How to Restore or Upgrade Your Metal Kitchen Cabinets at Home

The cabinets are basically the face of your kitchen, and remodeling-wise, they can take up around 29 to 30% of your total budget especially if you're dismantling and building them anew. The most commonly used materials for their construction include wood and MDF. But if you really want to go the extra mile, then think about metal kitchen cabinets.

Yes, kitchen cabinets can be made out of metal. In fact, all the good, sturdy vintage ones were actually crafted out of this material, although the trend fettered away. It's a great, timeless material to design stylish vintage kitchens, but if you've already got some that have stood the tests of time, then this guide is for you. Below, we'll be looking at all the different ways you can restore and upgrade your metal kitchen cabinets at home.


In this guide you will learn: 

Learn how to paint metal kitchen cabinets.
Best paints to use when upgrading metal kitchen cabinets.
Finding your metal cabinet kitchen inspirations and ideas
Ways to clean painted metal cabinets.
Without further ado, here are some basic things that you need to know before tackling your metal kitchens.


Learn how to paint metal kitchen cabinets



Installing brand new cabinets in your kitchen can be a total budget-buster, and if you can't afford that, then you can simply repaint your old metal ones. It's a simple solution, and you'll still be able to get the best results. All you need to do in order to refurbish them is give them a fresh coat of paint an easy, relatively effortless, and money saving solution! 

However, that's not to say that the actual process of repainting your metal cabinets is not going to be a harrowing task. In fact, it's a labor intensive project that requires you to do extensive physical work.

The process starts with inspection. You take a look at what you've got is there any denting or rusting? Because you'll need to proceed differently if that's the case. Once you determine that your cabinets are in good shape, it's time to take the doors and hardware off. Another important thing to consider is that if your cabinets are more than 30 years old, then you need to wear a mask, as the previously used paint may have been lead-based. 


Ways to clean painted metal cabinets



After you've taken down all the doors and hardware, it's time to commence with the cleaning. You need to smoothen down the surface of your metal cabinets before you actually paint them, and the best way to do that is by thoroughly cleaning them with a mixture of soap and water. You can also clean them with an industrial cleaner, as you want to remove grease stains and other particles from the metal surface.

Be very detailed about it, and once everything has been dried, you can wipe away any bits of loose paint with either a brush or a soft cloth. You can also sand the metal surface with a 100 or 120-grit sandpaper to make it even, so that paint sticks to it smoothly. Don't do the last step if you suspect that the paint is lead-based. It's best to scape it off in that case because this method won't create lead dust!

Once your metal kitchen cabinets have been cleaned and dried, it's time to start the actual process of painting. But before you break out your paint tin, it's important that you prime the surface. A good primer will help adhere the paint to the surface in an even, smooth tone. Primers can be easily found in home improvement stores, and you can even opt for a spray one to reach all those pesky corners that can be hard to reach otherwise. You should always pick a direct-to-metal primer instead of a bonding one, as the latter won't stick to stainless steel.

Note that you need to wait at least 24 hours after applying the primer before you start painting the cabinets. You should also cover all trimmings, countertops, and adjoining areas with tape to avoid messing them up during the whole process.


Best paints to use when upgrading metal kitchen cabinets



When your metal kitchen cabinets have been cleaned and primed, it's finally time to paint them. As far as paint selection is concerned, you should definitely opt for oil-based options. That's because the chemistry of this particular paint is specifically suited for metal surfaces. If you pick latex paints, they'll just start peeling off after a while. With oil-based paints, the actual painting process might take a big longer, but they're certainly easier to maintain in the long run. They are also affordable and remain chip-free for longer periods of time.

When it comes to selecting the finish for your metal cabinets, gloss, high gloss, and semi-gloss work best. A matte finish is not recommended because it can be hard to clean.

You should apply the oil-based paint with a natural-bristle brush. The movements should be slow and precise. In case of any dips and imperfections that occur during the process, you should gently sand the area with a 220 grit sandpaper in gentle circular motions. When it becomes even, wipe it down with a damp cloth to clean away all the grit. Afterwards, apply the second coat of paint and let dry, which would take around another 24 hours. Once done, replace the hardware, attach the doors, and enjoy the fresh new aesthetic!


