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Painting Laminate Cabinets | A Huge Time-Saving Hack

Painting Laminate Cabinets | A Huge Time-Saving Hack

Painting laminate cabinets takes a lot of preparation and planning to ensure it has a good quality finish. However, we’ve got you covered with this detailed step-by-step guide. Read on to learn all you need to know.


Disclaimer: The information included in this post is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as legal, financial, or DIY advice. We highly suggest consulting a professional before attempting any DIY home improvements or repairs.


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Painting Laminate Cabinets in 10 Easy Steps

You can paint your laminate cabinets in about ten steps:

  1. Prepare the area and take safety precautions
  2. Remove hinges and doorknobs
  3. Clean the cabinet
  4. Sand it down
  5. Apply primer
  6. Sand again
  7. Apply coats of paint
  8. Sand and repaint until smooth
  9. Apply a topcoat
  10. Reattach hinges and doorknobs

With laminate, you must take the necessary precautions before putting a drop of paint onto your cabinets. Set aside a designated painting area and collect all the required items. Ensure you have the following materials:

  • 120 grit and 240 grit sandpaper (Unless you opt-out of sanding, in which case you would need chalk paint)
  • Your favorite cleaning solution
  • Adhesive primer
  • Laminate paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Roller brush
  • Drill or something equivalent
  • Painting tape

Now that you have all the tools for painting, ensure that you have read all the steps before starting.

Step 1:Take Safety Precautions

Whether you’re painting indoor or outdoor, you must not forget that safety must always come first. Here is a quick list to get you on track:

  • If possible, plan to paint in the fall or spring as windows can be left open for long periods of time.
  • Use window fans or conditioners with a filter system for optimum ventilation.
  • If you rent, make sure to always ask your landlord and warn your neighbors as consideration is your best policy.
  • If you experience eye-watering, headaches, dizziness, or breathing problems, leave the area immediately.
  • Take frequent breaks to get as much fresh air as possible during the painting process.
  • Do not use outdoor paint indoors and vice versa.
  • Always read the precautions on labels before starting.
  • When finished, seal paint containers tightly as improperly sealed cans can leak paint fumes.

Step 2. Remove Everything

Completely remove all cupboards, hinges, doorknobs, and anything else on the cabinets. Take note of any damaged wood, as you will need to sand these areas more to ensure you have a nice clean finish. 

Some things you may need for the removal process are:

  • Putty knives
  • Utility knife
  • Drill and new appropriate screws
  • Protective gear, such as gloves, shoes or boots, and goggles
  • Hammer
  • Pry bar for glued cabinets

It’s best to ensure you have all the materials necessary for the removal process as a precaution against injuries or accidents. Watch for things that could fly out and hit you, and always watch your footing, so you don’t trip. 

It’s also a good idea to note which cupboards were top and bottom. Grab a washable marker, and start naming your cupboards and drawers. 

Pick a place in your home that is spacious and out of the way of your daily living, then lay your cupboard doors down flat. You will want to pick a room or area in your home away from your everyday living space as paint can become quite smelly. 

Step 3: Clean the Cabinet

After you have arranged for a place to work with as much space as possible, you’re ready to clean. 

Choose your favorite cleaning solution and scrub down every inch of your cupboard doors. For best results, many people opt for sugar soap as it cleans the dirt and grime well, leaving you with a smooth surface, easier for the next step – sanding.

Step 4: Sand It Down

The easiest way to sand anything is with a sander, but hard pressure with sandpaper in your hands will do the trick if you don’t have one. Sand the cupboards just enough to get a thin layer of dust around you. 

All you’re looking for is a smooth texture for something the primer and paint can stick to rather than taking the layer of laminate right off. Use 240 grit and lightly sand all areas of your cupboards.

Step 5: Choose and Use Your Primer

Although there are many primers for painting laminate, you must use an adhesive primer for best results. Before picking out your trusty paintbrush or roller, ensure that you wipe away any dust and tape down any areas that you don’t want paint on with painting tape. 

