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Painting Inside of Cabinets: Should You Do It?

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Matt is a professional painter who owns and operates his own painting business, specializing in interior and exterior house painting.


Painting Cabinet Interiors: Good, or Bad Idea?

Most people who paint their kitchen cabinets paint only the doors and the exterior portion of the frames, but what about the shelves, drawers and interior? This is a topic that doesn't get a lot of discussion, but it's one that some homeowners and DIYers want advice on, and it's worth knowing the pros and cons before you paint the inside of your cabinets.

I paint cabinets almost exclusively for a living and I rarely have customers requesting the interior be painted too. Typically, the only time I paint the inside of cabinets is when it's visible through glass doors.

The main reason most people skip painting the inside is the additional work and expense involved and for the simple fact that the interior is only visible when the doors are opened, but still, some people don't want two different colors on their cabinets.

In this article, I cover the pros and cons of painting the inside of kitchen cabinets.


Things to Consider Before Painting Inside Kitchen Cabinets

In my opinion, going through the trouble of painting the interior of cabinets and drawers really isn't worth it, especially when you consider the inside portion is only visible when the doors are opened, or through glass, which in that case, I do recommend painting what's visible from the outside.

But if you want to go the extra mile and paint every square inch of your cabinets, here's some negatives to consider before you start painting:

  • It's double the work. Painting the inside takes a lot longer than only painting the outside. The exterior is easier too because you only have to paint the narrow frames and a few side panels, but on the inside, you have to completely paint all sides and corners of the cabinet boxes, shelves and drawers. If you're using only a brush and roller, you're going to spend a lot of time painting multiple coats. Don't forget about the additional cleaning and sanding involved. All of this will extend the project by a couple days or more.
  • It's more messy for spraying. This is a non-issue if you're brushing and rolling, but worth noting if you're using a sprayer. One of the reasons I don't paint the inside of cabinets, unless the doors are glass, is because spraying in enclosed spaces, even with a small sprayer, causes blow-back from dust and over-spray. It is also more challenging to spray paint enclosed spaces without getting paint runs.
  • The paint wears faster. This is probably the single most important reason not to paint the inside. Constant friction from plates and other objects will cause painted shelves to wear faster. If you paint the shelves and drawer interiors, I highly recommend using liners to protect the paint. I would also use semi-gloss so the surface is smoother and more resistant to scuff marks.
  • It costs more. Painting the inside of kitchen cabinets could consume one gallon each of primer and paint, depending on the application method and the size of your kitchen. Spraying consumes more material than brushing and rolling too. If you're using premium paint, which you should, you're going to spend roughly $100 to $200 extra to paint the inside of your cabinetry. Don't forget to factor in extra caulk, sandpaper and other materials needed for surface preparation.

If you don't mind the additional work and costs involved, there are certainly reasons you might consider painting the inside.

  • The doors are glass. Cabinet interiors that are visible through door glass should always be painted the same color as the outside otherwise the two-tone effect looks weird, especially if the inside is illuminated. Door glass is usually secured with plastic tabs and screws that detach easily with a drill. Sometimes glass is permanently attached to the door and cannot be removed, but you can easily cover the glass with masking paper if you're using a sprayer to paint the doors.
  • It makes the masking easier. If you're spray painting cabinets, masking is a major part of paint preparation, but if you're painting the interior too, you won't have to mask off the cabinet door openings. However, you still have to factor in the additional time it will take to paint the inside anyway.
  • To fix a bad paint job. Maybe the inside was already painted before, but the shelving paint is in bad condition. You can restore the shelves by scraping, sanding the surface and repainting.
  • It really bothers you. Some people just can't sleep at night knowing the inside of their cabinetry is the original color. Painting the interior and exterior the same color does make the cabinets look more like they were store bought that way.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Matt G.