10 Genius Tips For Painting Laminate Cabinets - House Digest (2023)

10 Genius Tips For Painting Laminate Cabinets - House Digest (1)


ByHannah Cole/Sept. 3, 2021 9:00 am EST

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According to My Domaine, two-toned kitchen cabinets are in. Light, neutral uppers with dark, moody lower cabinets is a trend that's moving its way through Pinterest and into homes. Islands are begging for a pop of color against the typical white, construction-grade kitchen cabinets, and we are so on board.

That's not to say that this is one-and-done, day-long DIY to tackle on a whim. Despite the universal trend of painted cabinets, it's important to remember that not all cabinets are created equal — and therefore, not all cabinets can handle any old coat of paint.

Laminate cabinets, for instance, are one of the most popular choices in new homes. Since they aren't real wood, laminate cabinets are more cost-effective. That also means that they're thinner and harder to work with than the traditional solid wood cabinet, but you can achieve a splash of color in your kitchen with these tips for painting laminate!

1. Clean cabinets with a degreaser

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Those late night snack rummages for some Oreos, or the (many) times you attempted to jam another new coffee mug up on the cabinet shelf add up to lots of oil and dirt, even if you regularly clean the kitchen. To that end, in order for paint and primer to fully stick to the laminate, it's crucial that you take the proper steps to prepare before you break out any brushes.

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Family Handyman suggests investing in a true laminate cleaner or a degreaser. The blog recommends sticking with a trisodium phosphate or TSP cleaner, which is one of the heaviest duty options available. The Savogran TSP is especially popular among professional painters for its cleaning power, and it's available on Amazon for around $10. Follow the directions on whatever degreaser you pick, and thoroughly wipe away the years of built-up hidden dust on the surface before you paint.

2. Fix any damaged areas with laminate or wood filler

The thing about laminate is that since it's on the thinner side, there's not much you can do in terms of disguising scratches, chips, or dents from the endless wear and tear that comes with, well, life. And if you're upgrading your cabinets, you're likely swapping out the hardware, too, for some sleek knobs and pulls, which will leave you with a few rogue drill holes (and a whole other problem to tackle pre-painting).

Painting over these damaged portions will only make the marks more visible, and it will ultimately make your DIY paint job look very, well, beginner DIY. To avoid this, be sure to fill in any cracks or gauges with wood filler or laminate seam filler, which is what Hunker recommends. Once that's dry, go in with a gentle sand to set yourself up for a smooth and professional looking paint job.

3. Sand with a light hand

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Most laminate cabinets come with a glossy finish that looks fabulous at first, but slowly dulls over time. However, when you go to paint said cabinets, any bit of glossy sheen is sure to set you up for frustration. It's notoriously tricky to get paint to stick to laminate material, since it often doesn't adhere fully and slowly peels away. The key to getting around this? Sanding — but do so gently!

Use some 180-grit sandpaper to remove as much of the finish as possible, but don't use too heavy of a hand. Apply just enough pressure to give the surface some texture, which will allow it to have a better grip when you go in with primer. Family Handyman says that an orbital sander works best for this, so you can retain some control over the amount of pressure used, but be careful not to over sand one single spot — this could wear down the board.

4. Pick the right primer

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When it comes to laminate cabinets, you can't use any old primer for the job — as a matter of fact, don't use old primer at all, since it won't bond properly. Instead, make a quick trip to the hardware store for laminate specific primer, which is intended to adhere permanently. This will prevent any future peeling or lifting in the paint.

Tricks of the Tradestrongly suggests using an oil-based primer over a water-based primer, since the former is thicker and has a stronger grip on laminate material. Primers like Zinsser Cover-Stain are designed to create a mechanical bond between the cabinet composite material and the paint. They're also easier to sand over than water-based primers, which leads us into our next tip: While you should always sand with a light hand, you're going to want to go in with your sander more than once.

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5. Alternate sanding and primer applications

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If you thought you were done sanding before, think again. Laminate cabinets require a little bit of extra elbow grease to get the best result, and according to Eat Well 101.And that means alternating between a layer of primer and a pass of sanding.

The blog says that the secret to a smooth surface is using a medium grit sandpaper, going in with a decent coat of primer, then sanding again. This extra effort will really double-down on the benefits of the whole rough-surface thing, meaning that your paint will stick around longer. Just be cautious of how much pressure you're applying, and don't sand away the entire coat of primer. You need a solid coat of primer to be able to properly bond to the paint, and let's be real — it's not cheap.

