Yes, I know it’s April 2020! But everything in this post actually happened a little more than two years ago. I think that might be the best way to approach writing about stuff that’s already happened, because otherwise it’ll seem like it took a month to do two years of work! To recap, this is the full kitchen before any renovation started at all, and this is the basic plan we came up with to work off of.
Even though I knew from the get-go that much of the planned renovation was going to have to wait, it was really important to me completely repaint the cabinets (inside and out) right away. I knew if I waited that it would become harder and harder to make it happen—the longer you live in a house, the more settled you get and the more stuff you acquire, especially inside of closets and cabinets. It’s also one of those things that’s just no fun—it’s tedious, and it takes way longer than you think it will. So it’s best to do just it first and get it out of the way.
So many hinges. So many handles. So many screws. My initial plan was to do the old crockpot trick on the hinges to get the paint off, but so many of them were either bent or rusted that I decided to just buy new ones. This took approximately eight trips to and from both Lowe’s and Home Depot during which I somehow managed to buy the wrong hinges seven times despite having one of the original hinges with me for comparison. Ugh. Anyway, these turned out to be the right ones. Eighth time’s the charm!
HOT TIP: If you’re removing your cabinet doors to paint them, be sure to label as you go so you know where they belong. This is especially important in an older house, where cabinet doors were often made on-site and it may not be obvious which door goes where later on. I was pretty proud of myself for remembering to do this. I just moved the tape to the opposite side of whatever I was sanding or painting, and that made re-hanging the doors so much easier.
After giving all of the cabinet parts a good scrubbing inside and out, I patched all of the screw holes—as well as any dings, dents, and gouges—from the original handles with wood filler. I don’t really have good process photos. It remains a mystery to me how people are able to stop and take photos while they’re doing this kind of work! Anyway, I then sanded EVERYTHING: Both sizes of all of the doors, the drawers inside and out, and the cabinet boxes and shelves. The existing paint finish was really lumpy with a lot of embedded fuzz and crud, and obviously you don’t want to just paint over that. The final pre-paint step was an additional scrub-down with TSP substitute, which I swear by for making sure that surfaces are totally free from any dirt or grease residue that could interfere with paint adhesion.
Next up, priming! I still swear by Zinsser Bullseye 1-2-3. Again, I apologize for not having photos of me actually doing the painting, but I think you can probably imagine (I was wearing old jeans and a white t-shirt, if that helps). Normally I recommend painting all trim and woodwork with a good brush, but I chose to use a small foam roller for the doors because they’re so large and so flat. If they had panels or any kind of routed details, I definitely would have used a brush. Using a roller gave me an extremely uniform, very slightly textured finish, and that’s not usually what you want on woodwork. In this case, though, it helped to even out a lot of surface imperfections that would have been really obvious on this type of door. (It also went a lot faster with a roller, and I’m not going to pretend that wasn’t a factor. No regrets!)
Like a true pro, I spread the doors out to dry all over the living room, propped up off the floor on top of paint cans, cardboard boxes, and tool cases. Whatever works.
The only area of the cabinets with any real damage was under the sink, where there had a been a bad leak once upon a time. After removing the gross contact paper, scrubbing everything down with bleach, and repairing the plaster on the back wall (the cabinets were built on-site, so they don’t actually have backs), I could see I definitely needed to stabilize the left side wall. I screwed on a sheet of 3/4″ birch, caulked everything, primed and painted. So fresh! So clean! And yes, that’s a non-GFCI outlet under a leaky sink. Fun!! Since we didn’t want a garbage disposal anyway, it’s since been decommissioned.
Also, that weird inverted U-shape pipe with the shutoff valve on the left? That’s the water shutoff for the entire house. I feel like I’m constantly discovering strange construction/plumbing/electrical things in New Mexico that are unlike anything I’ve seen in a house on the east coast before. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
OK, I’m sorry about how terrible and unhelpful these photos are! If I could go back in time and document the painting process a little better, I would. Sigh. WELL. That’s Valspar Du Jour on the upper cabinets, and Farrow & Ball Pink Ground on the lowers. And a big mess. And a countertop that’s still gross. And a floor that’s still gross. But! Fresh paint! If you take a look back at the kitchen plans, you can kinda see it coming together. Kinda.
KNOB TIME! These are just large basic birch knobs that I sealed with a couple of coats of satin polyurethane. I realize these progress photos are looking like an episode of Nailed It, but I swear it looked better in person even at this stage of the game. You’re going to have to take my word for it. Hang in there. Whew.
Let’s conclude this post with a less chaotic photo, shall we? We shall. Coming up next time is painting the floor (!!!), which I promise will be both more informative and nicer to look at.