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Cabinets being painted white

Can You Paint Cabinets Without Sanding?

If you are looking for a way to revitalize your kitchen or bathroom, painting the cabinets is a great option. However, you may be wondering whether all the sanding and prep work is worth doing yourself. That’s why we have put together a list of what is needed for the various states of cabinetry finish to help you figure out whether you can paint your cabinets without sanding.

Raw Unvarnished Surface

If your cabinets are raw wood and completely unfinished, there is no need to sand them before painting. The raw surface will be even and unblemished enough to take the coat of paint and let it sink into the pores of the wood. Letting the paint saturate into the surface is how it stays fresh and new, even after years of use.

Recently Painted Surface

A surface that has been painted recently does not necessarily need to be sanded, but it might be a good idea. A cabinet that has been painted within the last year can be repainted without stripping away the previous coat first. If you are sure that it has been just a short period of time since the last paint job, the surface should be even and unblemished enough to properly hold the new coat.

However, depending on how well the first coat of paint was applied, you may want to sand it anyway. If the initial coat was not applied evenly, you could end up with areas that can chip away and become worn down with time. If you aren’t sure if the coat is new enough to paint your cabinets without sanding, it is a good idea to do it to be sure you get the best results.

Damaged or Peeling Paint

If the current paint job on your cabinets is chipped, peeling or otherwise damaged, it is absolutely necessary to sand it first. Uneven areas of the surface may not give the new coat of paint enough purchase on the raw material to hold a durable paint job. No matter how many coats you put on it, there will be areas where the new paint does not fully set and this will affect the longevity of the finish.

One of the other major reasons to sand damaged or peeling paint before adding another coat is that the final product will not be even. Any dips or divots in the surface that are there before beginning to paint will still be there after the job is done.

Varnished or Shiny Surface

If your cabinets have a varnished or shiny surface, you also must sand them down before painting them. Polyurethane varnishes seal the surface from things like oils and other moisture that may get onto them. While this is helpful for keeping your cabinets safe from water damage in the kitchen, it will keep a new coat of paint from sticking to the surface.

Knowing whether you can paint cabinets without sanding can be helpful, but a job of this magnitude requires time, a good deal of knowledge and many different sandpaper grits and tools in order to be done effectively. There’s also a good chance that you could invest all this time, money and elbow grease, only to be left with a paint job that isn’t up to your standards or looks worse than it did before.


If you want to save yourself the headache, get in touch with Five Star Painting. We are professionals who know the right steps to take no matter what state your cabinets may be in. To get input on what the best plan of action is for your cabinets, call (888) 261-3633 or request a free estimate online!