Kitchen Painting: Walls or Cabinets First?

Sometimes the order in which you should paint surfaces is pretty clear, but other times the best path isn’t quite as well-marked.

As an example, let’s say you’re repainting your kitchen (always fun!). Should you paint your cabinets or your walls first? Well, it really depends on a number of factors, mostly hinging on whether you’re painting or replacing cabinets. Let’s break down the scenarios below, including our recommendation for each.

One thing is certain in any case: if you are painting the ceiling, do that before installing new cabinets or before repainting old cabinets. This way you don’t run the unnecessary risk of getting paint on the new surfaces.

Paint Before Installing New Cabinets?


If you are installing new kitchen cabinets, this is your perfect opportunity to make sure the surface is prepped and in good shape before the new cabinets are installed: repair damaged drywall, and prime all of it (even if it’s behind your cabinets). Bare drywall can absorb moisture and odors, but high-quality primer will lock all of that out.

So, if you’re installing new cabinets, most professional house painters would prefer to do their work after the cabinets are installed. This is because the cabinet installation generally involves some bumping and scraping, and the new kitchen paint is likely to be messed up in the process if it is applied first.

Some painting contractors, however, like to paint before the kitchen cabinets go in, as this eliminates the work of masking off all the cabinets and painting around them. The painter just needs to be willing to come in and do some touchups after the installation if this is the case.

If you are doing the painting yourself, we would generally recommend priming and painting first, then have the cabinets installed, then do any necessary touchup.

Paint Kitchen Cabinets or Kitchen Walls First?

painting kitchen cabinets

Let’s take a closer look at the second scenario: you’re painting your existing cabinets, NOT replacing them.

In this case, most people suggest painting the walls after the cabinets are done. This is because you want to see the finished look of the painted cabinets before you finalize your choices for wall paints. Once all those cabinets are gleaming in their new-found glory, you don’t want to realize that you chosen the wrong color for your walls!

Kitchen and Cabinet Painting in NY and CT

If you are interested in painting your kitchen cabinets yourself, we have a separate article with advice for that process. If you are considering hiring a professional house painter to paint your kitchen walls or cabinets, we would love to talk to you about it. A.G. Williams Painting Company is a historic painting company with an unsurpassed reputation in New York and Connecticut, serving Westchester and Fairfield counties since 1906.