6. Keep a tack cloth on hand

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Since the key to a professional paint job is a grippy but clean surface, steer clear of any dust that may get caught on the laminate while painting. You might be tempted to grab any old rag you have laying around, but there are better choices that Simply 2 Moms swears by: a tack cloth and a vacuum with an arm extension.

After each round of sanding, grab the vacuum and go over all of the nooks and crannies of the cabinet doors or drawer edges. Then, take a tack cloth — a specific painter's cloth treated with a sticky material designed to pick up even the tiniest bits of dust and debris — and wipe down the cabinet. The laminate should then be spotless and ready for a coat of paint, which will thankfully stick without a hassle!

7. Use a roller instead of a brush

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Since laminate is composite, it's completely flat, without any wood grain or small indentations to help the brush blend the paint in. This allows for the paint to sit on the surface and often causes it to look streaky and textured. Instead of a brush, Bob Vila's key to a flawless application is using a small foam roller (or a paint sprayer if you have access to one). This goes for primer and paint — whatever coat you're applying, try to make the application as consistent and streak-free as possible by reserving the brush for emergency sections only.

If you do still prefer to use a brush, Tricks of the Tradewarns against settling for anything cheap. Instead, buy a new natural bristle or ox hair brush, and you should have a smoother result.

8. Spring for a heavy duty sealer

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Painting your kitchen cabinets is a big undertaking, and it's expected to want to cut some corners when you're tackling such a huge project. If you want to get the best result for all that time spent painting, follow up with a decent clear coat to seal the deal. The kitchen is one of the most used areas in the home, and laminate is finicky enough as it is — why risk any damage to your work over time by skipping the top coat?

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Many homeowners have found success using finishes like polyurethane, which has a sheen and requires two coats for maximum protection. You can also use a wax top coat, but they aren't as durable, according toPainted Furniture Ideas. If you want your cabinets to withstand family dinner after family dinner, stick with polyurethane to shield against the inevitable wear and tear.

9. Elevate the look with some molding

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Now that you know how to nail down the painting process, it's time to start brainstorming how you can level up your laminate beyond just a pop of color. Fortunately, Better Homes & Gardens has the perfect hack for those looking to give their laminate a bit of a refresh: Add molding to mimic the look of paneled or shaker style cabinets.

After you give the cabinets a good sand, attach some molding with wood glue to the faces of your cabinets. You can paint these separately beforehand to make the process go by quicker, but be sure to mimic any paint techniques (like a brush versus a roller), and apply the same final clear coat. No one ever said laminate had to be basic and boring!

10. Always start with a test run

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Working with laminate isn't exactly a DIY dream. It's totally possible with the right tips and tricks, but even the best products fail from time to time, thanks to some missed dust or the exact state of the laminate you're redoing. That's why this last tip is so crucial: whatever you do, test it first.

Start with one of the cabinet doors that you don't use as much. You know the tiny, nearly inaccessible ones on the top of the fridge, where everyone hides their old dishware that they can't part with, but will never actually see the light of day? Yeah, those ones.

Go through the entire process on the inside of one cabinet, and make note of how the laminate is holding up, suggestsRepurpose and Upcycle. If it seems to be bonding with the products you're using, that's a sign to go full steam ahead and take the rest of the doors off their hinges.

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What kind of paint will stick to laminate cabinets? ›

Chalk paint is famous for sticking to just about anything, and in this case it makes the perfect primer between the laminate surface and the Satin Enamels paint. It's easy to apply and dries quickly. And the Satin Enamels provide the perfect durable finish over the chalk paint.

How do you get paint to stick to laminate cabinets? ›

Sand the Surface

Paint can have trouble sticking to smooth surfaces, so the next two steps help improve your paint's adhesion. Lightly sand the box and the cabinet doors with 120 grit sandpaper. But be careful! All you're doing is giving the smooth surface a little texture.

Do laminate cabinets need to be sanded before painting? ›

How Can I Paint Laminate Cabinets Without Sanding? In short, you can't. Sanding the laminate surfaces to “scuff” the finish and provide a surface for the primer to adhere to is a critical step in the process.

How do you get paint to stay on laminate? ›

Step 2: Priming

I used Kilz Primer (view on Amazon), which blocks, seals, and preps the surface to which the paint will adhere. Primer is important, especially when painting over laminate. Unlike wood, laminate is a smooth, non-porous material, so it really needs something to 'grab' onto—primer will do the trick!

How many coats of primer do I need for laminate cabinets? ›

A couple things to note for the laminate cabinet makeover; You could get away with 1 coat of primer, 2 coats of paint, and 1 top coat and it will look great.

