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How to Paint Laminate Cabinets

kitchen laminate cabinets

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Replacing your outdated storage compartments is a costly job but learning How to Paint Laminate Cabinets is a cheaper alternative to rejuvenate your cabinets in no time.

The price of cabinetry has increased dramatically over the years, and replacing your cabinets is one of the most expensive options- but of course, if you have the budget to change them entirely, then it’s simply up to you!

However, your least expensive option is to add a fresh coat of paint to your laminate cabinets. Repainting your laminates is affordable and can quickly transform your eyesore into a refreshing and modern set of cabinets.

Figuring out how to paint laminate cabinets will allow you to update and renew your kitchen or bathroom cabinets in no time at all. It will just require a commitment to time and a little bit of elbow grease.

But, while painting laminate can be done, it’s not the most suitable surface to paint over, even if you are an expert painting. Laminate is not as porous as other wooden materials, so preparation, paint, and paint application must be carefully carried out when painting over this surface.

This article will expound on how to paint laminate cabinets to give your storage compartments the renovation they need.

If your laminate cabinets are stained wood, then refer to our painting over stained wood guide!

Can You Paint Over Laminate?

The simple, straight-to-the-point answer is yes. You can paint over laminate.

But diving a little deeper, what is laminate? Essentially it can be a wide range of furniture types that replicate a wood-like product, such as cabinets.

The material is made by securing a thin layer of printable plastic, often called Melamine or Thermofoil, to a substratum particle board or plywood.

? Extra Info: The plastic usually has a wood-like grain or pattern when printed to create a wood flooring or cabinetry style.

Now, if you paint a natural wood piece of furniture, the surface will absorb some of the primers and paint into its grains or holes. This helps the paint to firmly adhere to the wood creating a tight bond.

However, on the other hand, as mentioned above, laminate surfaces are not porous at all making it hard to get your primer or paint to stick effectively.

Laminate or Veneer

Before you consider painting your surface, you must know precisely what type of surface you are working with.

Laminate and veneer surfaces are frequently confused but the process of painting changes between the two.

While veneered wood has a similar concept, instead of having a thin layer of plastic layer on top of the plywood, it has a thin layer of an actual wood type.

Best Paints for Laminate Cabinets

While choosing a topcoat requires care, selecting the correct primer will have a more detrimental effect on your cabinets than the topcoat. Nowadays, every brand is formulated to have a high-adhesion level. But if you pick a reputable brand, there shouldn’t be any problems.

Firsts of all, the topcoat needs to bond with the type of primer you applied. Check the label on your primer to figure out whether it was oil-based or acrylic-based.

Secondly, you need to pick out an enamel topcoat that will be able to fight off the usual marks and splashes that your cabinets may encounter in your bathroom or kitchen.

✔️ Tip: If you choose an oil-based paint, that will be preferred as it will cure firmer.

If you want to apply a finish to your cabinets, then a satin finish is the best to expose the opulence of the paint. It would be best to stay away from paints with glossy finishes as they will clearly show any imperfections.

How to Paint Laminate Cabinets: Guide

Just like any painting job, before you apply any primer or paint to your laminate cabinets, you’ll have to prepare your surface by repairing any blemishes, cleaning the area, and sanding to get a smooth surface. After you’ve thoroughly completed these steps, it’s time to begin transforming your laminate cabinets.

If your laminate cabinets are from the IKEA range, check out our specified guide on how to paint IKEA furniture.

a bathroom with laminate cabinets for article how to paint laminate cabinets
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Step One: Remove the Cabinets and Hardware

The best way to ensure your paint application is seamless depends on how well you prepare your surface. Removing your laminate cabinets, from doors to frames, and all hardware such as hinges will make the process just that little bit easier.

Using either your screwdriver or drill, begin to unscrew your doors and handles. As your remove, each item, take a sticky label or use a pen or marker to number each door. This will help when it comes to re-fixing the doors.

You can choose to leave your hinges on and mask them off with painter’s tape and paint around them, or if your hinges can easily be removed, you can take down the doors and paint them on a workbench.

? Hot Tip: Take a mug or Tupperware from your cupboard and store your screws in there! We all know how easy it is to misplace a screw, so it’s essential to keep them safe for reinstallation.

Step Two: Preparation- Clean and Repair

To ensure you get a smooth paint application, you’ll need to thoroughly clean and repair your surface area. Lay your cabinet doors on a drop cloth.

If your laminate cabinets are warped, cracked, these errors need to be repaired. Otherwise, it will interfere with the paint bonding. You’ll want to repair any damages by caulking any holes or rough edges.

So, before you get started, remove any dirt, grime, or grease! If you have sugar soap, you can use this along with a clean cloth and bucket of warm water.

Gently wipe away all grime on your laminates and rinse with fresh water ensuring all soap or dirt residue is removed.

If you don’t have sugar soap, you can also use Trisodium Phosphate- TSP, which will also help to instantly remove any grease, stains, dirt, or mold. Again, wipe down your cabinets with clean water to remove any residue.

? Remember: You want your surface to be spotless before you start painting; this will ensure the best possible surface for your paint to adhere to. Also, if you are using TSP, it’s important that you wear protective equipment such as gloves or masks.

Step Three: Sand

Paint struggles to stick to smooth surfaces, so another step you can follow to ensure you have the strongest possible bond between your slick surface and your paint is to sand the surface of your laminate thoroughly.

