What's the cost to paint kitchen cabinets yourself? DIY vs hiring a professional

The cost to paint kitchen cabinets yourself is typically lower than if you were to hire a professional. Ideal for a low-budget but high-impact kitchen refresh.

kitchen with yellow built in kitchen cabinets and patterned flooring
(Image credit: Schuller)

More often than not, the hub of the home is the place to start when you feel like refreshing your space, and when the cost of painting kitchen cabinets tends to run far less than a complete remodel, considering this DIY is a no brainer.

If you are doing this yourself, the main investment you're going to make is in purchasing the best paint for kitchen cabinets to ensure you get that professional finish. But, it's a small price to pay vs a complete kitchen upgrade. And, painting kitchen cabinets yourself instead of replacing them will save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars – whether you DIY the job or hire a pro – whilst still giving your cooking space a solid facelift.

In our eyes, the expense of this project is well worth it. Especially when there are plenty of clever ways to save along the way, without compensating on an expert finish.

Why it's worth painting kitchen cabinets

Whether remodeling a kitchen entirely or just sprucing it up a bit, tending to the cabinets can give the space a fresh new look. But that’s not all. 'Painting kitchen cabinets isn't just for aesthetic purposes,' says Kyle Richards, co-founder of Best Overland Park Painters in Kansas. 'It helps make your cabinetry last longer by protecting it from moisture, mold, and insects.' Here are some popular reasons homeowners choose to paint their cabinets:

  • The cabinets have outdated, dirty, or peeling paint
  • They want something new
  • They’re planning to sell and want to improve the home’s value
  • They’re remodeling on a budget

Also, your reason for upgrading the kitchen will influence how much money you spend on the cabinets alone. For example, a whole-kitchen gut and remodel involves removing the cabinets and treating them differently, which adds to the overall cost. But, the cost of painting the cabinets yourself in place of rejuvenating the entire kitchen saves money.

Factors that affect the cost of painting kitchen cabinets

Whatever kitchen cabinet ideas you're trying to recreate with paint, several factors impact the project’s cost – from the condition and number of cabinets to the type of paint you choose. So, let’s look at how these factors play out, whether you’re DIYing the job or hiring a professional.

The type of paint you use

The amount and type of paint required for the job impact the cost. Also, according to Richards, the kitchen paint’s color affects the price. 'This is particularly true for in-demand colors that may be more challenging to source,' he says, 'especially now that we're experiencing a shortage due to supply chain issues.'

If you’re buying off-the-shelf colors, how much will you need? 'I can do most kitchens with one gallon of primer. And for an average kitchen, you’ll need one to three gallons of color,' says Britney Johnson, owner of B-Design interior design firm in Olympia, Washington, and instructor of the Design Your Dream Home online course. However, it will cost more if you need multiple coats to cover the old color.

Even though it’s more costly, Johnson recommends enamel paint because it’s harder and dries smoother. 'Enamel paint self-levels so you don’t see the brush strokes,” she says. 'Good paint is worth the cost.'

Method of painting

Spray painting the cabinets will get the job done faster but is more costly. Most homeowners opt to brush the paint, especially if DIYing.

Conditions of the cabinets

Old, soiled cabinets cost more to paint for a professional job because of the prep work needed. However, if you’re DIYing the job, it will take more time, not money, to clean and sand the surfaces.

Supplies

Whether you spray, brush, or roll your paint, you’ll need painter’s tape and paper and plastic sheeting to cover all the surfaces you want to protect. Brushes, rollers, pans, sandpaper, and clean-up supplies also add to the cost.

The average cost to brush and roller paint the cabinets in a 10 by 10 kitchen is $1,300-2,500, according to the home services website Fixr. If you’re painting the cabinets yourself, expect to pay the following for paint and supplies. 

  • Primer–$30-50 per gallon
  • Paint–$50-80 per gallon
  • Brushes–$10-15 each
  • Painter’s tape–$5-7 per roll
  • Masking paper–$4-15 per roll of 150-200 linear feet
  • Plastic drop cloth sheeting–$3-10 per roll depending on size and thickness
  • Sandpaper–$12-15

For a professional to paint your kitchen cabinets, expect to pay $5,000 for a medium-sized kitchen, with a range from $3,000-10,000, according to Andre Kazimierski, CEO, Improovy Painters Chicago. 'The average cost of painting kitchen cabinets is $100 per drawer face and $175 per cabinet door,' he says. Or, some cabinet painters charge by the linear foot or by the hour, with $90 per hour being average. However, labor costs will also vary depending on the following:

  • Area of the country
  • Condition of the existing cabinets
  • Number of cabinets
  • Whether the cabinets are removed or painted on-site

Site preparation

Whether taking on this DIY project yourself or hiring someone else, the site must be prepared and the other surfaces protected. Here is a breakdown of what to expect your pro painter to do, or for you to do yourself. Remember, spending the extra time to diligently prep the space will result in a cleaner and more beautiful outcome. 

  • Empty all cabinets and drawers and clear everything off the countertops.
  • Remove any freestanding appliances, as able.
  • Move any furniture out of the space.
  • Cover the countertops and floors with paper and tape in place.
  • Hang plastic sheeting over the doorways, windows, backsplash, and appliances you didn’t move.
  • Protect anything you don’t want paint splattered on with paper or plastic.

Ways to save on the cost of painting kitchen cabinets

Despite the savings you’re seeing by choosing to refresh rather than replace the cupboards, there are additional ways to save on the costs of painting kitchen cabinets. Here are a few to consider:

  • Buy your paint during summer holiday sales like Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day.
  • Brush rather than spray paint.
  • Carefully calculate how much paint you’ll need to avoid purchasing too much.
  • Ask a pro painter if a paint/primer combo will work for your cabinets. 
  • Use old bedsheets for drop cloths.
  • Go through the entire painting process with just one cabinet to start. If you’re unhappy or find it too involved for your DIY skills, hire a professional before proceeding.
  • If you’re hiring a pro, ask for a discount if you’re also painting the entire room or adjoining rooms.

Refreshing kitchen cabinets yourself is really rewarding and if you have some basic DIY skills under your belt then doing it yourself will be more cost-effective than replacing them or hiring a professional. If you feel like it's too complicated a process then of course speak to a local professional and the costs may outweigh the upheaval of trying this yourself. Either way, it's a great way to refresh your home without going the whole hog.

Carol J. Alexander writes website copy, blog posts, and feature articles on home remodeling and construction topics from her home in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. In addition to Real Homes, notable clients include, This Old House, Family Handyman, and Florida Roofing magazine.

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