How To Paint Oak Kitchen Cabinets


How To Paint Oak Kitchen Cabinets

Painting oak kitchen cabinets is a rewarding DIY project that can completely transform the look of your kitchen. Whether you’re a beginner or experienced with home improvement painting cabinets is a budget-friendly way to update your space without the cost of replacing them.

With the right tools and techniques, you can achieve a professional finish that will enhance the overall appeal and value of your kitchen. In this guide, we will walk you through the step-by-step process of prepping priming and painting your oak cabinets to give them a fresh modern look that you will love for years to come.

When to Skip Priming

While priming is typically recommended for painting kitchen cabinets to ensure good adhesion and durability of the paint there are certain situations where priming may be unnecessary.

Specific Paint Types: Some paints such as Chalk Paint Fusion Mineral and Benjamin Moore Advance are formulated to adhere well without a primer. If using these specialized paints, priming may not be required.

Painting Over Light Colors: If you are painting over existing cabinets that are already light-colored especially with another light or white color you might be able to skip priming. This can save time and effort while still achieving a smooth finish.

How to Get a smooth finish when painting kitchen cabinets

To achieve a smooth finish when painting kitchen cabinets meticulous preparation and proper technique are key.

Use a Paint Sprayer: Consider using a paint sprayer for a professional-looking finish. Sprayers can apply paint evenly and smoothly without brush marks.

Proper Sanding: Before painting sand the cabinets thoroughly to remove imperfections and create a smooth surface for the paint to adhere to.

Choose the Right Paint and Tools: Use high-quality paint and brushes or rollers designed for cabinets. Apply paint in thin even coats to avoid drips and brush marks.

Adding a Protective Clear Coat

Applying a protective clear coat is important to enhance durability and protect the painted surface of kitchen cabinets:

Select the Right Clear Coat: Choose a clear coat specifically formulated for cabinets or furniture. Options include polyurethane, acrylic, or lacquer.

Apply Evenly: Use a brush or roller to apply the clear coat evenly over the painted cabinets. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for drying and curing times.

Allow Sufficient Drying Time: Ensure the clear coat is fully dried and cured before reassembling or using the cabinets to prevent damage to the finish.

Dry Time VS Cure Time

Dry Time VS Cure Time

Understanding the difference between dry time and cure time is crucial for a successful cabinet painting project:

Dry Time: This refers to the time it takes for the paint to dry to the touch. Dry time can vary depending on factors like temperature and humidity.

Cure Time: Cure time is the period required for the paint to fully harden and reach its maximum durability. While cabinets may feel dry after a few hours, they may take several weeks to fully cure.

Patience is Key: Allow sufficient cure time before heavy use of the cabinets to prevent damage or premature wear of the paint finish.

My Go-To Painting Supplies

When preparing to paint oak cabinets, having the right supplies is essential for achieving a professional finish. Here are the key tools and materials you’ll need:

TSP CleanerUse this to thoroughly clean and degrease the cabinets before painting.
Sander (Palm sander, mouse sander)Helps in sanding the cabinets to remove the existing finish and create a smooth surface for painting.
Deglosser (optional)Use to remove the gloss from the cabinets without extensive sanding.
PrimerChoose a high-quality primer to ensure good paint adhesion and coverage.
PaintbrushesDifferent sizes for applying primer and paint to different areas of the cabinets.
Microfiber rollers or Foam RollersIdeal for applying paint evenly on flat surfaces of the cabinet doors and frames.
Paint Sprayer (optional)Provides a smooth, professional finish especially for larger cabinet surfaces.
PaintSelect a durable paint suitable for cabinets, such as Benjamin Moore Advance or Fusion Mineral Paint.
Protective TopcoatRecommended to protect the painted cabinets from wear and tear over time.

How To Paint Oak Cabinets Step-by-Step

Transform your oak cabinets with these step-by-step instructions for a successful painting project:

Prep Kitchen Cabinets

  • Remove cabinet hardware and clean surfaces thoroughly with TSP cleaner.
  • Label cabinet doors and drawers for easy reassembly.

To Sand or Not?

