How to re-paint your yucky white cabinets

Oh I am so excited to finally share this post and more than that excited that my kitchen looks like THIS now! Smile


Just so you can get full appreciation for how far it has come… this is how my kitchen looked like before in June. 


And here’s how it looked after we installed our new laminate countertops we custom ordered at Home Depot and did a DIY beadboard backsplash.


I also spray painted a $4 thrift store light fixture and added it to our kitchen.   And now I have freshly repainted cabinets and beautiful new cabinet hardware!


See what you might not see in those pictures is how BAD the cabinets were before… I mean, just look at this. 


In my defense, they were already bad when we bought our house 12 years ago.  They had a horrible sort of flat paint finish that was very hard to keep clean or clean.  And several of the doors especially these by the sink were water damaged at the bottom.

And I didn’t help the fact when I just took a brush to them without knowing what I was doing after we moved in  with no sanding, no prep work, who knows what sheen or kind of paint I was using and didn’t repaint the entire door – no, just touched up areas that needed work.  BAD MISTAKE.  It left horrible brush marks and an even worse uneven finish. 


And then let’s talk about the handles.  I had tried experimenting with spray painting some of my brass and white handles but never did a clear coat and over the years they chipped off and didn’t hold up.  And then for some reason almost every handle left these horrible marks and chipped paint when I removed them.


Here’s the water damage on the bottom cabinets by the sink.  Thankfully this is the bottom edge so looking straight on at the door when it was on the cabinet you didn’t see the MDF wood very much but you could see that it was swollen and water damaged.

So for those of you out there that are saying… my cabinets are horrible, water damaged, dirty, whatever…  There is hope!!  I was able to take this and turn it into almost perfect painted white cabinets.


So yes my cabinet doors are wood – some kind of MDF and they don’t have the laminate white finish on them – they were a painted MDF wood door.  BUT the method that I will show you will work if you have old solid brown wood doors or MDF doors. 


So if you are wanting to repaint your white (or some other color cabinets) this is how I did mine.  If you have brown wood cabinets and are wanting to go to white cabinets you may need to do an additional step of using primer and/or a stain blocker to keep the tannins of the wood from bleeding through your paint.

1. Remove your cabinet handles and doors. 

I did not change out my hinges so I left those.  And since I have had issues with some of my cabinet doors becoming loose because the screws in my hinges were coming loose (because of it being MDF and holes stripping out with wear and tear), I picked up a new box of screws that were a bit longer than the ones in my hinges to use to reattach my doors.  You may or may not need to do that. 

2. Label your doors as you take them off. 

My doors were already labeled for me!  I was super surprised when I looked on the bottom edge and each door had a number already written on it! But you can put a small piece of tape on the back of the door or bottom edge and make sure to label/number each door.


3. SAND.

And sand, and sand some more. Smile  I have a Ryobi orbital sander that I used and I started with I think 150 grit sandpaper and on some doors that weren’t as bad I did 200 grit.    I did not clean the doors beforehand because I knew that I was going to be sanding off all of the scratches and dents and the grime and dirt would just sand off with it.  BUT if your cabinet doors are greasy feeling or especially grimy, I would suggest cleaning them first, then sanding.  If you don’t have major damage you are trying to repair, you could possibly just sand by hand.  BUT I definitely needed a power sander for mine.

I tried to be careful to not sand too much though too.  Because if you sanded too hard or too much in on area and got down to the bare wood, then you ended up with the paint peeling and creating a ridge of paint to wood.  On some doors the damage was just so bad around the handles that I had to, BUT if you can just sand the surface paint and not go down all the way to the wood to get it smooth you are much better off.


So those water damaged doors?  This is what they looked like after sanding all of that smooth.  So the MDF has a bit of a rougher texture in that area and they are definitely not perfect BUT it is straight and smooth and once you put glossy paint over I honestly can’t even tell.


4. Clean the doors really well. 

Now at this point you do want to clean the doors really well.  Get all of the sanding dust off, any dirt or grime still on it, make sure they are perfectly clean.  I used some rags and a Dawn/vinegar/water mixture and made sure I got all of the sawdust off too.

5. Paint.

This is what I used… many people have different preferences in paint/roller/brush method – but I was VERY HAPPY with how mine turned out.


