Your kitchen may feel like a cave because the cabinets have made it look darker than it is. However, you can brighten up this space without having to spend a small fortune on new cabinets. If your cabinets’ frames and doors are solid, you can transform them with a good cleaning and a fresh coat of paint.

At first glance, painting kitchen cabinets may seem like a very easy task. However, getting the prep work right is key to achieving the perfect glassy finish. Be sure to spend some time getting the wood’s surface ready to accept paint, including cleaning, sanding, and priming.

Believe it or not, cleaning the cabinets is the most important step. Cooking splatters, dirty fingertips all leave a layer of grime that can prevent paint from sticking properly. Use TSP substitute (a cleaner from DAP or Savogran) as a degreaser to remove the mess. You may need to repeat the process to remove all traces of grime. Next, follow it with 100-grit sandpaper to rough up the surface and help the paint stick.

Don’t underestimate the power of primer to make your job look great. Use a “high build” sandable primer to fill the wood and to even out the surface. You’ll want it to be sandable so you can smooth the surface before applying paint. Keep in mind that you may need two coats to do the job.

The formula of finish for your paint is important, and it contributes to the smooth look of your completed project. Typically, people use oil-based paints since kitchens are high-traffic areas. However, these paints emit toxic fumes and can be quite messy. These days, latex formulas are getting close to the self-leveling and flow of oil-based paints. Be sure to purchase latex formulas made specifically for cabinetry. These will be labeled “100% acrylic” and will give an even and lasting finish. Often they are low in volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which give off that terrible and toxic smell.

These tips can ensure you have the perfect kitchen upon finishing your cabinet project. While you’re at it, why not change the hardware, too, for a beautiful new look?