Most homeowners focus on updating the cabinets’ exterior when taking on a kitchen cabinet painting project. However, you may be wondering: should I also paint the inside of the cabinets for a more complete transformation?
There are good reasons for painting the interiors, but also some reasons you may want to skip it. Here is an in-depth look at the factors to consider when deciding whether or not to paint inside the cabinets.
Reasons to Paint the Inside of Cabinets
Here are some of the benefits of taking the time to paint the interior surfaces of your kitchen cabinets:
Provides a More Uniform, Finished Look
If your goal is to completely change the color and appearance of your kitchen cabinets, addressing the interiors and exterior surfaces will give you a more cohesive, polished looking result.
When the cabinets are open, you won’t see mismatches between stained or worn interiors next to freshly painted exteriors. Every visible surface will uniformly showcase your new color.
Cabinets Have Glass Fronts
Many kitchen cabinets feature glass windowpanes in the doors. This allows you to see through to the shelves and interior surfaces.
If the interiors are visible through glass fronts or display cabinets, painting them allows the new color to show attractively. Otherwise, the eye will be drawn to unfinished wood or mismatched colors behind the glass.
Adding a Pop of Color
Painting the inside of cabinets a fun, contrasting color to the exterior can add visual interest to your kitchen. When the cabinets are open, you’ll see the unexpected interior color.
Try painting the exteriors a classic white or neutral tone, then make the interiors a vivid blue, green or red for a pop of color. This is a great way to incorporate color if you prefer subdued hues on the overall cabinet exterior.
Open Shelving Requires Painted Interiors
The interiors will always be exposed for kitchen designs with open shelving or display cases instead of standard cabinets. So it’s especially important to paint these inner surfaces to give them a clean, fresh look.
Otherwise, the cabinet interiors’ unfinished, dated wood tones will be visible inside the open shelves, clashing with your newly painted kitchen.
Brightening Up the Space
Painting the inside cabinets white or a very light, bright shade can help reflect more light within the cabinets. This creates a more open, airy feel in the kitchen.
Dark cabinet interiors can close off the space visually. A fresh coat of white interior paint keeps everything looking light and bright.
Preparing Cabinets for Interior Painting
Proper preparation is crucial to ensure your new interior paint job has good adhesion and durable results. Here are some tips for prepping the inside surfaces:
- Remove any old shelf paper, lining or protective film. Scuff sand to degloss shiny areas.
- Clean all surfaces thoroughly with an all-purpose cleaner or mild soap and water solution. Let dry completely.
- Lightly sand to rough up the surface for better paint adhesion. Wipe away any residual dust with a tack cloth.
- Apply primer to bare wood or newly sanded areas for the best results. Priming helps the new paint stick and prevents stains from bleeding through.
Choosing the Right Paint for Inside Cabinets
Water-based acrylic paints are the best choice for painting the confined interior of cabinets. Oil-based enamels have stronger fumes that can overwhelm the enclosed cabinet space. Key features to look for:
- Water-based latex or acrylic formula with low VOC/fumes
- Semi-gloss or satin finish for easy cleaning and durability
- Colorants with minimal odor formulated for interior use
- Mold and mildew resistant paint for high moisture areas like kitchens
Application Tips and Tricks for Painting Inside Cabinets
Painting the inside of cabinets requires some special preparation and care to get great results in the tight space:
- Remove doors, shelves and hardware to make painting easier. Number items to ensure proper reassembly.
- Use painter’s tape to mask off adjacent surfaces, countertops and floors from drips. Cover any exposed countertops.
- Paint removed shelves separately to cover all sides evenly. Let dry before reinstalling.
- Use angled brush heads or mini foam rollers to easily reach into cabinet corners and crevices.
- Try spraying cabinets with a light coat before brushing for faster coverage. Maintain a wet edge to prevent lap marks.
- Extend drying time due to limited airflow. Open doors and drawers periodically to allow ventilation while paint dries.
Reasons You May Want to Skip Painting the Inside of Cabinets
While there are great benefits to addressing cabinet interiors, painting the inside may be unnecessary or lower priority in some situations. Reasons you may want to forgo interior painting include:
Cabinets Have Solid Doors
If your kitchen cabinets have solid doors without any glass panes or open shelving, the interiors will not be visible when the cabinets are closed.
Since the original stain or paint on the interior surfaces won’t be seen, painting them feels like wasted time and effort. Focus your painting efforts on visible exterior surfaces only.
Existing Finish is Still in Good Shape
Sometimes, the original sealant or stain inside cabinets may still be intact and not worn or damaged. If the existing finish has held up well, you may opt to leave it as-is rather than taking on the task of prepping and painting the interiors.
Time and Budget is Limited
Addressing cabinet interiors adds extra time and labor costs to your kitchen cabinet makeover. Preparing and painting the confined interior spaces can be tedious and time consuming.
If time or money is limited, it’s smart to direct your focus to the visible exterior portions, where you’ll get the most dramatic impact for your efforts. Leave interiors as-is for now.
Safety Concerns in Older Homes
In older homes, lead paint can be used on original kitchen cabinets. Safety precautions must be taken to avoid contamination when removing old paint. Testing kits can identify lead content before starting projects.
Working inside enclosed cabinets raises greater concerns over lead exposure. You may opt to paint only exteriors to limit risks.
Key Takeaways – Should You Paint Interior of Cabinets?
To recap the key points on whether or not to paint the inside of kitchen cabinets:
- Painting interiors provides a cohesive, uniform look – big impact if glass fronts, open shelves, or changing color scheme.
- Proper prep and water-based paints designed for interiors are musts for good results.
- If time or budget is limited, focus on visible exterior surfaces only.
- If existing interiors are rarely seen and still in good condition, painting inside may be unnecessary.
- In old homes, lead paint risks may steer decision to exterior-only painting.
A Personal Painting Decision
The decision on whether to paint the inside of your kitchen cabinets along with the exterior requires weighing your particular goals, cabinets style, time and budget considerations.
If you want to transform your kitchen’s look completely, addressing the cabinet interiors and exterior provides the most complete makeover. But just painting visible exterior surfaces can provide a big impact with less work for a quick refresh.
Carefully evaluate which cabinet surfaces need a color update to meet your goals. This will steer your decision on tackling interiors or not. With the right prep work and paint products, you can get great results painting inside cabinets – but the task does involve some additional considerations.
Determine the best approach for your specific kitchen and project scope. With smart planning, you can end up with a cohesive, beautiful kitchen cabinet makeover, inside and out!