Kitchen Makeover In 31 Days: All About That Prep

Day 9 of my kitchen makeover in 31 days is brought to you by a bottle of ammonia, an orbital sander, and a whole lot of elbow grease. Today is all about that prep.

The largest task I have looming on my kitchen makeover in 31 days task list to finish painting my cabinets. Day 9 is all about the prep before the painting begins.

You might be under the impression that one day back in December 2016, I just woke up with a wild hair and decided to paint my kitchen cabinets.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, I started contemplating the idea four years ago.

I have watched at least four videos and read countless blog posts on this subject.

As a result of all my research, I probably have at least an associate’s degree in cabinet painting. No one can accuse this girl of not doing her homework.

There’s just one little thing that has kept me from pulling the trigger on this job for so long.


Yep! The idea of painting a kitchen full of cabinets terrified me.

Every time I would think about tackling this job I could conjure up 99 ways it could go sideways on me.

I had almost abandoned the idea completely until one day I had the opportunity to talk with someone who had over 13 years experience.

I asked this someone; “how do you get over the fear of painting your kitchen cabinets for the first time”?  Her response was the following: “Lisa, you’ve painted many pieces of furniture, cabinets are just big pieces of furniture.” ~ Jennifer Allwood


Gah! I have no idea why I had never looked at it like that. She’s absolutely right.

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All About That Prep

Now that we’ve punched cabinet painting fear in the face, we need to talk about the prep.

I am a prep work advocate. I want you to turn all that no prep furniture and cabinet paint noise off right now because it’s just a myth.

As you can tell, I have pretty strong feelings on this subject because the proper prep steps can make or break a paint project. Period.

I plan on writing a detailed post later this month which will include all the steps and products I am using.

Last week was all about before and after photos and lots of words about budget and design plan, but this week it’s time to get down to business.

We removed the doors back in December, and they’ve been hanging out in the garage ever since.

The first thing I did was dust them all off.

I was planning on cleaning everything with TSP (tri-sodium-phosphate) until I read my friend Kim’s cabinet painting tutorial (link at the bottom) Kim used ammonia because it evaporates immediately, leaving behind zero residues, unlike other cleaners.

Caution- Ammonia is pungent!  Don’t even try to do this inside your home with fans or even with the windows open. It’s that strong.

It worked like a champ, and it’s very inexpensive. #winning

I did half of the doors yesterday and finished up today.

Sanding or Liquid Deglosser?

I decided to go binge on Miss Mustard Seed’s cabinet painting posts yesterday afternoon, and I found myself at a fork in the road.

To sand or use liquid deglosser, that was the question.

Liquid deglosser is not my favorite product in the world. It’s actually done me dirty the few times I’ve used it for furniture. I used it on my cabinet bases but let me tell you why I decided not to use it on the doors and drawers.

It sometimes leaves a visible residue underneath the paint, especially light or white paint.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized it didn’t make sense to spend all that time cleaning and then add another chemical to the surface.

So I made a last minute game time decision.

I chose to sand. 14 doors and three drawers took a total of 6 hours to clean and sand.

Everything is nice and smooth and ready for paint now, ahead of schedule!

It's day 9 of my kitchen makeover in 31 days series and I'm all about that prep with cleaning and sanding all my cabinet doors and drawers.

I hope you weren’t disappointed by the lack of pretty photos and flowery words, but don’t worry, I’ve got a little something to share with you tomorrow that falls under that category.


Here’s the links to the tutorials I mentioned above, as well as my post on furniture prep.

Farmhouse Made- Painting Kitchen Cabinets For Beautiful Results

Miss Mustard Seed Painting Cabinets-Prep

How To Prep Furniture Before Painting


Until tomorrow,

your sister in paint,









  1. Barbara H. says:

    I appreciate your doing all this research for me. 🙂 I think my biggest fear with painting cabinets is that it’s such a big job, and what if I get it all doe and then don’t like it. But I guess you can probably tell before you get done if it’s not working. My d-i-l painted her cabinets and saw after a little bit that the color wasn’t working – it was a lovely color, but just didn’t fit with the countertops and back-splashes they had, and changing all that wasn’t in the budget, so they had to regroup.

    • Lisa says:

      Barbara, I am so glad you have found the information I have presented to be useful. My #1 goal as a writer, is to inspire and inform you. My backsplash is the one area I really haven’t discussed yet. I am contemplating just painting it since it’s not in my budget to change out right now. Thank you so much for joining me here and I hope you will come back often.


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