If you use a brush, you may see brush marks. Ignore these, as you’ll paint over them later. If you use a roller, ensure that it’s an even coat before continuing to step two of painting. 

Step 6: Re-sand to a Smooth Texture 

Once completely dry (about one to six hours), it’s time for another round of light sanding. This time, you’re just going over the surface and making sure there are no paint lumps that will appear later on. To make this as quick and painless as possible, run your hand along the surface, and you will feel any bumps—sand these. 

Step 7: Choose and Use your Paint

When painting on laminate surfaces, you’re looking for latex or acrylic-based paint. The difference between the two paints is that acrylic is more elastic than latex. Acrylic may be easier to use than latex because it’s chemical-based and will expand better. However, latex paint is water-based and comes off easier with soap and water if you make a mistake.

When you’re painting, ensure that you move from up to down. Go back to the top and overlap about an inch from top to down. If it’s easier to go from left to right, go ahead; make sure you’re going in one steady direction. 

Before continuing to the next step, make sure to wait for your paint to completely dry – approximately four hours. You may need to apply a second coat of paint before moving forward.

Step 8: Repeat Steps Six and Seven 

Yes, more sanding. The reason for sanding is to get the surface entirely smooth before adding more paint. Once you have sanded and added paint, it’s time for a topcoat. 

Step 9: Apply a Topcoat

For the top coat, you need a water-based gloss-top finish to add protection and shine. When looking for the best topcoat, you will want to use a water-based polyurethane because it dries quickly. If you make a mistake, it will also wipe off nicely without ruining the paint underneath. 

You have to be careful with your choice of paints, primers, and topcoats because not all paints mix well with laminate. Similarly, not all top coats agree with the paint used for your laminate cabinets. So, ensure that you’re looking for primarily water-based products.

After this step is complete, wait twenty-four hours before finishing up. 

Step 10: Finish Up

At this stage in the game, decide whether you’re buying new door handles or using your old ones. Sometimes, your old fixtures don’t match the fresh paint you chose, and so touching it up with new handles will do just the trick for an eye-popping experience. Don’t forget to reattach the doors and remove all painting tape you had previously used. 

Things to Consider

To illustrate the process of painting laminate cabinets, a number of them sit with glass doors on the front

Papah-kah/Shutterstock

Laminate surfaces are unique. If you’re accustomed to painting regular wood cabinets or wood objects, remember that laminate reacts differently to the paint. You will need significant preparation and patience to get the perfect, smooth look on laminate cabinets. 

Before you start your painting job, consider the following points.

  • If there is any damage to the cabinet wood, don’t paint until you have fixed it. Prepare any cracks or scrapes with wood filler. 
  • Don’t paint over dirt since it will only resurface over time. Take time to thoroughly clean the surface.
  • Don’t use old primer and paint since they won’t look natural.
  • Don’t forget the primer process. Without primer, the paint might not stick well, and you may end up with splotchy surfaces.
  • Avoid oil-based paint because it can stain quickly. Consider water-based paints. Latex and polyacrylic paints are also viable options that stay shiny and smooth.
  • Watch out for paint drips that can leave tiny bubbles on your cabinet surface. If they’re already dry, sand them down.
  • Always apply more than one coat to ensure a fully covered surface.
  • Test the primer and paint on a portion of the cabinet. Bonding is critical with laminate surfaces. So, if the paint bubbles, then it’s not adhesive enough for the job. Get a new primer. If you skip the testing process, the paint may peel later on.
  • Prepare for everything. Double-check your list of tools so that each process goes quickly. 
  • Ensure proper ventilation. Make sure the central air system is working and put an air purifier or fans in the room. Send your kids and pets to another room, as well.

Still Thinking of Painting Laminate Cabinets?

Once you find your flow, you may find that redoing cabinets has become your new hobby. With the suitable materials, painting laminate cabinets is straightforward. Just remove and clean them, sand them down, and apply the appropriate paint.

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