This is the ugliness that was our kitchen cabinets. Actually, they don't look nearly as bad in this picture, but they had this horrible pinkish stain that was chipping all over the place. In other words, they NEEDED to be redone, and they SHOULD be redone because of the ugly.
Worn to the bone. We bought the house from an older couple who had got it from their parents. The house itself is from 1925 but when they sold off a bunch of their farm in the early 2000s they updated and renovated a lot of things. Like the kitchen. So the cabinets are actually fairly "in style"...not that terrible handle-in-the-middle crap they did in the 80s but the kitchen was designed by a woman in her 70s so it looked pretty...old. They also had a bunch of fake pink tiles on the walls...which we replaced with wainscoting.
1-Anyway, so let's get started. There actually isn't too much prep work, expect removing the cabinets and hardware. I did mine in sections so I didn't bother labeling the cabinets but if you're doing them all at once you will want to.
2-Then you begin the sanding. To remove paint or stain and to buff the surface you should start out with 100 grit paper. Do NOT use a sander, it will remove too much. You really need to make sure to get every inch of surface, cabinet doors and frames, buffed or the paint will not stick properly. This is the hardest part of the project in my opinion.
3-You are really going to want to remove any existing paint or stain. Painting over paint on wood is a lot easier than sanding but it will not last. Little bits of paint will commit suicide and jump ship, leaving your finish constantly chippy and you'll always be sweeping up bits of paint. Don't be lazy. Get it down to new wood.
4-Lets talk paint. You really want a latex. Some people say oil is better but it's not. Don't listen to them. You're going to need to primer (Kilz is generally considered the best choice) and then also enough for about 4 layers of top coat. We used a little less than a gallon of Sherwin Williams Classic Latex paint. Also buy a new brush for this project. It's really important to get a smooth coat, which will not happen if your bush is even kind of dirty.
5-After you have completely sanded the surface you can apply the primer. The key to getting a nice tough finish is to apply many thin layers and sand smooth between each. I put on two layers of primer, applying each VERY THIN. When you have so many edges and varying surface heights like you do in cabinets it's super easy to have paint collect or drip. Thin layers mean there's not enough paint to accumulate at the edges and corners.
6-Once you have lightly sanded the second primer coat go ahead and apply your first top coat. Again, thin layers, and sand between each, this time with 150 grit paper. I think it goes without saying but let your cabinets dry completely before you sand. And don't go easy on the paint! If it's beginning to get thick and ripple sand it all the way back down if you need to. It'd better to get rid of the irregularities before they get worse.
Don't forget about all of the places that you don't normally see, like the edges underneath the cabinet, beside your stove and fridge, or the area on the inside of the drawer front.
7-This project took me about 2 months to complete but that's because of my on scattered time-table and has no indication of the amount of time it should take you. If you work consistently it should only take about a week for 20 cabinets. The most important thing is to let the paint dry completely before sanding, which takes almost an entire day.
8-When I did three coats I had the cabinets put back up and gave them another coat while they were attached. You may not need to do this. I painted mine in the basement where the light wasn't as blazing as it is in the kitchen. Once they were in better light I thought they needed another coat, so just bear in mind that the lighting may affect how many times you need to paint. If you just have a florescent bulb in your kitchen you may be able to get away with only 2 coats.
And finally, measure and attach hardware.
Now to do the counters!