What is the best primer for laminate kitchen cabinets? ›

Best Bonding Primer for Laminate
  1. BIN Shellac Based Primer. BIN Shellac Based Primer is my go-to white primer when preventing bleed through on furniture. ...
  2. Zinsser Cover Stain Primer. ...
  3. Clear Shellac. ...
  4. STIX Bonding Primer. ...
  5. Country Chic Paint's Clear Bonding Primer.

What kind of paint do professionals use to paint kitchen cabinets? ›

Oil-based paint is the traditional choice for painting kitchen cabinets. It offers a durable finish and can be used on both wood and laminate cabinet surfaces. However, it can be slow-drying and smelly, so it's not ideal for everyone.

Does painting laminate cabinets look good? ›

Laminate is not the ideal surface to paint, but it can be done; however, it's a tricky process that should not be attempted by amateurs. A DIY project could leave unsightly streaks resulting in inferior results. You may wind up having to hire a professional redo your cabinets anyway.

How can I paint my kitchen cabinets without roller marks? ›

Before your final coat of paint, gently sand your cabinets using 300-400 grit sandpaper. This super-fine sandpaper will knock down any brush strokes and roller marks to give you a super smooth surface to work with. Be sure your paint brush is clean and the bristles are smooth.

Can you paint straight onto laminate? ›

Can you paint laminate? Yes—and it's actually quite simple. Follow our step-by-step guide on how to paint laminate furniture, including project-specific tips for painting laminate cabinets, desks, coffee tables, bookshelves and dressers.

What happens if you don't sand cabinets before painting? ›

The risk you run with not sanding is that your new paint job will chip almost immediately after it's dried. For most experts, like Dan McRorie of Fitzwater Interiors, creating a smooth, even surface is the single most important part of the project—even if you're going from a stain to a color.

Will primer stick to laminate cabinets? ›

Laminate doesn't play well with all primers and paints, only those specially formulated to adhere to its picky surface. If you opt for a primer, choose a bonding primer tenacious enough to stick to laminate (view example on Amazon), and then top it with an oil- or latex-based paint after the primer has cured.

What paint can I use on laminate? ›

Latex paint is recommended for laminate surface painting projects because of its durability and smooth finish. Try ProClassic Interior Acrylic Latex Enamel for lighter colors, and All Surface Latex Enamel Base for deeper hues.

How do you paint smooth laminate cabinets? ›

10 Steps for Painting Laminate Cabinets
  1. Sand your cabinet doors to get them prepped. ...
  2. Clean your cabinet doors thoroughly. ...
  3. Apply primer. ...
  4. Apply the first coat of paint! ...
  5. Feather and smooth out the first coat of paint. ...
  6. Apply a second coat if you want to. ...
  7. Lacquer and sand down the final coats.

What primer Do I need to paint laminate? ›

Zinsser Primer for Laminate Furniture

Zinsser BIN Primer – This primer is shallac based and sticks to all surfaces – including laminate furniture – without sanding. This primer goes on in smooth, thin coats. It drys very quickly, and it works with any top coat, including water-based latex paint.

How long does it take for paint to dry on laminate? ›

Allow for paint to dry

It can take at least 2 hours for the paint to completely dry. Some paints can take longer, so it's best to check the label for specific instructions on drying time. Do a quick dry test using your finger tips.

Will vinegar remove paint from laminate? ›

The paint can be emulsified by soap and become easier to rub off, while alcohol and vinegar can dissolve the paint for removal. This mixture works best with oil-based paint and is easy to make. Find a cloth rag and dip it in the bucket. Wring the cloth and scrub your laminate floors with it back and forth steadily.

Do you sand between coats of primer on cabinets? ›

Sand Lightly Between Coats

Dust can settle in the paint or primer as it dries. For the smoothest final coat, sand between coats of primer or paint with 220-grit sandpaper or an extra-fine sanding sponge. Then vacuum and tack as usual before recoating.

Is kilz a good primer for laminate cabinets? ›

KILZ Adhesion Primer

Best cabinet surface to use on: This primer is great to use on Melamine or Laminate cabinets. It's also great for wood cabinets that have a heavy top coat or sealer.

Do you sand after priming cabinets? ›

Once your primer is completely dry, use a fine, 220-grit sandpaper to lightly sand all surfaces. Make sure to focus especially on areas that may have pools or drips of paint, such as inside and flat corners. The smoother this surface becomes, the smoother your paint will go on. Wipe away any dust with a damp cloth.

