Confronting the Kitchen, Part 1

If there was ever a single aspect of our house that induced panic and what-have-we-gotten-ourselves-into thoughts, it was the kitchen. What a huge mess.

From a distance, it wasn't too scary.

My first instinct was to rip the whole thing out and start over. Since that won't be an option for at least a couple of years, we decided to do what we could to make the DIY plywood cupboards work. So we invested in a few gallons of paint, a bunch of brushes and rollers, and every bit of our spare time for about a month.

The first step was to remove all 18 doors and drawers from the cabinets.

DIY: It's how we roll.

Undoing the custom "modifications"

While Kevin attacked the cabinets, I worked at removing all of the mismatched hardware and chintzy plastic drawer pulls from all of the pieces. Not the easiest of tasks. Some of what I encountered really left me scratching my head...

Who says white matches with everything?

What's this? The pull is screwed to the face, which is screwed to the drawer. Nice.

Once I got it all apart, I developed a serious case of the heebie-jeebies.

Needless to say, the next step of the process was to clean the 30+ years' worth of grease and grime off the wood. It's a very important step, since paint will not adhere to areas with even the tiniest bit of grease. To do this, we used TSP (trisodium phosphate) which is available in a ready-to-use spray bottle or as a mix. For large projects, I'd recommend mixing up a big pail of the stuff in hot water. (It's what we should have done. Lesson learned!)

Protective gloves are definitely required.

Lined up and ready to go!

After spraying the pieces with TSP and letting them soak for a few minutes, the softened grime (eew!) was wiped away with clean rags until the doors no longer felt sticky to the touch. We then rinsed the pieces thoroughly with warm water and stood them up outdoors to dry.

Once they were dry, we moved on to the next step in the process: sanding. Thanks to my dad, who lent us a ton of stuff for our projects, we had some pretty cool power tools on hand to make the job easier!

A lot of work, but definitely worth it.

I even got in on the power tool action!

We lightly sanded each piece, enough to remove the varnish and expose some of the wood grain. Then we wiped each one down again, this time with mineral spirits, to remove most of the dust. Any remaining bits of dust hiding in the grain was swept out using a clean, dry brush.

After the better part of a day, the washing and sanding was done and the doors were finally ready for paint. Whew!



  1. HAHA I would have totally gotten it if you titled it the way you mentioned on Twitter!

    Can't wait to see the results!

  2. As soon as I uploaded that photo, I started humming "You down with TSP?... Yeah you know meeee!" :o)

  3. Can't wait to see the finished product!!

  4. wow--what a huge task to take on--but definitely agree with you that something needed to be done. Looking forward to seeing the final product!

  5. I can't wait to see how yours turn out. We are painting our cabinets now, too. I have the bases done, but haven't really started on the doors yet. What paint are you using?

  6. Jody, the painting is actually done. (I'm so behind on blogging!) We used Cabinet Coat enamel by Insul-x. It really looks great! You'll see... one of these days.

  7. Yikes so much work! I'm sure it's going to turn out awesome and it will all be worth it.

    michelle @ blissful musings
    (sorry i don't have any of the ID's and I kinda have a google one that isn't working right now)


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