Repainting the Kitchen – Should the Walls or Cabinets Be Painted First?

Repainting the kitchen can give it a fresh new look. But many people wonder whether to paint the walls or cabinets first. This decision can affect the overall result and the efficiency of the project. Both approaches have their pros and cons. Let us take a look at the advantages of painting the walls or cabinets first so that you can decide the best approach for your kitchen makeover.

The Advantages of Painting Walls Before Cabinets

When repainting your kitchen, deciding whether to paint the walls or cabinets first can be challenging. Painting the walls first offers several benefits that can make the project easier and more efficient. Check out these advantages of starting with the walls.

Easier Cleanup

Painting the walls first makes cleanup easier. If paint drips or splatters onto the cabinets, you can easily cover it up when you paint the cabinets later. This reduces the need for extensive masking and taping, saving time and effort.

Additionally, painting the walls first allows you to focus on getting a smooth finish without worrying about damaging freshly painted cabinets. This approach minimizes the risk of accidental smudges or scratches on the cabinet surfaces.

Better Coverage

Painting the walls first ensures better coverage. It allows you to paint right up to the edges and corners without worrying about getting paint on the cabinets. This results in a cleaner and more professional look.

When the walls are done, you can tape off the edges and paint the cabinets with confidence. This method helps achieve crisp lines and prevents gaps or overlaps between the wall and cabinet paint.

Flexibility with Color Choices

Starting with the walls gives you more flexibility with color choices. Once the walls are painted, you can see how the color looks in the room’s lighting. This can help you decide on the best color for the cabinets.

Seeing the wall color first can inspire you to choose a complementary or contrasting color for the cabinets. This approach ensures that both elements work well together and enhance the overall look of your kitchen.

Easier to Correct Mistakes

Painting the walls first makes it easier to correct mistakes. If you accidentally get wall paint on the cabinets, it’s not a big issue since you’ll be painting the cabinets afterward. This reduces stress and allows you to focus on achieving a perfect finish.

This order also lets you address any issues with wall paint, such as uneven coverage or drips, before moving on to the cabinets. Ensuring the walls look good first creates a solid foundation for the rest of the project.

The Advantages of Painting Cabinets Before Walls

Construction: Handyman painting cabinet trim

Painting the cabinets first also offers numerous benefits that can streamline the process. Here are some advantages of starting with the cabinets.

Protection from Drips and Splashes

Painting the cabinets first protects them from drips and splashes that may occur while painting the walls. Once the cabinets are painted, they can be easily covered with protective sheets or tape. This keeps them safe from any wall paint accidents.

This approach helps maintain the clean and fresh look of the newly painted cabinets. It reduces the risk of having to touch up cabinet paint due to wall painting mishaps.

Better Control of Cabinet Finish

Starting with the cabinets allows for better control of their finish. Cabinets often require more detailed work, such as sanding, priming, and applying multiple coats of paint. Completing this step first ensures a high-quality finish without worrying about wall paint interference.

Focusing on the cabinets first also allows you to address any imperfections or adjustments needed. This results in a professional and polished look for the cabinets.

Easier to Tape Off Cabinets

When you paint the cabinets first, it’s easier to tape off their edges and protect them while painting the walls. The clean, hard edges of cabinets provide a clear line for taping, ensuring neat and straight lines when you paint the walls.

This method helps achieve a precise separation between the cabinet and wall colors. It makes the overall paint job look more professional and well-executed.

More Efficient Workflow

Painting the cabinets first can create a more efficient workflow. Cabinets often need time to dry between coats. While waiting for them to dry, you can start preparing the walls, saving time and keeping the project moving forward.

This staggered approach maximizes productivity and helps complete the painting project faster. It ensures that you make the most of your time and resources, leading to a quicker kitchen makeover.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Which to Paint First

Deciding whether to paint your kitchen walls or cabinets first depends on several factors. Each kitchen is different, and understanding these factors can help you make the best choice for your project. Below are key points for you to consider.

  • Condition of Surfaces: Evaluate the condition of your walls and cabinets. If one needs more preparation or repair work, it might make sense to start with that surface first.
  • Drying Time: Consider the drying time for both surfaces. Cabinets often require multiple coats and longer drying times. Planning your painting schedule around these times can make the process more efficient.
  • Protection Needs: Think about which surfaces are more challenging to protect. If your cabinets are more likely to get damaged by wall paint drips, painting them first and covering them might be the better option.
  • Color Scheme: Your color scheme can influence the order. Sometimes, seeing one surface painted can help you choose the perfect color for another. Decide which color you are more confident about and start with that.
  • Workflow: Consider your overall workflow. Painting one surface while waiting for the other to dry can save time. Plan your project to minimize downtime and keep the momentum going.
  • Accessibility: Assess which areas are easier to reach. Painting hard-to-reach areas first might simplify the process. If cabinets are harder to access once the walls are painted, it might be better to start with them.
  • Type of Paint: Different paints have different properties. If you are using more durable paint on the cabinets, it might be best to start with them to avoid scuffs or marks while painting the walls.

Tips for a Successful Painting Project

Man standing on step ladder painting

With the right approach, you can achieve a professional finish for the walls and cabinets of your kitchen. Below are several tips to help you succeed.

  • Plan Ahead: Before starting, gather all necessary supplies, including paint, brushes, rollers, and protective coverings. Planning helps avoid last-minute trips to the store.
  • Prep the Surfaces: Clean and sand the surfaces to ensure the paint adheres properly. Remove any grease, dirt, or old paint for a smooth finish.
  • Use Quality Paint: Invest in high-quality paint and primer. They provide better coverage and durability, resulting in a more professional look.
  • Protect Surrounding Areas: Use painter’s tape to cover edges and protect floors and countertops. This prevents accidental paint splatters and keeps your workspace tidy.
  • Work in Sections: Divide your project into manageable sections. This helps maintain focus and ensures each area is painted thoroughly.
  • Allow Proper Drying Time: Give each coat of paint sufficient time to dry. Rushing this step can lead to smudges and uneven finishes.
  • Ventilate the Area: Keep the area well-ventilated by opening windows and using fans. Proper ventilation helps the paint dry faster and reduces fumes.
  • Use the Right Tools: Choose the appropriate brushes and rollers for each surface. Using the right tools ensures even coverage and a smoother finish.
  • Test Paint Colors: Test paint colors on a small area before committing. This helps you see how the color looks in your kitchen’s lighting.
  • Stay Organized: Keep your tools and supplies organized. Clean brushes and rollers immediately after use to prolong their lifespan.


Deciding whether to paint the walls or cabinets first in your kitchen can influence the outcome of your project. Each approach has its advantages, from easier cleanup to better control of finishes.

For help with your painting project, contact Custom Painting, Inc. Call us at 925-686-0903 or fill out a Contact Form on our website.