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Staining Laminate - Yes, It Can Be Done!

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So about 2 years ago I felt a little ambitious and decided to take on my office cabinets, the orange-ish color laminate that wasn't offensive, but just wasn't my style or taste.
So about 2 years ago I felt a little ambitious and decided to take on my office cabinets, the orange-ish color laminate that wasn't offensive, but just wasn't my style or taste. I'd painted laminate in the past and had what I'd call so-so results. Yes, they look great right after I'd done them, but the results never lasted. What do I mean when I say the results never lasted? Always, every single time they'd end up peeling later down the road. User error? Possibly, but not likely. I know some have had success, but not me.
I decided to try something a little different by using a gel stain on the laminate and boy was I surprised at the results...2 years later!
You see the date on the calendar in the previous picture? October 2014, that's when I first took on the project, and yes it took a while to finish up the office because I had a big load on my plate at the time. Here's the pic from just the other day, January 2016, and the cabinets have held up great!
Since the office was on the project list for 2016, yes I make project lists, I decided it was as good a time to finally finish it up. You're going to be amazed at the difference a little Java gel stain can accomplish.
Before; your basic stock laminate cabinets with an orangish color to them. They weren't awful, I did live with them for many years like this and was content until the idea of mixing it up came to the forefront.
It was pretty easy too, no real prep work other than making sure they were clean. One thick coat and they were done. Yup, that easy.
I'd highly recommend using gloves when working with this gel stain. It's sticky, and the only way to get it off your skin is by using paint thinner or nail polish remover. I just bought a large box at Costco because I tend to go through them fast.
My favorite gel stain is the General Finishes brand. They've got great colors to choose from and a quart will go a long way. I probably used about half a can with this project, but that's because I brushed it on thick. How you use it will vary on how much you need. You can purchase it from Amazon, but I found it cheaper locally at a woodworking store.
I put it on like paint, but with a light touch. I found working with laminate, if I over brushed it the orange color would show through, and I didn't want that. So light easy strokes is the best method, and even though this technically doesn't have a true grain, you can create one by making sure your brush strokes are all in the same direction.
I also found that when working with glass on the doors, it was okay to get a little stain on the glass. I later went back and used a razor to scrape it off.
While the doors and shelves were drying, I stained out the wall cabinets.
I even restained the dry erase board to match the cabinets as well.
Turned out pretty nice I'd say.
It gives the office a nice rich feel that makes me want to be productive while I spend 8+ hours a day in there writing.
This bench was done 2 years ago using a slightly different method. I did more of a dry brushing to give it a grained look like real wood.
Looks like real wood, doesn't it?
One note, it takes about 5-10 days for the gel to fully cure. What I mean by that is once it's not tacky, you can put things back together, but take care that you don't scratch the finish. You can retouch, and once it's fully cured you shouldn't have any issues unless of course you accidently scrape it with something sharp, just like any other wood product.
Well, I'm off to be productive in my newly revamped office space. Wish me luck!
Toodles!
*If you'd like to see more pictures or details, follow the link to my blog.

To see more: http://wp.me/p6N1PU-R6

  • Hannah V
    Hannah V Brooklyn, NY
    on Jan 13, 2016

    Loving the darker look! Great job and awesome post!

    • Author Lisa L Wiedmeier
      Author Lisa L Wiedmeier Boise, ID
      on Jan 13, 2016

      @Hannah V It looks great against the blue walls. Very happy I finally got around to finishing it off. :)

  • Jean Myles
    Jean Myles
    on Jan 13, 2016

    What a nice change. Love the dark cabinets and the blue walls sooo fresh looking. Ty for sharing

  • B. Enne
    B. Enne Canada
    on Jan 13, 2016

    Good job, it looks very elegant. I've had success with gel-stain and laminate pieces that I was trying to coordinate with my oak cupboards. I used Old Masters stain.

  • Dee
    Dee Tomball, TX
    on Jan 14, 2016

    wow what a difference Love it

  • Joan Wright
    Joan Wright Mexico
    on Jan 16, 2016

    I've also used flat black paint on a laminate dresser that was many years old. Did a light sanding first then wiped it down and used a foam roller. Awesome finish which is still going.

    • Author Lisa L Wiedmeier
      Author Lisa L Wiedmeier Boise, ID
      on Jan 16, 2016

      @Joan Wright Glad that worked for you! I've done other laminate with paint, sanded, primed, and it still peeled. They were bookshelves, perhaps too much wear and tear.

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