Finding your Metal Kitchen Cabinets inspirations and ideas 



Metal cabinets have a very specific vibe, but that doesn't mean that they can't be molded to suit the kind of interior design theme that you want. In fact, here's a look at all the different aesthetics and interior styles that you can achieve with these cabinets:


Vintage Metal Kitchen Cabinets
Here's some great vintage metal kitchen cabinet inspiration to fill up your idea books:



If you don't want to experiment too much with your metal cabinets, then this is the perfect inspiration for you. The light yellow finish is reminiscent of the vintage kitchens that you see in 50s movie set replicas. Coupled with the matt tile backsplash, stainless steel hardware and accessorizing along with the contemporary furniture accompaniment, the whole setup looks pretty iconic.

The gentle curves and floral additions to this kitchen boast peak 60s Hippie Movement inspiration. The pink color scheme makes the metal cabinets feel super retro and the hardware only enforces the look. The glossy sheen of the paint highlights the metal build of the cabinetry further, and the upper half has been beautifully updated to provide all the feasibility that come with a contemporary kitchen.

This vintage kitchen interior design is one of the most interesting aesthetics with retro style furniture. Its purple and white color scheme is quite on-point, and the overall look feels like a 60s kitchen given a contemporary twist. The subtle ode to old-world America feels very iconic. The metal cabinets have been tweaked and revamped to accommodate modern innovations, which is why the entire kitchen feels like it'd befit every contemporary sensibility out there. 


Modern Ideas



Here's a list of some great modern ideas that you can use to revamp a kitchen with metal cabinets: 

This peacock colored metal kitchen is one of the most beautiful modern examples that you'll come across in the metal kitchen cabinet genre. The blue-green-teal painted cabinets look really stunning in contrast with the wooden floors and white hued upper half. If you're striving to design a fun, grounded modern kitchen that is just as vibrant as it is sophisticated, then this is definitely the perfect inspiration for you.

This modern-retro kitchen aesthetic takes its inspiration from 50s Americana and its classic suburban interiors. However, it's articulated with a contemporary flair. The ice-blue color scheme is easy on the eyes. It makes the metal cabinets feel modish and fashionable. The sleek wooden floor with its herringbone pattern adds textural contrast to the whole ambiance while the black backdrop caps everything off with charisma.

The metal kitchen cabinets featured in this image are the epitome of eclectic urban sophistication. The use of slate grey colors is complemented with bright vivid yellows. This paint combination gives the whole design a sleek modern edge while imbuing it with a fun vibe. The combination of glossy and matt finishes really pairs well and you'll love how the whole space feels super welcoming and contemporary. This color combo is perfect for kitchens that want to retain an upscale aura without compromising all the fun!

You can evoke a lovely everyday casual-chic vibe in kitchens with metal cabinets by painting them in chic hues. Parisian grey and blue never fail to weave a sophisticated charm, and if you can replace the hardware of your cabinets to complement the modern vibe of these colors, then that'd be absolutely great. Pair them with light floors, backsplash, and wall finishes to get the right look. Such a kitchen aesthetic looks even better with bright natural and artificial light with a mid-century modern lighting piece in the mix.

If you want your metal kitchen cabinets to exude a classy but vibrant aura, then choose a paint color that speaks that tone. Teal is a great choice, as it is dull but bright at the same time. It's a really uncanny ethos to have in a single hue, but it definitely works. You can paint your cabinets in a glossy teal finish and complement it with dull flooring and backsplash. This will create a fabulous visual contrast that will set your kitchens apart while giving them a modern flair. Introduce the Bertoia Bar Stool into the space for added perfection.

If you want to curate an ambiance of understated elegance in a kitchen with metal cabinets, then it's best to paint them with a light, subtle, and sophisticated hue that borders on austere. Soft dove grey and ice blue are good options. You can complement them with a seamless floor finish, bold countertops, and stone backsplash. The striking contrast of all three finishes will give you a beautiful ambiance that pulls together wonderfully.


Rustic Metal Kitchen Cabinets 



It can be challenging to get a rustic look with metal cabinets as they feature smooth, seamless, shiny, and glossy surfaces. However, with a little thinking out of the box, it can certainly be done. Here are some great inspirations:

One of the best ways to bring in a rustic vibe to kitchens with metal cabinets is by emphasizing all the surrounding texture. If the cabinets showcase their stark metal finish, then you can neutralize them with a bold mosaic backsplash and a terrazzo style floor finish. The goal is to create a lot of visual clutter in the surroundings so that the glossy look of the cabinets gets to stand out within the ambiance. 

