Asked on Jan 02, 2016

Refacing Formica kitchen cabinets and counters

by Lyndee
Our original wooden cabinets were refaced with Formica back in the early 80's. We are looking for a way to upgrade and update them again. We do not want to put a lot of money into them. Can they be refaced a second time and/or what else can be done? We also need to do the same with the mica counters. Thank you.
Large pantry on left, small upper cabinets with four doors, they run across the top. There is another pantry on the right about half the width of this one
This is the right side were the smaller pantry is located.
Across and on the other side are too small upper cabinets which surrounds the window.
Upper cabinet, right side of window.
Lower cabinets. The sink cabinet is original to the home. The cabinet on the right with the draw was added in the early 80's as well as a cabinet to the right with two doors (not shown).
  32 answers
  • Patricia Patricia on Jan 03, 2016
    Chalk paint would work well over the Formica and would give it a whole new look for a relatively small amount of money. The cabinets would need to be cleaned first to remove any grease/oils/dirt and then run sand paper over the surface before applying the paint. Depending on the color you would need at least 2 coats of paint then lightly sand the paint for a smooth finish. Seal the paint with clear wax or you could seal it with a clear top coat of urethane. If you haven't used chalk paint before I recommend you try it on a small project first to get the hang of it and to make sure you like it. I use Annie Sloan Chalk Paint but there are other brands available. Best of luck with your project.
    • See 5 previous
    • Patricia Patricia on Jan 04, 2016
      4. If you haven't used chalk paint before I recommend you try it on a small project first to get the hang of it and to make sure you like it. I use Annie Sloan Chalk Paint but there are other brands available. Best of luck with your project.
  • Hope Williams Hope Williams on Jan 03, 2016
    Hi Lyndee. You can paint them, I know it's old school at this point but it would help out greatly. Also, your choices are infinite here, but inside the "cutout" if you will, you can highlight the cutout. A different color like it is now. Inside the cutout, you can stencil, use paintable wallpaper, a great shelf paper, (easy to put in and take off), or just paint a darker or lighter shade inside the groove. You could update your hardware and I would place them a little more functionally appropriate. You can re-face them but if your are only trying to get them to a better, temporary, place until you can upgrade them, paint is a very cheap option. As for your countertops, depending on the condition, you can get a kit for countertop refinishing. They are pretty reasonably priced. Total approximate cost for doing cabinets and countertops should be around $200 is you choose this route. Refacing is not cost effective on Formica. But that is only my opinion. Another option is to buy new doors for them. Again much more money. It truly depends on your end goal. I know you'll choose something great and best for you. Happy makeover!😃
  • Country Design Home Country Design Home on Jan 03, 2016
    Hi Lindy! Those cabinets can be easily painted-no need for the expense of completely refacing them-as long as the veneer is still adhered well to the backing. Remove the hardware, clean the cabinets thoroughly with de-greaser (I use steel wool as my scrubber just to make sure). Prime with Binz or Kilz or some other primer/bonder. Then paint with a couple of coats of satin finish paint- I have used chalk and latex, and definitely prefer Ben Moore latex for kitchen cabinets. The other thing I might do to update the look is to remove the handles that are in the centers of the doors and replace them with knobs in the corners. And consider taking the doors off of the two cabinets flanking the window and leaving them as open shelving for display. Rustoleum makes some great countertop refinishing products as well.
  • Janet Pizaro Janet Pizaro on Jan 03, 2016
    Here are two posts that may be of interest. and
  • Johnchip Johnchip on Jan 03, 2016
    Be prepared for a tough four to five day two person job over a two week period. This is not easy to do right. i have done it badly and other time the right way, well. Take the time to do it right. Remember to do the insides as well or you will regret it later. Prime well after cleaning and sanding. Let the oil base primer cure, then paint, use a good oil base semi or satin finish. I would not accent the cut outs as they are kinda gross, just let them blend in with same paint color. replace ugly hardware or paint the pieces (metal spray paint, again after prep and prime). Consider leaving one or two cabinet doors off to make a couple 'open shelves' will really change the look of the room and given open display spaces. Counter top. have it replaced as no paint will ever hold up that well and new Formica tops are not very expensive. You have lots of great choices on that.
  • Jaci Jaci on Jan 03, 2016
    Thanks to everyone who responded to Lyndee's question on tackling formica cabinets. My kitchen has them in abundance, I can't stand them, & this post was really helpful! This is going to be the first Spring project at my house!!
  • Hunter Hampton Hunter Hampton on Jan 03, 2016
    I refaced Formica cabinets. The bottom layer was thin wood beadboard paneling, the edges were door stops and lattice. Start by framing the front of the door with door stops. Then cut the beadboard paneling to fit inside the frame. Then trim all around inside the frame with lattice. Here's a photo of it to show the layers and another with the finished product.
  • Jea1391742 Jea1391742 on Jan 03, 2016
    You can fill in the design on the cabinet with putty. Stencil or just paint.
  • Janet Pizaro Janet Pizaro on Jan 03, 2016
    another thought once your are done with the cabinets and counter I would change out the hardware as well.
