Painting kitchen cabinets: should I DIY or use a professional?

Sometimes a space just needs a fresh coat of paint. If you don’t have the time for a whole kitchen renovation, why not try repainting what you already have?

Painting kitchen cabinets is a quick and affordable way to revamp your space. While it may cost you a little to hire a professional or take you some time to DIY, a fresh coat of paint instantly gives cabinetry a new lease of life.

So why do people want to repaint their kitchen rather than buy another new one? Speaking to Claire Hall, founder of The Furniture Restylist, she said the two main reasons for people come to her are sustainability and affordability.

We all know to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Using what you already have will always be the most sustainable option. Often, Claire paints solid wood kitchens – if they were replaced, it would be with something cheaper and of less quality.  

A typical client for Claire is someone who has just moved house and wants to make it into a home. “Keeping the original cabinetry frees up money to spend on other things,” she says. “So, maybe you can then install a granite worktop or a new appliance or that boiling-water tap you want. You can have those other luxury finishes that you might otherwise not be able to include in your budget.”

Claire’s kitchen that she painted from grey to a beautiful plum shade.

What type of kitchens can be repainted?

Luckily, you can repaint any type of kitchen. It is all about preparing correctly and using the correct primer and paint. “As long as it is prepped and primed properly, you can paint any surface,” explains Claire. “There is a myth that you can’t paint high gloss kitchens. But, I painted my own kitchen last year, which is a high gloss, and it is perfect.”

“You can do laminates, melamine, and real wood. Vinyl-wrapped kitchens often have the wrap removed to leave behind a smooth MDF surface. The only problem is if the kitchen has water damage or it is warping in any way. Other than that, there are no limits.”

However, let’s reinforce Claire’s first point: you can paint any surface as long as the kitchen is prepped and primed correctly.

The preparation is the hardest part. Be it removing doors from the hinges, removing the hardware, sanding and doing the coats of primer. Every surface is different, so research the correct priming method – if you know the make of the kitchen, contact them for their recommendations. However, if you hire an expert, they will know what primer and paint combo will work for your kitchen to make it last.

Once this first step is done, you can move on to colour. Claire has plenty of insights into popular shades. She spends a lot of time painting kitchen cabinets that have wooden finishes, mainly oak and cherry. The most popular colours she is asked to paint are blue and green – light sage and dark olive green are common. Plus, blue kitchens are not going anywhere, but they are less moody than previous years, so she uses a lot of bright royal blues.

Before and after photo of a painted kitchen cabinets from oak to green
Client photo of a kitchen going from a wooden brown to a gorgeous green.

Painting kitchen cabinets: should you DIY or hire a professional?

While it is possible to paint kitchen cabinets on your own, relying on skilled professionals may be a better option for you. The average-sized kitchen will take two weeks for Claire to repaint. It is a hefty job if you are trying to repaint yourself around your day job, family and social life.

As previously mentioned, half the battle is choosing the right paint and primer. And that’s all before you have even picked up a paintbrush. “You have to know the approach of how to paint the kitchen,” advised Claire. “I have done a lot of research into understanding the type of primers I need to use or what prep I have to do to make sure there is a smooth durable finish. I have researched the products. It is not just about popping down to a local DIY store, and picking up a pot of paint and off you go.”

Claire does have a slight warning for those who choose to DIY: “If you did it yourself, you might be happy with the results for a while. But, in a year down the line there may be an issue and then you will have to get a professional anyway.”

Repainting is a cheaper alternative to buying a new kitchen if the budget doesn’t allow it. As Claire says, sometimes the repaint job is a stop gap for a couple of years while the homeowner saves for a brand new kitchen.

Inspired to paint? Right, let’s find you the perfect shade…

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