How to Paint Laminate Cabinets: Everything You Need to Know
Do you want to give your laminate cabinets a makeover? Get all our tips to get great results when you paint your laminate cabinets!
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Do you have a room in your house where pretty much everything needs a little updating?
That was my laundry room.
I’ve lived in this house for 15 years, and not only have styles changed during that time, so has my taste.
But a big renovation wasn’t really in the budget.
AnnMarie decided to give her laundry room a makeover at the same time, so we’ve been helping to keep each other motivated to finish our rooms!
We’re both waiting on our money trees to actually start showing us the money, so our makeovers are gonna be done on a budget.
I set out to give my laundry room a glow up using the power of paint, and some millwork from Woodgrain.
Let’s take a look at where I started…
You’re not gonna believe how it looks now.
Be sure to scroll all the way to the end to see the comparison!
So far, I’ve added a custom wood valance over my window.
Created a feature wall using picture frame moulding.
Swapped out the door for a French door.
Built a wall-mounted beadboard drying rack.
Painted the walls and trim.
And enclosed the space above the cabinets.
Now it’s time to paint the laminate cabinets!
Can You Even Paint Laminate Cabinets?
Because the room is on the small side, I decided I wanted to paint it white to help it look a little larger.
But what about those white laminate cabinets?
Wouldn’t they just blend into the wall?
I really wanted to turn them into one of the focal points in the room!
The easiest way to make these basic laminate cabinets look a little less basic was to give them a whole new color.
It turns out you can paint laminate cabinets, but you need to do a little prep work and use a special primer to get the best results.
Please note: The tips in this article assume you’re working with undamaged laminate surfaces. If your laminate surface is chipped or peeling, you’ll need to repair, and possibly resurface it before painting.
Our Tips for Painting Laminate Cabinets
To Remove, or Not Remove the Doors?
Since we were enclosing the space above the cabinets, it was easier to do that work without the cabinet doors in the way.
You’re gonna need to do some other prep work to the cabinet box, so I really do recommend removing the doors.
You can put them back on for painting if you prefer, but I like giving the doors and the box some time to cure without the risk of them being shut and possibly damaging the paint job.
When you remove the doors, be sure to mark the doors so you know where they hang to make re-hanging them easier!
I used a fine tip sharpie marker and wrote in tiny letters on the metal hinges.
I actually didn’t.
That’s what I should have done.
So do what I say, not what I do…
My husband let me know that it was much more challenging figuring out how to orient the doors correctly since I skipped this step.
If you have knobs on your cabinet doors, it may be easier if you accidentally forget?
Because then at least you’re not trying to figure out whether you’re looking at the top or the bottom of the door…
Remove the Hardware
If your cabinets have any hardware, remove that before moving to the next steps.
It’s much easier to paint when you’re not trying to avoid hardware.
If you decide to paint the cabinet doors after you’ve hung them, you can tape off the hinges to protect them.
But honestly, the whole process will be much faster if you remove the doors and then remove the hardware.
Clean the Surface
One of the first steps to prepare your surface is to clean it and remove any grease.
I recommend using TSP (trisodium phosphate) which cuts through any grease, dirt, soot, stains, and mold.
Be sure to follow the package instructions when you use TSP!
I like to wear gloves when I work with it.
After cleaning, wipe the cabinets and doors down with clear water and then dry them.
Sand the Surface
Laminate surfaces are considered to be tricky to paint because they tend to be so smooth.
Paint can have trouble sticking to smooth surfaces, so the next two steps help improve your paint’s adhesion.
Lightly sand the box and the cabinet doors with 120 grit sandpaper.
But be careful!
All you’re doing is giving the smooth surface a little texture.
You don’t want to remove the surface!
So sand lightly.
Just enough to make some dust.
But not enough to go through the thin laminate surface.
Be especially careful on the outer corners and edges!
I used both a sanding block and some sand paper for this job.
It was much easier to sand the box part of the cabinets.
