What Grit Sandpaper to Refinish Cabinets? DIY Cabinet Makeover




I looked at our old cabinets and wondered how to make them look better.

My dad, who knows a lot about fixing things, came in and saw me looking. “Thinking about fixing up these cabinets?” he asked. I told him yes, but I wasn’t sure how to start.

What Grit Sandpaper to Refinish Cabinets

What Grit Sandpaper to Refinish Cabinets

Well do you know what grit sandpaper to refinish cabinets?” he explained. The grit of sandpaper you’ll need to refinish cabinets depends on the condition of the surface and the type of wood or material you’re working with. But usually, you start rough and then go finer for a smooth finish.

As we got ready to start, Dad promised to teach me everything about making these cabinets look new again.

Key Takeaways

  • Start with rough sandpaper (around 120 grit) to remove old paint or finishes and smooth out bumps.
  • Transition to smoother sandpaper (around 220 grit) to prepare the surface for painting or staining, ensuring a smooth finish.
  • Sand with 220 grit after applying wood filler to blend it seamlessly with the wood.
  • Use 220 grit sandpaper between paint layers to remove any imperfections and ensure a smooth surface for the next coat.

When Should You Use Grit Sandpaper to Refinish the Cabinet?

Before knowing the details of what grit sandpaper for refinishing cabinets is best, you should know when to use it. When fixing up your cabinets, here’s when to use sandpaper:

When Should You Use Grit Sandpaper to Refinish the Cabinet
  • Before painting or staining: First, smooth out the cabinet with 120-grit sandpaper. This step enables the new paint or stain to stick better. Many often ask, what sandpaper to use for staining cabinets? The answer is for your staining cabinets you can use 120 grit sandpaper. 
  • To get a smooth surface: After stripping old paint, switch to 220-grit sandpaper. This gets rid of any rough spots, making sure your cabinets look smooth when painted. This will help you a lot if you want to refinish wood cabinets.
  • After applying wood filler: If you’ve filled any holes, sand them with 220-grit sandpaper. This makes the filler blend seamlessly with the wood.
  • Between paint layers: Lightly sand with 220-grit sandpaper between paint coats. This removes any little bumps in refacing cabinet doors, ensuring the next coat is perfectly smooth.
  • Before the final coat: Lastly, before you apply the final layer of paint or sealant, give it a once-over with 320-grit sandpaper. This leaves you with a super smooth finish.

What Grit Sandpaper To Refinish Cabinets?

Do you know what grit sandpaper for cabinet refinishing? Well, think of sandpaper numbers like this: the smaller the number, the rougher the sandpaper. Big numbers mean smoother sandpaper, which gives you a nicer finish. However, your steps depend on your final finish. For painting or applying film finishes like polyurethane, 120 grit might be fine.

What Grit Sandpaper To Refinish Cabinets

You may have questions in mind: Is 120 grit sandpaper good for cabinets? The answer is yes, it is. For penetrating finishes like a stain, you might go finer, up to 150 or 220 grit.

The best grit to start with before you prime and paint is between 150 and 220. I like to use 220 because it’s just right for making the surface less shiny without hurting the wood.

When you’re adding more coats of paint or primer, you should go for a super smooth sandpaper, between 320 and 420 grit. It keeps things smooth without scratching up what you’ve already painted. You should never use rough sandpaper on already-painted cabinets.

For that first round of sanding, you can grab an orbital sander and some 220-grit sandpaper discs. This tool helps you sand your cabinets fast and keeps them looking good. It’s best to use this rougher sandpaper before you prime and paint, not after, to get your cabinets ready without damaging them.

Things That Influence The Choice Of Grit Sandpaper

Several things influence your choice of picking grit sandpaper. The type of cabinets you have, how you want them to look at the end, and how much old stuff you need to sand off all play a part in this choice.

Things That Influence The Choice Of Grit Sandpaper

Picking the right grit sandpaper is a mix of knowing your stuff and a bit of guesswork. It sets you up to make your cabinets look amazing. However, the things that influence your choice of grit sandpaper are:

Consider the Wood Finish

Surface finishes hide the scratches made by 120-grit sandpaper, whereas penetrating finishes make them more visible. Using too high a grit from the start can save time and sandpaper, but starting too low might damage your project. The key is balance.

