Hire a Pro Advice: Paint Kitchen Cabinets

Get help finding a contractor to paint kitchen cabinets and advice about what should be included in a contract between a contractor and homeowner.

By Gene and Katie Hamilton

It may not be easy to locate a painting contractor willing to paint your kitchen cabinets. Some will do the work when it's part of a larger project since it is so labor intensive and requires numerous trips. Most likely they'll want to spray the cabinets, not hand brush them. Kitchen remodeling contractors may be a good source for a referral because they usually turn to a refinishing specialist equipped for mobile spraying.

Here's general advice about hiring a painter. It's a good idea to get a couple of estimates from reputable painting contractors because if nothing else, you will find out what they recommend, in terms of preparation, type of paint and number of coats. You'll also get a pretty good idea of the number of manhours the painter's crew will require. From that you can judge how much time you will need to spend and compare that against the money saved.

A friend or neighbor can be a good source for referral of a painter. "Painting Contractors" are listed in the Yellow Pages and many paint dealers recommend paint contractors who are their regular customers. You can use an online contractor referral service or type "Painter in (your city)" in a search engine like Bing, Google or Yahoo. Make sure the contractor has a certificate of insurance and workers' compensation insurance, if he has employees.

Generally, the contractor will come to your house for an assessment of its conditions, before quoting a price in a written proposal or contract.

Here are the basic points that should be included in a written contract for painting cabinets with a painting contractor:

  • Specific number of cabinets to be painted
  • Total cost
  • Payment schedule
  • Start and completion dates
  • Paint and primer brands with grade, colors, gloss and base; how they'll be applied; and the number of coats
  • Type of caulk to be used and the extent of caulking to be done
  • Specific preparation and repair work to be completed
  • How the site will be protected from spills, splatters and over spray and who is responsible for removing them
  • Who is responsible for moving furniture and cleaning up

If the price seems reasonable and you are unsure about the painter's reputation, ask for several references and make follow-up calls to determine if the homeowners are happy with the contractor's work. These should be referrals specifically for cabinets that have been painted. To inspect a job of painted cabinets look for signs of inadequate preparation, such as peeling and flaking paint or paint splatters.

Some of today's designer kitchens feature bold and bright colors with base cabinets painted a dark color and wall cabinets a lighter or complementary shade. Others use color to define different areas in a large kitchen -- a cooking island one color and a dining space a contrasting one. Consider replacing old door and drawer pulls with new ones for a completely new look. To make the swap easy, measure the distance between the existing holes and choose new hardware that fit the same hole spacing.