  • Decide whether to sand the cabinets to remove gloss and improve paint adhesion.
  • Use a sander or deglosser based on the condition of the cabinets.

Apply Primer

  • Use a quality primer to ensure smooth and even paint application.
  • Apply at least two coats of primer, allowing sufficient drying time between coats.

Choose the Right Paint

  • Select paint suitable for kitchen cabinets, such as Benjamin Moore Advance or Rust-Oleum Chalked Ultra Matte.
  • Apply paint with brushes, rollers, or a sprayer for best results.

Add Protective Topcoat

  • Consider applying a protective topcoat to enhance the durability and longevity of the paint finish.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for drying and curing times.

By following these steps, you can achieve a professional-looking finish and breathe new life into your kitchen cabinets.


  • Deglosser
  • Primer
  • Paint (e.g., Sherwin Williams Storm Cloud in Urethane from the Trim Enamel line, Satin finish)


  • Orbital Sander
  • Mouse Sander
  • Favorite paint brush
  • Inexpensive roller and tray kit

Remove oak cabinet doors

To begin painting your oak kitchen cabinets, start by removing the cabinet doors. This step is crucial as it allows for easier access and ensures a smoother painting process. Using a screwdriver, carefully unscrew the hinges from the cabinet frames. Keep the screws in a safe place for reinstallation later. Once the doors are detached, set them aside in a clean, well-organized space where they won’t get damaged during the painting process.

Remove any hardware off the Oak Cabinets

Next, take the time to remove any hardware from the oak cabinets. Unscrew knobs, handles, or other fixtures using a suitable screwdriver or drill. Keep these items in a labeled container or bag to prevent misplacement.

If you plan to replace the hardware with new pieces, set aside the old hardware for future use or donation. Removing the hardware ensures a smoother painting surface and allows for a cleaner finish once the painting is complete.

Remove the shine

To prepare the oak cabinets for painting, it’s important to remove the existing shine or gloss from the surfaces. Use a deglosser or a liquid sander to eliminate the shiny finish. Apply the deglosser using a cloth or sponge, working in circular motions to cover the entire surface of the cabinets.

Remove the shine

This step is essential for promoting paint adhesion and achieving a professional-looking result. Ensure that all areas of the cabinets are treated with the deglosser, including corners and edges

Make the cabinet doors free of imperfections

Inspect the cabinet doors for any imperfections such as dents, scratches, or holes. Use a suitable wood filler to fill in these imperfections, following the product instructions for application and drying times.

Once the wood filler has dried completely sand the repaired areas lightly to create a smooth surface. This step ensures that the cabinet doors are ready for priming and painting, resulting in a flawless finish.

Sand the cabinet doors

Before priming and painting, sand the cabinet doors to promote paint adhesion and smooth out the surface.Use medium-grit sandpaper (around 120-150 grit) to sand the doors in a circular motion, focusing on removing the existing finish and creating a slightly rough texture. Sand both sides of the doors evenly to prepare them for the next steps in the painting process.

How much do I have to sand my Oak Wood Cabinets?

When sanding oak wood cabinets aim to scuff up the surface rather than sanding down to bare wood. The goal is to create a slightly rough texture that will help the primer and paint adhere better.

Focus on smoothing out imperfections and removing the glossy finish without over-sanding. Use moderate pressure and inspect the cabinets regularly to ensure an even sanding job.

Wipe the boards

After sanding, thoroughly wipe down the cabinet doors and surfaces with a clean, damp cloth to remove dust and debris. This step is crucial before proceeding to priming and painting to ensure a clean painting surface

 Take care to remove all sanding residue from corners, edges, and crevices of the cabinets. Allow the cabinets to dry completely before moving on to the next step.

Prime the oak cabinet doors

Apply a high-quality primer to the oak cabinet doors using a brush or roller. Priming is essential for sealing the wood, promoting paint adhesion, and preventing stains from bleeding through.

Use long, even strokes to apply the primer evenly across the cabinet doors. Allow the primer to dry completely according to the manufacturer’s instructions before applying paint.

