DIY Projects / Homeownership / The Making of a Home

Makeover Your Builder-Grade Cabinets Like a Pro

*I am in no way affiliated with Behr, nor do I receive endorsements for this recommendation. I simply love this product and want to share with you an affordable way to makeover your kitchen cabinets in less time and less steps…with professional results.*

Lucky [or maybe not so lucky] for my husband, I am one of those people who can walk into a place and visualize design possibilities, which came in quite handy when we finally starting looking at potential houses to buy this past September.  I’m always amused by the people on HGTV shows looking at homes and who immediately disqualify a place due to cosmetic aesthetics. I know a lot of homebuyers are looking for turn-key homes, but I don’t like to limit myself.

IMG_6312When we walked through our soon-to-be house for the very first time, there was quite a bit we did not like about it. Every. Single. Wall. Color. The way each painting, frame, shelf and decoration on the walls were hung way too high. And these were not outlandishly tall people. I imagine they missed that pin on “25 Need to Know Measurements for Decorating” (which has served me so well to design and decorate my rooms so they’re both functional and pretty). My least favorite room of the house was the kitchen.

Purple pansy stenciling. Can't even tell you the joy I felt when I watched my mom roll my paint color over this artwork!

Purple pansy stenciling. Can’t even tell you the joy I felt when I watched my mom roll my paint color over this artwork!

Imagine bright yellow walls with builder-grade oak cabinets (oak as in more yellow!), purple stenciled pansies around the kitchen sink in lieu of an actual window treatment (did you know that pansies are my absolute least favorite flower? it’s true), and boring off white formica countertops. However, it did have brand new stainless steel appliances and the cabinets were structurally nice and were adorned with hardware, so the ideas flooded my mind with what I could do to a kitchen like that.

Fast forward to the week of our closing and I had a list 9 miles long with home projects I planned to do within 4 days, before moving in. My husband and my mother raised eyebrows, but they were awesome assistants for all my shenanigans. Did we get that list finished before moving in? Nah. Although we did paint the living room, kitchen and our son’s rooms before anything else and truth be told, we still haven’t finished that list, but we have completed the majority of it in just two months; I don’t feel like we could have done more at this point while preserving our sanity and the well being of our family (I kid, I kid!), as well as Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions and priorities. It’s been the busiest holiday season of our lives!

Life is glamorous as the mother of a DIY'er, I tell you. Hi, Mom! Thanks for letting me wrangle you into helping with this project! Ha

Life is glamorous as the mother of a DIY’er, I tell you. Hi, Mom! Thanks for letting me wrangle you into helping with this project! Ha

So anyway, those ugly yellow oak cabinets. I’ve wanted a bright, airy, white kitchen for a long time, so my sweet mom and I knew we had to at least have the doors and drawers removed by my sweet Hubby before move in day, so once he did that, we were ready to sand. And sand. And sand and sand and sand. And then sand some more. By hand.

IMG_6346My fault, I take the blame, but I just didn’t want gouges or rounded edges that would likely happen using the electric or even paddle sander. So we did it ALL by hand. Not fun. But now that we’ve finished the concrete countertops, the sanding of those darn cabinets seem but a silly memory and not a sweat-dripping ole time after all.

After a lengthy conversation with my sweet little old man friend at Home Depot (those people at the paint counter know me by name now), he confidently suggested I use Behr Marquee for the cabinets. I told him my step-by-neverending-step plan of attach for those cabinets and he asked “Why?”

“Why what?” I quipped with an ever so slight eye roll.

“Why would you do all that? Sanding, stripping, sanding sealer, priming, painting and sealing? Why not use Behr Marquee?”

“Well, I don’t know, I’ve never done cabinets and that just seems to be the right way to do it, after all I’ve read! What is Marquee?” I asked, intrigued.

cabinet paint“If you use Marquee, all you need to do is sand lightly and paint. It’s a paint with primer, it’s stain-blocking, super durable, it’s perfect for cabinets and it’s got one coat coverage. And there’s no need to seal.”

I looked at him, dumbfounded. I’m sure I was even squinting at the sweet guy, too.

