Migrating from knotty alder to grey kitchen cabinets is a budget-friendly way to give an outdated kitchen a modern look. Whether you do it yourself or hire it out, it is a job that requires a bit of research, motivation, and attention to detail. It took me three years to pull the trigger on this 90’s -very- knotty kitchen. But now that it’s done, I am thrilled with the results and glad I took the time to think it through.
This post has been a long time coming. I have been wanting to paint my knotty alder kitchen cabinets for a few years now. I can’t believe it finally happened!! If you follow me on Facebook, you may know the many times I asked for advice on this kitchen. Guys, I’m decent at building stuff, but when it comes to design, I STRUGGLE! Making a decision on color was agonizing.
From Knotty Alder to Sleek Grey Kitchen Cabinets
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Our house was built in the late 1990’s. After living in it for about 13 years, we did a few updates to the kitchen. We removed the dropped recessed light (remember those?), raising the ceiling enough to add new pendant lights. We put in granite countertops and a modern mosaic backsplash.
After it was all finished, I knew painting the cabinets would be what pulled the look of this kitchen together.
The decision to paint was made clearer after we got our new hardwood floors. I absolutely love my hardwoods. But, the rustic floor against the knotty alder, combined with surrounding modern elements created a kitchen with an identity crisis. And that yellow color of the cabinets stood out more than ever against the floors. Lack of time, money, and motivation led us to putting off this job for a few years.
Deciding to Hire or DIY?
Fast forward to this year, my hubby gave me the green light to paint the cabinets. Yay! Having summers off, meant I had a chunk of time to tackle the job myself. Having a DIY blog, also meant I would likely be able to get sponsors to donate paint for the job.
But, as you can see, my kitchen has a LOT of cabinets, with a lot of knots.
Even though I have successfully filled the knots in my bathroom cabinets, which are the same as in my kitchen, filling that many would have taken me months to do on my own. I’m certain I would have been very cranky spending my entire summer doing a DIY job I didn’t particularly enjoy.
Here’s a funny story that helped me decide to hire out the job. In the process of building our house, Duane and I asked our builder if we could do some of the tile work as sweat equity in our new home so we could save some money. Our builder looked at us and ….(true story guys)….recommended we get a second job delivering pizzas for a month or two, to earn enough to pay for the professionals to do it.
A little cruel, I thought, but I saw the wisdom in it. Considering my skill level, patience, and keeping home re-sale in mind (we no longer need 6 bedrooms), hiring out was the right thing to do at this stage in our lives.
We opted to hire a high-rated local company, who did a fantastic job. If you live in Utah, scroll to the bottom of this post for an honest review, along with a few after-the-fact pointers.
Getting rid of the dark knotty alder would require light and bright color. After much deliberation, I narrowed it down to a few grey and white shades (6 to be exact). To make sure I could see the colors well, I purchased quart samples and painted 8×11 sheets of card stock and put them up on the cabinets for a day or two. That allowed me to see the colors at different times of the day.
Grey was a major contender, as you can see. I also wanted a true grey, with no blue undertones.
Was getting 6 samples overkill? Maybe. But it’s the KITCHEN, you guys! I didn’t want to mess it up. I was happy to spend $50 on samples than risk getting the wrong color.
Now. Drum Roll!!!!!!!!
The color I chose (after much back-and-forth, sleepless nights, and many opinions from my family and Facebook followers) was Repose Gray by Sherwin Williams. A very light gray with no blue undertones for the entire kitchen.
I considered painting the island a different color, but then changed my mind.
The picture below is the best representation of the actual grey color. I also love how the grey kitchen cabinets make the floating shelves stand out.
All in all, I love the way they turned out. I’m no designer, but I dare say the mix of modern and rustic is a little better distributed now.
My favorite part is how smooth and soft to the touch they feel. Every time I walk by I have to run my hand over them. They also wipe clean very easily.
I kept the same pull knobs , and I think they look even better now. Probably because they don’t have to compete with the knots.
Even though I didn’t do the job myself, I still feel like I saved plenty of cash by choosing to paint rather than demo and replace.
Drabs 2 Fabs Review
Disclaimer: I received a 10% discount in exchange for this post. All opinions are my own.
Contracting out is a little scary, even with a reputable company such as Drabs 2 Fabs. After checking their website and Facebook page, I was impressed with their work and testimonials. It was easy and convenient to email pictures and receive my bid, all by email. Absolutely everyone I came in contact with was professional and super nice.
As with a lot of contracting jobs, the work took longer than expected. Their website outlines the day-by-day process. which is helpful.
When I first scheduled the work, the date choices I was given were all Mondays, giving the impression it would be a 5-day job. When the day came, the manager in charge informed me the job would take at least 7-10 days. So, keep this in mind if you contract them. Plan on two weeks.
Here is how it went for me:
One day prior to the job: We boxed our entire kitchen and put everything in the front office. We also moved the refrigerator into our family room for easy access. We had a little console table in the family room with a toaster, bread, and peanut butter. I also went to the store and bought a lot of pre-made salads and meals I could store in the fridge and throw together quickly. We have a spare microwave, which helped.
Days 1-3: Removal of doors and hinges. The crew taped and covered floors with paper. Doors were numbered and taken to the shop where another crew worked on them.
Day 3: The painter told me I had to remove the vent hood. What?
PS. The crew does not touch anything that has to be moved. Understandable, but since Duane was gone on a business trip that week (smart guy) I had to recruit man power to help me figure out how to remove the thing. Late afternoon… finally……… the first coat of primer went on.
Day 4: Covering knots. Dang knots. So many of them. And the doors weren’t even there! After inquiring, I realized the job was going to take quite a bit longer than I expected, so I changed my mind and went from a two-tone kitchen to a one-tone. That saved one day of work. I wasn’t sure about the color I’d chosen for the island anyway (shocker..), so this turned out to be a good decision. Second coat of primer went on.
Day 5: Sanding and first coat of paint. Strong smell throughout the house.
Day 6: Second coat of paint. Strong paint smell, again. Very strong for a couple of hours, then dissipated. We slept with the back door and windows open.
Did I mention you should do this job in the spring or summer? I’m glad I did.
Day 7: Top coat (lacker) was sprayed. Super strong smell. Again, we slept with the back door and windows open.
Days 8-10: Cabinet doors were delivered and installed in shifts. Some had to be re-done because they hadn’t turned out well. Most were delivered on day 8, though. The crew did a pretty good job cleaning up paint dust. Even then, floors and inside of cabinets had a layer of dust I had to wipe off.
Check out the quick Facebook LIVE updates I did of the process.
What would you do? Hire or DIY?
If hiring a professional is outside of your budget, let me tell you that there are some amazing DIY kitchens out there, friends.
So, whatever you decide, be sure and do your research. Don’t fall for techniques that seem too easy or fast tracked. Painting cabinets is a BIG job and taking short cuts may lead to mediocre results.
So, if you think you have the skills, go for it! If not, you may choose to follow my home builder’s advice 🙂
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What are your experiences with painting cabinets? Do you have any helpful tips? Share them in the comment section for myself and others considering the job. Let’s help each other!
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Janice Thomas writes detailed tutorials for novice woodworkers and DIYers. She also works as a university professor in the health care industry. Have a question for Janice? Feel free to send her a message here!