How to restore and paint dated laminate kitchen cabinets and give a shaker look front, on a budget.

When I bought my home in May 2017 one of the selling points was the open concept that my home has between my kitchen and living room as I have a 13-foot island in the middle that separates the two.  However, the downside was that my home was built in 1980 and the fact that it was so dated and ugly made it very hard to completely love. I saw the potential, which gave me hope but I knew I wasn’t going to be happy until I had an updated kitchen.  I have about 5 years or so of experience painting furniture as I have really come to love a good DIY project. I figured my kitchen couldn’t be that much different.

Before and after! 

My husband and I actually redid our laundry room cabinets first before we did the kitchen just so we could get a better idea of how to work with laminate.

The key to restoring and or painting kitchen cabinets is your prep work and the kind of paint you use.  Here is what my husband and I used and how we did it!





Table Saw


A Sander

Sand Paper

Paint Sprayer or Paint brushes and paint rollers (We used a combo of both and I’ll explain why)

Rolls of Plastic and painters tape

ZEP Fast 505 Industrial Cleaner and Degreaser

Luan Plywood

DAP Rapidfuse Clear Interior/Exterior Wood Adhesive

J-B WELD Wood Repair Epoxy Putty

Valspar Cabinet Enamel Semi-gloss Latex Paint

Valspar Interior/Exterior Bonding Water-based Wall and Ceiling Primer

Satin Nickel Self-Closing Overlay Cabinet Hinge

Satin Nickel Bar Drawer Pull (6-Pack)

Satin Nickel Square Cabinet Knob (10-Pack)

Wall Paper 

The first step is prep work and lots of it! We started by removing all the door and drawer handles then cleaning all of the cabinets inside and out.

 I used dawn dish soap and baking soda at first. But then realized I couldn’t get all the grease and grime off the cabinets around the stove area. So I used the ZEP Fast 505 Industrial Cleaner and Degreaser and let me just say this stuff is amazing! I sprayed it on and then took a rag and it scrubbed just a little bit and everything came right off!  I didn’t even have to let it sit. 

The second step is sanding. I started by sanding all the cabinet doors and drawers with them still on. This way I could sand the edges of the doors and drawers easier. I did just a light sanding.

Next, I removed all the door hinges and took off all the doors and pulled out the drawers.  I took all of them out into the garage where my husband worked his amazing craftsmen skills on creating a shaker look. We bought Luan Plywood and cut them up into 2 inch strips. My husband then glued all the strips onto the front of each cabinet followed by claiming them down then filling the gaps with  J-B WELD Wood Repair Epoxy Putty then sanding them down when they were dry. He also filled all the cabinet holes (from the hinges because we used new ones).

While my husband was doing the door fronts, I started sanding the front of the cabinets and then I sanded just a few spots inside the cabinets. The inside of my cabinets was already ruff and was not the same as the smooth laminate.

Next was the paint process for inside the kitchen. We bought a paint sprayer (not the cheapest one but not the most expensive one) we used the Valspar Interior/Exterior Bonding Water-based Wall and Ceiling Primer mixed with a little stuff called Flood, to make the paint a bit thinner. We taped off everything in the kitchen and put plastic all around it so we didn’t get overspray all over the house.  We then begin by priming everything, the inside and outside of all the cabinets.  We did two thin coats (but later realized you only need one) We let it sit overnight then the next morning we started painting with the Valspar Cabinet Enamel Semi-gloss Latex Paint without any Flood. The paint was already thin. This paint is also a self-leveling paint.  We did 2 coats of paint. 

Again, we let that dry overnight then the next morning we noticed we had some orange peeling going on. I did notice this with just the primer but I was hoping that because the paint was self-leveling it would work its way smooth. Haha wishful thinking on my part.  So I told my husband I really wasn’t happy with that. I think what happened is that the primer was just too thick for the paint sprayer or we did something wrong with the paint sprayer as this was our first time using one like this. In high school I took auto body so I have actually worked with spray guns a lot but not this kind.

So we went to Home Depot to look for rollers and a small sponge brush that would give us a smooth finish.  We went with the thinnest roller they sold. We came home and lightly sanded some of the areas that were the worst but because my cabinets are warped and old the paint and primer would completely come off in some of the areas so we just stopped sanding and went ahead and painted with the roller over the whole thing.  Once it dried it was a lot better. Not perfect but I was okay with it because the doors still were going to cover most of the cabinet front anyway.

Finally, it was time to paint the doors and drawers! We actually started by priming the doors and drawers when we were waiting for the final coat of paint to dry the day before but we only did 2 doors and realized there was something really wrong with the sprayer as it was just spitting out the primer everywhere.  So we sanded down the one cabinet front and started over.  We rolled all the primer on the cabinets and drawers. We did one coat. I let that dry for actually a few days, although I didn’t need to per say, but it got rather cold out and I was afraid to actually paint the doors in the cold.  I do live in Florida but sometimes it does get down into the 30’s and 40’s in the evening. 

A few days later I started painting all the fronts and drawers with the roller. I did 2 coats on the doors and drawers but then on the sections that my husband added the wood,I added another coat. If I had to do it over again I would probably pick a different kind of wood for the shaker look because it just wanted to split and show a wood look in some areas.  It didn’t bother me though because I really do love things that look hand made. But it was hard to paint and work with.

I let the paint dry for 3 full days because I didn’t want to take a chance of scratching them when we hung them back up. We bought all new hinges and handles. We needed new holes for the hinges.  My poor husband about drove himself crazy is trying to figure out the best way to hang up the doors. We did leave the holes in the cabinets and did buy hinges that were the same size but again because our cabinets are so old they were not looking straight hung up before we started this process so we wanted them to look straight.  My husband’s idea was to hang all of them up by placing a 2×4 under the cabinet door area and set the cabinet door on top to line them up. We also used a level to make sure the neighboring door lined up. His idea worked! 

After the cabinets were all done and back in we did the front of the bar. I was so undecided about what I wanted to do with it. I really didn’t want to paint it because it’s a huge area and I was afraid that people would rub the paint off with their shoes because it is bar.  We were going to add wood slabs to it but then it would be expensive and I really don’t like the two tones bar look. No offense to anyone who does. I just don’t like it.  So I decided on wallpaper! Yes wallpaper I figured it would be quick, and easy and would stick to all that laminate.  I bought paintable wallpaper so I could paint it the same color as my walls. It just so happens that my walls are the same color as my cabinets so it ended up working out in the long run.

The very last thing we did was the ceiling and to be honest I had no part in that.  My husband put a thin layer of drywall compound and did a pattern with a sponge.  We really were burnt out at this point and none of us wanted to sand more to get the seams in the ceiling smooth. As you can see from the photos we had a 13 ft one piece cabinet that was hung on the ceiling above the bar.  We actually removed that over a year ago but never did anything to the ceiling because we had lots of other projects going on.

With this project, I learned a few things.

#1. If you have pets just DON’T do it. Haha Seriously the amount of pet hair I had to dig out of the paint as I was painting was crazy insane. My lovely Alaskan Malamute is shedding like a crazy man so that wasn’t helpful at all.

#2. Do not set a deadline as it will not work.

#3. If you are going to do this with your partner compromise for the sake of all arguments and pick your battles wisely.

If you have any questions leave them in the comments. I hope this post will help anyone who wants to paint their kitchen.






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