Monday, May 26, 2014

The great kitchen cabinet renovation of 2014

Well, great is what I have now, but it took a lot of time and work to get to the point of things looking  great. I started my kitchen renovation in early February 2014. The dead of winter around here. This means almost everything was done inside in my cramped basement. I did my sanding in my garage and painting in my basement on sawhorses and 2X4's so I could avoid getting all the dust on my newly  primed or painted cabinet doors.

So lets get back to the beginning of the story. Back in December of 2013, I asked my husband the question every husband dreads. "Can we do a major renovation on the kitchen?" His response was an emphatic "No".  Not until the kids move out could we afford to do a major reno. I had a feeling that would be his response but I decided to try a new approach. "Can I do a mini makeover and paint the kitchen cabinets?" to which he replied "Yes". That was all I needed to hear to get on the computer and start my research. I did research, more research and more research. It can really make your head spin when you start digging into all the info out there regarding painting your cabinets. So I researched a little more, made a pinterest board with info and sites I found helpful and finally made some decisions about how I would tackle this task.

 First off, If someone tells you it will only take a couple weeks, they are lying. I originally thought this task would take me a few weeks but found out really quickly you really need to do everything right so that your finished products holds up to the test of time. So my timeline stretched and stretched and stretched and took me about 3 months to complete. One reason my timeline was extended was that I found when my nice white cabinet boxes were finished, the rest of my kitchen looked horrible. Including my counter top, back splash, sink and faucet. Even my paint color no longer worked, and I still need to complete that part of the reno.

 I have taken up cooking over the past few years and really enjoy making most foods from scratch. Which means I spend many hours a day in my kitchen. However I was getting very depressed looking around at the dark and dreary room. My cabinets were installed when my home was built in 1973. They are a knotty pine flat paneled door style with old brass hardware. They were probably totally in style when my home was built but nowadays they are very dated. So this is what I was working with.
My 70's knotty pine cabinets 
So the first step in painting your cabinets is to take all the doors and hardware off your cabinet boxes. That meant taking off all the hinges, knobs and handles. This was probably the easiest part of the prep and then things start getting tougher. The next step before you paint is to make sure your cabinets are free from grease and dirt otherwise your paint won't stick. In order to clean them I mixed up a solution of TSP(tri-sodium-phosphate) and water in a metal bucket and with long chemical resistant gloves and safety glasses on I clean each cabinet box and then rinsed with a bucket of plain water to get rid of any residue. Since I would not be doing my doors all at once, I only did the boxes for now.
After removing doors and a good cleaning of TSP
Once they were clean a dried over night, I then used wood filler to fill in any and all the dings, holes and cracks. Some holes were from the old hardware I would be replacing and some cracks were from the knots in the pine. I wanted a smooth door before I put any finish on it so after filling all the defects I then started sanding everything down to a smooth finish. Then I used tack clothes to clean up all the dust and was ready for primer. Before I could prime I also needed to fill the seam along the top of my top cabinets and the sides of all the edge cabinets with caulking. I made the error of picking up clear caulk and quickly found that my caulk disappeared. So back to the store I went for the white caulk, which would be painted over. I wanted to be able to see what I was painting and have a little room for error if I did not have great coverage at the top.
Holes and cracks filled and sanded
 After everything was filled and sanded it was onto primer. I debated long and hard over what to do. Oil or latex. After all of my research I went with an oil based primer by Zinsser called Odorless. If It was odorless I would hate to smell the regular oil based primer. I kept the kitchen well ventilated and my heat turned up while I used it, and still ended up with a headache. I do not regret it at all though. It went on nicely and had good coverage. I used sponge rollers to put most of it on and a brush for edging and tough spots. I found that after the first coat, I had missed a few dings here and there, so I let it dry over night and did a little more wood filler here and there. I also sanded and tack clothed everything again before adding the second coat of primer. I should say that I wore a mask for just about every step of this reno. Between the dust and vapors of all the sanding and painting, I was trying to keep my chemical exposure limited.
After first coat of primer

After second coat of primer

As you can see after the second coat of primer. The cabinet boxes are starting to look better. So now it was time for one more sanding and tack cloth. Then onto painting. I went to my local Sherwin Williams to ask what they suggested for cabinets and was told that the best option was their Pro Classic Interior Acrylic Latex Enamel. It has a hard finish which will hold up to everyday life.  I will be honest that this decision was a hard one to make, but I get all my paints at SW and decided to go for it. I just kept it in the stock color, which is a bright white. I ended up putting 3 coats on to get the best coverage. I had read somewhere in my research that you should never do more then two coats of anything when you are painting so I actually waited a couple days after putting two coats on before I added the third. I again used a brush for tough spots and the foam roller for the flat areas.
Cabinet boxes painted 

