How To Paint Laminate Kitchen Cabinets – A Step-By-Step Guide
Does your kitchen have a boring set of white laminate cabinets that are old and stained? You can turn them green, grey, blue, or any shade of the rainbow with some paint and elbow grease. The job could take several days, but it can be done for just a couple of hundred pounds.
In this post, I’ll explain how to paint laminate kitchen cabinets, some considerations and the best materials for the job. These tips will help you get a professional finish while reducing frustration.
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Can You Paint Laminate Kitchen Cabinets?
Yes! You can paint (refinish) laminate kitchen cabinets. With a bit of time and care along with the right materials and process, painting laminate kitchen cabinets can be a DIY job to refresh a tired looking kitchen.
How To Paint Laminate Kitchen Cabinets
Painting your laminate cabinets really isn’t any more complicated than fixing up an old wardrobe or bed. The real key to a successful outcome is using the right materials and following the recommended dry times. First off, you need to make a trip to the DIY store!
Supplies You Will Need
- Plastic sheets or tarps
- Cleaner such as Unika, HG, or Stardrops
- Sandpaper and sanding block or power sander
- Painter’s tape
- Smooth small paint rollers
- Paintbrushes–including quality angled brush
- Paint trays
- Bonding Primer by Dulux, Rustins, or Zinsser
- Cabinet/furniture enamelled paint
In order to buy enough paint, you need to measure the surface area of your cabinets and check the bucket for coverage. Otherwise, you may have to make an extra trip.
Step-By-Step Painting Guide For Laminate Cabinets
For the best results, make sure that you follow each and every step. If you skip one or fail to give yourself enough time, you can end up with a streaky finish that peels.
- Prepare the Space
This is a big job, and you should expect to be out of your kitchen for a few days. Empty your worktop and remove anything from the cabinets that could get damaged while painting.
Set up a small kitchen space with a microwave, electric kettle, and some snacks somewhere out of the work zone.
Put down plastic sheeting over your floors, appliances, and furniture. Add painter’s tape anywhere that your cabinets meet the wall, worktop, or refrigerator.
You will want a space to set out the cabinet doors while they are painted. A pop-up tent in your back garden will protect them from an afternoon drizzle or take over your basement or lounge.
- Repair Loose and Cracked Laminate
Use a worktop filler to even out any chips and glue down loose laminate edges. Don’t worry about matching colour, as the paint will hide the repair. A solid laminate surface will extend the life of your paint.
- 3. Remove Cabinet Doors and Drawers
Use your screwdriver to take down all the cabinet doors and then pull out the drawers.
If you paint the doors and drawers in place, it is likely that they will end up getting stuck to the cabinet face. No matter how tempting it is to leave them there, do it!
Number each door, drawer, and cabinet so that when it is time to reassemble, everything will fit the first time.
Lay all the doors on the floor, lawn, or work table.
- 4. Take Off the Knobs and Handles
Your screwdriver will also help to remove all the hardware.
Once again, if they are left in place you will end up with paint spots in all the wrong places. Besides, isn’t it time for some new knobs?
- 5. Scrub the Cupboards
The cabinet doors and faces must be completely clean in order for the paint to adhere to the surface.
Wash them down with warm soap and water.
Follow that up with a cleaner designed for laminate worktops and cabinets. This will remove as much grease and dirt as possible.
- 6. Sand All Surfaces
Laminate is a slick surface. Use a sanding block or power sander to knock the shine off of the cabinets.
This gives the paint a better grip for a more durable finish.
- 7. Apply Your Primer
Before you begin, open the windows and turn on a fan.
Primer serves to neutralize the existing colour and seal the laminate surface. Even if you use a paint that says one-coat paint-and-primer, you are going to need multiple coats.
Primer is less expensive than paint and lets you use less paint on fewer coats.
Make sure to read the primer label for drying time before applying your first coat of paint.
- 8. Add Two Coats of Your Chosen Cabinet Paint
Use a smaller sponge or smooth paint roller to apply the paint colour of your choice.
Enamel cabinet paint is thicker than typical wall paint. It may look like you achieved full coverage after the first coat, but after it dries you will notice streaking. A second and even third coat eliminates that appearance.
An angled brush helps to cut in on tight corners. Take your time to paint the edges before rolling out the major sections.
Once again, wait for the recommended period between coats. If you do it too soon, you end up pushing the first layer around. It’s okay to wait overnight between coats.
- 9. Flip the Doors and Do It Again
If you put the doors and drawers back with only one side painted, your professional-looking job will be blown the first time you need a plate or glass.
Paint all sides of the cabinets that are visible. Even the inside of the cabinets! You get a kitchen that looks like it was always that perfect shade of blue-grey.
- 10. Let It Dry!
You will need to let the final coat dry up to a full day before you can put everything back where it belongs.
If you hang the doors before they are completely dry and cured, the paint can stick resulting in rips, peeling, and bubbling. Read the paint can!
- 11. Add New Hardware
Was this kitchen last updated sometime in the 1970s? Now is a good time to add some contemporary drawer pulls, hinges, and knobs.
It’s a simple upgrade that will give a dramatic accent to your budget renovation.
- 12. Reinstall Cabinets
Pop your drawers and doors back in place. Use your matching numbers to speed up the life-size jigsaw puzzle.
You did it! Your kitchen hasn’t looked this awesome in years!
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What Kind Of Paint Do You Use On Laminate Kitchen Cabinets?
Look for furniture and cabinet paint by Dulux, Rust-Oleum, or Johnstones. It may be described as enamel paint and comes in an oil base or acrylic. Acrylic is easier to clean up using just water and comes with fewer fumes. The paint can be tinted in any colour that you desire.
You will want to decide just how shiny your cabinets should be when you are done. Chalk paint is very popular right now, but its matte finish can be difficult to scrub. Semi or high-gloss makes it easier to keep your cabinets clean.
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What Primer Is Best For Laminate Kitchen Cabinets?
You will want to use a bonding or adhesion primer for this project, such as Dulux’s Difficult Surfaces Primer. The primer is formulated to really stick to the slippery laminate surface. In turn, the primer provides an excellent base for your paint.
If you opt for an old can of primer from your shed, it may not stick resulting in a streaky appearance that peels.
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There you have it! Everything you need to know if you are considering painting your laminate kitchen cabinets.
It may take some time and patience to do a proper job but it’s well worth it if you’re looking to freshen up a tired kitchen, especially if you’re on a budget. Get the right gear and go through each step methodically and you’ll end up with a beautiful rejuvenated kitchen.
Now you know how to do it, the only thing left to decide is what colour you’re going to go for!
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Michael is a kitchen designer from the UK. He's been designing and project managing new kitchen installations for over 10 years. Before that, he was an electrician and part of a team that fitted kitchens. He created Kitchinsider in early 2019 to help give people advice when it comes to getting a new kitchen.