How To Update Your Kitchen On A Budget

I have always had a love for white kitchen cabinets.  To me, they scream fresh, clean, and welcoming.  When Husband and I first looked at our home, I knew I wanted to paint the kitchen cabinets white…someday.  Our first look at our house was quick, and I didn’t even think to snap pictures until after we had left and were writing the offer.  I spent several nights trying to remember the exact look and layout of our kitchen before we had an opportunity to revisit our house during the home inspection.


Truly, I wasn’t worried about the process of painting the cabinets, but the thought of tackling the project did overwhelm me.  I had painted my kitchen cabinets in my condo years earlier and was thrilled with the end result.  But, the process took forever.  And by forever, I mean about 4 months.  Somewhere along the line, one of the previous owners had painted the kitchen cabinets without priming.  And, they had used an oil-based paint.  Then, someone else had used a latex paint.  The many layers of sticky, 30-year-old paint on the cabinets had to be stripped, then sanded, then cleaned, and, finally, primed and painted.  The priming and painting was fun.  The stripping and sanding…not so much fun.  Chemical strippers terrify me, and I dreaded my walk down to the garage each night to strip paint. I finally found an amazing product called Ready Strip, which was a God-send.

But, I digress…

My original thought was that I would tackle our mudroom first, which needed a quick coat of paint, and then strip the dirty, old wallpaper in the powder room.  But, somewhere between making the offer and signing our closing papers, I had an epiphany.  Painting the kitchen cabinets before we moved into the house would be much easier and less stressful on our family…although I had to convince Husband first by showing him lots of “After” fabulous DIY White Kitchens.

Love this beautiful kitchen by HomeStories A to Z

Gorgeous kitchen remodel by Thrifty Decor Chick

Stunning kitchen update by Eating in the Shower

Husband hesitantly agreed that a kitchen makeover prior to move in made sense, but he was apprehensive about the amount of work it would take to prep, prime, and paint. But, these were semi-virgin cabinets that had never been painted or re-stained, so the laborious process of stripping layers of old, nasty paint was unnecessary.  I estimated that it would take about a week to properly clean, lightly sand, prime, and paint the cabinets.  And, I was close to correct….

Day 1:  We got our keys on a Friday after work, and I was ready to start my kitchen project as soon as the keys were in my hands.  In fact, I nearly pushed our realtor out the door so I could start the process!  I had previously researched and purchased the supplies I would need to properly clean and degloss the cabinets, so after changing into my painting clothes, I set to work.  I used a TSP concentrate to wipe down all the cabinets.  Although I didn’t paint the inside of the cabinets, I wanted to make sure everything was sparkly clean in our new-to-us home, so I used the TSP inside too.  Then, I wiped down with a clean, damp rag before heading back to our apartment for a few hours of sleep.  For a great list of supplies and tutorial, check out The Ugly Duckling House blog.

Day 2:  The kitchen project was sandwiched between Husband’s morning and evening amateur bodybuilding events, so I had to work quickly and deliberately to get as much done on Day 2 as possible.  I used a deglosser/liquid sander to ensure that the primer would adhere properly to the surface.  In hindsight, I could have eliminated this step.  The cabinets are 19 years old, and did not have any shine left on them.  Also, at this point, I also realized that my original (lazy) plan to paint the doors while hanging on their hinges, touching up with an artist brush, was silly.  Each door was taken down and carefully placed in a row in the garage.  A lot of bloggers recommend labeling the doors, but, frankly, I didn’t have time or the patience.  I organized them in a row according to how I removed them, left the screws on each cabinet shelf…and prayed that I would remember where they all went when it was time to rehang them!

Day 3:  This was a Sunday, and I desperately wanted/needed to get all the cabinets fully prepped and to start priming.  I started the day by wiping all of the cupboards/doors with a damp, clean rag.  One thing I realized after using TSP is that the Zinsser B-I-N primer specifically said not to use TSP prior to priming.  The primer will not stick to TSP residue, so I made extra sure I wiped all the cabinets down with plain water, and crossed my fingers that the TSP residue was completely gone.

Finally, after the walls, counters, and floors had been properly covered and taped, I began priming.  I love seeing the first coat of primer across the surface.  Although it was not the exact white color we were using, it helped visualize how open, light, and airy the kitchen would feel after the painting was completed.  And, it made it all feel worthwhile.  I use a 4”-inch or 6”-inch foam roller for most of my painting, combined with a 2”-inch Purdy angled brush for the edges and hard to reach places.  The primer does have a strong odor, so I made sure that the windows were open.   By Sunday evening, the first coat of primer had been applied, dried, and lightly sanded to the front and back cabinet doors and the cabinets.


Day 4:  After work on Monday, I rushed home to apply the second coat of primer.  The Zinzinser BIN primer dries super-fast, so I was able to lightly sand and wipe all the surfaces before heading back to our apartment late that night.

Day 5:  The day I had been waiting for…the first coat of paint!  I chose Sherwin-Williams ProClassic paint in a custom white color that I snooped over at Take a Side Street.


I know there are several great options for cabinets out there, but I had used SW ProClassic a decade earlier for my condo’s kitchen cabinets and loved the results, so SW’s ProClassic was my go-to for this project.  Although a tad expensive, SW’s ProClassic paint is perfect for cabinets and trim because it is self-leveling.  In other words, most brush strokes will disappear while the paint dries, and you will be left with a beautiful, smooth surface.

Days 6-8:  It took several days to paint the cabinet structure and doors.  I used two coats of paint on the cabinets and inside doors, and 3 coats of paint on the outside of the doors, which receive the most wear and tear.   The third coat of paint was applied to the cabinet doors Friday night, after my parents had graciously arrived to help us move on Saturday.


Day 9:  After 8 days of cabinet painting, we moved into our new home.  My dad helped me hang the cabinet doors back up on Saturday evening, and we left them cracked open for several days to ensure that they were completely dry.


I did cut some corners in my rush to finish this project in a week.  For example, I’m sure the pros would tell you to lightly sand and clean after each coat of paint.  I ran my hand over each surface, spot sanded any bumps and rough spots, wiped, and started painting.  And, I have to admit, I became distracted by other projects (mud room update, powder room update), and neglected to caulk and add knobs until a well-timed visit from my in-laws pushed me back into gear (I love family and friend visits…it motivates me to get moving on my to-do list).

Stay tuned for more After pictures…


2 thoughts on “How To Update Your Kitchen On A Budget

  1. Pingback: AFTER: Painted Kitchen Cabinets | Summer Hill Love

  2. Pingback: Dining Room Update | Summer Hill Love

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