“Wait, are you joking with me again?” The man has a great sense of humor and I thought he was completely getting my hopes up for nothing more than a chuckle at my gullibility.

“I’m serious. This is a newer product, it’s excellent for projects like this. You’ll be so glad you listened to me.”

I was sold. I determined right then and there to take a small chance of ruining my perfectly fine, albeit ugly, cabinets for the sake of saving me countless hours of work. I told myself, “Don’t you dare analyze this too much and change your mind. Don’t. Do. It.”

After spraying one coat

After spraying one coat

So I came home, numbered little squares of masking tape on each door and drawer AND the corresponding place inside the cabinet to make for easier reattachment later, laid out the sanded doors and drawers on row after row of contractor paper in my garage face down (start with the backs of the doors to get a little practice in before you spray the fronts where mistakes would be more visible after they’re hung), filled up my borrowed paint sprayer (a Wagner Power Paint Plus), sprayed a few sprays on my contractor’s paper and got to spraying. Okay, although I don’t really need a sprayer for most projects, I really want one. I had all 42 doors and drawers covered with the first coat of paint within 10 minutes. Seriously. Changed my life! Well, not really, but can you imagine how long hand painting or rolling all of those PLUS the cabinet casings would have taken me? It took Mom and I a good hour together just rolling and painting the casings, so I can only wonder how long it would have taken me alone! You can use the sprayer inside, but I didn’t want to have to cover everything and worry about overspray and ruining my newly painted walls. I’d also love to have a sprayer for furniture refinishing, which I do a LOT of…

IMG_6350After we finished rolling the casings, I made a second sweep over all the doors and drawers out in the garage. Another easy 10 minutes. At about the hour point, Mom and I rolled the second coat of paint onto all the casings. I should mention that Behr Marquee guarantees one coat coverage WHEN mixed with their Marquee colors (maybe one negative is that you can’t choose just any color swatch to mix in, but there is such a variety of colors, I don’t imagine this would be a major problem for most people). However, I chose to do two coats of the Marquee for extra protection and durability for my own sake! (Call me a skeptic, but I was still a bit nervous about not doing all the stripping and priming and sealing, much less just one coat of paint.) Then it was time to flip the doors over and spray the fronts twice, about an hour in between coats.

IMG_6351For good measure, I let the doors and drawers sit and dry several days. I don’t know that this is necessary, but I wanted them to have a good chance to set up well. After my husband reattached all the doors and put in all the drawers, he waited a few days to reattach the hardware. Again, I really don’t think this was necessary, but I didn’t want to take any chances. We were also very careful with the cabinets for the first week, just in case they needed to “cure” and really harden.

IMG_6388Now, it’s been a little over two months and can I just tell you how THRILLED I am with my cabinets?! They are exactly what I wanted, as professional looking as any other cabinets I’ve seen in any home and I have had to do zero touch-ups, which in itself is a testament of their durability because we have a 4 year old wild child who doesn’t know the meaning of the word “gentle” and you know he couldn’t care less about being careful with my cabinets!

I highly recommend Behr Marquee Interior Semi-Gloss Enamel for your kitchen makeover! I’m excited to use this product on some furniture in the future, too. What are your plans for your kitchen makeover?

IMG_6395Step-by-Step Builder-Grade Kitchen Cabinet Makeover Instructions

using Behr Marquee Interior Semi-Gloss Enamel


Brown Contractor’s Paper

Something to set doors on to keep them off the paper (we should have used all the bricks the previous homeowners left us!)

Sandpaper (we used medium grit)

Sanding Respirators for each person sanding…I’m a stickler on this. No matter what you’re sanding, it’s worth it to buy a mask and wear it. You don’t need to be breathing that stuff!

Dusting Cloth


Paint rollers (we used standard sizes as well as mini rollers for small lips inside the cabinet casings)

Paint brushes for corners

Paint trays

Paint (we used Behr Marquee in Cameo White)

Trash bags (no matter what we’re painting, we place our paint trays inside a garbage sack so it acts as a liner, pour the paint in and when we’re finished, we just turn the bag inside out and toss it in the trash…this is handier than the actual paint tray liners and a little cheaper, but you can pick up actual paint tray liners if you remember!)