Not only was it all straight lines, the laminate didn’t seem to be as thin on this part.
Once you’re done sanding, use a shop vac to remove the dust from all your surfaces.
Then go over the surfaces again with a tack cloth to remove any dust that may have been left behind.
I’m always shocked by how much the tack cloth picks up!
Use Primer and Paint Made for Premium Adhesion
Most of the time, I’m happy with Zinser’s Bullseye primer.
But painting laminate cabinets calls for something special.
There are several primers that can work well for this type of cabinet painting project.
Either this primer or the one I chose are recommended for their superior adhesion on slick surfaces.
The XIM primer is a low VOC paint, and also low odor.
I also chose to use Benjamin Moore’s Advance paint for the color (another low VOC, low odor paint).
The Advance paint not only looks great on my bathroom cabinets, it’s held up amazingly well in my garage drop zone.
I also knew that the color I wanted to paint my cabinets would coordinate well with the other Benjamin Moore colors I used in the laundry room (White Dove and Revere Pewter).
Be sure to carefully read the instructions for the primer before proceeding!
XIM primer recommends priming before caulking.
You’ll also need to stir the primer thoroughly!
It took a while for the primer to be completely blended!
Once I got it to this point, I stirred it a little longer for good measure…
After priming the box part of the cabinets in the laundry room, I got to work on the cabinet doors down in my garage.
I set up the cabinet doors on top of old paint cans to make it easy to paint the edges.
Caulk and Fill Holes
After you’ve finished priming, caulk all the edges and fill any nail holes.
I usually do this step before priming, but the XIM primer said it could cause caulk to crack if applied over top.
So I did things differently for this project.
Paint That Laminate!
Before going whole hog and painting everything, test your paint’s adhesion.
Pick an inconspicuous place, and apply the paint you chose, and then let it cure.
I tested it on the far side of my cabinets, on the part that’s not visible unless you’re standing at the window.
If you notice the paint is bubbling, then it’s not adhering properly. You should consult with a paint store professional to see what you should do next.
If there’s no bubbling?
Then go ahead and paint your laminate cabinets!
I used Frog Tape for delicate surfaces to protect the fresh new paint on my walls.
Painting the cabinets was possibly my favorite part of this whole makeover.
I was so excited about the paint color I chose for the cabinets!
It’s called Lafayette Green (HC-135) and it’s by Benjamin Moore.
It has so much depth and looks beautiful paired with Revere Pewter.
And don’t forget to protect your surfaces when you paint!
Install Hardware and Rehang the Doors
I let the cabinet doors cure for a full week before we installed them.
The paint is supposed to be fine after 72 hours, but I figured a few more days would be even better.
Since I didn’t properly mark which door was which, it took a little flipping and figuring to get them hung properly.
Once my husband knew which door was which, he installed the new cabinet handles.
Aren’t they lovely?
I had planned to get the 5-inch handles, but when I ordered them, the 6-inch version was on sale!
For less than the 5-inch ones!
And after seeing them on the cabinets, I’m so glad I went with the longer handle.
Once the handles are attached, simply rehang the cabinet doors and make any adjustments necessary for them to be level.
Step back and enjoy the view.
Since everyone loves a good before and after, here’s a side-by-side comparison for you.
What do you think?
Will you try painting your laminate cabinets now?
If you have any questions or suggestions, contact me or leave a comment!
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- TSP (Home Depot)
- Sandpaper (Home Depot)
- Tack Cloth (Home Depot)
- XIM Uma Primer, Bonder, Sealer (Home Depot)
- Benjamin Moore Advance Paint (Ace Hardware)
- Caulk (Home Depot)
Lisa West on Jul 13, 2021
Look great. For me I would have turned the top of the cabinets into storage as well. Put the door on that type of mount where you pull the handle up. You could hide Christmas gifts in there, or what ever I need to store. Also it would be a perfect place for a safe of some sort. Seen alot of clever safes or hide spots in walls shelving units molding etc. Love the shade of green you chose. Some plants in there would look nice to.