Kitchen cabinets endure a lot – greasy fingerprints, moisture, food residue, dings, and scratches. Refinishing your cabinets can make them look fresh, updated, and even new, while saving you a bundle by not having to replace them. But what’s the best way to approach the refinishing process?

Refinishing Kitchen Cabinets: 12 Essential Steps

Whether you hire a pro painter or do it yourself, a sequence of steps must be followed for a long-lasting finish. Once you empty out your cabinets, these are the 12 steps you can’t skip:

  1. Wear protective painting gear – Protect your eyes and skin from toxins when using de-greasers, sanding, or painting.
  2. Protect surrounding surfaces – Cover floors, countertops, appliances, and tape off areas where cabinet boxes meet the walls.
  3. Remove hardware – Soak hardware in a cleaning solution to remove grease and dirt, then scrub with an old toothbrush and allow to dry.
  4. Label and number – Draw a layout of your kitchen and label each door and drawer for easy reinstallation.
  5. Remove doors and drawers – Take them off the cabinet boxes.
  6. Clean surfaces – Use a 50/50 household ammonia and water solution to remove grease and dirt, then rinse and let dry.
  7. Fill in imperfections – Use wood filler for dings, holes, cracks, or deep scratches, and caulk for spaces around crown molding or where cabinets meet walls.
  8. Sand surfaces – Scuff the finish with 180-grit sandpaper, then vacuum and wipe down with a tack cloth or moistened microfiber rag.
  9. Prime surfaces – Use a high-quality primer to prevent wood stain or paint from bleeding through.
  10. Paint or stain – Apply two coats, letting each coat dry thoroughly.
  11. Finish with a durable coat (optional) – Apply a coat of polyurethane or similar product.
  12. Reassemble cabinets – Remove tape and protective coverings, reinstall doors and drawers, and reattach clean knobs and pulls.

To DIY or Hire a Pro Painter?

Now that you know the 12 key steps, you need to decide whether to hire a professional painter or tackle the job yourself.

Hire a Pro Painter

A pro painter has the experience and know-how to complete the job faster and with better materials. The result will be new-looking cabinets with a long-lasting finish. To find a trusted professional, check out services like Great Guys Painting, which vets painters for licensing, insurance, and reliability.

DIY Refinishing

Refinishing your kitchen cabinets is an advanced home project that can take between 60 to 130 hours, or four to eight weekends. Consider the size of your kitchen, the number of cabinets, and other factors like stripping or applying a clear finish coat. Avoid scheduling your project near major holidays, birthdays, or vacations to minimize pressure.

Refinishing Alternatives

In addition to paint, consider other refinishing options:

  • Toning: Tinted water-based or oil-based polyurethane, applied via brush or aerosol, creates a tinted film over your current finish.
  • Glazing: Cabinet glazing offers a distressed, rustic or traditional look. Apply the glaze and then wipe it away to create the desired effect.
  • Antiquing: For plain cabinets, antiquing creates a unique custom look. Apply an antique stain color over the base color, then wipe away.


If refinishing your kitchen cabinets seems overwhelming, let Great Guys Painting connect you with an expert professional painter near you to do the job right. Don’t hesitate to ask for a free quote and transform your kitchen into a beautiful, refreshed space. Refinishing your cabinets can make a significant impact on the overall appearance of your kitchen, so take the time to evaluate your options and choose the one that works best for you. Happy refinishing!