How to paint oak cabinets for your kitchen or laundry room

Do you have oak cabinets in your laundry room or kitchen that could really use a makeover? If your home has older, dated cabinets and you’re thinking you want to replace them to make the space more modern, think again. You can paint your oak cabinets in a way that will make them look professionally made!

The great thing about this option is that even if you’re a beginner, you can totally do it! This is a straightforward project if you’re new to DIY and on a budget. So, if you’re thinking it’s the perfect weekend to spruce up those cabinets, read on!

A few months ago, I helped my brother and sister-in-law with a budget project and the biggest change was simply painting the oak laundry room cabinets. With just a few little changes and updating the cabinet color, I was able to completely transform this space. If you want to see what else I did to did with a $300 budget, as well as some great organization hacks for small laundry rooms, check out the full reveal!

If you prefer to watch videos, check out my Youtube Video on how I painted Oak Cabinets



Step 1. Remove oak cabinet doors

First thing’s first, let’s take the cabinet doors off. There’s nothing complicated here. You simply need to remove the screws from the hinges, and the doors should come right off.

There’s no need to remove the hinges, you can work around them. 

Don’t forget to keep those screws in a safe space – you’ll need them when you’re ready to put the doors back on.

Big tip: Prep the wood

My desperate plea: Please, please, please, don’t skip these steps. Do all the prep work!! To get a seamless finish and prevent the paint from chipping, you absolutely need to prepare the wood properly.

Step 2. Remove any hardware off the Oak Cabinets

You can start by removing the hardware. If you’re going to reuse them for your finished look, keep them somewhere safe. Otherwise, you can donate them or sell them at a bargain price to help another DIYer!

Step 3. Remove the shine

To remove the shiny finish from your oak cabinets, use a deglosser. I used some Krud Kutter Gloss Off and it worked like a charm.

Simply apply some product on a cloth and wipe on the board in circular motion. I just used an old pillowcase for this. Make sure you cover the whole board, front and back, and don’t forget to get into all the little grooves.

How to paint oak wood cabinets and prep for paint

Step 4. Make the cabinet doors free of imperfections

Next, fill in any dents or scratches with wood filler and sand again for a smooth finish. If you’re using knobs or handles that will require new holes, be sure to fill up the old holes too.

Step 5. Sand the cabinet doors

Sanding is most important step to prepping the doors. Use P60 or P80 grit and tackle all the flat surfaces first.

How much do I have to sand my Oak Wood Cabinets?

You don’t have to sand all the way down to the bare wood or laminate, but just enough to be scuffed up and feel gritty. Sand both sides of the doors.

You want to make sure you’re sanding everywhere. Remember, the doors are the faces of the cabinets; it’s what you see every day, so you want them to look their best. Sand first with an orbital sander. Next, use the mouse sander to get into those corners and grooves.

A note on sanders:

How to paint oak cabinets and prep for paint and sand

Mouse sanders have more of a triangular shape, like a clothing iron, and sand by vibrating. They’re good for sanding flat surfaces but their real purpose is to be able to reach into angled and more detailed pieces. If you’re going to get only one, this is the one I’d recommend.

How to paint oak cabinets and prep for paint

Orbital sanders are circular in shape and sand by going round and round. They are better for flat surfaces as the shape of the head cannot reach into any angles. I tend to use both sanders, even in the same project, but that’s just my preference.

How to paint oak cabinets and prep for paint

Step 6. Wipe the boards

Before going in with any primer and paint, remove all that dust you creates while sanding. If you have tack cloth for this, then great, that works fine. I always have baby wipes around the house so that’s what I use and they work great for this purpose. Just wipe down the boards and then you’re ready for the next step.

Step 7. Prime the oak cabinet doors

Since we want to achieve a professional look for these oak wood doors, we also want to minimize the wood grain from coming through. To achieve this, it’s best to do 2 coats of primer followed by 2 coats of paint. The primer is necessary to make sure the paint adheres well to the oak boards.

