Let's not spent time on stupid introductions. Here is probably the cheapest fastest and the cleanest way to renovate a kitchen: paint your cabinets. And the good news is that you can do it under $100. Even for a large kitchen with 34 cabinets, you will need just 1 gal of primer and 1 gal of paint, a little bit of wood putty, a brush, and a couple of 6-inch rollers for smooth surfaces.

To complete the new look of your kitchen I recommend to change knobs and hinges (if they are not concealed). That will add about $15 per door and $2-5 per drawer. You can add a couple more things like pull out trash cans ($75) or roll out shelves ($35-70). Those things are easy to install just follow the manufacturer's instructions.

One thing before we go forward: the best way to refinish kitchen cabinets is to sand them completely, stain and put several coats of poly (sanding after each coat). But that works only if you are staining with the stains darker than your wood. I had oak cabinets which when sanded and treated just with the clear coat are a bit lighter than the original. The goal was to make them almost white. I did not find any stain-like product on the market capable of that. That is why I decided to paint them. Let's get back to painting the cabinets.

Step 1: Preparation

Any painting project starts with a surface preparation. Do not skip this step because if you do, you can end up with peeling paint and less than perfect results. You will need sandpaper, wooden putty, and primer. 

Fill all imperfections (if you have any) with wooden putty, lightly sand the surface with 100 grit sandpaper. You do not have to remove the old stain. But if you do not mind all the dust and extra elbow grease you can achieve better results. But the primer can do that job for you, it will degloss the surface and make the paint bond better. Although you can skip sanding almost completely, you might want to sand dirty areas covered with grease (especially for the cabinet doors above the range) or those which are just sticky. You also can scrape dirty areas with a plastic scraper. Do not use metal one - you can damage the wood. Painting over those areas without sanding will result in paint peeling and dark spots.

For better results apply 2 coats of primer. After the first coat, it will look not so good. The second coat will do the job. Apply the same technique as if you were painting the walls.

I used Valspar Interior/Exterior Bonding Water-based Wall and Ceiling Primer with good results. I did not try other products but I think they are all the same.  

Step 2: Painting

Make cuts at the corners and along the connecting parts with the brush and paint the main area with the roller. Do not leave lap marks, keep the wet edge and work your way towards unpainted surface first and then back to smoothen the coat. 



If you see that there is too much paint for one door just roll the other door and dump that extra paint on it than come back to finish the first door. Spread all extra paint that might collect in the corners with the brush. Work your way away from the corner.

Apply two coats of semi-gloss paint. Again as with the primer - there are a lot of good brands out there. I used Behr Marquee.


Step 3: Finishing

You can apply a clear protective coat when the paint is dry. Wait for about 2 days for the paint to fully cure. But with the semi-gloss paint, it is not necessary. It is durable enough.

Now when we are done with the basics I have several tips that will make the whole process easier. DO NOT stack primed or painted doors. They might stick to each other especially when the paint is dry to the touch but is not completely cured. Also, do not drill the hinge cups near a freshly painted batch of doors. Do the drilling before applying the primer and vacuum the area so it is free of dust as much as possible.

Work area

For better results do not rush, work in a well-ventilated area free of dust. That brings us to another question - where to do that? In the garage? But what if I do not have a garage? In the backyard, on the deck? Think of all the stuff that flies outside - it can end up on a painted surface and stick to it. So let's go inside.

I made a pretty simple DIY setup for painting cabinet doors. For one "painting station" you will need two large cardboard boxes and two 2x4 (8-10ft). Assemble the boxes, put them at an appropriate distance from each other and put 2x4 on top of them. Your station is ready. Good luck!