Sandpaper Grit Chart

You should go through the sandpaper grit chart to choose the best one:

  • Extra-Coarse (Less than 40): Best for refinishing floors and stripping old finishes.
  • Coarse (40 to 60): Good for smoothing rough materials and shaping wood.
  • Medium (80): Ideal for stripping paint, blending seams, and softening edges.
  • Fine (100 to 120): For general sanding and prepping surfaces for paint. This paint won’t be chipped to the cabinet.
  • Very-Fine (150 to 220): For scuffing glossy surfaces and preparing for penetrating oils.
  • Extra-Fine (320 to 360): For sanding between finish coats and cleaning metal.
  • Super-Fine (400 to 600): For polishing wood and metal and wet sanding.
  • Ultra-Fine (800 and up): For final polish on wood and metal and wet sanding.


Sandpaper is affordable and available in various sizes and packs. Packs can range from six pieces to 24 or more. Some offer multiple grits, while others stick to one. Sizes vary, and prices can range from $2 to $25 and up. So, which grit sandpaper you will use depends on its cost. This cost also affects your overall cabinet refacing cost.

Type of Finish Desired

Are you aiming for a smooth finish on your cabinet doors? The choice of grit plays a pivotal role. After applying wood filler, you should sand with a fine grit, like 220. After that, you should prepare your cabinets for painting. This ensures that paint brushes glide over smoothly, leaving a finish that’s both elegant and durable.

Tools Used in Sanding

For larger, flat surfaces like a cabinet frame, an orbital sander speeds up the process. It evenly sands down surfaces, making the cabinets ready for a fresh coat of paint. Hand-sanding with the same grit paper can access corners and crevices, ensuring uniform texture across all areas.

Number of Paint Coats

If you plan multiple coats of paint on your kitchen cabinets, sanding between layers is important. Fine sandpaper, such as 220 grit, removes imperfections and roughness from the previous coat. This guarantees that each additional layer adheres better, enhancing durability and appearance.

Your Experience Level

Beginners prefer starting with a slightly coarser grit to quickly learn the effects of sanding on wood cabinets. As you gain confidence, moving to finer grits like 220 will become second nature. This progression allows for a learning curve while working towards that perfect, smooth finish.

What Happens If You Don’t Sand Cabinets Before Painting

Before painting your kitchen cabinets, you should sand them. However, if you skip sanding them first, you might run into some trouble. If you don’t sand your cabinet before painting, you will face the following problems:

  • Paint sticks better to roughed-up surfaces. If you don’t sand your cabinet doors and kitchen cabinets, the paint might not stick well.
  • Your cabinets have little nicks and scratches. Sanding with 220 grit sandpaper helps fill these in so everything looks smooth.
  • Cabinets usually have a wood grain that can make your paint job look bumpy sanding smooths this out.
  • Without sanding, any paint you put on can drip or make puddles. This leaves your cabinets looking messy.
  • Using an orbital sander or just hand-sanding makes sure your paint will look good and stick around for a long time.

So, before you grab your paint brush, make sure to sand those cabinets. It’ll help your new paint look smooth and stay on without peeling.

How Do You Use Grit Sandpaper To Refinish Cabinets?

Are you ready to paint your cabinets? Here’s a simple guide to make sure you do it right and end up with a great-looking kitchen or bathroom. However, to use grit sandpaper to refinish your cabinet, follow the steps below:

How Do You Use Grit Sandpaper To Refinish Cabinets

Taking Cabinets Apart

Before you start, remove your cabinets for painting. This means taking off the doors and removing all the cabinet hardware, like hinges and handles. Sketch a quick layout of your kitchen and number each cabinet and door. This helps you remember where everything goes. Write the number in a spot that’ll be covered by the hinge later.

Cleaning and Stripping

Now, if your cabinets have old paint or grease, you need to clean them up. Use a liquid sander or apply a paint stripper, wait as instructed, then scrape it off. If it’s just bare wood or laminate cabinets you’re dealing with, a good wipe with a degreaser is enough. This step makes sure the new paint sticks well, and you get a durable finish.