I used Behr Premium Plus (so it was paint + primer in one) in Ultra Pure White in Hi-Gloss Enamel.  As you can see on the can Hi-Gloss Enamel is an even higher sheen that Semi-gloss and Gloss.  It has a glass like, durable finish and I LOVE the finish on my cabinets.  They are super easy to wipe down and clean – literally everything just wipes right off easily with a wet sponge where before it took a lot of elbow work and maybe a magic eraser to get any kind of food or dirt off my cabinets.

I used a small roller – Wooster pro- in the smoothest finish possible.  Many people will advise to use a foam roller but I just don’t like roam rollers. I even tried it on my cabinets and ended up with lines on the edges (which the paint guy at Home Depot said I was probably pressing too hard) or I felt like I was “pushing” the paint versus rolling on the paint.  The paint on my cabinets does have a bit of texture to it which I will show you later, but I am totally fine with that.  IF you want absolutely NO texture than a foam roller is probably your best bet.  I also used a Wooster brush to paint the inset part of the cabinet doors.

Not pictured but I also used a bit of Floetrol in my paint as well.  Floetrol is a paint additive that is supposed to help illuminate brush strokes.  I am not sure how much difference it made but I am sure it did not hurt.

I painted the inset part of the door with the brush, the painted each section including the ede of of the door with the roller.  And I did 2 coats of paint.

I laid all my cabinet doors out flat  – actually inside on tables and counters everywhere to prevent dust/bugs/dirt from getting in my wet paint.  And I worked in shift2 sections –  I did all the upper cabinet doors one week and all the lower cabinet doors and drawers another week.

I did 2 coats of paint on each door and only did the front and sides, not the back.  The back of my doors were actually in pretty good shape so I just left it alone.  IF you are wanting to paint both side of your doors, paint the back first, let dry completely, then flip over and paint the front. 

Now this is where the not so fun job of painting cabinet doors turned into REALLY not-so-fun.  Remember those marks that the handles made?  Well even after sanding, I just could not get some of those smooth.  And if I sanded more, the paint started chipping/peeling in even bigger areas creating an even bigger mess.  I thought that 2 coats of paint + new handles would cover it up, but it didn’t. Sad smile    And because I was using new handles which were shaped differently they didn’t cover the same area either.  SO, after doing 2 coats of paint, I ended up having to fill some of those spots with wood filler, re-sand the filler and area smooth, and then repaint.  So… my advice is makes sure your doors are completely smooth – all chips, scratches, marks – before you paint.  Fill with wood filler and sand smooth if necessary.

6. Reinstall your cabinet doors and hardware.

The handles that I ended up using needed to be inset into screw hole in the door.  So I had to drill each hole on the doors just a bit bigger.  So make sure to account for the size of your screws, the spacing of the screws, and all of that if you are changing out your hardware so that you can fill any holes or drill any holes larger before you paint.

7. Stand back and fall in love with your freshly painted kitchen cabinets!

I LOVE how fresh and clean and updated my freshly painted cabinets and new cabinet handles and pulls makes my kitchen look! 

I did not paint inside my cabinets except for those 2 open cabinets which gave those two areas a fresh clean look. 


I have loved the look of cup pulls on drawers in kitchens I have seen so I decided to with cup pulls on the drawers and handles on the cabinets both in a dark oil rubbed bronze finish.



These 3 drawers with the cup pulls looks so pretty to me!  I just love it!




Look how much better those cabinets look under the sink!  You would never have known that they used to look like this…



Here’s the texture I was talking about… So they do have a bit of a texture to them but you honestly can’t see it at all looking straight on.  And it is so smooth – seriously so easy to wipe things off!  I love white cabinets but the one downfall of white cabinets is every little sticky finger, spot, spill, or drop of food shows up.  But if your cabinets are easy to just wipe off than that is not near as frustrating.


So here’s another before shot – before new laminate counters, new paint in the breakfast area, and the beadboard backsplash…


And here’s how that view looks now. Smile


So let’s talk about hardware for a minute because I would not be a good friend at all if I kept this secret all to myself.  I had priced out new dark oil rubbed bronze cabinet hardware, some of the least expensive that I could find at Home Depot, and it was going to be over $100 just for new hardware.

Then I met this company called D. Lawless Hardware at Haven a few years ago and I not only fell in love with their product, I fell in love with their prices!! They have amazing prices on cabinet hardware and a huge selection of all kinds of things from hinges, pulls, handles, crystal knobs, and much more. 

So the cabinet pulls I used can be found here and they were $2.25 each.   Compared to $3.49 each on Home Depot’s site.