Natural stone surfaces are also an excellent way to add a rustic touch to metal kitchen cabinets. However, since these surfaces are rather subtle in aesthetics, it's best if you contrast them with bold metal finishes. The original stainless steel look of metal cabinets is a great way to complement stone surfaces with lots of elegance and flair. You can pair them with a nice white backsplash and a stark floor finish. 

A great way to add a rustic appeal to metal kitchen cabinets is by surroundin them with rough-hewn materials. For example, if the original metal sheen of the cabinets is maintained fully, then you can choose a wooden or butcher's block countertop to contrast it. Similarly, the backsplash can be of exposed brick and the floor can be either beautifully patterned or also be made of sleek wood entirely. The idea is to fully contrast the metal sheen of the cabinets with rustic textures.

A good cleaving of your kitchen cabinet aesthetics is perfect for getting a rustic look with metal cabinets. What you can do is, select the bottom half of your overall cabinet materials to be made of metal, and the upper half to be made out of wood. This combination look will not only deliver a gorgeous, wholesome look, but also showcase the striking contrast of the materials. You can further cement the whole look by choosing a strategically retro floor and a carefully neutral backsplash something like white subway tile will always look pretty timeless with every material choice.


How To Upgrade Metal Kitchen Cabinets By Painting



We've already looked at the detailed process of painting metal cabinets. Now it's time to look at what tools should be at your disposal while doing the job. Let's take a look:

The best paints to use?
The paint company is always a big question mark when choosing the perfect color for your metal kitchen cabinets. So we've compiled a handy list that you can choose your pick from:



Sherwin-Williams: Aside from typical paints and stains, this company has a whole section of industrial finishes that you can pursue. You'll definitely find some handy choices here.

Farrow & Ball: This leading paint company is known for their advanced painting technology. You can opt for their full-gloss paint options to tackle your metal cabinets. Their high impact colors and 95% gloss is perfect for making your cabinets totally statement worthy.

Valspar Cabinet Enamel Semi-Gloss Latex Interior Paint: This is a latex paint that has a few properties of an oil-based paint as well. It's oil-enriched and always results in smooth, seamless paint coats. Since many oil-based paints have been discontinued because of their environmental hazards and non-green manufacturing processes, this is an excellent alternative.

Rust-Oleum Cabinet Transformations System: This is not just a paint, but an entire system. If you go for this option, then you won't have to go through the hassle of sanding and priming beforehand. It bonds to the surface and provides a really nice finish. You can even opt for a glaze afterwards.

Insl-X Cabinet Coat: This is the perfect paint choice for surfaces that suffer through adhesion problems just like metal kitchen cabinets. It has a urethane-acrylic formulation, which helps the color bond with the surface readily and perfectly. It comes in white enamel or tint bases that are easily accepted at paint stores.


Materials to prepare when painting

While the process of painting metal cabinets is extensive (and perhaps even exhaustive), your tools can certainly help make the task a bit more feasible and ergonomic. Here's a list of everything that you need to complete the process with ease:



Rust remover or steel wool: If you're revamping old metal cabinets, then you can bet that you'll encounter some manner of oxidation. You'll need a rust remover to take care of it, because without taking it off, you can't start the actual painting process. Alternately, you can also get a steel wool to rub all the crusting off.

Paint stripper: You'll need to remove the previous chipping or dirty paint in order to get a fresh, seamless coating. A paint stripper is essential to do that. Do remember to work in a well-ventilated area, as the fumes from this chemical can be harmful.

Sanding tools: If you're sanding your metal cabinets before priming them for a fresh coat of paint, then you need the right tools. An electric sander is always a great option, but if you can't get your hands on that, you can also opt for a 200 to 220 grit sandpaper to smoothed out the cabinet surface. You should also use a respiratory mask safety goggles to avoid lead-based toxins found in old paints.

Primer: It's important to prime a metal surface before painting it. You should always read the instructions on your primer so that you know how long to let it dry before starting on the paint.
Paint: Oil-based paints are the best for painting metal surfaces. If you can find spray-on options, then it's great. That's because the thin layering of the spray is good for hiding away any scratches and doesn't let the coating look bulky or thick. But if you can't handle the mess or don't know the technique, then you can opt for brush-on options as well. The trick is to always use a light hand with brush-on applications. Use only the tip of the brush to apply paint and don't try to cover the whole surface in your first try.

So, this is everything that you need to know about restoring or upgrading your metal kitchen cabinets. We hope you find this guide useful when tackling your project. If you're in need for new island stools to rest on after all the hard work, check out some classics like the Wishbone Counter Stool or Cherner Counter Stool that will effortlessly match most spaces.