Filling and Sanding

Got any dings or rough spots? Fill them in with wood filler. Then, grab your grit sandpaper. For painting, start with a rougher grit and move up to 220-grit sandpaper for a smooth surface. Hand sanders are great for edges and detailed areas. Don’t forget to shake off the dust and vacuum the doors to keep your workspace clean.

Cleaning Up

After sanding, it’s crucial to get all the dust off. Vacuum again, and then take a tack cloth to wipe down each door. This step ensures there’s no dust left to mess up your paint job. You want your cabinets as clean as possible to avoid brush strokes or imperfections.

Applying the Finish

Whether you’re using a paint brush or a paint sprayer, you should start with a good primer. After the primer dries, you should sand it lightly with 220-grit sandpaper.

This makes sure your coat of paint will be smooth. Always use a drop cloth to catch any wet paint drips and keep your floors clean. Follow the paint’s instructions for drying time to get that durable finish.

Reassembling Cabinets

You should put it all back together after drying everything. However, you need to reattach your cabinet hardware, hang the doors back up, and step back to admire your work. You’ve just given your space a fresh look with your own two hands.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What Grit Sandpaper To Refinish Cabinets White Cabinets?

You can use 120-grit sandpaper to make your white cabinets look great. It helps to get rid of your cabinet’s old paint and smooth things out. Then, you can use 220 grit to make the surface even smoother.

Is 120 Grit Sandpaper Good For Cabinets?

Yes, 120-grit sandpaper is good for the first round of sanding on your cabinets. It’s strong enough to clean off your cabinet’s old stuff and smooth the wood. But, to make it really smooth before painting, you should finish with a finer 220 grit.

Do I Need To Sand My Cabinets Before Painting?

Yes, you need to sand your cabinets before painting. Sanding takes off the shiny layer on top so the new paint can stick on tight. It also helps you to get rid of any rough spots or scratches on your cabinet.

Can I Use 320 Grit Sandpaper For Cabinets?

Sure, you can use 320-grit sandpaper for your cabinet. After using the coarser sandpaper, 320 grit will make your cabinet wood super smooth. This is perfect if you want your cabinets to have a really smooth, high-quality look after painting.

Final Note

In the end, knowing what grit sandpaper to refinish cabinets is important to making old cabinets look amazing again. This isn’t just about painting over your old cabinet. Rather, it is about learning to prep and use the right tools from the start.

With every sanding, you will learn that the best results come from caring about the small steps.Now, I hope you feel ready to tackle your own cabinet makeover. A great finish starts with picking the right grit sandpaper. If you’ve got any stories from your projects or questions on how to start, go ahead and share. We will soon answer your query.

Richard Journey

Written by

Richard Journey

Meet Richard Journey, the Antique Furniture Maestro. With a Fine Arts degree in Furniture Restoration and Conservation, he’s a guardian of historical craftsmanship. His accolades include the Golden Chisel Award, and he’s your guide to discovering and restoring antique treasures.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest posts

  • How to Restore a Metal Table?  Step-By-Step Metal Table Restoration Guide

    How to Restore a Metal Table? Step-By-Step Metal Table Restoration Guide

    Metal table restoration is about making your table look nice again and keeping it for a long time. If you are curious about how to restore a metal table, we will tell you all the details. To restore your metal table, follow the process below: Doing this is super important now because it’s better to…

  • Round Table Restoration Simplified| From Novice to Expert

    Round Table Restoration Simplified| From Novice to Expert

    Round table restoration is like giving a new lease on life to a piece full of stories and memories. These tables often stand at the heart of a home, gathering people together. So, if you think, what can I do with an old round table? This guide is for you. Round Table Restoration By restoring…

  • Cost To Refinish Wood Table| Real Costing Guide To Tips To Reduce Cost

    Cost To Refinish Wood Table| Real Costing Guide To Tips To Reduce Cost

    Giving your wood table a new finish is like giving it a new lease on life. It not only makes your table look great again but also keeps its story going. This is why refinishing your wood table matters a lot. But if you wanna learn about the cost to refinish wood table, then there…