Sand the boards again

Once the primer has dried, lightly sand the cabinet doors again using fine-grit sandpaper (around 220 grit). This final sanding step helps to smooth out any raised grain or imperfections in the primer layer, ensuring a flawless base for the paint.Wipe down the doors with a tack cloth or damp cloth to remove sanding dust before proceeding to paint.

Choose the best paint for oak cabinets

Select a high-quality paint specifically formulated for cabinets and wood surfaces. Consider factors such as durability, finish (satin, semi-gloss, etc.), and color. Water-based acrylic paints or alkyd-based paints are excellent choices for oak cabinets due to their durability and ease of application.

Choose the best paint for oak cabinets

Choose a paint color that complements your kitchen decor and personal style. Be sure to purchase enough paint to complete the project, including multiple coats for optimal coverage and durability.

Paint the oak cabinets

To paint your oak cabinets effectively, follow these steps:

Preparation: Begin by removing the cabinet doors and hardware. Clean the surfaces thoroughly with a deglosser to remove any shine.

Surface Preparation: Fill in imperfections with wood filler, then sand the cabinets using 60-80 grit sandpaper to scuff up the surface.

Priming: Apply two coats of primer using a brush for detailed areas and a foam roller for flat surfaces. sand lightly with 220-grit sandpaper after each coat.

Painting: Use high-quality paint suitable for cabinets. Apply paint with an angled brush for edges and details, and then use a foam roller for the flat areas. Allow each coat to dry thoroughly before applying the next.

Final Touches: Check for any imperfections after the paint dries. Sand lightly if needed and apply a second coat of paint. Once dry, reinstall the cabinet doors.

Install the cabinet hardware

After painting your cabinets, follow these steps to install the cabinet hardware:

Gather Materials: Ensure you have the new hardware, a tape measure, a pencil, and a screwdriver.

Measure and Mark: Use the tape measure to find the correct placement for each piece of hardware. Mark the positions lightly with a pencil.

Drill Holes (if needed): If your new hardware requires holes that aren’t already present, use a drill to create them based on your markings.

Attach Hardware: Align the hardware with the holes and use a screwdriver to secure them in place.

Final Adjustments: Double-check all hardware to ensure it’s securely attached and aligned properly.

Frequently asked questions

Can I paint kitchen cabinets without sanding?

Yes, you can paint kitchen cabinets without sanding by using a deglosser or liquid sanding solution. These products prepare the surface efficiently for painting without the need for extensive sanding.

Why should I use the paint sprayer for painting kitchen cabinet?

Using a paint sprayer for painting kitchen cabinets can provide a smoother finish with minimal brush marks. It also allows for quicker and more even coverage, especially on larger surfaces like cabinet doors.

Is it cheaper to paint or replace cabinets?

It is generally cheaper to paint cabinets than to replace them entirely. Painting cabinets requires less material and labor costs compared to the expense of purchasing and installing new cabinets.

Can I just paint over my kitchen cabinets?

Yes, you can paint over your kitchen cabinets, but proper preparation is key for a durable finish. Clean and lightly sand the surface, and use a suitable primer to ensure the paint adheres well and lasts longer.

When preparing cabinets for paint, do you need to use primer?

Yes, using primer is recommended when preparing cabinets for paint. Primer helps create a smooth, even surface, improves paint adhesion, and enhances the durability of the paint finish.

Final words

Painting oak kitchen cabinets can be a rewarding DIY project that transforms the look of your kitchen. Proper preparation is key to achieving a professional finish. Begin by removing cabinet doors and hardware, then thoroughly clean and sand the surfaces to ensure paint adhesion. Using a primer is recommended to seal the wood and provide a smooth base for the paint. Choose high-quality paint suitable for cabinets to achieve a durable and attractive finish.

When painting, use a brush for detailed areas and a roller for flat surfaces to minimize brush strokes. Allow adequate drying time between coats and consider adding a protective topcoat for added durability. Finally, reinstall cabinet doors and hardware to complete the transformation. With patience and attention to detail, painting oak cabinets can significantly update and enhance your kitchen’s appearance at a fraction of the cost of replacing them.

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