Wagner Power Plus Paint Sprayer

Wagner Power Plus Paint Sprayer

Paint Sprayer (totally optional, but this will cut hours and hours off of your total project time…read and follow the directions on your sprayer, test it out a bit before you use it on your cabinets, use fluid sweeping motions, spray lightly, and know that it will take you a good hour to thoroughly clean your sprayer if yours is anything like ours)

Masking Tape and Magic Marker for numbering doors and corresponding casings for placement after they’re finished


1. Label every single drawer, door AND the corresponding place in the cabinet casing with the masking tape and magic marker so you can easily return them to the correct places when they’re ready to be re-hung. On the doors, place the tape on a hinge. Do this…it will save you gobs of time later!

2. Cover your workspace with contractor’s paper and position whatever you’re using to keep the doors off of it. We should have used bricks, but you can use anything, just so your paint can’t touch the paper and the door at the same time, which will be a big mess for you and create more work tearing paper off your doors, sanding again and re-painting, I know from experience.

3. Remove all the drawer pulls and knobs if you have them, and keep them in a safe place together with the screws. I left all the door hinges on my doors. This is probably a matter of preference and it also saved me time. It was fine with me that there was a bit of overspray on the hinges because our hinges are completely hidden when hung. If yours aren’t hidden, you probably will want to remove them. Place them face down on bricks in your garage, or whatever you’re using to keep them from being directly on the paper.

4. Sand every door, drawer and casing, everywhere there will be paint. I mentioned that we sanded and sanded and sanded, but we did not sand all the stain off…all we did was scuffed up the stain so the paint would have something to adhere to well. This is what my little old man at Home Depot insisted upon doing, so I believed him. Wipe and vacuum all the dust.

5. Using the sprayer, take long sweeping strokes for the first coat of paint on all the doors and drawers, just barely overlapping. Spray a little less paint than you think you need. I made the mistake of spraying too much and had to sand little drip marks in several places, which was fine in the end, but it was more time and work for me.

6. While the first coat of paint is drying on your doors and drawers, use the rollers and brushes to paint the first coat onto your casings. This will be your most tedious task of all. Don’t roll too much over the paint…the Marquee formula is tackier and thicker than other paints you might use on your wall. Paint a section and be done. You could use the sprayer on this part as well, but I had just painted my walls and didn’t want to tape off everything, so I chose the “Less Mess Method”, even though it added onto our overall time for this project.

7. Spray the second coat of paint onto your doors and drawers, IF you’re doing a second coat like I opted to do. Marquee guarantees coverage in one coat, but I did two. At this point, your drawers are done, except for drying and curing time.

8. Roll and brush on the second coat of paint on your casings. Tedious again, but it was worth it.

9. Flip your doors over so they’re face up and paint the first coat on the fronts. Same sweeping motions, spraying lightly, slightly overlapping the paint.

10. After an hour or so, spray your final coat of paint onto the fronts of the doors. Give them more time than you think they need to just sit and dry. I finished this part the day before moving into our house, so I let them sit in the garage all night, came over early the next morning, put down contractor’s paper in an upstairs room we weren’t going to be using, and moved them all upstairs to cure for several more days. (We needed access to the garage for moving stuff in.)

11. Re-attach doors and drawers into the casings. 

12. Re-attach hardware.

13. Enjoy your newly updated and made-over kitchen! Boy, the cabinets alone will change your kitchen like you will not even believe, even if you have other things to do in there. It wasn’t until last week that we did our countertop makeover, which is really beautiful with the white cabinets, but after the cabinets were done, I could have lived with that kitchen for a long time honestly.

*We used extra caution with our cabinets for the first week, just to be safe and allow them to truly harden. Don’t know how vital this was, but it couldn’t hurt. 

I can’t wait for you to see our kitchen now that our Ardex Concrete Countertops are finished! I’ll be sharing that soon!

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