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Upcycle Your Kitchen Cabinets with This Easy DIY


In this Paint School DIY, we’ll tackle an easy, affordable kitchen refresh: Custom kitchen cabinets on a budget!  If your outdated cabinets are in decent condition, the simplest way to give them a new look is with some high-quality paint. I’ll walk you through the nitty-gritty best practices, the materials needed and lots of helpful tips to get you started.



A pair of outdated brown lacquered kitchen cabinets with simple silver handles.

HGTC Canada

Materials Required 

  • BEHR® Kitchen, Bath & Trim Stain-Blocking Primer & Sealer 
  • BEHR PREMIUM® Cabinet & Trim Enamel in Sustainable 350-4 – Satin Finish 
  • Mini paint roller kit 
  • Paint brushes, different sizes 
  • 120-grit sandpaper and sandblock 
  • 3-inch MDF wood trim for kitchen cabinets 
  • Brad nailer 
  • Brad nails 
  • Wood filler 
  • Cloth

Related: Scott McGillivray Weighs in on Kitchen Cabinets: To Demolish or Not?  


Step One: Prep Cabinets & Add Trim 

Remove the cabinets and hardware carefully from their frames. Store screws somewhere safe, so they don’t get lost. Thoroughly clean grime, grease and scuffs off your old cabinets with a clean cloth. 

For an elevated look, you can add a cabinet trim. MDF is the easiest material to work with, as it won’t need much prep. Pre-cut the trim three inches wide for each door – the perfect size for a modern look. Using a brad nailer, attach the MDF trim piece by piece. Use at least five to six nails on each trim.  

TIP: Once you finish nailing the cabinet trim, fill corner gaps with wood filler. Let dry and sand the edges with sandpaper. Be patient! Work on one door at a time for best results.  

Related: Bryan Baeumler’s 10 Simple Kitchen Updates That Cost Less Than $100 


Step Two: Sand Everything Down 

Once the wood filler is dry, sand cabinet grooves, doors and trim edges with a 120-grit sandpaper in a back and forth motion. While sanding, periodically wipe with a clean cloth to remove any dust. 

TIP: Sanding is one of the most important steps for proper adhesion. It’s the foundation of a high-quality finished painting project (trust me!). If you have a handheld sander, this process will be easier and faster.  

Related: A Kitchen Makeover So Beautiful You’d Never Believe It’s DIY 



Step Three: Let’s Talk Primer 

There are no shortcuts – a good-quality primer is essential for creating a smooth surface. This ensures proper penetration for the top coat of paint. Using a brush, apply one coat inside and outside the cabinets. BEHR® Kitchen, Bath & Trim Stain-Blocking Primer & Sealer is my personal best paint primer for cabinets. 

The primer only takes one hour of dry time to be ready for a topcoat. The self-levelling acrylic blend helps create a uniform topcoat sheen and serves as a sealer and protector for surfaces like kitchen cabinets, doors, baseboards, trim and more. 

Related: Move Over All-White Kitchens – There’s a New Kitchen Trend in Town 


Step Four: Top Coat Time!  

Once dry, it’s time for the fun part: Paint! We’re using BEHR PREMIUM® Cabinet & Trim Enamel Paint (I picked a gorgeous green in the colour Sustainable, with a satin finish) and mini rollers. Start from the middle and move out to the edges. Paint both the insides and outsides of the cabinets. Finish edges and small details with an artist brush. Let sit for at least two hours – one hour until dry to touch, and two hours to recoat. After the two hours, apply a second coat – this will ensure the colour is as rich as possible.  

Related: From Modern to Minimalist: Top Kitchen Design Styles 


Step Five: The Last Details  

Once the paint is completely dry, try replacing the cabinet hardware for an even cooler update. Then, reattach the cabinets to their frames. 


Kitchen cabinets updated with a sage-ish green paint and small round modern hardware.

Et voila! With only some paint, you’ve just thrown together some pretty chic custom kitchen cabinets. 

Check out Paint School for more fun DIY ideas. 


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