Choosing the Right Sandpaper Grit for Your Cabinet Project: A Comprehensive Guide

Choosing the right grit sandpaper for your cabinets is crucial in achieving a flawless finish. It’s a common DIY task that can make a huge difference in your home’s aesthetics. But with so many options out there, it can be confusing to know which one to pick.

The grit of sandpaper refers to the number of abrasive particles per inch. The higher the grit number, the finer the sandpaper and the smoother the finish. But it’s not as simple as just picking the highest number. Your choice should depend on the condition of your cabinets and the result you’re aiming for.

Whether you’re refurbishing old cabinets or prepping new ones for paint, understanding the different types of sandpaper grits will help you make the right choice. Let’s delve deeper into the world of sandpaper and discover which grit is best for your cabinet project.

Key Takeaways

  • The grit of sandpaper indicates the number of abrasive particles per square inch, with a higher grit number resulting in a smoother finish. The appropriate grit selection greatly depends on the condition of your cabinets and the desired outcome.
  • Sandpaper grit ranges commonly include 40-60 for coarse, 80-120 for medium, 150-180 for fine, and 220 grit and above for very fine. The process usually involves starting with a coarser grit and working up to finer grits.
  • The different types of grit correspond to different stages of the refurbishment process and result in different finishes. Coarse and medium grits are suitable for removing old paint and prepping surfaces, while fine and very fine grits are used for smoothing out imperfections.
  • When working on an old, heavily damaged cabinet, starting with a coarse grit (40-60) is recommended. For moderately worn cabinets, medium grit (80-120) is the ideal choice. The fine grit sandpaper (150-180) is used for eliminating minor blemishes, and the extra-fine grit (220-240) is suitable for final prep before painting.
  • For new cabinets with smooth surfaces, coarse sandpaper is too harsh; instead, fine, or extra-fine grit sandpaper (150-240) should be used to prepare the surface for paint or stain adherence.
  • A one-size-fits-all approach does not apply to sanding cabinets; the selection of grit should depend on the cabinet’s age and condition. The most effective strategy usually involves using various grit ranges throughout the project.

Selecting the appropriate sandpaper grit is crucial for achieving a smooth finish on cabinet projects. Ultahome’s blog provides guidance on choosing the right starting grit based on the condition of the cabinets to ensure an optimal finish. Toolant’s guide further elaborates on matching sandpaper grit to project goals, ensuring a professional result. Additionally, Bob Vila’s advice on sandpaper selection offers a wealth of knowledge for DIY enthusiasts and professionals alike, highlighting the importance of grit sequence in the sanding process.

Understanding Grit in Sandpaper

Think of sandpaper grit as sand on the beach. Let’s say you’ve walked on both a rough, rocky beach and a smooth, sandy beach. The difference you felt under your feet? That’s pretty much the difference between low and high grit sandpaper.

It’s all about the number of abrasive particles per square inch on a sheet of sandpaper. This number is known as the ‘grit’. The lower the grit, the fewer particles it has, making for a rougher finish. On the other hand, a higher grit means more particles, offering a fine, smoother finish.

This is a critical piece of information you should keep in mind. Imagine applying a course, low grit sandpaper to a cabinet with a light finish. The aggressive sanding would lead to unsightly marks and scratches.

The most common range of sandpaper grit you’ll encounter includes:

  • 40 to 60 grit: Coarse
  • 80 to 120 grit: Medium
  • 150 to 180 grit: Fine
  • 220 grit and above: Very Fine

To help you get a clear idea of which to choose, refer to the table below.

Sandpaper GritFinish Type
220 and aboveVery Fine

When choosing the right grit sandpaper for cabinets, you need to pay close attention to the current state and desired outcome. If the cabinet has existing paint, for example, you’ll need a medium to coarse grit to remove it effectively.

Remember that it’s not a one-size-fits-all situation. You might need to use a few different types throughout the project. Start with a coarser grit and work your way up to finer grits for a flawless finish. That’s the golden rule of sanding, and now you’ve got that in your arsenal.

It’s essential to understand the differences in sandpaper grit to choose the right one when refurbishing old cabinets or preparing new ones for painting. So dive in, experiment, and enjoy the process! It won’t be long till the satisfaction of a job well done hits home.

Types of Sandpaper Grit

Understanding the various types of sandpaper grit is critical in choosing the best for your cabinet project. Each type of grit offers a unique finish and is suitable for different stages of the refurbishment process.

Coarse grit sandpapers are typically within the 40-60 grit range. These sandpapers carry a higher abrasive potential, akin to the roughness of a rocky beach. When you’re dealing with a cabinet surface that’s severely worn or damaged, a coarse grit might be your go-to option. It’ll quickly remove layers of old paint and stain, giving you a blank canvas to start from. But beware! The rough finish it leaves behind might require extra work to smooth out.

Medium grit sandpapers fall within the 80-120 grit range. If your cabinet is in moderate condition and requires medium-level abrasion, you’ll likely need a medium-grit sandpaper. It’s somewhere between a rocky and a sandy beach in terms of texture, giving a semi-smooth finish that’s perfect for roughing up surfaces before painting.

