The average cost to reface kitchen cabinets is in the ballpark of $6,000 – $7,000. While I’d love to say I have that kind of money just lying around, and you probably would too, most of us don’t. So when we bought a house back in February with some very dated cabinets, I knew it was going to be up to my husband and me to find a cheap fix to disguise the hideousness of our kitchen.
At first I thought it wouldn’t be too bad, but then my husband burst my naive little bubble.
He started telling me we’d have to remove each and every cabinet door, remove everything from the shelves, cover the counters and floors with drop cloths, remove the doors, clean AND sand the cabinets and the doors, and let’s not forget about priming them either. That’s all before a drop of paint can even be used. All of this, while each of us is working a full-time job with two kids.
To say it would be a massive undertaking was an understatement.
I started researching ways I could forego the sanding, and then it dawned on me: chalk paint. Sometime last year, I attended a KMB Mom’s Night Out at The Backporch Mercantile where we talked about how chalk paint will cover anything without sanding or priming. So of course, I grabbed my laptop, spent hours Googling “chalk paint cabinets,” and the Internet search is history (pun intended).
So now I would like to impart my wisdom from our chalk paint cabinet experience in case you would love to freshen up your cabinets without spending a small fortune:
- Plan to spend at least two or three weeks, if not longer on this project, unless you have all the free time in the world during the day.
- Think long and hard about the colors you choose. I initially wanted two-tone cabinets with a slightly darker paint on the bottom because, you know, little kid hands and messes. The only reason we ended up doing all white was because our kitchen is very dark and I was afraid dark paint on the bottom wouldn’t help in the long run. But also, because we did pure white, it took more coats and more paint.
- Clean the bejeezus out of the cabinets. Scrub with every fiber of your being, and I would recommend using a degreaser, like Dawn. We had a few “grease” spots show through, and they drive me crazy. But they are still far better than what we had before.
- If I were to do it over again, I would paint the hinges with the chalk paint too instead of removing the doors. My husband would probably disagree because he’s a perfectionist. The original cabinet hardware was on the doors and I wanted to save myself as much money as I could, so I decided to clean it by boiling it instead of spending more money to have shiny hinges. My husband said “Throw some vinegar in there for good measure.” Too bad they rusted, and I still ended up having to buy new hardware.
- In my case, I used Annie Sloan Chalk Paint (ASP). I’ve tried an off brand before on a previous project and it didn’t work as well, but everyone has their preferences. ASP is not cheap, and if you plan to do pure white, it’s going to take quite a few coats, especially if you have dark cabinets like we did. I think it took us approximately five cans, which was about $225.
- Research the finish. Typically with ASP, it’s recommended that you cover it with the ASP wax to seal your projects. However, during my Google search, I uncovered this article and decided against the wax. We opted for a matte polycrilic instead, which was much cheaper and dried incredibly fast. That being said, there are definitely places where we put on too much and it created little beads after it dried.
- Discuss it with a pro. If you intend to use chalk paint, consult a business, such as The Back Porch Mercantile, that deals with chalk paint projects every day.
- Don’t expect the impossible. This is a paint job, not a complete gut job. My cabinets look 125% better for sure, but the insides are still a hot mess. At the end of the day, I can still walk in my kitchen and feel joy, even if there are a few nicks.
- Consider upgrading your cabinet pulls and/or knobs. Even though I didn’t want to replace the hinges, I definitely wanted to modernize the cabinet pulls. I ordered some off Amazon, only to find out we’d measured them incorrectly, so my options were much more limited when I realized what size we actually needed. I don’t like the ones we ordered as much, but it’s still an improvement.
- Prop up the cabinet doors to paint the sides. Grab some boxes, some boards, or even Mega Bloks (my husband’s genius idea) to make it easier when painting the sides of the doors.