Melamine or Melamine Faced Chipboard (MFC) can be a total nightmare to paint but in this article I’m going to give you a couple of options of how to paint it and get a good finish. So if you’re wondering how do you paint melamine then read on!
Here’s a video I made about painting melamine – it’s a bit old but there are still some useful tips in there. I’d also suggest reading the article below as it’s a bit more up to date. If you could also do me a massive favour and subscribe to my YouTube channel that would be awesome! There’s loads of property maintenance and DIY tips on there that you will hopefully find useful.
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Let’s cut to the chase
I know you’re busy and just want to get on with it. At the moment, in 2020, if I wanted to give my kitchen cabinets a bit of a refresh I’d use Johnstone’s Revive Cupboard Paint:
It’s available in a range of colours and it’s specifically designed for painting MDF and Melamine cupboards.
Having said that! I would also do a bit of testing and research before destroying my kitchen. I haven’t used this paint myself yet but Johnstone’s is a reputable brand and it’s specifically designed for the job so… regardless, I would really encourage you to continue reading before touching a paintbrush.
What is melamine?
Melamine, melamine resin or melamine formaldehyde as it’s technically called, is a type of plastic material commonly used to coat chipboard (or particle board in the States) to leave a very hard wearing finish. In this article whenever I refer to MFC I’m talking about Melamine Faced Chipboard – that’s the stuff you see everywhere. It’s very commonly used in flat pack furniture and kitchen cabinets.
The melamine resin is combined with paper, laminated and glued on to the wood boards. It’s great for shelves since it’s much more hard wearing than paint. It is however prone to chipping and edges need to be treated with an iron-on edging tape.
What about thermofoil cabinet doors?
Cabinet doors are generally thermofoil NOT melamine. It’s normally melamine for the cabinets (and shelves… and backs of doors for whatever reason) and thermofoil for the door fronts. Thermofoil is the flexible plastic stuff that, somewhat irritatingly, sometimes peels off.
Melamine DOES NOT peel off and is very brittle. If it’s peeling then it’s almost certainly thermofoil rather than melamine. Regardless, both are a nightmare to paint. For simplicity I’m going to refer to both as MFC, which is technically incorrect but faster to type. I approach them both in a similar way.
A word of warning!
Melamine and thermofoil are both plastics. They’re not paint. Please don’t think that by painting your cabinets that you’re going to get the same finish. Paint will NOT be anywhere near as hard wearing and will NOT have the same quality of finish. This is kind of a last resort project. It’s this or replace the doors.
Why paint melamine or thermofoil?
There’s no point in painting new MFC – either buy it the colour you need or just use MDF and paint that instead. Bare MDF is much easier to paint than MFC and the painted finish of MDF will probably be more hard wearing than painted MFC. Bare MDF is absorbent and easy for the paint to stick to. MFC is smooth and completely non-absorbent – that’s kind of the point of it. So pretty much the only scenario where you’ll be painting MFC is if you want to change the colour of an existing piece of furniture… or give it a bit of a refresh. Even then it’s not as easy as it looks – practice on a hidden piece first if you can!
How do you paint melamine?
The key to painting melamine is achieving a good bond between the paint and the MFC panel. The best way to do this in the past has always been to use a good primer. The primer bonds to the MFC. The top coat bonds to the primer. In the video above I’m using Leyland Acrylic Primer Undercoat and this seems to work pretty well.
A while ago I spoke to Johnstone’s and they specifically recommended Johnstone’s Trade Multi Surface Primer but this is hard to get hold of now. The only Johnstone’s primer I can find now that’s specifically designed for MFC is their Speciality Any Surface Primer. There’s also this All Purpose Primer but it’s oil-based and that’s a different animal. HAVING SAID ALL THAT the cupboard paint mentioned earlier (Johnstone’s Revive) apparently doesn’t need a primer or undercoat. So erm… here’s a picture of some primer:
My approach to painting melamine / thermofoil – what paint?
As I say, this isn’t a job for the faint hearted but if you really want to take it on, this would be my own personal approach. By the way for the top coat paint I would normally use a quick drying water-based satinwood paint. I’ve had predictable good results with custom-mixed Dulux Trade Quick Dry Satinwood from decorating centres (the Trade is the important bit!). I’ve had mixed results with Dulux (non-Trade) Quick Dry Satinwood from the big box stores including paint that seemed to be endlessly sticky (once dry!). Probably a manufacturing defect in the paint but just thought I’d mention it. If you want to try it here’s a link but don’t blame me if it stays sticky forever.