When you’re moving towards the final stages of your project, you’ll appreciate the value of fine grit sandpapers. These are typically in the 150-180 grit range. They provide a gentle abrasion, similar to the feel of a smooth sandy beach under your feet. Fine-grit sandpapers are perfect for smoothing out the slight imperfections left by coarser grits, giving your cabinet an almost flawless look.

Inclusion of extra-fine grit sandpaper, falling in the 220-240 grit range, makes your project closer to perfection. As the name suggests, this grit is super fine, delivering a silky smooth finish. You might use it just before applying the last coat of paint.

The right choice of sandpaper grit brings you one step closer to a beautifully finished cabinet. After all, achieving that flawless finish involves understanding the difference between a smooth sandy beach and a rough rocky one – and knowing when to use which. Picking the grit that’s appropriate for each stage of your project will certainly make the task at hand less daunting – and your cabinets, more inviting.

Choosing the Right Grit for Your Cabinets

Knowing which type of sandpaper grit to use for your cabinet project can be a game-changer. Realizing the part each plays impacts your cabinet’s final look. Let’s take a deeper look at how to choose from the range of sandpaper grits available.

For starters, coarse grit sandpaper (40-60) should be your first step if you’re dealing with heavily damaged surfaces. It’s the most aggressive sandpaper and is excellent for removing varnish or paint from your cabinets. Think of coarse grit as the tackle before the play begins.

Moving on to the medium grit range (80-120), this is your go-to for cabinets that have become moderately worn over time. It’s like an MVP in your project, striking a balance between subtracting the old and preparing for the new.

After working through the coarse and medium grit ranges, your cabinets are ready for more refined action. Fine grit (150-180) comes into play at this stage. It works in smoothing out any remaining minor imperfections. Think of it as the half-time show, smoothing things out and getting the crowd (or in this case, your cabinets) ready for the big finale.

We end the sanding stages with the extra-fine grit (220-240). This offers the gentle touch your cabinet project needs before stepping into the final stages of primer or paint. It’s the star player following the half-time, adding the final glitz and glamour before the last whistle blows. As such, extra-fine grit is the perfect choice for that silky finish your cabinets deserve.

Every project is different and will require a different combination of grit ranges. Understanding how they work and what they’re best used for will give your cabinetry the star-quality finish it demands. Choose wisely, and your cabinets will thank you for it. After all, when the game ends, it’s all about the finish, isn’t it?

Sanding Old Cabinets vs. New Cabinets

Transforming the ghoulish-like appearance of your old cabinets into a swan’s beauty isn’t a Herculean task. All you need are the right tools and the right approach. The choice between old and newly installed cabinets affects the type and grit of sandpaper you’ll use.

For old cabinets characterized by weather-beaten surfaces or years of paint layers, the coarse sandpaper might be your hero. It’ll slice through years of accumulated paint or varnish faster and more efficiently than any other grit. Remember, choose a 40-60 grit for cabinets that have borne the hard knocks of life.

Let’s now look at new cabinets— those with a veil of smooth surface, hardly experiencing any tough conditions. For such a pristine surface, using coarse sandpaper would be catastrophic; it’s too harsh for the task. Their virgin state calls for the loving touch of either fine grit or extra-fine grit sandpaper. You’ll be providing a ready surface which any paint or stain can easily adhere to. For this job, 150-180 grit or 220-240 grit is the recommended choice.

Notice that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work here. Depending on the cabinet’s age and condition, you won’t use just one type of sandpaper throughout the entire project. For example, if your old cabinet isn’t severely damaged, you might start with a medium grit sandpaper to moderate any rough patches and then proceed to a finer grit for a smooth finish before painting.

It’s critical to always start with the right sandpaper grit appropriate for your cabinet project. But let’s not forget, your project’s success largely hinges on the cabinet’s current condition and your desired outcome.


Choosing the right sandpaper grit for your cabinet project isn’t a guessing game. It’s all about understanding the condition of your cabinets. If you’re dealing with old, weathered cabinets, don’t shy away from the coarse 40-60 grit sandpaper. It’s your best bet to remove those stubborn layers of old paint. On the other hand, if you’re working with new cabinets, a fine 150-180 grit or even an extra-fine 220-240 grit sandpaper will do the trick. This ensures your smooth surfaces are ready for paint or stain. Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to sandpaper grit. Tailoring your approach to the cabinet’s age and condition is the key to a successful project.

Q1: What sandpaper grit should be used for sanding old cabinets?

Old cabinets with weathered surfaces or multiple paint layers benefit more from coarse sandpaper with a grit between 40 and 60. This efficiently removes the existing finish.

Q2: What type of sandpaper is best for new cabinets?

New cabinets with smooth surfaces require a gentler touch. Therefore, use fine grit (150-180) or extra-fine grit (220-240) sandpaper to prepare them for painting or staining.

Q3: Can the same sandpaper grit be used for cupboard restoration regardless of their condition?

It’s not recommended to use a one-size-fits-all approach when choosing sandpaper grit for cabinet restoration. The cabinet’s age and its surface condition should determine the appropriate sandpaper grit.

Q4: Why is it necessary to adapt the sandpaper grit?

Different grit levels can either prepare a surface for a new paint job or strip an old one. Therefore, adapting sandpaper grit based on a cabinet’s condition is crucial to achieve the desired outcome in cabinet projects.