Now I was onto the doors but due to my limited space in the basement i could only do 4-6 doors/drawers at a time and I had 14 doors and 2 drawers to get through. I did all the same steps I did on the boxes but also added some trim to the from of each door to give it some needed dimension.  I started by cleaning and filling all the doors and then sanding to a smooth finish.  I do many things around the house but I do not do saws. Therefore my husband cut all the trim for me with a miter saw. I got a small trim from Lowe's and we decided we would place the trim in 2 and 1/2 inches in on each door. This way the handles would not be affected when the time came to install them. We cut each 4 pieces for each door and I added the trim with wood glue first. Making sure that each piece fit correctly before using a brad gun to attach them permanently. Then I added wood filler again and sanded again. to make sure I had no gaps between trim pieces. After that was all done I was onto priming and painting again. I primed around the trim with a brush and used the foam roller to roll out everything else. I did the same with the paint and again waited a few days before adding the third coat. I always started with the back of the doors and then worked on the front so that my fronts would always look good when finished. I also put waxed paper and changed it frequently across my 2x4s so nothing would stick. I let each side of the doors cure for a good 7 days before flipping them over. I know it seems crazy but I had no problem with dings or smudged by doing it this way.
Trim being glued onto door faces
Trim after being attached with brads to face

It actually ran out of room for my finished doors to cure and found a great tip for that online. I added cup hooks to the bottom of my bottom doors and hung them up in my laundry room with coat hangers to cure while I worked on the others. Since they were the bottom doors the holes will never be seen. If you decided to hang your top doors you would want to attach the cup hooks to the top of the door, which is not visible. 
My lower doors hanging in my laundry room to cure
While the doors were curing it was time to take down my old back splash. I used a mini crowbar and hammer and wore gloves and eye protection to remove the old tile.  It was a white square tile and I really wanted a subway tile. We had some damage to the wall which our tiler came to repair before the installation of the new back splash.
Took out tile with mini orange crowbar and hammer

 I found an inexpensive sheet of subway tile at Lowe's and liked the way it all worked together. I also liked the octagon tile but no one else liked it so the subway tile won.
Laminate counter top with door and two tile choices

So now that a few months had passed and everything was cured enough to install. It was now time to put on the new hardware. I agonized over this job for days. I wanted to make sure I put the doors up right. Little did I know that this job would be harder than even I thought. My husband and I decided to try to put up the smallest doors over our refrigerator first, it was the most inconspicuous place and If we made any errors it would be the best place to do so. Well, just as I thought it did not go as planned. We were using inset hinges. We started by attaching them to the doors and that went great, then the trouble started. We were attaching the doors to the boxes by pre drilling holes and then using the screws but as we screwed them in the doors inched closer to the center and then would not open as the fit was too tight. We decided that after I repaired all the holes, primed and painted them again, that we had no idea how to do it and would ask our counter top installer and tiler to do the cabinet doors for us.  When he came on the first day we asked him about the doors and he said he would be glad to help. I like to learn how to do things myself and asked if I could help do the install the second day and together we did the job. He cut small pieces of cardboard which we used to open the hinges so that they sat flat on the cabinet boxes, we then pre drilled holes in the boxes, screwed in the screw partially (removing the cardboard at this point) before finally screwing in the rest of the way. It worked like a charm.  I added the hardware and was a little teary eyed when it was all done. It was such an arduous task but so worth it in the end. I love how bright and cheery it ended up and so far so good with the paint. Nothing is sticking or chipping. Now for a few new appliances and a new paint job and all will be done.

Kitchen at night

Kitchen in the daytime
If you have any questions about my process please leave me a message. Good Luck to anyone taking on this task themselves. It is hard work but so worth it in the end!


I linked up with Beth at HomestoriesA2Z and One project link party at


  1. I really think there's something heavenly about white washed kitchen cabinets. They look absolutely gorgeous. Plus, those brick-patterned tiles are doing wonders to complete the look. You really made an awesome job with the kitchen transformation. I love it! Kudos!

    Arthur Bryant @ Contractor Express