The no primer / undercoat approach
Until I get a chance to properly test the cupboard paint I honestly couldn’t tell you whether this genuinely doesn’t need a primer. Let’s assume they’re telling the truth, you’re not bothered if the finish doesn’t last forever (you can always touch up dings and scratches) and you just want to get this job done:
- I would start off by using 120 grit sandpaper to lightly roughen the surface (very lightly between coats).
- Then use a damp cloth to remove any dust from the sanding.
- The MFC needs to be dry to paint it so I would use some blue roll to dry it.
- Paint the melamine following the manufacturer instructions for the paint.
- 2 coats? Johnstone’s don’t mention anything about 2 coats on their website… but to play safe I would give it 2 coats. Allow to completely dry (give it overnight) and go back to step 1.
The primer approach
If I wanted this to be a bit more long lasting I think I’d still be tempted to go down the primer route. Primer is designed to bond to the surface and generally gives a better substrate for your top-coat paint to stick to. That said the Revive paint is specifically designed for this purpose so jury’s out on that one. Let’s assume you’re not using the Revive paint since they don’t have the correct colour or whatever.
- I would start off by using 120 grit sandpaper to lightly roughen the surface.
- Then use a damp cloth to remove any dust from the sanding.
- The MFC needs to be dry to paint it so use some blue roll to dry it.
- Paint the melamine with an appropriate primer or primer undercoat.
- Allow to dry completely (overnight).
- Apply 2 coats of your chosen top coat.
- Between every coat of paint I would always lightly de-nib (roughen the surface) with 120 grip sandpaper, wipe down with a damp cloth and thoroughly dry using some blue roll or paper towels.
Bear in mind that if you just used a primer in step 4 then you should really apply an undercoat prior to your final two top coats. As I used a combined primer/undercoat this saved a step and worked fine for me.
What brushes and rollers should I use?
Using a high density mini roller can give you a really neat finish. Remember paint on melamine will take a lot longer to dry than paint on wood since the melamine isn’t absorbent. When I’m using water-based paints with a roller I generally apply the paint evenly, let it dry for 30 seconds and then very lightly lay it off. That means going over it VERY gently with a roller that’s not laden with paint. This takes a bit of practice but leaves a great finish when you get the hang of it. For tight areas I like to use a synthetic brush such as the Hamilton Prestige Trade Synthetic Brushes.
Always bear in mind that the paint will never be as hard wearing as the original melamine – melamine is essentially plastic. Paint is… paint.
A word on paint drying time
Paint can take quite a long time to properly harden. Water based paints will generally harden more quickly than oil based paints however it can still take a good couple of days for the paint to be hard enough to leave heavy objects on without it causing a problem – a few weeks for oil based. Just remember that even though the paint is dry to the touch doesn’t mean it’s properly dry and hardened.
Can you spray paint melamine?
Yes – definitely! If you’re set up for spraying you should be able to get a much nicer finish on melamine since the substrate is already so smooth. You’ll need to use a good quality primer suitable for spraying. Be careful not to scratch the melamine when you’re sanding it. Scratches will be much more visible on a sprayed surface.
Obviously for new bespoke furniture you’re probably not going to be using MFC in the first place – MDF is a much better option if you’re going to paint it.
Remember you can find a list of some of my most commonly used tools I use over on this page. You can also buy by favourite metric-only double sided tape measure from here. Best of luck with your project!
Last updated: 6 May 2020
Originally published: 21 Jul 2018
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Andy ran a successful property maintenance and woodworking business for many years. He's established and run award winning companies, has been self employed most of his life and was co-host of the UK's first commercial joinery podcast. He now shares his experiences via one of the UK's biggest property maintenance YouTube channels.
