Should You Paint Before Or After Installing New Cabinets?

They don't teach you the order of home renovations and design in school. So when it comes time to upgrade your home, it's easy to question what should come first. In the chicken and egg question of installing kitchen cabinets or painting walls first, there are a handful of factors that come into play. There are a few ways to go about it, and like most answers to home questions, there is no one concrete correct solution. 

Experts usually recommend that if you're painting an existing cabinet layout, this should be your top priority before you start rolling a new hue onto your walls. Painting your walls should come first if you're fully implementing a fresh array of cabinets in your kitchen, but there are some situations and exceptions to every rule. In the end, it comes down to whether you're painting your current cabinets or installing a brand-new set and what parts of your kitchen you're painting. 

The case for painting cabinets first

The argument for bringing cabinets in first largely has to do with the final look. With something as all-encompassing as cabinets, it can be hard to tell how their finish or shade will look with your paint color of choice until they're actually painted themselves. You may find that white cupboards look way too stark against the color you had picked out or that the shade of wood you selected somewhat clashes with your paint selection.

It's also much easier to paint cabinets ahead of installing them and if paint gets on the walls, it'll soon be covered up with new paint, cabinetry, or a backsplash. This also doesn't put the finish of a new paint job in jeopardy. When new cabinets are brought in, there is a chance they can scrape or hit the walls during the process. This can damage and scratch up paint and it's better to cut this risk out entirely. This holds up for nearly any situation when you're bringing in new units. If you're considering painting what's already in place, this is where exceptions come into play — it's not always wise to start with the cabinets in these instances.

When to paint walls first

Logically speaking, painting the walls of a kitchen when cabinets and appliances aren't yet there seems like a smart move. It means fewer obstacles to maneuver around, no large, bulky structures getting in the way, and less of a chance you'll get paint on brand anywhere it shouldn't be. If you're moving into a new home and paint or cabinets aren't present yet, it can be good to paint the walls first. To avoid leaving any bare patches on the walls, it's better to paint prior to installation. This way the entire room gets an even coat and you won't be left scrambling to find your old paint swatch if you switch your kitchen configuration or move things around down the road and rediscover that splotch of unpainted drywall. 

Another exception to the rule is painting ceilings, which is technically a wall in your kitchen. Ideally, you'll want to have this surface finished prior to installing cabinetry to minimize the chances of droplets ruining the finish of your new set of cupboards. If you can't quite decide what's best, a good rule of thumb is to simply speak with the experts and contractors you're working with. Every person and kitchen is different and they'll help guide you to the right first step that fits your specific situation.