The Real Cost of Cabinet Painting

The Real Cost of Cabinet Painting

Cabinet Painting on the Web

If you don’t live under a rock, I’m sure you’re aware that cabinet painting is a popular option for homeowners to update their kitchen. When searching for the cost of cabinet painting, you’ll find conflicting information. For example, has an article stating the average cost to paint cabinets is between $990 and $1600.

Angie’s List has a post that is a bit more accurate, but very vague, stating the cost to be between $1200 and $6000 for kitchen cabinets.

While the range is true, it does little to help the homeowner get an understanding of the real cost to paint cabinets.

From hosting a podcast directed towards painting contractors to help them build stronger businesses, I’ve gotten to know hundreds of smart and knowledgeable painting business owners across the country. I’m here to spread light on the situation of cabinet painting. For a “normal” kitchen with 28 doors, 15 drawers, and about 55 ft. of boxes, my community of painting contractors explained what they would charge. Here are a few photos of the example kitchen we painted in Denver:

Know that everyone that responded gave pricing using their own process, specific to the area of the country where they do business.

The Cost of Cabinet Painting Across the US:

Number of contractors that responded: 85

Number of states represented: 30

Average price in the US: $4,909.78

Most expensive State/price: Washington/$8,361.57

Least expensive price quoted/state: $3135.00/Illinois (southern rural)

Highest price: $10,310 Seattle, Washington

California average: $5,792.86

Cabinet painting is very subjective, just like any other remodeling project. Many variables go into a project and the more information that can be provided by the contractor, the better. Homeowners should know the following:

  • The type of surface preparation that will be done
  • What type of primer will be used
  • Type of application (spray, hand painted, etc.)
  • How many coats of primer and finish coat will be applied
  • Where the cabinets will be painted
  • How long the project will take
  • How safe for their family are the products that will be used
  • What type of warranty or guaranty does the paint contractor offer

Painting cabinets offers an affordable way to update a kitchen without replacing both cabinets and countertops. With that said, painting cabinets is a very technical process to be done well and should not be thought of as a good candidate for a weekend DIY project. We recently had to strip a whole set of cabinets after a homeowner tried to paint their cabinets themselves but failed to prepare the surface properly. The paint peeled right off!

Surface prep

Proper surface preparation will allow primers to properly bond with the existing finish. If a bond is not created, the paint will simply bead up. At Walls by Design, we recommend a mechanical and chemical etch. First, the cabinets are buff sanded with fine grit sandpaper – a 220 grit will rough up the surface well. Second is a chemical etch with a de-glossing agent. Using a two-method system ensures that all areas are etched.


Using the wrong primer is possibly the most common problem we find. A bonding primer will ensure a proper bond between the top coat and the existing substrate. One should never use a paint and primer in one. Many people outside of the painting industry do not know that different types of primes are suitable for different kinds of applications. For cabinets, a bonding primer is needed.


Though many painters want to spray boxes, this can cause problems with the use of a kitchen and have a more significant adverse impact on the family during the project. If applied with a mini roller, the finish difference is almost undetectable, requiring less preparation of the interior of the home, due to the lack of overspray. Spraying the doors and drawer fronts not only produces the best finish quality on the majority of the surfaces you see when you view your cabinets, but also is the fastest way to apply the paint.

Coats of Paint

The most significant difference in any painting project from one contractor to another is usually the number of coats applied. Specific language should be in the contract stating how many coats of primer and of finish will be done. More coats of paint do not always equate to more durability, but usually help with coverage to hide the previous color or fill wood grain.

Where to Paint

Where your contractor will paint your cabinets may sometimes be an afterthought. Many will either paint everything in the kitchen or garage, but some will take your doors and drawers offsite. If the garage is to be used, you will want to clear out a good size area for working space. If everything is to be done in the kitchen, have the homeowner know that the space will be unusable for the duration of the project.


How long does it take to paint my cabinets? That is a question that only your painting contractor can answer. It will depend on the application method as well as the number of painters assigned to the project. Usually, the contractor can give a range. In the case above, our teams would complete the project in 5 days with one painter, or 3 days with two painters – including dry times. A cabinet project can’t be effectively completed in less than three days.


Volatile Organic Compounds are what make a paint friendly to be around or not. In the last 15 to 20 years, green products have become a big topic, to say the least. Lacquers and solvent-based paints are not only highly flammable but are not safe to be around. Low VOC products are very popular, and most of the major paint manufacturers have different low VOC options that perform very well. If the homeowner will be living in the home during the project, we do not recommend that a non-low VOC product.


Durability is the question on many people’s minds. Most painting contractors will give a year warranty to guard against failure, which does not include chips. Cabinets can chip and flake if impacted or cleaned with an abrasive material. However, you want to have a warranty that guards you against paint failure or large areas that release and peel off.

The Bigger Issues

My company, Walls by Design, has painted well over a thousand kitchen cabinet sets, and when you paint that many, you come across just about every problem that can happen. Customers that were unhappy with being able to see the grain on their oak cabinets in our early days. Oak can be filled with certain products, but it is timely, so we decided to not attempt to fill the grain 100%.

However, deep grain can suck in the paint, producing the effect that not enough paint was applied. We had people telling us we had not primed the cabinets, when in fact, there were two or three coats. To solve this issue, we changed our application method with our first two prime coats (on oak cabinets), literally pushing the primer into the tiny groves, not once, but twice, buff sanding between coats, and then applying one more coat prior to the finish coats. Since changing the process, there have not been complaints.

Many times, when a project has a failure and a customer calls us in to fix their cabinets, we find that the wrong type of primer was used – commonly Kilz. Though not a bad product, Kilz is not a bonding primer; it is a stain blocking primer and does a great job of it. A bonding primer is needed as at least the first primer on the project.

Hopefully, this has helped to give you a better understanding of what goes into a proper cabinet painting project and the cost of cabinet painting. Just like anything, it is based on labor and supply and demand. Different regions of the country list different prices, but know that the average is about $4900, not $2-3000 as some sites have proposed.