Sooner or later, we’re all faced with this problem: Your kitchen or bathroom cabinets are made of wood, and they’re still functional, but the colour of the wood is too dark, or too light, or has become scuffed and scratched over time. You’re dreaming of a fresh, bright room, but replacing the cabinets is prohibitively expensive. Is it time to think about painting the ones you have?

On those home makeover shows, they often recommend painting cabinetry as a quick, easy and economical way to give your room (typically the kitchen) a more modern look. Of course the ‘after’ pictures of these showhomes look terrific, and painting cabinetry is a great, relatively low-cost way to update a room. But you’ll like the results a lot better if you follow some simple guidelines:

• Take the time to sand and prime all surfaces. This is good advice any time you’re going to paint, but it’s particularly important for kitchens and bathrooms where surfaces can get particularly dirty and it’s crucial for new paint to really adhere to the surface
• Don’t try to paint cabinets while they’re still hanging on their hinges. No matter how carefully you try to paint around them, you’ll inevitably get a few drops into the hardware, which will not only spoil the look but make it tougher to open and close drawers and doors
• The older the cabinets, the lighter the colour. Darker colours will make even minor chips and dents more visible; lighter colours will minimize this problem
• Spend a little money on new handles and drawer pulls. A coat of paint is a great start, but you’d be surprised at the difference some new hardware will make in terms of making you feel like you have a whole new kitchen or bathroom
• Consider on-site or off-site (spray) painting. Part of the reason the cabinets on those home makeover shows look so fantastic is because they’ve used professional cabinet painters. It’s a little more expensive than trying to paint them yourself, but it’ll give you a smoother, more professional finish that has the added benefit of being more durable.

And don’t worry about painting over wood: The painted-cabinet trend has been going strong for several years now, with no signs of letting up. Done right, your painted cabinets will look up-to-date for years to come.