We are so excited about owning our first rental house in Connecticut! It was always our plan when we got to suburbs to hopefully own an investment property one day, but we never imagined it would happen so quickly. Especially with the suburban NYC market being on literal fire right now, we feel very lucky to have closed on both of our houses this year. Part of the reason we were able to do so is because we negotiated down the price on the rental house as it had sat on the market for a while with no offers. I largely believe that it didn’t attract many buyers due to its lack of…pizzaz, shall we say?
The house is actually in amazing condition (the previous owner was a builder!) and doesn’t have terribly offensive finishes. However, the kitchen, AKA the focal point of most homes, has these brown-ish, yellow-ish, oak cabinets that I knew I needed to update as soon as we closed.
Having already painted the cabinets at my mom’s house (and it still looks good after 7+ years!), I knew that an affordable and easy option would be to paint the cabinets. If you look on YouTube, there’s about 8000 different opinions about exactly what paint, primer, sander, de-glosser, magic fairy dust, etc., that you need to buy in order to paint your kitchen cabinets. But like, I’m kind of lazy, and I mostly believe it’s just not that freaking hard.
So let’s dive into it:
Step 1: Clean your kitchen cabinets with a damp paper towel to remove any dust. Unless you’re Mario Batali and running a full-service restaurant out of your kitchen, the cabinets are probably not THAT dirty where you need any special degreaser. Any particularly oily areas can be remedied with with rubbing alcohol or all-purpose cleaner.
Step 2: Paint your cabinets. It’s that easy. I use the Behr Ultra Pure White paint and I only needed a gallon of it. I’m not really sure what “cabinet paint” is and why it’s different than regular paint for wood, but I’m pretty sure it’s just a marketing scheme because cabinet paint is 10000x more expensive than this stuff. I always do 3 coats of paint with 2 hours of drying time in between.
Step 3: If any of your previous wood stain/finish is bleeding through, touch up those areas with the Zinsser Bullseye 1-2-3 Primer. I use a brush to go over the bleedy areas with this primer, let it dry for an hour, and if I feel necessary, use another coat or two of primer. Once I’m happy, I will go over the whole area with another coat of Behr paint. Rinse and repeat as necessary until no more stain is bleeding through. I don’t usually prime the cabinets because I find that most of the time, only a few sections need attention, and it saves me from having to paint an extra coat of primer onto the cabinets.
For this kitchen, I didn’t use painter’s tape because I have a fairly steady hand and I wasn’t too concerned about my lines being perfect (sometimes you have to leave well enough alone). However, if you’re super Type A about that kind of stuff, you’ll want to tape up the edges before hand.
I also didn’t remove the doors because again, I am learning to leave well enough alone, and also, I have interior facing hinges so it was easy to paint around them. If you have exterior facing hinges, you might want to remove your doors for the sake of your sanity.
And lastly, I did replace the hardware because those builder-grade silver knobs kill me and I found a great deal on gold hardware on Amazon.
All my ish I bought for this project:
Zinsser 1 Quart Bullseye 1-2-3 Primer: $10.98
Behr 1 Gallon Premium Plus Ultra Pure White 8050: $32.98
Wooster Pro 2″ Nylon/Polyester Brush (2): $10.47/each
High Density Foam 4″ Mini Paint Roller: $5.27
9″ Plastic Tray Liner: $0.98
Gold Cabinets Knobs 10-Pack (3): $8.83/each
Total Cost: $123.05
Overall, it took me about 4 days of working on these on and off to finish. Other than enhancing the look of the kitchen, it was also a great full-body workout (arms for the uppers and lots of squatting for the lowers!) and I found the whole process to be quite meditative. I listened to many podcasts (my favorite being Home Cooking with Samin Nosrat) and contemplated lots of non-paint things while doing this project.
If this were our house, I would’ve liked to maybe update the backsplash with some peel and stick tile, paint the appliances with stainless steel paint, and maybe get some new countertops. But, since these are for aesthetics only, we are trying to be smart with our money and again…leave well enough alone.
I hope this encourages you to try painting your cabinets if they are a hideous shade of brown from the 90s, and feel free to message me with any questions about the process!
“All you need to paint is a few tools, a little instruction, and a vision in your mind.” – Bob Ross