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How to Paint Laminate Cabinets in 9 Steps: the Complete Guide

Installing new cabinets can be time-intensive and costly. Luckily, there are other ways to give outdated cabinets a makeover. Learning how to paint laminate cabinets is a good solution for giving your kitchen a facelift.

How to paint laminate cabinets that look amazing

It can be a tricky process since laminate is different than solid wood, but it can be done. Let’s dive in!

Can Laminate Cabinets Be Painted?

Yes! Laminate cabinets can be painted, but it’s not as simple as solid hardwood cabinets. Laminate cabinets are made by bonding a thin synthetic material to a solid surface like an MDF core or particleboard.

So, what you see on the outside is not the same material all the way through. This means any damage to the outside surface could result in an uneven paint job. That’s why it’s important to do the proper prep work.

1. Items Needed for Painting Laminate Cabinets

Are you ready to learn how to paint laminate cabinets? Let’s get started with what supplies you’ll need (or might want) for successfully painting laminate cabinets:

Cleaning Supplies

  • Degreaser to clean up cabinet surfaces
  • Sponges or cloths
  • Rubber gloves

Sanding Supplies

  • Medium-grit sandpaper or sanding block (120 or 150)
  • Fine-grit sandpaper or sanding block (220 or 240)

Painter’s Tape

  • Frog Tape – painter’s tape for getting clean, sharp lines

Drop Cloth / Surface Protection

  • Brown Rosin Paper – paper that helps protect floors and surfaces from paint spills or drips
  • 3M Hand Masker – plastic that film protects surfaces from overspray

Paint Sprayer

Pop-Up Wall / Shelter

2. Asses and Repair Any Damage

Before you begin to prep for painting laminate cabinets, look for any damage on the surface such as peeling or chipping.

Start by checking the laminate cabinets for damage

Peeling or Loose Laminate

To repair peeling laminate, hold the laminate away from the MDF or particleboard. They don’t need to touch at this point.

Next, apply water-based contact cement to the back of the laminate and the surface of the particleboard. Once the contact cement is dry to the touch, you can press the laminate to the particleboard and smooth it out.

Chipped Laminate

If your laminate cabinets are chipped, it’s important to assess the size of the damage. For large missing chunks, your best bet may be to replace that area with a new laminate covering.

For smaller chips and holes, you can use a compound to fill in the area. Make sure to sand it smooth with the surrounding laminate once it dries, so that it blends in when painted. Compounds will need to be sealed after application before painting.

3. Prep the Area

Tape off any trim not getting painted using painter’s tape, and cover any exposed walls with plastic or rosin paper. Put down a plastic drop cloth on the floors to protect them from spilled paint or overspray.

You can also wall off the kitchen to avoid getting paint anywhere else in the house. This is a great time to set up the paint tent, as well, so you have a place to paint your cabinet doors away from everything else.

Walling off the kitchen with a drop cloth

It’s also a good idea to set up an area where you can move cabinet doors to dry when they’re not being painted.

This part may seem like overkill, but you’ll thank yourself later when you have an easy cleanup.

4. Remove All Door and Cabinet Hardware

Removing the cabinet doors will make it easier to clean and paint them. You will also need to remove any hinges or knobs from the cabinet doors to prevent getting paint on them.

How to Paint Laminate Cabinets in 9 Steps: the Complete Guide 1

Make sure to label everything, so you know exactly what goes where when you’re finished. That goes for all doors and hardware. You can draw a diagram of your kitchen and assign each cabinet door a number.

Write the coordinating number on the cabinet door in an inconspicuous spot, like where the hinge goes. You can also write the number on a piece of painter’s tape, and put it on the back of the door.

Label any specific hinges or knobs with coordinating numbers, as well. Put your hardware in a bowl or container, and set it aside. This is to make sure you don’t lose any small pieces during the process.

5. Clean All Surfaces to Remove Dirt and Grease

Before painting laminate cabinets, any dirt or grease needs to be removed. This is a vital step so that the primer adheres properly.

You can do this using a degreaser, such as trisodium phosphate or Krud Kutter, to scrub the surfaces clean. Grease is usually prevalent on any cabinets near the stove area, so make sure to pay extra attention to those cabinets.

It’s a good idea to wear gloves while doing this as it can be messy. Follow up with a damp sponge and let the cabinets dry.

