how to refinish painted cabinets?

How to Refinish Painted Cabinets?

Without the right preparation and improper technique, refinishing painted cabinets can be a tiresome work. Also, you will get uneven and poor finishing if you choose the wrong product.

I also made the same mistake in picking the wrong products and usage technique last year when I painted the kitchen cabinets. Then after a few months, the paint started coming off.

The next time, I consulted Albert Ridge of Ridge Painting in NYC to make my DIY project successful. With the right technique and product, I finished the project successfully.

In this article, I am going to share the same process of refinishing painted cabinets. Hopefully, this will assist you a lot.

Required tools and materials

● Sandpaper
● Brush
● Putty knife
● Tinted primer
● Paint
● Water

Step by step process of refinishing painted cabinets

Step 01: Cabinets doors and drawers removing

The project starts with the removal of the cabinets, doors, and drawers. These parts have latches, knobs, pulls, and other hardware, which also need to be removed. Remember to store screws and other hardware in a plastic container or bag so that you can find them easily after refinishing paint.

Also, put numbers on each door and its associated locations as you move. If you mix them, the hinges will line up improperly while reinstalling. Don’t remove the attached slide when painting the drawer fronts. Follow the same marking technique when removing the slides.

Step 02: Cabinet cleaning

Cleaning the cabinets is one of the essential steps of refinishing painted cabinets. Cleaning will ensure that the paint will stay on the cabinet quite perfectly.

You will need to use a solution of water and tri-sodium phosphate. This solution works effectively on any surface. Ensure wearing hand gloves when dealing with this solution. Take a sponge, soak it into the solution, and wipe off thoroughly on the cabinet surfaces.

Step 03: Repairing any dents and holes

Inspect your cabinets meticulously. Check for any dents, holes, or any other imperfections. Any imperfections need to be corrected. Fill up the old hardware holes if you plan to use new hardware different in size than the old one.

Underneath the holes, apply tape to the cabinets’ back surface. Use wood filler to fill the holes. With a wet cloth, wipe away the excess wood filler.

Then remove ¾” of the hardener strip from the tube. Use a putty knife to mix it and fill up the holes and dents.

Step 04: Surface sanding and cleaning

Give the filled areas a rest to dry. The next step is to smooth the surface using sandpaper.

Sanding and painting the cabinet’s inner portion will be unnecessary if you decide to repaint the cabinet’s facelift. Use painters’ tape to mask off the cabinet’s inner portion and get a clean finish. Front surfaces and cabinet face frames’ visible edges require sanding only to get a clean finish.

A wood sanding block will help you get rid of rounding. Removing all the old paint is entirely unnecessary when sanding if the old paint is well-adhered. Gently sand the surface so that new paint gets a clean base for brilliant adhesion.

Special attention is required in the old finish-worn areas. Moreover, don’t forget to sand over the glossy areas. Stubborn finishes can be rubbed off with indigestible alcohol and fine steel wool.

Original paint may not adhere well on the wooden surface when moisture or any other residue gets underneath the paint layer. Apply stain-killing primer or sealer to these areas before repainting with bare wood and spot-prime sand. While sanding over bare wood, try mixing or “feathering” the edges of the old paint with wood so that the new paint can be applied evenly, and the paint of the edge is not visible or “telegraphed” through the new finish.

Use a vacuum cleaner to vacuum all the sanding dust completely from all surfaces. A pneumatic air-compressor can be a good choice because it can create high-pressure to remove dust from the wooden surface.

Step 05: Applying primer

Pick a 3” paintbrush and primer for bare wood to get an even coating of primer-sealer. Applying it will help you reduce the requirement of sanding and removing glossy finishes before repainting. Moreover, applying water-based paint or semi-gloss paint will become easy if you decide to apply primer-sealer on the repainted surface. Earlier, the preferred kitchen paint was high-gloss enamel paint because of the stain and water-resistant feature. Also, high-gloss enamel paint is easy to clean. Water-based paint has also received much popularity due to its easy to work and durable finish.

Step 06: Semi-gloss latex paint applying

It would be the best if you start painting with the face frames openings and edges of the inner areas. Then paint on the outer surface and fronts of the face frame, respectively. This way, you can quickly finish painting on the uncomplicated areas and help you make any imperfections on the most visible areas due to dripping.

Next, paint any individual pieces of molds or woods, including the front of the cabinet and drawers. If both areas show rooted and raised characteristics, be sure to let the paint flow into edges and cracks, but don’t allow the paint to accumulate into these tight corners.

Applying thin paint and a light coat is always beneficial, but you will need to make sure that you have covered all areas when applying. The benefit of a thin coat is, they dry properly and don’t leave any brushstrokes. Avoid applying too many brush strokes, and don’t apply a thick coat. You may get air bubbles if you do so.

It is essential to give a break for at least 4 hours between coats. Lightly resend all areas again before applying the next coat. 2-coats of quality paint is enough, but the 3rd coat may be necessary because kitchen cabinets bear lots of heat from the stove. So, you can apply another coat to protect the cabinet.

Step 07: Mark the hardware placement

If you plan to install new hardware in the old hardware place, use a combination square to mark the doors and drawer’s hardware placement. Use a pencil to mark the placement.

Step 08: Drill and attach the hardware

Use a drill machine to create holes in the marked areas. Screws need to be inserted in the holes, and use a screwdriver to install the hardware in the right place.


Hopefully, the above process will help you in handling your kitchen cabinet refinishing project. You can avoid common painting mistakes with the above guideline and get a smooth and evenly finished painted kitchen cabinet.