Painting Cabinets – Tips and How To

Cabinets come in all shapes and sizes and can be made of laminate, plywood, particle/MDF board, solid wood, and metal. With the proper preparation, all of these surfaces can be refinished with minimal disruption to your normal kitchen routine.

Are you planning to paint the cabinets yourself?

No, I am planning on having a professional do the work.

If you are in need of a painter recommendation, do not hesitate to call one of our locations or stop by one of our stores. Another helpful resource is our recommended products list.

Yes, I plan to paint the cabinets myself.

Our step by step directions will help guide you through this project.

What do I need to complete the job?

  • Cabinet cleaner (Dirtex, TSP, Krud Kutter, etc.)
  • Rag or sponge
  • Sandpaper (fine – medium grit)
  • Benjamin Moore Primer (Link to our primers)
  • Benjamin Moore Advance or Cabinet Paint (Link to Advance/Cabinet Products)
  • 4 mini Wooster Mohair roller covers
  • Roller frame
  • Roller tray
  • Wooster Chinex brush
  • Drop Cloth
  • Tape
  • Caulk
  • Caulk Gun
  • If replacing hardware & removing doors:
  • Putty knife
  • Spackling
  • Screw driver

STEP ONE – Choosing the Paint Color, Sheen & Materials

Choosing a color can be one of the more difficult decisions in the process of painting your cabinets. Stop by one of our showrooms to look at the array of Benjamin Moore color choices. Our staff can assist you in finding the perfect color in our store showroom. If you prefer, an in home color consultant is available to help you make this choice in the comfort of your home (fee will apply.) If you find a color you like from a different store or brand, we can easily color match it for you. After you pick your color, look at the samples of sheens we offer in specialty cabinet paints. In store samples of satin, semi-gloss and high gloss are available to make your choice easy. Our fully stocked stores have all the extra painting materials you may need to purchase.

STEP TWO – Preparing Your Cabinets

Assuming the cabinet’s current coating is stable*, the next step is to clean the surface. A simple cleaner such as Dirtex, TSP or Krud Kutter will work well. These cleaners ensure that all residue that could interfere with the bonding process have been removed. Several applications may be needed to clean thoroughly. Once the surface is clean and grease- free, lightly sand surfaces with a medium to fine grit (220-320) sanding block and/or paper. Vacuum all the dust after you finish sanding. This will ensure a nice smooth finish on your cabinets. During this step cabinet doors and hardware should be removed. Apply tape to assist you in getting a straight line and to protect other areas from paint.


If you are planning to paint the inside of your cabinets, remove the shelves and prep all surfaces. If you are choosing not to paint the interior of the cabinets, tape off areas you want to protect.

STEP THREE – Priming

The two recommended primers for painting cabinet are water-based primers and oil-based primers. Grauer’s typically recommends water-based primers. Stix or 046 Fresh Start primers adhere excellently to most cabinet surfaces.** Oil-based product Benjamin Fresh Start all purpose oil 024 has a stronger smell and longer dry time (8+ hours). It is recommended when grease or residue cannot be removed. Our representatives can easily assist you in selecting the right primer. Once the correct primer is selected, apply paint by brush, roller or sprayer.*** If the cabinet doors or shelves have been removed, paint one side. Wait a minimum of 4 hours for water-based products to dry before flipping it over to paint the other side.

STEP FOUR – Filling Holes & Sanding

After the primer coat you have a good opportunity to find undesired cracks and holes. Use the caulk to fill cracks and use spackling and a putty knife for holes. When the patch size is larger than 1/8”, spot priming this area is a must to prevent flashing on the top coat. After cracks and holes are filled, lightly sand patches and all painted surfaces. For the smoothest finish, lightly sand primed surfaces and remove dust.

STEP FIVE – Apply Two Finish Coats

Once the correct paint color, sheen and product have been chosen, apply paint by brush, roller or sprayer. If the cabinet doors have been removed, paint one side and wait for the product to dry (16+ hours) before turning it over to paint the other side. Once the first coat of paint has fully dried, lightly sand all painted surfaces and remove dust. Then apply the second coat of finish coat. (For some colors, a third coat may need to be applied.)


When using Advance or Cabinet Coat products, it is better to apply a thin coat rather than a heavy coat of paint. This will help to prevent any sags and runs in the paint. These products cure and harden over time. When painting shelves, allow a minimum of 7 days drying time before stacking dishes or other heavy objects. Allow 30 days before cleaning or scrubbing the surface.

Step 6 – Finishing Touches

Once final coat has dried, you can remove tape, reinstall old or new hardware, hang doors and shelves.


*Determine whether you need to remove the old finish. If the current topcoat on the cabinets is peeling, flaking or failing, then it is wise to remove this layer of paint/clear coat. If you’re uncertain, take pictures and/or bring a door or a drawer into your local Grauer’s Paint store. We can easily identify any issues and walk you through the removal process.

** If grease and residue is present while brushing or rolling, the primer will separate, turn yellow, or just not adhere. If this is the case, you will need to switch to an oil-based product.

*** When painting cabinets, it is better to apply a thin coat of primer/paint rather than a heavy coat of primer/paint. This will help to prevent sags and runs in the paint.

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