You'll get the best latex paint results with new, synthetic-bristle brushes.

Latex High Gloss on Kitchen Cabinets: How to Begin

by Chris Deziel

A new coat of latex paint can brighten up your kitchen cabinets for a lot less money than it would take to refinish them professionally, and you get the satisfaction of doing it yourself. It's a good idea to use gloss paint in the kitchen, because it's easy to keep clean, but you have to prepare the cabinets properly, or you might have problems with peeling or bubbling. There are, however, some details you should take care of before ever opening a can of paint.

Set up a work area for painting the cabinet doors. You need a flat surface or pair of sawhorses to lay the doors on while you're painting them, and a safe place to leave them while the paint is drying. Covering the floors and walls of a utility room or garage with plastic sheeting may provide you with such an area could do the trick. The area should have a lockable door if you have curious explorers about the house.

Take down the cabinet doors with a screwdriver and remove all the hardware. Store all the hinges, handles and screws in a box and put it in a safe place.

Spread plastic on all the kitchen countertops and tape it down with painters tape. Mask the walls around the edges of the cabinets. Use blue or green tape. These colors denote medium adhesion, meaning the tape shouldn't pull paint off the wall when you remove it.

Wash the outsides of the cabinets with a solution of 1/4 cup trisodium phosphate per gallon of warm water. TSP is a strong detergent that not only removes grease and dirt, but dulls the existing finish. Rinse the cabinets with clean water and let them dry. Do the doors separately.

Scuff up the existing finish on the cabinets and doors with 220-grit sandpaper. Use a pad sander to work on large flat areas, and do the areas around moldings and trim with a separate piece that you've folded into thirds. Wipe the surfaces with a damp cloth when you're done sanding.

Prime the cabinets and doors with water-based wood primer. Primer has strong binders that provide insurance against peeling. Spread the primer with a synthetic bristle paintbrush.

Scuff sand the primer with 220-grit sandpaper and clean off the sanding dust with a damp rag. You're now ready to begin painting.

Items you will need

  • Plastic sheeting
  • Work table or sawhorses
  • Screwdriver
  • Storage box
  • Painters tape
  • Trisodium phosphate
  • 220-grit sandpaper
  • Rags
  • Wood primer
  • Synthetic bristle paintbrushes


  • Purchase two or three high-quality synthetic-bristle paintbrushes and a plastic bucket with a handle into which you can pour paint. You may also need a headlamp so you can see what you're doing when you're painting in recesses and dark areas.

About the Author

Chris Deziel has a bachelor's degree in physics and a master's degree in humanities. Besides having an abiding interest in popular science, Deziel has been active in the building and home design trades since 1975. As a landscape builder, he helped establish two gardening companies.

Photo Credits

  • Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images