6. Sand All Surfaces Before Priming

Once you’ve cleaned all the cabinet door facings and cabinet bases, it’s time to sand. Laminate is smooth plastic, so sanding the surface gives the paint something to stick to.

Sanding cabinet doors before repainting

Using medium-grit sandpaper, such as 120 or 150, gently sand the surfaces to roughen the texture. Take extra care to be gentle in this step, so you don’t damage the thin laminate surface. Wipe the cabinets down with a damp sponge or cloth again to remove any dust, then let them dry.

7. Prime Everything With a High-Quality Bonding Primer

Some people want to skip this step, but I highly recommend that you don’t. Applying a bonding primer will set you up for success when painting laminate cabinets. It provides a surface for the paint to properly adhere to. It also gives a base for even coverage and color.

When picking out your primer, make sure to choose a high-quality, reputable brand. Here are the primers I recommend using when painting laminate cabinets:

  • Zinsser Smart Primer – This primer works great for bonding to the cabinet surface and blocking any stains. You can find our full review of the product here.
  • INSL-X Stix Primer – This primer also works great for providing an even surface to apply the topcoat to. You can find our full review of the product here.
  • Sherwin Williams Bonding Primer – This primer works well for bonding to slick or glossy surfaces.

Thin the primer according to the sprayer’s instructions, then put an even coat of primer on all the cabinet doors and bases. While not required, using a paint sprayer will help give an even finish on your cabinets, so you don’t have to worry about leaving brush strokes behind.

Allow the first coat to dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions before applying the second coat.

8. Sand After Priming

Using a fine-grit sanding block, such as 220 or 240, lightly sand the primed cabinet doors to roughen the texture. Make sure not to sand enough to remove the primer from the surface. You still want that primer coat there. This just helps get a smooth coat when it’s all said and done.

9. Apply the Top Coat

Make sure the surface is cleaned off. Now, you’re ready to apply the topcoat! Don’t skimp here. Using a high-quality kitchen cabinet enamel paint will ensure that the paint will last for a long time without peeling and flaking. As much trouble as painting cabinets can be, you don’t want to have to do it again in a couple of years!

Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Here are the topcoats I recommend for painting laminate cabinets with:

  • Benjamin Moore Advance – This water-based topcoat gives a smooth result with easy cleanup. You can find our full review of the product here.
  • INSL-X Cabinet Coat – This water-based cabinet paint bonds to primer well and has a fast dry time.
  • Sherwin Williams Acrylic Alkyd – This water-based topcoat prevents yellowing, and even if you use a brush, it leaves behind no brushstrokes.
  • Behr Urethane Alkyd Enamel – This topcoat enamel gives a durable hard finish to your cabinet surfaces.

Make sure all the primer is cleaned out of the paint sprayer before putting the enamel paint in. Thin the paint according to instructions, and you’re ready to go.

Apply an even coat across all surfaces. In between coats, it’s a good idea to lightly sand with fine-grit sandpaper, as you did after the primer coat. Apply as many topcoats as necessary.

Once you’re happy with the coverage, allow the topcoat to cure completely before putting any hardware back on. Now, you can reassemble your kitchen, and enjoy your newly painted laminate cabinets!

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How much does it cost to paint laminate cabinets?

When researching how to paint laminate cabinets, it’s important to also be aware of how much a project like this will cost. Between all the supplies you need, painting cabinets can be costly. In this post, we go over an estimate of how much it will cost, depending on your needs and cabinet specifications.

2. What are the best colors to paint laminate cabinets in?

The answer to this question depends on the person. Neutral colors are very popular at the moment, but they show more dirt and spills. There are also some trendy, dark colors for cabinets, and they are easier to keep clean. We broke down several options to consider when choosing a cabinet color in this post.

Nicely painted kitchen cabinets

3. Can I paint over previously painted laminate cabinets?

Yes! Following the same steps above, you can paint laminate cabinets that already have a coat on them. Just make sure you don’t layer different paint bases (oil or acrylic).

Wrapping Up How to Paint Laminate Cabinets

Painting laminate cabinets can seem like a daunting task, but the end result will be rewarding! It’s a simple way to update your home without paying to have new cabinets installed.

Do you have experience with painting laminate cabinets? Let us know about it in the comment section below!

To read about more common kitchen cabinet painting questions and answers, check out these posts.