Painting Kitchen Cabinets with Chalk Paint on a Budget: A How-To Guide

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When we first toured our home, the kitchen made my soul sad. The ’90s oak. The decorative trim. The porcelain drawer pulls. Oh, my eyes!


We were slightly spoiled by the fact that our past three homes have been flips, so we’ve had brand new, never been used, kitchens.

Did the phrase “our past three homes” cause you to raise your eyebrows? Yes, we’re home buying pros at this point, a story to be told another day.

Anyway, once we knew this was the house for us, I immediately went into planning mode about how I could improve this kitchen, hopefully on a budget. I started by pricing out having the cabinets painted for us, but those quotes were rolling in at $3,000-$7,000. Moving along.

I found a million great blog posts about various techniques for DIY cabinet painting. What I knew was that with three young children, I needed to get the project done before we moved in, partly because I don’t trust my children to be around that significant of a project that’s in process, and partly because I knew it would be much harder to focus on getting the project completed after moving in, as unpacking and organizing would become priority.

That meant…painting the cabinets and rehanging the doors in 2.5 days! The only product I knew that would be up to the challenge was chalk paint. One of the primary advantages of chalk paint is that it’s easy to achieve a distressed look. However, it is also very fast drying and requires no sanding in advance, which is what I needed for this project.

After seeing in the blogosphere that chalk paint could be used on kitchen cabinets, I put my plan in motion, including recruiting my best friend to help me out for the weekend. I also opted for a chalk paint that I had used before and that was easily purchased from my local Home Depot, in case I ran out in the middle of the project: Rust-Oleum’s Chalked Paint.


I’d used this line of paint for furniture projects before and loved how easy it was to work with, and at roughly $20/quart it’s really affordable.

The supplies I gathered were:


The basic steps that I followed were:

Day 1 (8pm-11pm):

  • Remove cabinet doors, hinges, and drawers
  • Remove drawer pulls and door handles
  • Remove decorative trim from the top of the cabinets
  • Clean cabinet doors and sides of cabinets with a degreaser

Day 2 (8pm-4am):

  • One person paints cabinet doors and drawer faces – 2 coats plus touch ups
  • One person paints cabinet boxes – 2 coats plus touch ups

Day 3 (10am-noon):

  • Install drawer pulls and door knobs
  • Hang cabinet doors
  • Put drawers back

After the move (3 hours):

  • Apply 3 thin coats of Rust-Oleum matte top coat

So, for roughly 16 hours and about $175, my kitchen went from a ’90s time capsule to serene farmhouse.

Budget Chalk Paint Kitchen-1.png

One of the unexpected surprises was that the mosaic tile border that really isn’t my taste actually looks great with the color of the lower cabinets. It’s basically meant to be.

It’s been almost a year since I finished this project, and I’m happy to say that overall things have held up really well. Unfortunately Rust-Oleum’s matte finish does not seal the paint as well as I would like, so I have a few cabinets that have gotten a bit stained. I have plans to do a touch up and then re-seal everything, which is a pretty easy project since the lion’s share of the work has already been done.

Since my cabinets are old and not great quality, I didn’t have to think twice about painting them. There is no way I could make them any worse!

Final tips and tricks:

  • I wish I had thought to use little paint rollers – it would have made a lot of the work go much faster!
  • I balanced the cabinet doors on books or other items so that they’d be elevated, allowing me to paint the edges.
  • I didn’t paint the backs of the doors to save on time.
  • Because our house painters were coming after I finished this project, I didn’t tape around the cabinets to protect that wall, but you will probably want to add that to your list.
  • Purchasing 4 quarts of paint was plenty – we used about 1.5 quarts of each color, and have extra for touch ups.
  • Having a few cocktails in you before starting the project makes things a lot more fun.

It’s been SO MUCH FUN getting back into the swing of blogging…until next time!


3 thoughts on “Painting Kitchen Cabinets with Chalk Paint on a Budget: A How-To Guide

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