How To Paint Laminate Kitchen Cabinets – A Step-By-Step Guide

Are your kitchen’s laminate cabinets looking dull, outdated, or marred by stains? Breathe new life into them by painting your laminate kitchen cabinets!

Whether you envision a vibrant green, a sleek grey, or a serene blue, a fresh coat of paint can work wonders. This transformation requires a bit of effort but is surprisingly cost-effective.

In this post, I’ll explain how to paint laminate kitchen cabinets and what tools you’ll need as well as answer some common questions on the topic.

Let’s go!

Can You Paint Laminate Kitchen Cabinets?

Yes, you can paint laminate kitchen cabinets, but it’s important to prepare the surfaces properly with thorough cleaning, sanding, and a primer designed for laminate to ensure the paint adheres well and lasts.

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.

However, viewing this as an interim fix before eventually upgrading to new cabinets might set a more realistic expectation for the outcome.

Painting laminate cabinets is more of a quick fix because the paint doesn’t stick to the smooth surface as well as it does to wood. It can chip or peel off after a while, so it’s a good solution for now, but not for the long term.

Painting laminate kitchen cabinets

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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.

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.

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

  • Screwdriver
  • Plastic sheets or tarps
  • Cleaners
  • Sandpaper and sanding block or power sander
  • Painter’s tape
  • Smooth small paint rollers
  • Paintbrushes–including quality angled brush
  • Paint trays
  • Bonding Primer (Dulux, Rustins, or Zinsser)
  • Cabinet or 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.

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.

Step-By-Step Guide

1. Preparation:

Start by removing the cabinet doors from the hinges. 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.

Unscrew all knobs, pulls, and hardware. Keep them together in a bag or container to prevent any loss.

2. Repairs:

Look over the laminate for chips, deep scratches, or peeling. Use a specific laminate repair compound to fill any such blemishes. Let the compound dry as per the manufacturer’s suggested time before proceeding.

Don’t worry about matching colours, as the paint will hide the repair. A solid laminate surface will extend the life of your paint.

3. Cleaning:

Mix a solution of warm water and degreasing dish soap to create a sudsy liquid. Scrub the cabinet surfaces with a sponge or soft cloth to eliminate all traces of kitchen grease and residue. Follow up with a rinse using clean water and dry the cabinets with a lint-free towel to prevent water marks.

The cabinet doors and faces must be completely clean in order for the paint to adhere to the surface.

4. Sanding for Adhesion:

Using fine-grit sandpaper (around 120 grit), lightly buff the laminate to break the glossy surface sheen. This step is crucial for helping the primer bond with the laminate. After sanding, use a tack cloth or a damp rag to remove all the dust.

5. Applying Primer:

Select a high-adhesion primer that’s formulated for slick surfaces. Apply the primer with a foam roller for a smooth, uniform layer, or use a high-quality synthetic brush to get into any detailed areas or grooves. Allow the primer to dry thoroughly, which might take a few hours to overnight, depending on the product.

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, use a decent primer first as well.

6. Post-Primer Sanding:

Once the primer is fully dry, lightly sand the surface again with higher-grit sandpaper (220 grit or higher) to ensure a super smooth base for your paint. Clean off the sanding dust with a tack cloth.

7. Painting:

Choose a semi-gloss or satin finish paint that’s suitable for laminate surfaces for durability and easy cleaning. Stir the paint well before application. Start painting from the back of the cabinet doors, moving to the front, and finish with the cabinet frames.

Use a clean foam roller for large areas and a fine brush for edges and details. Apply several thin coats rather than one thick coat, allowing each layer to dry completely.

8. Protective Topcoat:

For kitchens, which are high-humidity and high-use areas, a protective topcoat is essential. Apply a water-based polyurethane topcoat using a fresh foam roller or brush. Be sure to cover all painted areas to seal the paint and protect it from moisture and stains. Let it cure as instructed on the topcoat’s label.

9. Reassembly and Finishing Touches:

Once the topcoat is fully cured and hard to the touch, reattach the hardware. 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.

Carefully align the doors to their frames and adjust the hinges if necessary for a perfect fit.

Finally, step back and admire your beautifully updated kitchen cabinets. 👍

Fixing handles and hardware back onto kitchen cabinets  that have been painted

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What happens if you paint laminate cabinets without using a primer?

Skipping primer when painting laminate cabinets often results in paint peeling, a streaky finish due to poor adhesion, increased paint absorption requiring extra coats, reduced durability with a greater susceptibility to damage, and a surface that’s harder to clean and maintain.

Ultimately, it compromises the lifespan of the paint job, leading to the need for more frequent touch-ups or repainting.

How do I tell if I have laminate cabinets?

To identify laminate cabinets, check for a glossy, uniform appearance, examine the edges for a distinct thin layer, look for peeling at seams, feel for a smooth surface without grain, and notice if the cabinets are lighter in weight.

Tapping the surface may produce a hollow sound, and consistent patterns across all doors suggest laminate over natural wood variations.

Final Thoughts…

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!



Michael from

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.