Make Over your Kitchen on a Budget

My husband and I bought our house back in 2014.  It’s in the neighborhood where we wanted to live and our back yard butts up against the playground for the school that my kids were attending.

When we first looked at the house the kitchen didn’t really bother me.  It was old and the counter top was outdated (which looked like it was from the 70’s) and the cabinets were painted white. After living here for 3 years, I had to make over the kitchen.  But I didn’t have $20,000 for new cabinets and counter tops.   So I started doing some research and discovered you can paint counter tops, tile and of course cabinets.




This is the Kitchen picture  that was on the Realtors website when we purchased it.   Not sure if you can see it from this picture but the tile back splash (from the counter top to the bottom of the cabinet is a puke green color).  None of the tile was broken and there were no chips in the counter tops. So they were in very good shape.  So you can understand at the time in 2014 we were in a super rush to buy a house and had to close within 30 days.  Out of all the houses we looked at, this one wasn’t so bad as far as the kitchen went.   So I figured I could live with it for a while.



Here is the actual counter top before I started.  There is the same Puke Green Color in the counter top which is why they put up the Green Tiles behind it. – See what I mean about the 70’s style? There is some orange color in there too and a few other colors.  I wanted to get Granite Counter Tops but I didn’t have that kind of money to spend!  I found a company named Giani Granite  as you can see there is so many options!  I will discuss later in the post when I cover painting the counter top how no 2 people’s counters will look the same.  There are 5 different color options.  I chose the Sicilian Sand Counter Top Paint .

Each color shows what it looks like when clicking on the image above, click on the arrows either way to see the 5 colors, if you are reading this from a cell phone, it shows up in a list. What I ended up doing was making a collage of the cabinet colors and the counter top colors that I liked.   The same Company Giani Granite also has some cabinet paint called Nuvo.  I only bought (1) A La Mocha box and it was enough to paint all the cabinets, doors and drawers!  The cabinet paint kit comes with rollers and a brush.  There is only 2 quarts of paint, but don’t panic it will be enough.

I was undecided between doing the Sicilian Sand Counter Top Paint & A La Mocha Cabinets vs the Chocolate Brown Counter Top Paint & Euro Taupe Cabinet Paint.  Here is the comparison I made.

I threw a color of almond there on this because I knew I was going to paint the tile.  Obviously by what you see painted below my tile didn’t turn out this color Almond!



Since my kitchen appeared to be so big already and the cabinets used to be painted white I decided to go with the dark color cabinets and the light counter top color.  I mentioned earlier in my post, that no 2 people’s counter tops will look the same when you paint them and that is simply because each person ends up doing the pattern differently.  I did love the Chocolate Counter Top Paint and the Euro Taupe so I purchased that combination for the other house I own and will be doing very soon!  More DIY photos coming!

Click on the arrows to see all the 8 different Cabinet Colors they Offer!  If you are reading this from a cell phone, it shows up in a list.

The cabinet doors and drawers were very plain looking they were painted white with silver handles on them.

So the first thing I had to do before I started this whole project was to strip the white paint off the cabinet doors, drawers and the cabinets themselves.  I took down all the cabinet doors, took out the drawers and took off all hardware.

Here is a list of things you’ll need for Stripping Paint!

  1. Paint Stripper Depending on how many cabinets, doors & drawers you have, you may need 2 of these.
  2. Scraper – You’ll be scraping off a lot of old Paint, these are also good for patching any holes in walls.
  3. Chemical Resistant Gloves – I didn’t have these elbow gloves when I started and I truly wish I had!  Some of the stripper got onto my arm and it really does burn!
  4. Safety Googles – You’ll be wearing these alot!

Before you start doing any stripping and scraping.  Make sure you are in a well ventilated area.  I ended up setting up shop in my garage, and just left my cabinets bare without any doors on them for a couple of weeks.

Once I got all the paint off, I realized my cabinets were solid wood.  When you are wanting to paint cabinets you’re supposed to lightly sand them with a 300 grit sandpaper.  I decided to go rougher with a 120 grit sand paper because I wanted to get a lot of the old ‘stain’ off of them.  After I stripped them all I was in amazement on how beautiful the wood actually was, but I did end up painting them again.

Here are the items I actually purchased to do the sanding.  (I still used my safety Googles from before!)  They really do come in handy.

  1. Hand Sander –  This is the sander I used myself.  I used this in several different phases, which I will explain more in the post.
  2. 120 Grit Sandpaper –   I bought this bigger package and not the actual size for the Hand Sander because I wanted to be able to cut it down myself.  Meaning using some smaller pieces for other parts of the cabinets.
  3. Electric Hand Sander – This was the best $30 I spent on the entire project.  I had to use this to actually sand the cabinets.  I also had to use it a few times on the doors, and my husband used it on the drawer fronts.  I did enlist him to help me with some of the sanding project.
  4. Lint Free Cloths –  After you are done doing all this sanding, you have to make sure you wipe any dust from the cabinet doors before you start painting them.