When priming, you need both a brush and a roller, in order to cover all of the boards.

First, use the brush. With this, you’ll be able to apply primer to all the crevasses, shaker details, edging – anything the foam roller won’t reach.

How to paint oak wood grain cabinets

Once that’s done, go in with the foam roller, which is better for flat surfaces and allow you to cover everything without leaving many brush strokes.

For primer, I used 2 coats, but I make sure the board is entirely covered, and minimize the wood grain

Step 8. Sand the boards again

Yes, that’s right. Again, this is to achieve that smooth, professional look for the face of your cabinets.

With a very fine sandpaper, like a p320 grit, gently sand the boards to get rid of any little bumps, drips of paint, bubbling of paint. We don’t want to get the primer off; rather, we’re just looking to take out the bumps. Here is where you can remove anything that would show through once you paint.

Make it smooth – the goal is for it look like it was painted with a sprayer. Don’t use a sander. Just go in lightly and hand sand.

The extra time you spend making the boards smooth is how you will make your finished project look flawless.

Step 7. Choose the best paint for oak cabinets

The paint color I used for these cabinets is SW 6249 Storm Cloud, which is a very soothing blue gray shade. For this laundry room design, I was looking for something that would feel clean and modern, and I think this color is ticks those boxes perfectly.

We really want to avoid having the wood grain show through after you’ve done all that work, so look for a good cabinet paint. Sherwin Williams has a Urethane trim enamel line, which is great for painting oak cabinets, and even furniture. This product gives an extra layer of durability to your projects, which is the kind of thing to keep in mind when painting high-use areas. I’ve used this paint for furniture and cabinets. It’s held up great over the years!

Step 8. Paint the oak cabinets

You finally made it to the painting part!! Congrats! I know it’s been a lot of prep work and you were probably itching to just paint already, but I promise you it will be all worth it.

Ok – let’s get to it.

Tip: It’s a little bit easier to paint these if they are elevated off the ground, so I laid them on something to lift them up. You can use whatever you have around the house; I used paint cans and a case of sparkling water.

How to paint oak wood cabinets

So for the actual painting part, technique is important. We want to minimize any visible brush work, just like we did with the primer. To do this, start by applying paint to the edges, the crevasses, and the shaker-style details. I recommend using an angled brush for this; it will really help you get into those corners. Remember to do the sides as well. Two thin coats should be enough to get a nice finish.

Then, use a foam roller for the actual door, since we don’t want to see brush strokes.

Tip: you shouldn’t be pressing down with the roller. If you find yourself doing this, just add a bit more paint to your roller.

Once you’re done with one side, wait 8 hours after the paint has dried before flipping the boards over to do the other side.

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Important: before doing your second coat of paint, check the cabinets once the first coat is dry to see if there are any little bumps you missed when you last sanded. If you see any, sand them gently with the p320 grit. Apply your second coat the same way!

I know you’re wondering why I didn’t use my paint sprayer. If I was painting kitchen oak cabinets, I would have gotten out my paint sprayer. However, this was only 4 doors. I didn’t think it was worth the effort of setting it up for just a few doors. However, if I were to paint my kitchen, I would use a paint sprayer.

Step 9. Install the cabinet hardware

Once the painting is done and dry, you can go ahead and put those cabinet doors back in.

I chose to get new cabinet hardware to elevate the look a bit more and complement the coastal vibes we were going for.

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Reveal of Painted Cabinets

If you have Oak Cabinets, you can transform them on a budget. It’s a fun and easy project that even a beginner can do! Take a look to see how I transformed my brother’s old cabinets!

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Can you believe how good this room looks? This is how you can create a whole new space by simply painting your oak kitchen cabinets or laundry room cabinets!

I absolutely love how it turned out – and so did my brother! 

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How to paint oak cabinets2
How to paint oak cabinets1

Pin this for later, so you can read through all the nitty gritty details when you’re mid project!

How to paint oak cabinets

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