durable. You can paint your cupboards with either water based product commonly called latex (you should use a Semi-gloss latex finish)or use an oil based finish and use a malamine finish which is more of an eggshell finish than a semi-gloss.

Tools for Spray painting Cupboards

  • 4 Drop cloths - 1 To cover the entire kitchen floor - 1 to cover all appliances (turn off GAS stove) - 1 to cover any archway that allows ventilation through house - 1 to tape over the kitchen counter and sink.
  • Melamine OIL based paint in the colour you wish to paint. 1 gal.
  • Oil brush, 4 or 5 rags, mineral spirits for cleanup 1 gal.
  • Tape, newspapers, mask, coveralls, protective glasses
  • Minimum 5gal. air tank (8 gal. tank is better approx. $175)
  • Air sprayer with all hose accessories (I use none gravity feed but I heard a gravity fed sprayer is better)
  • 3 Days

This is a rental property I purchaed which had a very dingy kitchen with unmatched cupboards
This is a rental property I purchaed which had a very dingy kitchen with unmatched cupboards
Here you see the upper cupboards painted inside and out for two coats. The lower cupboards have a mist coat on them.
Here you see the upper cupboards painted inside and out for two coats. The lower cupboards have a mist coat on them.

How to spray paint your cupboards

First, if you are going to do this, you need the right tools. Your list is to the right, copy it down and don't you dare skimp on quality products. If there is one thing that I have learned when purchasing tools, the quality ones hold their value and do a much better job.

Listen, first thing you need to know is that you cannot do this in one day. It takes aproximately 4 hours for oil based paint to set up for a second coat. You will need time to do the inside before ever doing the doors which will be removed while spraying the interior.

Ready? Here is the process

After purchasing all of the mentioned tools and finding a good 3 days that you can complete your project. Begin by removing all of the door handles. Remove the doors next. Remove the hinges keeping all of the hinges and all of the screws in an empty container. If you have a safe to spray location like a garage, barn, or basement, set up a wall space with all of the doors lined upside down and backwards to be sprayed. This way, as you become a better sprayer, you can then do the fronts. Make sure you have good ventilation. It is easy to become overwhelmed when spraying oil based paint. Turn off all open flame sources as spraying oil based paint is similar to adding a flamable gas into the air.

Cover everything in the room you are spraying. Don't park the car just outside the garage door unless you plan on painting the car. The paint will drift and fall upon anything in the room while painting. Cover the entire floor space and open widows for ventilation. Block any archways to prevent paint drifting into other rooms and shut off the heating or a/c system in the house while painting. Leave the system off for 2 hours after finished painting. It will carry the paint through the house. Now understand that the fumes of the oil paint cannot be stopped from entering the rest of the house. Some companies sell products that mask the smell. Don't use these, I would sooner know that the smell is overwhelming than not be able to wake up in the morning by being over come by the fumes. At least you will know enough to keep the widows open for more fresh air. You may mask the smell but NOT the harmful fumes which you cannot smell.

MINTCRAFT EW-PQ-2U KIT High Pressure Spray Gun Kit
MINTCRAFT EW-PQ-2U KIT High Pressure Spray Gun Kit

A sprayer kit like this one is what I used.

Here you can see that I lined up the doors along the wall at waist height so they were easy to spray
Here you can see that I lined up the doors along the wall at waist height so they were easy to spray
Here, a close up photo of the doors showing how fine they look when finished.
Here, a close up photo of the doors showing how fine they look when finished.

Once all of your doors are lined up and ready to spray, make sure you begin on the back (inside) so that as you become better with the spray tools, you will be able to do a great job on the fronts.

Learning to use an air sprayer is not difficult. Set up a trial and error sheet of cardboard along a wall. Use a huge piece of cardboard. Read the instructions on the sprayer you bought. (guys, this means you... as women are going to read the instructions even if I tell them not to, they are just smart that way) Learn what dials do what with the air flow, paint flow and spray pattern. As you test each of these dials and find a pattern and flow that feel comfortable to you, all you need to do is understand that your hands must keep moving while spraying. As you pass the area that you want paint on, you pull the trigger then release just as you get to the end of the area requiring paint. It is very important that you learn how to do this. (Purchasing a spraybomb can of paint will help you to learn) Any hesitation or non movement while pulling the trigger will give you a large quantity of paint in one area which will run. Do NOT dab this run, don't touch it and do not spray that area again. Simply allow it to dry, sand it flat with a sanding block or sponge then respray that area. I have been spraying for years and I still have the occasional run. I just let it dry, sand it and then spray another coat. Learning to spray while moving your hand (the sprayer) back and forth or up and down over the unit to paint. Also holding the sprayer level takes a bit of practice but you'll get it.

Close up of a hinge show that it will swivel without cracking the paint.
Close up of a hinge show that it will swivel without cracking the paint.

Fine coats are best

I cannont stress this enough. Do not expect to cover your cupboards in one or two coats unless you are painting the same colour. Finer coats may take more time but they dry harder and are much more durable in the long run. I painted the cupboards you have seen in the pics above with the handles and hinges left on. I wanted the hinges white. I sprayed the hinges 4 times with the melamine paint that I bought for them but first i lightly sprayed the hinges with a white oil primer spraybomb can. The finer coats are better and each spray was done after moving the hinges into another positions so that I covered the entire hinge and made sure that they would still swivel and not crack the paint on the hinge when the hinges move.