Ok so if you’re anything like me with little kids in the house the stripping and sanding took a few days.  I decided to do them all at once because I didn’t want to be sniffing in that paint stripper for more than a couple of days.  If you are very sensitive to smell you can get this Paint Mask for the paint stripper, I actually used it when I painted the tiles (more on this later!).

Once I got the cabinet doors naked.  (lol)  I didn’t want them to be so plain anymore.  I wanted to give them a face lift so to speak, so I decided to start watching YouTube videos on how to make Shaker Style cabinets.  Now if you have cabinet doors that are not wood similar to formica or laminate you can also do what I am about to tell you to them.  If you want to paint them, you will have to scuff them up by sanding them and adding a DeGlosser to them.  There are many things you can do to your cabinet doors to make them more modern.  You can add 1/4 inch wood or a picture frame style, I highly suggest doing some searching on YouTube to see which style suits you.

This was the style I was going for on the left.  It’s called Shaker Style Cabinets, but you can get really fancy in what you turn your cabinet doors into.  Obviously the picture frame style cabinets would require more wood but they would end up looking something like this on the right. There would be 2 pieces of wood you glue on, the small trim around the edge and then the picture frame butted up next to it.  You’ll have to decide which style suits you and the look you are going for in your kitchen cabinet doors.

Financially the only mistake I made in this whole project was not reading more up on what type of wood to buy to make these Shaker style cabinets.  I think I ended up at Home Depot about 20 times during the course of this project.

The most inexpensive way to make the Shaker Style cabinets is to buy a 1/4 inch sheet of Plywood and have them cut it for you before you leave! The mill work department at either Home Depot or Lowe’s will cut it for you.  The most common size is: 1/4 in. x 4 ft. x 8 ft you would then have them cut 2 1/2 or 3 inch strips.  You will end up with a lot of strips!  Make sure you pick out a good piece of Plywood, 4 x 8 sheet of plywood is only $20 approximately.  When I first started I was in their lumber area buying 1/4 lattice pine molding (which was flat) for almost $3 a foot!  So I was a few hundred dollars into the project when I realized I should of done this cheaper!  I personally put the frame work around my drawers too, so the wood width was 2 1/2 inches for the doors and 1 1/2 inches for the drawers.

Here are the items I needed to make the cabinet doors & drawer fronts.

  1. Miter Saw – If you don’t have one or you can’t borrow one then I highly suggest buying one for this project.  I borrowed our neighbors but I had to bug him for about 3 days to get all the wood cut.  Remember the old saying, Measure Twice – Cut Once!  I am actually pretty proud of myself because I did all these cuts myself!
  2. Wood Glue – I ended up using 2 bottles.
  3. Wood Filler – You will use this to fill in any holes (if you are changing hardware handles like I did) or if there are any nicks or scratches in the wood.
  4. – Make sure it’s paintable caulk.  Some caulk cannot be painted.

Make sure to fill in and repair any damage to the doors and drawers before you start gluing down the trim.  You sand this filler once it is dried.  And it’s stainable or paintable.

Here is a couple of the doors as I was trying to figure out where to place the handles. (they aren’t drilled in yet)

As you can see here I have glued down the trim.  Once you glue down the trim you will caulk the inside edges of the trim  you glued on.  As you can see the picture on the left is when I was using the more expensive Pine Lattice Molding.   The picture on the right is when I found some (I think it was fake wood) to save some money.  I used this type on the bottom cabinet doors/drawers.  You can even see some of my measurements that I wrote on the molding.  The length of the molding goes to the bottom of the door or drawer and then the smaller piece goes on the width of the door/drawer.  In the picture on the right you can see the smaller doors that go above the refrigerator and the stove.  I also took out the long piece of wood that goes on right below the sink.  I guess it’s an access door and mine was removable.   Once I got all the wood trim glued on.  I went over all the trim and doors again in 320 Grit Sandpaper  **Unless you are perfect in your measurements you may have to use the wood filler on where the edges meet (frames).

Here are all the drawers.  We had 6 small drawers which I used the 1 1/2 inch trim and there were 2 bigger drawers.  I decided to use the 2 1/2 inch trim around these doors because I thought the smaller width trim wouldn’t be big enough.  Once you see the finished image you’ll understand why I chose this!  You can see in the image below, I plugged up the old handle holes with , I wanted to go with a single knob instead of a handle.

So now I’ve got all the doors and drawers sanded.  Had to go inside from the garage (enlisting Ken again) to help me finish sanding the sides and fronts of the cabinets themselves.  At this point I felt like I was living in the garage! lol

Once everything was sanded and wiped down with the Lint Free Cloths (I did end up wiping them down afterward with the cloth wet) just to make sure I got it all. Once that was done it was time to start priming!