Should you spray or roll primer on cabinets? ›

The reason we recommend spray paint over a roller for kitchen cabinets is because spray painting is a 'contactless' paint technique, so it adds no texture to the surface. A roller will always leave some texture on your cabinets.

How many coats of primer does cabinets need? ›

Depending on what kind of primer you're using and the state of the cabinets, you will need 1-2 coats of primer. For many cabinets, one coat is plenty, but if you're uncertain, a second coat won't hurt as long as it's not applied too thick. When it comes to the actual paint, you will need at least two coats.

What is the best bonding primer for painting kitchen cabinets? ›

8 Best Primer For Cabinet That Work
  • Zinsser B-I-N Shellac-Base Primer is the first.
  • Adhesion Primer by KILZ (Interior/Exterior)
  • Zinsser Bondz Maximum Adhesion Primer is the third item on our list.
  • Fourth, INSL-X STIX STIX Waterborne Bonding Primer.
  • Primer/Sealer/Stain Killing Interior/Exterior Zinsser Cover Stain.
26 Feb 2022

What is the hardest paint for kitchen cabinets? ›

Oil paint is the hardest, most durable paint to use for painting cabinets. It takes longer to dry and is harder to clean up, but when applied right and allowed to cure, the result is a finish that can hold up scratches and hard use for years.

What is the toughest paint for kitchen cabinets? ›

ProClassic Alkyd Interior Enamel is a traditional oil-based paint that when fully cured (21 to 30 days), provides a harder, more durable finish than latex or acrylic paints. This paint makes it less likely you'l have to make repairs to the surface of your kitchen cabinets.

What is the best brand of paint to use on kitchen cabinets? ›

Here are the best cabinet paints you can buy in 2022: Best Overall Waterborne Alkyd Cabinet Paint: Benjamin Moore Advance. Best Value Waterborne Alkyd Cabinet Paint: Behr Urethane Alkyd Semi-Gloss Enamel. Best Overall Latex Cabinet Paint: Sherwin-Williams Infinity.

How long will painted laminate cabinets last? ›

With proper care of professionally painted kitchen cabinets, you can expect your newly painted cabinets to last 8-10 years!

How do I get the best results when painting cabinets? ›

How to Get the Best Cabinet Painting Results
  1. Choose the Right Paint. To achieve a professional look, choose high-quality paint. ...
  2. Choose a Color that Complements the Space. ...
  3. Choose the Right Finish. ...
  4. Remove the Doors and Hardware and Label Everything. ...
  5. Prep the Cabinets. ...
  6. Prime the Surface. ...
  7. Apply Light Coats.

Is it better to roll on or brush on paint kitchen cabinets? ›

On the fronts and backs of drawers and doors, you can use a roller. This will apply the paint in a more smooth and even manner and is much faster than only using a paint brush. Then, use a brush for touching up small areas or for hard-to-reach spots.

Do you paint both sides of kitchen cabinet doors? ›

Doors typically require a good amount of time, because you need to paint both sides and let them fully dry in between coats. You can begin with the back side of your cabinet doors. Apply one coat, wait 24 hours and then move on to your second coat of paint.

Can you paint over glossy laminate? ›

Self-priming, self-levelling and self-sealing, they have excellent coverage and a robust finish making them ideal for painting laminate kitchen cupboards. Using a self-priming paint like these means that glossy, laminate surfaces can be painted in the same way as any other.

Does kilz work on laminate? ›

I always use Kilz primer for laminate and have had great luck with it. For painting laminate furniture, you want to do at least 2 coats of primer and let them cure completely (overnight if you can!) in between coats. You can even sand in between coats for maximum adhesion.

Can I use water based primer on laminate? ›

Since laminate or most IKEA furniture has a high gloss smooth finish you'll need to start with a primer. Not just any primer will do, it needs to be Zinsser BIN Shellac-Based Primer because it is a shellac based primer and a water-based or oil-based primer won't hold. Ready to paint your laminate furniture?

Do you paint the inside of kitchen cabinets? ›

Painting inside cabinets is up to you. Homeowners generally opt to paint inside cabinets if they are open or have glass windows, while others do it to add an extra pop of color into their kitchen.

Do you need to sand laminate before priming? ›

Both the Bulls Eye 123 primer and the Country Chic Paint Bonding Primer need the laminate to be sanded before priming to really stick. But the shellac-based primers can be used with and without sanding the laminate beforehand.