And the cup pulls that I used can be found here and they were $3.28 each.  Compared to that same cup pull on Home Depot’s site that cost $4.32 each.


So in total my cabinet hardware from D. Lawless Hardware would have cost right at $72.  If I got it at Home Depot it would have been $105.   Not knocking Home Depot at all… I LOVE Home Depot and am in there 1-2 times a week Smile  But just sharing a resource to get cabinet hardware a bit cheaper if you are willing to order online and wait for shipping and are trying to do a kitchen makeover on a very small budget like I am.


Derrick at D. Lawless Hardware was actually so kind to work with me and my blog and provided my hardware for me at no cost so full disclosure of that but I highly recommend their company and had planned on using their company and hardware in my kitchen regardless. 

So here’s how my kitchen looks today and I am just so happy with it!  I have a few more small things I want to accomplish and then I will share a complete before/after post.  Oh, and our microwave completely died this past week… Isn’t that always the way it goes?  So we need to pick up and install a new over the stove microwave which I guess will probably be a bit of an upgrade since they look a bit sleeker and nicer now than they did 12 years ago.


I have a few other decor changes and a few other small projects I want to complete but thankfully most of the big work is all done!   I am just loving how much better it looks.  My cabinets were quite embarrassing before and I am so thankful that they came out so well with some elbow work and paint.



  1. Hi Christina,
    I LOVE the look of your kitchen!! All of the elements together look amazing – I’m not sure which one would be my favorite!?! I can’t believe that painting the cabinets and adding new hardware made such a dramatic change, but it did! Love the new farmhouse look….
    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Great job! Thanks for the tip about D Lawless Hardware! I’m going to order from them for sure now! Did your cup pull hardware come with screws? I know, silly question…but I had an experience with an eBay hardware seller and they didn’t include screws. Ha! Just thought I’d make sure 😉

    • Oh yes, they have screws included. In fact the cup pulls that I bought had 2 different sizes included. Great company! I have met the owner in person.

  3. Looks great. D Lawless has great prices and a good selection.

    I never knew the kitchen was in that shape before.
    You’ve done a superb job in updating it.

    Thank you so much for the step-by-step instructions. Just knowing it can be done, inspires me get cracking on mine.

    I love your choice of handles. I’ll be checking out D Lawless Hardware momentarily. However, YOU GOT THE BEST PRICE EVER!!! Woohoo!!

    Great job!

  5. Thanks for the kind words and your kitchen looks amazing!

  6. You did an amazing job! It looks just perfect.

  7. Your kitchen transformation is wonderful! I had no idea you could get old
    cabinets looking so good. You did a great job.

  8. Meloni Simpson says:

    Your kitchen looks awesome. I love everything you have done from the cabinets to the beadboard.

    I need to paint my cabinets, but they are not real wood, they are a pressed wood, so I am not even sure how to get started or what to even do to paint them. Someone told me to paint with chalk paint and then I wouldn’t need to sand. Do you have any recommendations?


  9. Your kitchen is BEAUTIFUL!!! I love your counter tops! They are so pretty! I also love your cabinet pulls!!! It looks so fresh and clean!!!

  10. You are amazing! I admire people who can do this work themselves. I feel like I would just mess it up! We just had a new kitchen installed like this and it cost a fortune, so well done you. ?

  11. I soooo loved what you did with your kitchen that I decided to do the same.

    The black cup pulls are awesome and the black door handles look great against the white.

    I hope you don’t mind that I copied you. i wish I could post a before and after pic.

    Happy frugalling!!

  12. It’s amazing how much has changed in your kitchen since you started. I really like the black handles too. I’m having a really tough time with our cabinets, which have some water damage on them, and I’m about to throw in the towel and buy some custom cabinets.

  13. Hi, I know this is an old post but i’m curious about the countertops – can you tell me what they are and where you purchased them? Kitchen looks great! I pulled all my cabinet doors off this weekend and will be repainting them too.

  14. Did you have to sand all of your cabinets or only the ones that were damaged? I’m thinking about repainting mine but most of them are in great shape so I was hoping I didn’t have to sand those.?

  15. i have white painted cabinets and paint wearing off around most of the knobs. It can be scratched off like so soft. greasy! How do I repair and repaint>?

  16. Thanks to your blog post. Your photos make it look so easy. I think I need to make some changes in my kitchen.

    Thanks for sharing.

  17. Your kitchen is gorgeous! Your post has inspired me to start this project.. Did you only use the one can of paint?

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