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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 get paint to stick to melamine? ›
It's best to prime melamine before painting. Melamine is already a difficult surface to paint. Using a primer will give you the best chance of obtaining a good paint finish. Kitchen or bathroom cabinets are heavy use areas, so they'll likely chip without proper preparation.Is there a spray paint for melamine? ›
We opted for Rust-Oleum's Mode spray paint which, along with the Mode primer, enables you to achieve a smooth finish on most surfaces, even melamine.What primer is best for melamine? ›
Unfortunately, there are not a lot of options when it comes to painting melamine surfaces. The top three choices are Dulux 1L Renovation Range Primer, White Knight 1L Renew Tile And Laminate Primer Paint, and Dulux 1L PRECISION Maximum Strength Adhesion Primer White.What will bond to melamine? ›
Titebond Melamine Glue is designed for bonding wood, particleboard, MDF and other porous substrates to synthetic materials such as melamine, vinyl and HPL as well as metals.Do I need to sand melamine cabinets before painting? ›
In order to properly go about painting melamine cabinets, you need to roughen up the surfaces adequately. Since melamine cabinets are made to withstand grease and dirt, it can be difficult for paint to properly adhere to them. So, go in with a 150 or 180 grit sandpaper and sand the surfaces lightly.Can you paint over laminate without sanding? ›
So yes! You can paint laminate furniture without sanding! Keep in mind though, if you have any scratches or spots of nail polish (like I did), you'll want to sand those areas so you have a nice smooth surface for your paint.How do you paint old melamine kitchen cabinets? ›
- Lightly sand the surface of the cabinets, remove dust with dry cloth.
- Apply XIM Primer Sealer Bonder.
- Paint with Sherwin-Williams All-Surface Enamel Latex paint in a semi-gloss finish, 2-4 coats may be needed if using a dark color.
In addition to this, urethane-reinforced acrylic paint can be used for melamine and laminate kitchen cabinets paint. It is expensive in comparison to the acrylic-latex paints used on drywall. But the urethane-reinforced products possess best hiding abilities and stick better on the surfaces with problems.What is the difference between laminate and melamine? ›
Because melamine is made from either particleboard or MDF with a bonded melamine surface, it is able to be used in a multitude of applications. In contrast, laminate is a veneer with a thin resin backing. To make laminate boards, melamine paper is bonded to a resin backing.
Eggshell Melamine Laminate Finish Paint is great for kitchen and bathroom remodeling projects. This waterborne acrylic enamel dries to a smooth finish and resists stains and marring to help ensure that it remains attractive over time.Is melamine paint oil or water based? ›
Ultra Melamine / Cabinet & Furniture
This high-hiding, excellent coverage, scrubbable and washable paint has exceptional stain resistance. Ideal for kitchen cabinets and furniture as well as doors, trim and walls surfaces. A water-based product, which makes cleaning tools easier.
For the cabinet paint to dry, it usually takes about 1 – 2 weeks. This is what we call “dry to the touch” After the paint is dry to the touch the curing process begins, and this takes a little longer, about a month or thirty days to be exact.What kind of paint do you use on 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.What primer will stick to laminate? ›
Spray Paint Primer for Laminate
The BIN shellac-based primer, Cover Stain primer, and Clear Shellac primer mentioned above all come in aerosol spray paint cans and are SO good at getting paint to stick to laminate cabinets or furniture.
BIN shellac based primer is the best primer overall for laminate and wood furniture. It is shellac based, so it is stinky, but the shellac helps the primer stick to laminate furniture (it has the best adhesion out of all the primers out there!) It's thin, so it's easiest to roll it or spray it on.Can you epoxy melamine? ›
It is best to use smooth plywood, medium-density fiberboard, or melamine for the walls and base. Note that epoxy sticks well on surfaces like glass, aluminum, and wood.How do you fix peeling melamine? ›
If the melamine coating has only come loose in a few areas, you can reattach it using an instant adhesive, such as Super Glue or Krazy Glue. You can use instant glue to reattach peeling melamine coating on a cabinet. However, if larger areas of the melamine cabinets are loose, you will need to paint the cabinets.How do you refurbish melamine? ›
For most refacing products, you also need to roughen the melamine surface. Sanding the cabinets with medium-grit sandpaper removes the outer surface and gives any new covering product a good surface to bond to, reports Today's Homeowner. Once the sanding is complete, you need to remove any dust with a tack cloth.What happens if you don't sand cabinets before you paint them? ›
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.
