How To Paint Wooden Kitchen Cabinets Without Sanding

how to paint kitchen cabinets without sanding

My excitement for painting my kitchen cabinets slowly turned to dismay as I sat there staring at 700 square feet of bone grinding sanding ahead of me. Stripping and sanding is a regular precursor to painting cabinets but the realization of what you're in for doesn't sink in until the moment of truth. It was at that exact moment that I decided this time I would shift my routine. 

Aside from the painfully obvious, there are multiple benefits to learning how to paint kitchen cabinets without sanding. As I justified my newfound blueprints in my head with a mental checklist my excitement slowly returned, and I hope you can share in this excitement. Opting out of sanding not only saves you a few dollars on materials, but it saves you a ton of time and hassle. Your fingers and hands will also thank you later. I am a career do it yourselfer, and in configuring this guide I have eliminated a lot of project time and pain. My goal in writing this is to pass this efficiency on to you.

What You Will Need

Drill or Screwdriver
Post-It Notes

From start-to-finish, you are looking at about two full days of work. This is assuming you have a drill prepared. If a drill cannot be produced add an extra day of work time just for removing handles and doors. Seriously. 

Step 1: Removing Drawers

Most modern cabinets have drawers that are easily removed. Lift up from the back of the drawer and gently pull out and your drawers should easily slide off the track. Carefully stack them off to the side. Be sure to not drop them too hard or smash them against each other. The side-track assembly can easily be chipped off pulled from the screws if they aren't handled with care. Use Miller Cabinetmaker's YouTube video as a reference.

Step 2: Removing Door Handles and Door Hinges

You can use the drill or screwdriver to do both of these in one step. If your cabinets have normal hinges as opposed to soft-close style, simply remove the screws on the cabinet area first. Remove the hinge on the door itself second. I've found it to be more convenient to do it in this order. If you have soft-close hinges there will be a metal bracket covering the hinge plate itself.

Simply pop the bracket off from the back area furthest into the cabinet, pulling outward. After removing the soft-close mechanism you can proceed to remove the hinges in a normal manner. Use DIY With Michael Borders video as a reference for removing soft-close hinges. Once your doors are removed carefully use your drill or screwdriver to remove the handles, being careful not to chip any wood. 

This is the step the Post-It notes come into play. I like using sticky notes to label which handles go to which doors. You can also use them to label which doors go back to which cabinets so they match when you put everything back together. Trust me, this saves you a lot of time in the end. 

Step 3: Item and Shelf Removal

Clear all items from the cabinets and place them to the side. I use sticky notes for this step as well to remind me where certain items are to be returned to when I am done. Luckily most shelves sit on built-in brackets attached to the inside of your cabinets. Simply push from underneath your shelves to pop them out and remove them.

Since we are going for a time-saving and more efficient method, if your shelves are anchored in place by screws or bolts I am going to suggest leaving them in and painting them with your cabinets. You can easily clean and paint all the visible areas of the shelf so cosmetically this will not have a negative effect if you do have built-in shelves. 

Step 4: Degreasing and Cleaning

At this point, we are nearing our halfway point. Use your favorite degreaser and your sponge to thoroughly clean the inside and outside of your cabinets. The units closest to your stove are going to need a little more elbow grease due to the buildup that cooking causes. After you've thoroughly wiped with your sponge and degreaser, you're going to want to prepare a bucket of warm water and a clean sponge. I like to use the clean sponge and warm water to wipe away any excess grease that may have gunked-up from the thorough cleaning. Nothing too intense here, just a thorough wipe-down. 

Step 5: Deglossing

Use your deglosser with a dry rag to apply a thin coating to each cabinet frame. Be sure to use a little extra when applying deglosser to the door areas due to their thickness. Everyday Workbench has a very useful video outlining this process. Make sure your kitchen area is well-ventilated when you complete this step. Allow 35 minutes for drying time after deglossing.

Step 6: Prime

The priming step is pretty self-explanatory. Don't skip the backs of all the doors and drawers and give your primer about two hours to dry.

Step 7: Painting

Pat yourself on the back. It's time to make your vision come to life. I recommend that you start with the backs of the doors, drawers, and shelves. They are flatter and usually have no designs so you can knock them out fairly quickly. After completing this step set the doors and cabinets to the side and get the frame of your cabinets. The majority of this can be done with a roller as well and you should roll through it at a steady pace. Come back to your doors and drawers.

It's time to complete the faces of each. Usually, at this point, you're going to start running into designs and dimensions and this is where your brush comes in handy. Make sure to get all the crevices, leaving nothing unpainted. Leave yourself plenty of ventilation and allow four hours of complete drying time. Afterward, you can apply your second coat, repeating the exact same process. Living to DIY with Rachel Metz can give you a quick reminder on cabinet painting techniques

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Step 8: Wrapping Up

After allowing another four hours of drying time after the second coat you can double-check your work for any missed spots. Assuming there are none you can start to reassemble everything. This is the part where you thank me for using the sticky notes for the handles and doors. This little hack literally cuts your reassembly time in half. Place your shelves back in first. Return the drawers to their correct place. Attach the door handles back to their proper door, then rehinge the doors onto the proper cabinet.

Did you find this tutorial helpful and insightful? If you find yourself painting your cabinets this list should be an important outline on how to save yourself a little bit of money and a ton of time (and a few years of wear and tear on your hands). Let me know what you thought of this tutorial and if you found it valuable in the comments. Please share the link to this tutorial if you found it helpful. Thanks and good luck!

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