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Do You Paint Cabinets or Walls First? (Guide)

Do You Paint Cabinets or Walls First

Many people wonder if the cabinets or walls should be painted first when redecorating or remodeling.

It is always important to do so in the correct order, or you risk making a mess that will be hard to fix and that you will be unhappy with.

Which method is best? 

If the cabinets are only being painted, it is best to paint them before painting the walls, as you may change your mind about the color or finish for the walls once you see what the cabinets look like. If the cabinets need remodeled or replaced, the walls should be painted first. 

Keep reading to learn more about when to paint the cabinets before the walls and vice versa. 

Painting Cabinets vs Walls: When to Do What 

While you will probably want to paint the cabinets first, there are a few scenarios where that is not the case.

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Consider the following information when deciding whether to paint the cabinets or the walls first: 

If the Cabinets Only Need Painted 

If you are simply planning on repainting the cabinets that are already installed in the kitchen (or bathroom), you should paint them before you paint the walls.

Painting cabinets is a bit trickier and more time consuming than painting the walls, so you will not want to paint the cabinets again. 

Once the cabinets have been painted and you know what the finished cabinets look like, you may decide that your choice of color or finish for the walls does not quite match.

Again, it is easier to select new finishes or colors for the wall than it is to repaint a set of cabinets. 

If the Cabinets Need Remodeled or Replaced 

If the cabinets are being remodeled in addition to being repainted, or if they are being replaced altogether, it often makes more sense to paint the walls first. 

The walls will need to be primed and fixed up before they can be painted, and if the cabinets are out, you also have the chance to repair and prime the drywall that normally sits behind the cabinets.

If this drywall is left without primer or in poor condition, it will absorb smells and moisture. 

Painting the walls before installing the cabinets also prevents you or the contractor from having to paint around the cabinets and cover the cabinets in tape.

You or whoever is painting the walls will simply need to touch up any potential nicks in the wall paint after the cabinets have been installed. 

If the Ceiling Needs to be Painted 

If the ceiling needs to be painted, that should always be done before anything else.

Painting the ceiling first eliminates the odds of any ceiling paint dripping onto other freshly painted surfaces.

Of course, all other surfaces should be covered with tape and plastic while the ceiling is being painted, but painting the ceiling first is the best possible precaution to take.

Tips for Painting Kitchen Walls and Cabinets 

Although some people like to hire contractors for an entire remodeling project, others prefer to do some of the work, like painting, for themselves. Painting walls and cabinets like an expert is possible for anyone with enough patience.

Here are some tips if you are interested in doing the work yourself.

Sand the Cabinets

Even if your cabinets are brand new, paint will not stick to them properly if you do not sand them.

You will not need any fancy tools for this—sandpaper works just fine. It is best to use sandpaper that is 150 to 200 grit.

Once the cabinets have been sanded so they are no longer glossy, the new coat of paint should stick to them.  

Clean Before Painting 

It is important to clean both the cabinets and the walls before putting any paint on them.

After the cabinets have been sanded, they will certainly be covered in debris that you will not want to trap in a coat of paint.

In fact, any dirt or other materials that are still on your cabinets or walls when you paint them will make the surfaces look gritty and unfinished, which can only be fixed by starting over. 

Cover Nearby Surfaces

While you will want to remove as many objects as you possibly can from the area where you will be painting, some things are easier to cover than completely remove, like countertops or—obviously—the floor.

Many stores like Home Depot or Lowe’s carry plastic sheets that will protect large appliances and canvas cloth that will protect your floors. 

If your floors are not finished yet, you will not need to worry about protecting them, as any spilled paint will be covered up later. 


Although remodeling can sometimes seem like it has no clear set of steps, it is important to do everything in the correct order so that nothing gets ruined or turned into extra work later on. 

If you have hired a contractor to paint the cabinets and the walls, they will probably paint the cabinets before the walls, and they should be able to cite the same reasons as this article if they truly know what they are doing. 

However, keep in mind that it is often better to paint the walls before the cabinets are put back up if they need to be removed, and if the ceiling needs to be painted, that should always be done before anything else gets painted.