An Introduction To Cabinet Painting

Updated: Aug 18


Recent trends point to kitchen and bathroom renovations as the best home improvement and rental property improvement projects — both in terms of resale value/ROI and improving residents/tenants’ quality of life [1]. In the course of completing these projects, many property owners find that cabinetry accounts for a significant amount of costs (about 29% of kitchen renovation budgets and up to 28% of the average bathroom renovation budget) [2, 3]. That said, cabinet refinishing, rather than replacement, presents a budget-friendly option for creating a whole new look (and feel) for any kitchen or bathroom space.

Bringing Your Best Cabinet Painting Ideas To Life

Cabinet painting projects have the potential to be among the most beneficial and overall best home improvement endeavors. Satisfied property owners/residents tend to rate the joy they feel from having successfully completed kitchen or bathroom renovation projects at a 9.2 or 9.3 out of ten, respectively [4].


A Brief Introduction To Kitchen Cabinet Painting:

Financially and aesthetically speaking, cabinetry has a greater impact on a kitchen's design and renovation options than any other feature [5, 6]. Additionally, kitchen design has long influenced tenant, buyer, and homeowner perceptions of property value and livability more than other spaces [7]. Consequently, kitchen cabinet painting is likely the most impactful home improvement or rental property improvement investment possible.



A Brief Introduction To Bathroom Cabinet Painting:

The bathroom is less visible — and bathroom cabinetry is somewhat less vital to a home's functionality — so bathroom cabinet painting plays a smaller role than kitchen cabinet painting in making a property feel valuable and livable [8]. Nevertheless, experts recommend cabinet refinishing during any bathroom focused home improvement project [9]. Cabinetry plays a critical role in shaping a bathroom's overall feel and measurable value to residents and prospective buyers/tenants.



The Basic Steps For Any Cabinet Refinishing Project:

Given the wide range of current design trends in cabinet painting (including monochromatic/cool-tones, two-tone, and using accent colors), every cabinet refinishing project pursues a unique vision [10]. Regardless of property owners’ cabinet painting ideas and home improvement or rental property improvement designs, getting professional-looking results in any cabinet refinishing project is a multipart process, consisting of [11]:

  1. Cleaning/degreasing cabinet surfaces

  2. Removing hardware

  3. Moving cabinet drawers, doors, and (when possible) frames to another location (to minimize debris/fumes within the residence)

  4. Sanding/removing existing paint from cabinet surfaces

  5. Applying (then re-sanding) wood filler to repair nicks, chips, cracks, and other blemishes

  6. Priming

  7. Painting and/or staining cabinet surfaces

  8. Applying a clear coat or sealer (if necessary)

The Benefits Of Bathroom & Kitchen Cabinet Painting

At best, home improvement projects like cabinet refinishing can enhance the live-ability of a property. At worst, making the wrong choices during a cabinet painting project (hiring the wrong painting contractor, selecting the wrong colors or finishes) can be disappointing/dissatisfying, unsightly, or cause being at home feel stressful or put a strain on property-owning couples’ relationships [12]. That is because being in the presence of certain colors can influence mood and brain chemistry, as color exposure directly causes nervous system stimulation [13]. Consequently, the colors used in a room can have a measurable impact on how viewers perceive and feel within the space (feeling more/less cramped, cool, warm, calm, or tense), even within the first 90 seconds of entering it [14]. Moreover, it is worth noting that poor finish quality in cabinet painting projects can undermine the expected benefits of even the best home improvement designs; color dissonance and a loss of functionality due to finish fragility (like poor paint adherence to cabinet surfaces) heighten feelings of stress and emotional upset [15].


The Psychological Value Of Different Bathroom Cabinet Painting Choices:

Outdated bathrooms can benefit from saturated colors like bold yellow and navy; sky blue (especially when used in combination with white accents) can lighten a small bathroom space and make it feel more open, airy, spa-like, and (critically) less claustrophobic; coral cabinet painting schemes can make bathroom users feel warmer and more energized [16]. Likewise, gray and light green cabinet painting choices can help make the space feel calmer, more relaxing, and more spacious [17]. 


The Psychological Value Of Different Kitchen Cabinet Painting Choices:

Kitchen cabinet painting choices can have a special impact on the perceived value and livability of a home (so much so that specific color schemes, like so-called tuxedo kitchens, can dramatically increase the sales price and decrease time on market for homes listed for sale) [18]. The effect of a cramped-feeling kitchen on resident quality of life and resale value is so significant that some federal governments set minimums for literal space occupied just to preserve a minimum livability standard in new homes [19].

Size, however, isn’t everything. Recent research suggests that kitchen renovation projects, as well as painting projects and upgrades, have the most significant impact on residents’ desire to be at home, enjoyment of the home, and feeling of accomplishment related to the project [20]. This is likely because the kitchen is a high-value space for value-creation in the home, as well as a space resident enter and occupy multiple times in a day. As a result, a successful kitchen cabinet painting project empowers residents to feel the positive emotions associated with it multiple times per day [21].