So, you have everything ready. You are wearing your safety equipment and you've placed drop sheets everywhere, you masked the counter and covered it too. You masked the walls and covered them all around the cupboards with newspaper, you have practised on a sheet of cardboard on the wall and you are ready to begin. Note the time you begin spraying. Fill the sprayer canister 3/4 full of the paint you are using. Begin spraying the upper cupboards and do the inside only. Once you have sprayed the inside of the upper cupboards do the inside of the lower cupboards. If your cupboards have a spinning corner unit, make sure you do the inside of it first. Don't worry about covering in one coat on the inside, this is your test area, and besides, you should be planning on doing 3 or 4 coats. Now, carefully begin spraying the outer portions of your cupboards. All you need is a nice light mist on them. Future coats will make your cupboards look fantastic. Once you have done every area of your cupboards on your first light coat, take your sprayer to the doors you have set up. You will only be able to spray one side of them at a time. They will stick to the paper on the wall that they are leaning on so be carefull on how much you spray them. Be sure to spray all around the outer edge each time you spray the doors as this is the most abused areas of the cupboard doors. The drawers should be placed up near a wall and sprayed at one angle to do the interiors and mist the fronts.

Clean up your sprayer gun now. If you don't clean the sprayer nozzel between coats it can harden, and if that happens you will have an awful time cleaning it or using it later. Clean up of the sprayer gun is number one priority. The cannister that holds the paint can sometimes be left if you are only going to be an hour between coats but the sprayer nozzel will pug up. Be sure to use the small wire brush they send you with the sprayer to clean the gun. Take it completely apart.

After your first coat is done. Wait at least 4 hours between coats. Now understand that it may have taken you an hour to spray everything so you can begin the entire process (in the same order) in 3 hours. This time, just before you begin, rotate the doors top to bottom so you can continue to spray the back but at a different angle. Rotate the drawers at this time as well. Do your second coat begining in the same order you painted your first coat.

Clean up the sprayer gun again. If you take your time cleaning and do a good job of it, your sprayer will last a long time.

Waiting 4 hours between coats again, you can now rotate the doors to the fronts and the drawers to do the fronts and around the edges. I realize that you can only do so many coats in a day. Clean up before you stop for the night. Make absolutely sure you have enough mineral spirits to clean up 4 times. I have been doing this for a long time and can clean my sprayer 4 times with a 4 litre jug. You may waste more.

Once you have completely painted the inside and outside of the cupboads with 3 to 4 coats and they look good and your cupboard doors have a minimum of 3 coats on them, you are ready to let them dry for at least 6 hours before placing the doors back on the cupboards.

Be sure to have someone help you. You don't want to scratch the cupboards you have just worked so hard on. Oil based paint is dry to touch in 4 hours but oil paint takes a week to cure. I suggest that you don't place your plates and things into the cupboards for a minimum of one week. Leave the doors open for that week too. This will allow the paint to air out.

I will take a picture later this week when I visit so you can see my finished results. I thought I had taken one but can't find it at the moment.



Was this helpfull

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Remember that before picture... well, wait until you see the finished photo which I will take sometime this week
Remember that before picture... well, wait until you see the finished photo which I will take sometime this week

I hope that this has helped you to learn that you can spray paint your old cupboards for aproximately $250 in products and tools where over $200 in tools can be kept or resold. And the only thing you really lose is about 3 days but you gain the satisfacion of doing it yourself.

Now, go get a quote on the total installed price of new cupboards and then YOU decide, spray paint... or pay the price.

The Finished Cupboards

Finished Kitchen Cupboards
Finished Kitchen Cupboards
After all my work, I now have clean durable white cupboards that add to the kitchen
After all my work, I now have clean durable white cupboards that add to the kitchen
I thought I would give another view.  You can see just how nice the cupboards are now
I thought I would give another view. You can see just how nice the cupboards are now

Now all that is left in the kitchen to do is add the trim around the window, touch up the baseboard and lay the laminate flooring.  I will add the final pictures when I complete the flooring.  It will be a few weeks.  Estimated Dec tenth or so. 


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    • James 0608 profile imageAUTHOR

      James 0608 

      6 years ago from Southern Ontario

      The cupboards are just white. The wall color is Home Hardware color from an earth tone foldout chart. The color chosen is left in the house which is a long way away from me and in my files at work. I'll try to find it. Thanks for you comment, but you'll find the color from the folder in a Home Hardware.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Do you know what the name of the paint color is that you used in the finished pictures?

    • James 0608 profile imageAUTHOR

      James 0608 

      7 years ago from Southern Ontario

      Thank you for all your comments. This rental unit was recently rented to a semi-retired couple. They actually commented on the cupboards being easy to clean and in such good condition. So after all this time, they are still holding up well.

    • brennawelker profile image


      7 years ago

      Love the photos cause they come in white.Thanks for sharing. Great hub and voted up.

    • philipandrews188 profile image


      7 years ago

      Fantastic article, James.

    • Maria Harris profile image

      Maria Harris 

      9 years ago from Houston

      Spray painting is definitely the way to go when you are painting cupboards, and you are absolutely right that it is far better to have more very fine coats of paint than a few thicker ones. Nice hub.

    • jules47 profile image


      9 years ago

      Great article James. I believe in remodeling your own cupboards. Specially if you're good with hands.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Great hub James!


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