Make sure to start with a liquid sandpaper or liquid de glosser product to clean and slightly “etch” the surface. You don't necessarily have to sand (or liquid sand) a laminate or melamine surface before painting it. You DO have to clean it thoroughly though.Do you need to prime laminate cabinets before painting? ›
It turns out you can paint laminate cabinets, but you need to do a little prep work and use a special primer to get the best results.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.How do you prepare a laminate surface for painting? ›
Use a fine-grit sandpaper to lightly roughen surfaces so that your primer and paint will adhere effectively to the laminate. Wipe away all dust from sanding with a damp cloth. Countertops may require additional sanding to remove any glossy polycoat on the surface to which paint would struggle to adhere.Should I remove laminate before painting? ›
The key to getting the best paint results is preparation. Remove laminate cabinet doors from their frames and remove all hardware, including hinges. Check the laminate for damage and repair any cracked or warped laminate; you don't want to paint over the damage. Finally, clean the doors and sand them lightly.How can I change the color of my melamine cupboards? ›
Since melamine is a smooth surface, oil primer must be applied in order for the colour to hold well. To increase the adhesion of the primer to the melamine, it is best to clean the furniture well and lightly sand the surface. Then we put a coat of oil primer and voila!How do you modernize melamine cabinets? ›
Paint Them Pretty
A few coats of satin, eggshell or semigloss paint with a built-in primer can uplift your cabinetry. After sanding your cabinet boxes and doors to abrade the surfaces -- to make it "grab" the paint -- consider colors such as smoky gray, rich brown or bold black for drama.
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.How do I know if my kitchen cupboards are melamine or laminate? ›
How Do I Know if I Have a Melamine or Laminate Kitchen? Unlike vinyl, melamine and laminate do not peel or bubble. If you check the corners and edges of your cabinet you should be able to tell whether it is melamine, laminate, or a vinyl cabinet.How can you tell if something is melamine? ›
Test authenticity of melamine by boiling for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Fake melamine will deform and bend and even melt when heated. Steaming fake melamine also causes eye irritation, coughing and nausea. Authentic melamine should be heavier and thicker.
"durability". Plastic enamel, or as it is currently being called, Melamine paint, is one of those very durable paints that are not at all easy to apply perfectly.What shade of white is melamine? ›
When it comes to Melamine MDF, the most wanted Melamine color is Warm White color . We export warm white color Melamine MDF worldwide.Can you paint melamine with gloss paint? ›
The best paint for the final finish of your melamine surface is a satin or semi-gloss paint. If you're painting a high-touch area like a countertop, glossy paint may have a sticky consistency and will attract more dirt and grease, even after drying.Is Dulux water or oil based? ›
Dulux Quick Dry water-based paint helps take the hard work out of decorating. But did you know its impact on the environment is significantly lower than that of solvent-based paint? It's self-undercoating, low-odour and keeps its long-lasting whiteness.How many coats of paint do I need for cabinets? ›
Two coats of paint are essential for cabinets—you're building a surface. By the way, to get the nicest finish, use a brush, a 2- to 2 1/2-inch fine bristle brush.How much does it cost to paint laminate cabinets? ›
It costs $3 to $10 per square foot to paint kitchen cabinets, or an average of $30 to $60 per linear foot, including labor, materials, and supplies.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.What paint can be used on melamine wardrobe doors? ›
If you are painting melamine wardrobe doors you will need to use specific melamine paint, made to cover Melamine Faced Chipboard (MFC), as melamine wood is a mixture of wood, paper and resin with a different consistency to normal wood.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 melamine bathroom cabinets? ›
To paint peeling melamine cabinets:
Vacuum any sanding dust, and then wipe the cabinet down with a damp cloth. Apply one or more coats of a bonding primer to the cabinet (spray primer works best). Apply two topcoats of paint over the primed surface. (Spray paint gives a smoother surface).
As the wardrobe is made of dreaded melamine, I turned to my old faithful favourite chalk paint, which is fantastic for adhering to almost any surface.How do you revamp melamine furniture? ›
Dust the furniture thoroughly, removing sticky residues with regular household cleaners. Sand all surfaces you plant to paint, and then wipe the dust away with a tack cloth or rag. Sanding the plastic-like surface of melamine allows the primer to adhere better.Can you paint laminate without sanding? ›
So yes! You can paint laminate furniture without sanding! Check out the best paint for furniture without sanding here. Keep in mind though, if you have any scratches or spots of nail polish (like I did), you'll want to sand those areas so you have a nice smooth surface for your paint.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.