Common Cabinet Painting Questions & Concerns The most common cabinet painting questions are closely linked to the most common cabinet painting mistakes. Property owners planning home improvement and rental property improvement projects often look to balance time- and financial-commitment against achieving high-quality results.

  • Rolling The Cabinet Surface vs. Spray Painting: When deciding whether to roll-on or spray paint cabinet surfaces, experience, materials, and professional training matter. Most industry professionals recommend hand-painting with brushes and rollers for DIY cabinet painting projects, as property owners have more color options and are more likely to achieve even-looking color coverage [22]. Professional cabinet painting services often utilize spray painting processes, though these call for high-quality sprayers and specialty paints, not just canned spray paint from the local hardware store [23].

  • The Importance Of Sanding, Priming, Sealing, & Other Often-Skipped Steps Of Cabinet Painting: Several of the most significant mistakes people make in approaching cabinet painting projects include skipping steps in the previously listed painting process. Property owners who leave cabinets in-place during painting or forego cleaning, sanding, priming, or sealing cabinet surfaces dramatically diminish the durability and functional lifespan of cabinet painting results [22].

  • When Cabinet Painting Is More Cost-Effective & Convenient Than Cabinet Replacement: Generally speaking, cabinet painting and similar cabinet refinishing projects are often vastly more cost-effective and convenient than cabinet replacement. Savings are generally 30%-50% of the total cost of cabinet replacement (totaling $3-$10 per square foot), even when working with professional cabinet painting providers [24].

ReducingThe Dissatisfaction-Risk For Cabinet Painting Projects

When it comes to kitchen and bathroom cabinet painting, property owners often have specific motivations. Chief among these is that they have wanted better-looking cabinets all along and have recently gained the financial means to follow through, closely followed by wanting to update the style of the space in accordance with recent trends [25]. Yet many property owners also must consider cabinet painting due to damage and deterioration, blurring the line between repair vs. improvement.

Regardless of a person’s motivation for considering cabinet painting (or simple cabinet refinishing) rather than full replacement, it is critical to stay informed about the best-practices for cabinet painting and to understand what to expect from either DIY or professional cabinet painting. Otherwise, property owners run the risk of being among the 60% of people who do not report feeling “satisfied” with the outcomes of their home improvement projects [4].

Browse our online knowledge base to learn more about the best home improvement projects and the importance of property repair vs. improvement — including all about cabinet refinishing vs. replacement. Additionally, get more professional cabinet painting advice and answers here. Sources:

  1. https://ipropertymanagement.com/research/home-improvement-industry-statistics

  2. https://www.woodworkingnetwork.com/news/almanac-market-data/whats-driving-cabinet-countertop-industries-trends-statistics

  3. https://www.homeadvisor.com/cost/bathrooms/remodel-a-bathroom/

  4. https://www.nari.org/RemodelingDoneRight/media/new-library/2015-Remodeling-Impact-Report.pdf

  5. https://www.thespruce.com/new-cabinet-considerations-1973681

  6. https://www.cliqstudios.com/kitchen-design-principles/

  7. https://muse.jhu.edu/article/692167

  8. https://www.thespruce.com/kitchen-vs-bathroom-remodel-1822209

  9. https://www.hgtv.com/design/remodel/bathroom-remodel/maximum-home-value-bathroom-projects--counters-and-vanity-

  10. https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/01/29/closer-look-kitchen-design-trends-2020/?arc404=true

  11. https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/how-to-paint-kitchen-cabinets-transform-without-renovating

  12. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/home-renovation-relationship-marriage_l_5cae1371e4b03ab9f24f4604

  13. https://www.colorcom.com/research/why-color-matters

  14. https://www.improvenet.com/a/how-to-pick-the-perfect-paint-the-psychology-of-colors

  15. https://content.iospress.com/download/work/wor0284?id=work%2Fwor0284

  16. http://www.victoriana.com/Bathroom/bathroom-color-schemes.html

  17. https://www.architectureartdesigns.com/top-5-modern-bathroom-color-ideas-that-makes-you-feel-comfortable-in-your-own-place/

  18. http://zillow.mediaroom.com/2018-06-20-Homes-with-Tuxedo-Kitchen-Cabinets-and-Black-Front-Doors-Can-Sell-Up-to-6-000-More-than-Expected

  19. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/273280381_Space_in_new_homes_Delivering_functionality_and_liveability_through_regulation_or_design_innovation/link/5661990108ae418a7866d222/download

  20. https://www.fixr.com/blog/2019/11/20/a-close-look-at-what-home-improvements-bring-the-greatest-happiness/

  21. https://www.forbes.com/sites/brendarichardson/2019/10/06/home-remodeling-projects-that-pay-back-the-most-in-happiness/#561001e5160d

  22. https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/renovation/tips/a31753/painting-cabinet-mistakes/

  23. https://www.bobvila.com/articles/30129-dream-it-do-it-how-to-paint-cabinets-with-a-paint-sprayer/

  24. https://www.homeadvisor.com/cost/painting/paint-a-small-project/

  25. https://mosbybuildingarts.com/what-motivates-people-to-remodel-their-home/


Check out these budget friendly DIY home renovation projects that adds value to your space.




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