Begin to lightly sand over your surface using 120-grit sandpaper. Remember, you do not want to remove the surface layer or tear through the paper-thin surface. You simply aim to create a little bit of dusting to give the laminate surface a rougher texture.

✔️ Tip: If you are covering a large area and own an orbital sander, this will speed up the sanding process and save you some aches and pains!

Once you are happy that the surface is thoroughly sanding, take a handheld vacuum or feather duster to remove the dust from your surface.

?‍? Experts Recommendation: Go back over your surface with a tack cloth to remove any dust you’re your duster or vacuum may have missed.

Step Four: Prime your Cabinets

The primer and paint that you choose are specifically formulated to bond or adhere to your slick laminate surface.

There is a wide range of primers suitable for laminates so take a good look at your options to find what’s best for you. Before you pour your primer into your paint tray, it’s essential that you carefully stir your primer.

Now that your primer is all stirred up, you can begin to roll your primer onto your surface. Try to roll your primer in smooth, long strokes, as this will help to produce an even distribution.

Once you’ve primed all your surface areas, you can take another roller with no paint applied to it and roll it over the doors. Doing this will create a smooth finish and remove any unwanted streaks- this is commonly referred to as layering off.

? Key Insight: Make sure you read your primers instructions before you start the process. Some primers recommend that your primer first and then caulk any holes.

Step Five: Sand Again

Check that your primer is fully cured, and then using your 120-fine-grit sandpaper, light sand over your cabinets again to create a smooth surface; don’t over-sand.

If you over-sand, you’ll end up removing the layer of primer you just applied, which means you’ll have to prime again. Using your tack cloth or feather dust, clean off any dust particles.

Step Six: Paint your Cabinets

Similar to picking out the primer, there are several different paint options you can choose from when considering how to paint laminate cabinets- ensure your paints have been formulated to adhere to a laminate surface.

Before you begin applying paint all over your cabinets, it’s vital to test your paint’s adhesion levels. Pick out a discreet and inconspicuous area, apply a bit of the paint you’ve chosen, and wait for it to cure completely.

? Key Fact: Understanding the differences between dry times and cure times is vital, so check out our blog post, which will delve into each a little further.

Once your paint is cured, and you notice a bubble-like texture, this is a key sign that your paint is not adhering correctly to the laminate. At this point, you should speak to a paint store professional who will advise you on what paint they recommend.

If there is no bubbling, you can begin to apply your paint to your cabinets. You should apply your paint using the same method as your primer- in smooth, long strokes to help produce even distribution.

Repeat the same steps if another coat is required.

Step Seven: Rehang Cabinets

Make sure your paint has completely dried before you begin reinstalling your cabinet doors- check the manufacturer’s guidance on your paint tin for a clear insight on how long the paint takes to dry.

? Note: Usually, it’s recommended you leave your cabinets to dry for 72 hours.

Look at each of your doors, and their matching hardware, the numbers you labeled on them when they were removed will help you efficiently reinstall your cabinets.

If you want to leave your cabinets doors to cure for a while before installation, that also simply boils down to personal preference.

Top Three Tips when Painting Laminate Cabinets:

Roller instead of Paintbrushes:

paint roller and paint brush in a paint tray
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A pro tip when discovering how to paint laminate cabinets is picking a roller over a paintbrush. Using a roller will allow you to create a streak-free seamless finish, whereas if you use a paintbrush, it’s likely that you will see the brush strokes once you’ve finished- and this can ruin the overall look of your DIY project.

Minimize Exposure to Paint Fumes:

The fumes released from your primer and paint- mainly if you are working in a tight area- can be hazardous to inhale. So, you should always do your best to increase ventilation in the room you are painting in.

Test Your Paint

It’s vital that you test your paint adhesion levels before you paint your entire surface area. Testing how well it bonds to the surface is the difference between peeling paint and extra hours of cleaning, sanding, and priming- all over again.

Using an area that is not visible, add a small layer of paint and inspect the bonding. If bubbles appear, then you’ll need to try out another paint or consult a paint store professional for their opinion.

Round-Up: How to Paint Laminate Cabinets

Just as all painting DIY jobs, the right amount of preparation, elbow grease, and determination can see your outdated, peeling cabinets look refreshed in just a few hours.

With cabinetry prices rocketing over the years, replacing your cabinets is a costly job, and if your looking for a cheaper alternative adding a fresh coat of paint can do the job.

Repainting your laminates is affordable and can quickly transform your eyesore into a refreshing and modern set of cabinets.

The texture of a laminated surface is challenging for the paint to adhere to, so it’s important that you do everything you can to prepare your cabinets for paint.

Thoroughly cleaning your cabinets is a necessity. Ensure you remove all dirt, grime, and grease marks from the surface using sugar soap or TSP.

As well as cleaning, sanding down the area with 120-grit sanding paper will help roughen up the surface creating a better texture for the paint to bond to. However, do not go overboard with the sanding, as you can damage the layer of laminate.

Your paints and primers must be formulated to bond with your laminate surface, so check the paint tin before purchasing or ask a store professional for some guidance.

We create blog posts on niche topics by tapping into the owner’s extensive amount of working knowledge of paint-related topics. For example, check out our painting over vinyl, how to paint shutters, or how to paint aluminum posts! Our goal is to educate painting companies and homeowners alike.

Furthermore, if you don’t want to deal with the hassle of sanding, did you know it’s possible to paint cabinets by replacing your sandpaper with a de-glosser? Check out our helpful guide here!

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