how to paint unfinished cabinets how to paint unfinished cabinets

How to Paint Unfinished Cabinets

Shifting to a new place can be tough as you need to adjust to the new house and its environment. You start missing your old house because of the things that were sorted out according to your preferences. One of them is the cabinets in the kitchen.

Cabinets play an important role in any kitchen as you can store your essentials there to use on a regular basis. But sometimes, when you move to a new place, you either don’t find any cabinets or there aren’t sufficient enough to store all your essentials. 

So, as I’m someone who believes in making things work on a budget, it’ll be better to either build a cabinet from scratch or you could purchase unfinished cabinets.

In this article, I’ll be telling you everything you need to know about painting those unfinished cabinets.

Let’s get started! 

Can you Paint Unfinished Cabinets? 

Yes, you can actually paint unfinished cabinets as they are designed to be ready for painting or staining. Even though they may not require excessive sanding, it is advisable to prepare the surface properly for the best results. 

Which Paint Should You Use on Unfinished Cabinets?


  • Latex Paint: Latex Paint is a beneficial choice as it dries faster than oil-based alternatives, which makes it a practical option for cabinet projects. This means that you can apply multiple coats in a shorter timeframe, saving you more time. It is also hassle-free as you don’t require any harsh chemicals. Rather, soap and water can do the job. This makes it environmentally friendly to use. Latex paints are known for DIY projects as it is more forgiving and versatile in terms of application. With this paint, you can achieve various finishes like matte, semi-gloss, or gloss, so it offers flexibility in your creativity. 
  • Oil-Based Paint: Oil-based paints help provide a superior coating and adhesion, ensuring that the wood surfaces of unfinished cabinets are well-covered. You can even put a single coat of oil-based paint, and it can provide a smooth finish to the cabinet. This paint is also known for its longevity, as when applied to unfinished cabinets, it can create a durable finish to withstand wear and tear. Oil-based paints also make the surfaces easy to clean, which makes them perfect for the kitchen environment. Even though it is expensive and not user-friendly, it is known for smoother finishes, which is great for unfinished cabinets. 
  • Acrylic Paint: Acrylic Paint offers several benefits for unfinished cabinets as it provides a smooth texture and a high-gloss appearance to cabinets. So, outsiders won’t even know that the beautiful cabinets were bought unfinished. This finish will make your cabinet resemble glass and will create a modern and luxurious look. This paint is also known for its durability and is resistant to scratches, stains, and heat, which makes it perfectly suitable for a kitchen environment. This durability also ensures that the cabinets maintain their attractive appearance. It is known for its versatility as it can be used on various surfaces, including wood, without compromising its quality.  
  • Specialized Cabinet Paint:  Specialized Cabinet Paint is another recommended product to use on both kitchen as well as bathroom cabinets. It is perfect for kitchen environments as it can withstand wear and tear, especially moisture, grease, and frequent cleaning. The product makes sure that it maintains its finish so that your cabinets look attractive all the time. It is very compatible as it bonds effectively with cabinet materials, be it wood, laminate, or other surfaces. This ensures a long-lasting finish to your unfinished cabinet.

What are the Steps to Paint the Unfinished Cabinets?

a kitchen with wooden cabinets

Now, we have come to the main part of the article, where I’ll guide you through the steps that you need to follow to paint your unfinished cabinets.

Let’s get started! 

  • Gather Supplies: The very first step is to gather all your supplies, tools, and materials, including sandpaper, wood putty, putty knife, paintbrush, paint roller, and paint primer. All the tools that you need to paint the unfinished cabinet. 
  • Prepare the Cabinets: Bring your drilling machine and remove any hardware, such as handles or knobs, from the unfinished cabinet doors and drawers. This will help you paint efficiently without any obstructions. 
  • Clean the surfaces: Take the unfinished cabinets and clean their surfaces. Remove all the grease and grime and prepare it for the process. Proper cleaning is a crucial step for paint adhesion. 
  • Sand the Cabinets: This is where the sandpaper comes into play, as unfinished cabinets are typically ready, but some aren’t. So, to ensure a smooth surface to paint on, use sandpaper. 
  • Fill Imperfections: The unfinished cabinets may sometimes have gaps or holes, so use wood putty to fill them. Then, sand the wood putty for a smooth surface after it dries up. 
  • Apply Primer: You can pick out any paint type, as we discussed earlier, and apply a suitable primer. Primer enhances paint adhesion and ensures an even finish to your unfinished cabinets. 
  • Paint the Cabinets: Choose a paint, then take a paintbrush and a roller to apply the paint. Try to apply multiple coats while allowing each coat to dry between applications for an even and durable finish to your unfinished cabinets. 
  • Reattach Hardware: After you paint the cabinets, leave them to dry, and after some time, reattach the hardware that you had removed earlier, like doors and drawers. 

Should You Use Prime on Unfinished Cabinets? 

a man working on cabinets

Many people don’t even know the importance of Prime, so let me tell you about it. A primer is a preparatory coat applied before painting cabinets or any surface. It creates a bonding surface for the paint and improves adhesion, which means that the paint won’t peel off easily.

It also enhances the durability of the paint when applied, as it makes it strong enough to deal with the daily wear and tear of the kitchen. It’s also stain-free and helps maintain the true color of the paint for a long time. 

On the other hand, the usage of primer on unfinished cabinets is generally recommended as it provides a stable base for the paint and enhances its adhesion to maintain a long-lasting finish. Even though some unfinished cabinets may claim that they don’t require a primer, it’ll be a precautionary step to guarantee a quality result if you use it.

And if you use it, make sure to research thoroughly or follow the specific instructions given by the primer manufacturer to get better results. 


The kitchen is incomplete without cabinets as there are so many essential items and ingredients that are required on a daily basis.

Purchasing new cabinets can be expensive, so it’s better to either purchase an unfinished cabinet or build it from scratch. Building it can take up your time, so it’s recommended to purchase the unfinished cabinets.

Unfinished cabinets, too, require a good-quality paint. Even though we aren’t professionals, we have to paint the cabinets ourselves to save money.

So, in this article, we discussed everything you need to paint unfinished cabinets. From the types of paints you can use to the importance of primer to the steps you need to follow to get the job done. 

Make sure to also watch a YouTube video to get a better understanding of how it’s done, and make sure to do a perfect job. 

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