Repaint your kitchen cabinets without stripping or sanding, with hiqh-quality adhesion and great looks — for $150 or less

kitchen cabinet repainting without sanding

Disclosure: Rust-Oleum paid for my transportation, lodging and food to attend this special event in New Orleans, where I could test this new product and hear directly from their company experts. There was no promise of news coverage. Opinions are my own.

Repainting your kitchen cabinets has historically been one of the most thankless home renovation projects. I say “thankless,” because in my experience, even after cleaning, sanding (argh), priming, then repainting — the doors still get chippy and the cabinets can still look kind of chalky and blah. It’s a lot of work with iffy results. Now, though, it seems like the folks at Rustoleum have come up with a new DIY painting system — Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations — that promises at least four major benefits: (1) No stripping, sanding or priming required, (2) excellent paint adhesion, (3) high-quality looks, and (4) a price tag less than $150. With this product, the company seems to be making a major move on today’s kitchen renovation market — which, in the wake of the Great Recession, is about working with what we have — especially what we have is existing, functional cabinetry. Of course, people still want an updated look, and Rustoleum is aiming to deliver it — in this cabinet-painting kit. My prediction: This product has all the makings of a huge hit.

Last week, I was one of 10 home renovation and design bloggers invited by Rustoleum to see and experience this new product.

preparing kitchen cabinets for painting

Another benefit of Rustoleum’s new system is that everything you need comes in one kit, except for brushes and gloves. Before you start, remove and number the doors and set them up “assembly line” fashion for efficiency. If you’re going to change your cabinet pulls, this is also the time to drill new holes and fill the old.

5 steps to repaint your kitchen cabinets

Step #1  is to use their special solution to clean the cabinets. Their cleaner is formulated to remove grease and grime and to bring up the “tooth” of the wood, so that you don’t need sanding. Oh, and let me properly introduce you to Ashley Lehrmann, pictured throughout playing the role of DIY painter. She is Senior Brand Manager, Rustoleum — and this product has been her baby for the past two years.

painting kitchen cabinets use two coats

Steps #2 and #3 — Paint the kitchen cabinets using the tinted “bond coat” paint provided. Two coats, dry between according to instructions. I’ll talk more about colors in a moment. No noxious fumes (read more on the website), in fact, they tell you to close all your windows while painting to avoid dust and such from ruining the finish.

glazing kitchen cabinets

Step #4 — Optional — Add glaze, also provided. You apply the glaze… then wipe it off to get the effect you like. For example, you can only do the beaded areas for slight antiquing. The glaze helps emphasize the wood grain. But, you can leave the glaze off altogether for a solid color look.

Step #5 — Apply clear top coat (oopsy, no photo)…. and you’re done and ready to reinstall your doors. You’ll be painting both sides of the doors. And, you’re also going to paint the inside of the cabinet (no glaze, typically.) Of course: Read all the instructions on the box — and be sure to check out the Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations website, which should win an award for its presentation and thoroughness in today’s digital age. Nicely done.

Where to buy Rustoleum Cabinet Transformations


  • $79.99 for the small kit — enough to cover 100 s.f.
  • $149.99 for the large kit — for 200 s.f.

Where to buy:

  • Check the website… but retailers include big box stores like Home Depot, Lowes and Menards… and there are smaller, more localized retailers, too.


  • Good on laminate and melamine, too.
  • And yes: It will work on metal cabinets, too. Although you will get a satin finish, not a high-gloss enamel. Plus they said scuff up the metal and prime it, too. (Precautionary Pam reminds: Test for lead paint, consult with pro’s re proper safety and environmental precautions.) That said — they offered to talk to me further about other potential DIY solutions for our beloved steel cabinets. Stay tuned.

kitchen cabinets painted with rustoleum cabinet transformations

If you are super duper cost conscious, I think that you *could* do this project for less money, by using the “tried and trued” tools of sandpaper, primer and paint. But, I was convinced this $80-$150 expenditure looked well worth it, for a number of reasons:

  • Rustoleum is a company that is all about “surfaces.” From their presentation it certainly seemed that they recognized the need for a paint system that combined excellent adhesion with professional quality looks. You DON’T want your painted kitchen cabinets to chip! I guess, like a 10-year-old car, we’ll see if their reassurances hold up, but from the look of the finish in person, I’d tend to think it will.
  • In the same vein, the quality of the finish appeared to be excellent — the cabinets were beautiful. The two coats of color went on like liquid butter — there was both opacity and smooth flow. No lumps, nothing like that. I’ve spent many hours poking around kitchen stores looking at kitchen doors, and these looked like ringers to high-end painted-glazed kitchen doors to me.
  • They had me at “no sanding.”

Retro kitchen cabinet colors

So now, let’s talk colors — vintage, retro, mid-century colors. There are 35 kitchen cabinet colors in the Transformations line right now, add glaze and they offer 70 looks in all.

In terms of the solid colors offered, I thought that a few — including a yellow, some of the blues, some of the whites, and even a Brady Bunch orange — had potential for our mid century kitchens. Except for the whites, the blue above, and the avocado green, though, none of them were what I’d call “retro”. Alas.

They also had a bundle of wood tones. I believe we were told that the Kona was selling like hotcakes. Again, though, nothing jumped out at me a “perfect” retro woodtone. In fact, I thought lots of the colors had a strange orange cast. I believe Rustoleum when they said they had consulted with professional color marketers and forecasters. I admit, I am out of touch with what’s popular “today” — I need to get me to a kitchen store to prowl around. To be sure, Rustoleum is aiming for the heart and soul of the mainstream, and that ain’t us, I guess… although, I certainly see “Retro” as an revival trend right now. Ummm, they had Greige, of course.

Yes, alas, no aquamarine, and wouldn’t it be fabulous to have, say, Mamie pink, sunbeam yellow, maybe a Ming green.  The good news, though, is that the paint in the kit is tinted at the store when you buy it. So, it’s not an impossible thought that new color formulations could be developed — and they certainly know that Retro Renovation wants retro colors. I’ll keep in touch with Rustoleum about it… Meanwhile, if you are really hot to trot to freshen your cabinets, I’d for sure to out at look at the options available with this system.

On the use of glazes for mid century kitchen cabinets: Yes, I have seen marketing materials that indicated glazes were used on wood cabinets back in the day:

For example, these 1959 Fashionwood cabinets, above. Okay, maybe this is not “glaze over paint” — this may be a stain — but I think you can get the same basic look with the Rustoleum Transformations. The “avocado” color I mentioned before is achieved with a glaze.

As a reference for midcentury woodtones, here is another post I did about wood stain colors for television cabinetry from 1956.

kitchen cabinet colors recommended in 1953And, here is another reference post — color combinations for wood kitchen cabinets from 1953. Of course, we have a gazillion more images all over the site and in the Galleries that show vintage kitchens with their original finishes.

More stories about mid century paint colors and kitchen cabinets

Point is, I have a number of resource references for retro kitchen cabinet colors on the blog:

Many thanks to the team from Rustoleum, along with their media agency, Empower MediaMarketing, for the excellent preview event. Tomorrow: Photos of some of the fun.

    1. Pam Kueber says:

      Hi Katie, golly, this story is from so long ago, I am not sure what the paint color being tested was.

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