How do you paint laminate without sanding? ›

How to paint laminate furniture [without sanding]
  1. Step 1: Clean. ...
  2. Step 2: Prime. ...
  3. Step 3: Paint with emulsion of choice. ...
  4. Step 4: Varnish. ...
  5. Step 5: Wait for the eggshell or varnish to cure and harden. ...
  6. Step 6: Admire your project.
  7. BONUS TIP: Cover your paint tray with cling film before pouring your paint on it.
2 Oct 2015

Are my cabinets laminate or veneer? ›

A sure way to recognize wood laminate is when the grain does NOT follow through your piece. Wood Veneer is a sheet or thin layer of 'quality-natural-hardwood' that is adhered to a lesser quality wood surface. Wood Veneers give the impression of a more desired quality wood without being as costly.

What paint to use on laminate kitchen cabinets? ›

What kind of paint do you use on laminate cabinets? You can use any kind of paint that's suitable to paint wood on your laminate cabinets, too. We recommend a satin finish as it's durable and easy to keep clean.

Can you paint smooth cabinets without sanding? ›

But if the doors are smooth (not slick) to the touch, you can likely skip the sanding step, as long as you do a few bits of prep first! If you don't want to sand before you prime, use some mineral spirits and a rough sponge to clean and lightly rough up the cabinet area you're painting.

Will paint stick to laminate cabinets? ›

You must prime laminate. A primer will allow the smooth surface of the laminate to grip the paint. Without primer, your paint will bubble up and not properly adhere to your cabinets. Selecting the right primer is more important the topcoat for successful painting with laminate.

Can you paint directly onto laminate? ›

Can you paint laminate? Yes—and it's actually quite simple. Follow our step-by-step guide on how to paint laminate furniture, including project-specific tips for painting laminate cabinets, desks, coffee tables, bookshelves and dressers.

Can I paint over laminate kitchen cupboards? ›

Yes, laminate kitchen cabinet doors can be painted. To paint these doors, it's of great importance to prepare all of the materials required to paint the door before you begin painting.

What is the best paint to use on laminate? ›

Latex paint is recommended for laminate surface painting projects because of its durability and smooth finish. Try ProClassic Interior Acrylic Latex Enamel for lighter colors, and All Surface Latex Enamel Base for deeper hues.

What kind of primer should I use on laminate? ›

BIN Shellac Based Primer

But you don't have to worry about tannins on laminate furniture, because it's not real wood! BIN Shellac Based Primer has excellent adhesion and sticks to slick surfaces like ceramic tile, glass, metal, plastic, and hardboard.

What is the best primer for laminate cabinets? ›

Oil-based primer is the best bonding primer for laminate kitchen cabinets and oak cabinets. There are many good primers out there from water-based to oil, pigmented shellac, hybrid, and so on.

What kind of paint do you use on melamine cabinets? ›

Lots of paints work well on these materials, including high-quality latex, acrylic and chalk paints, but most of them require priming. Real Milk Paint, however, requires no bonding primer for application, even on laminate and melamine surfaces.

How do you paint white laminate cabinets? ›

Laminate doesn't play well with all primers and paints, only those specially formulated to adhere to its picky surface. If you opt for a primer, choose a bonding primer tenacious enough to stick to laminate (view example on Amazon), and then top it with an oil- or latex-based paint after the primer has cured.

How do you paint white laminate cabinets to look like wood? ›

How to Paint Laminate Cabinets to Look Like Wood
  1. Remove the cabinet doors and lay them on a flat surface. ...
  2. Sand the cabinet lightly by hand with 220-grit sandpaper to etch the surface of the laminate. ...
  3. Prime the cabinet and doors with an oil- or water-based wood primer.

How do you rejuvenate laminate cabinets? ›

Diluted Vinegar Spray

Simply spray on the solution to the outside of your laminate cabinets. Let the solution sit for a minute or two before you use a soft washcloth or microfiber towel to rub it onto your cabinets. Once you have cleaned the cabinets, go over it with a wet towel to remove any lingering vinegar.

What is the cheapest way to update laminate countertops? ›

Use a Countertop Paint Kit

If you want a new look, but don't want to spend a lot of money, painting your countertops is a great option. This is a smart way to update countertops without replacing them. Plus, this is also the easiest way to update bathroom countertops.

How much does it cost to reface laminate cabinets? ›

A professional cabinet refacing for a typical 10-foot-by-12-foot kitchen starts at around $80 to $100 per linear foot for laminate materials only. Expect to pay the same, $80 to $100 per linear foot, for wood veneer materials. Hardwood will run about $200 to $500 per linear foot without installation.


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