If you have a laminate or formica style cabinets you will have to use an Oil Based Primer (this primer is good but very stinky!) use your Paint Mask when using this primer!  If you’re going to be painting any tiles like I did you’re going to need it!

Because my cabinets were real wood I used a Latex Based Primer ,  I used this primer for all the cabinets, doors and drawers.  I did not paint the inside of the cabinets themselves.  I left them the original stain color.  They were never painted before so I felt like if it wasn’t broken before, why fix it!

In order to paint all the cabinet doors at the same time, I bought 2 packs of these so I can paint all of the doors at the same time.  These truly did come in handy!

As you can see from the primed doors to the left, I no longer had holes for the knobs.  I needed to drill these.  I bought the Align Right Template to use to mark my new holes for the drawer and door knobs .  You have NO IDEA how handy this little tool made things for me!  As you know I did all this by myself.

I had decided when I actually got to painting the real color of the cabinets I was going to go from the top down.  So I painted the frames and sides of the upper cabinets.  As I was coming down, I painted the Ugly Green Tile!  Not sure if I even mentioned that I did that anywhere else in this post but I did.  There are only 2 colors to choose from when using this tile paint.  White or Almond.  I did end up buying both because I was going to use the white in our bathroom upstairs.   As you can see to the right, that’s the ugly green tile.  This product was only able to be purchased online also.   Make sure to read the actual instructions when mixing this Epoxy Acrylic paint,  ONLY mix what you are going to use and you must use it within 6 hours of mixing it.  I HIGHLY suggest using a Foam Paint Roller , Acrylic Paint Brush and Disposable 4 Inch Paint Pans when putting on your 2nd coat.  My first coat came out beautiful.  I waited 2 hours but like a ding bat I used the same pan, roller and brush.  This caused drips and some weird marks which had to be sanded off!  ALSO you must be in a well ventilated area.  If you don’t have windows to open, make sure to use some fans!  Also a Paint Mask is a MUST!    

The Tile paint color I used was Almond.  Now remember I am trying to cover Green Tile so the Green has bled through a little. But I think you can see the huge difference between the left and the right side.  You can see in this picture how I had already painted the top cabinet frames the A La Mocha Giani Cabinet Paint .

So that was the first coat.  It came out great!  2 hours later, like I said, I didn’t use a new brush, roller or pan. The acrylic started to dry on the roller and pan and I didn’t know it.  So my 2nd coat left drip marks which had to be sanded with 600 Grit Sandpaper   once I got all the tiles painted with 2 coats. Then I moved onto the Counter Tops!

These are the 3 phases of the same counter top!  You can see the before/after! (also, for some reason the middle pic didn’t show the green bleeding through too bad) BUT IT REALLY DOES!   The last picture here of the counter top was before I put the Top Coat on.  All of the items you need to do the counter top are all in your counter top kit from Giani including a roller and brush!

Now I have to admit, the counter top painting really had me scared shit less.  For some reason I was super scared I was going to mess it up and it wasn’t going to look good.  But as you can see it came out AWESOME!!  Once I got this little counter top (which sits by itself next the fridge) done I wanted to see what it would look like with the color paint I chose for the cabinets.  So I painted the bottom side of that cabinet.

I finished off the rest of the counter tops.  I painted all the doors and drawers.  I decided to go with a Football shaped knob and after much discussion and voting from my Facebook Friends I put the drawer knobs on horizontally and the door knobs on vertically.  Like the directions they were with the handles.

I had to put all the drawer slides and hardware back on the drawers and put them back into all the cabinets.  There was actually one of the drawer fronts that was broken that I ended up fixing with my Wood Glue!

I used the wood filler on a few spots within the cabinets too.

This was the little cabinet I had been working on and using for my testing purposes since it was off by itself!  Once I put the drawers back in!  I pretty much knew I was going to love this Face Lift!  You can see on the image below why I went with the bigger 2 1/2 inch trim around those bigger drawers!   For some reason it took me a little long to finish the bottom doors!   As you can see here they were still missing some of them!  At this point I am pretty excited I am almost done!   I had to struggle for some reason with the hinges for the doors!  I reused the old Silver ones that were on the white cabinets.



My pooch Dexter wanted to be in the shot!  There is 2 more things I am going to do!  I am going to paint the tiles White over the Almond.   There is a lot more white in the counter top the way I did it than I though there would be.  Also, I am going to Polyurethane the counter tops one more time because I just want more protection from any hot objects or water.





Let me know what you think of my project!  It was so much hard work that I would love to get your Kudos!!  Leave me a comment below, or just hit Share on any of the Social Media Links which will keep this story on your Timeline!

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