  • LD LD on Jan 03, 2016
    If the integrity of the cabinets is good, then I would paint, and update the hardware. If the design on the face of the doors is engraved into the surface, I would fill that in in order to bring the door style out of the 80's. Rustoleum has kits for refinishing cabinetry, or you could paint them, but remember that you want to put a protective finish no matter which way you choose to finish them.Rustoleum also makes a product for countertops as well. The trend by designers now is to have the lower cabinets a darker shade and the upper cabinets a lighter shade. This would be a good time to update the backsplash as well. Also unless you want the interior of the cabinets to be the same as the outside, it isn't necessary to refinish.
  • Patty S Patty S on Jan 03, 2016
    I redid mine with Tongue and groove bead board and then framed it with picture frame molding. Painted them white and "Viola" a great beach side cabin look. Go to my post on Hometalk "I am proud of my kitchen".
  • Kathy Bitzan Kathy Bitzan on Jan 03, 2016
    I'd paint, but that's me, I was just at an apartment complex that had similar cabinets and they put on some modern handles and it made all the difference in the world they actually look great.
  • Jen Jen on Jan 03, 2016
    Getting ready to do the same! Going to use chalk paint..and get some counter paint as well
    • Kim 'Kiewatt' Waknitz Kim 'Kiewatt' Waknitz on Jan 04, 2016
      Check before using chalk paint, I've heard that it's impossible to cover (paint) over if you want to change it later. Just a FYI .
  • Mikkigirl Mikkigirl on Jan 03, 2016
    I'd fill in the "indentations" (black accents) and paint the cabinets using chalk paint. Updated hardware would also make a huge difference.There are kits available to spruce up formica countertops. . . . .
  • Pam Pam on Jan 03, 2016
    I just recently saw a post where they added 1/4" luan cut into strips and added them to the door fronts to make them shaker style, then caulked and painted and added new hardware. You could also add picture frame molding over those grooved areas wide enough to cover. New, very inexpensive update. There are many tutorials for painting Formica out there that seem pretty easy. Of course that would probably entail sanding and priming first. Time and elbow grease but worth it for the minimal cost with maximum reward.
    • Pam Pam on Jan 03, 2016
      PS if you go the luan route, good idea to attach with contact cement like veneer.
  • Bonnie Bonnie on Jan 03, 2016
    Can you paint over the Formica?
  • Kim Kim on Jan 03, 2016
    I have these exact refaced cabinets. I wanted a country look so I took double sided tape and black vinyl shelf paper and placed large square/rectangles over those cutouts. They look great and at Christmas, I use chalk to decorate them.
  • Marion Nesbitt Marion Nesbitt on Jan 03, 2016
    I'd just paint them.
    • See 2 previous
    • Janet Pizaro Janet Pizaro on Jan 06, 2016
      @Marion Nesbitt Wait a minute all I was saying is your normal responses are very explecit so I thought this was not you...Excuse me...Gosh what is wrong with that.I am not being judgmental get a grip
  • Kari Roberts Kari Roberts on Jan 03, 2016
    After painting them you could do some cool stenciling designs on them. Morroccon designs can look modern or world market.
  • Lyndee Lyndee on Jan 04, 2016
    I would like to read the rest of these posts. How do I go about doing that?
    • Pam Pam on Jan 05, 2016
      @Lyndee upper right hand just above comments "see previous" they will come in just watch the numbers where it says displaying ## of ## comments . It's a bit confusing the way they are shown. wish you could just say "see all comments" on all posts. Maybe someone else will respond to tell us both that.
  • Donna Tanner Donna Tanner on Jan 04, 2016
    My mother had some bedroom furniture that I inherited that are made of the same material your cabinets are. I'm sorry I do not have a picture of them before I painted them but they were the look of wood grain and they had brass color handles that you had to lift to open the drawers. I went to Lowe's Home Improvement and told them what I wanted to do and the associate said I needed to prime them before painting because the paint would not adhere. So he got the primer for me and mixed my paint. I put two coats of primer, two coats of paint and two coats of urethane on the tops to protect it when putting things on top. I replaced the handles with farmhouse style pulls (half circles). The furniture looks great and looks completely different.
  • Nicola Harris Nicola Harris on Jan 05, 2016
    I'd paint them in melamine or kitchen cupboard primer and then paint them in the colour of your choice. Also, you could tile the work surfaces in plain white and grout them in a different colour. I think that would look pretty good.
  • Jeani Miller Miner Jeani Miller Miner on Jan 05, 2016
    You can use Annie Sloane Chalk Paint. You won't need to sand or prime saving time and money. It would be fun to stencil the fronts either in a design or with words like old advertising signs. I would look into replacing the counters. Many stone yards have remnants that are quite reasonably priced. You'll be amazed at what a difference natural surfaces can make. Getting rid of the knick knacks, faux flowers and frilly curtain will also go a long way to modernizing the space. Best of luck.
  • Barb Barb on Jan 05, 2016
    I would also check mud paint. The things I have been reading about it makes it sound like it is easier to use and gets a smoother finish than chalk paint. I have not tried it yet so I am definitely no authority but I think it is worth checking on. I have also seen beautiful things painted with chalk paint so it just depends what kind of look you prefer. Good luck!
  • Pat Ruge Pat Ruge on Jan 06, 2016
    First of all, let me say, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by redoing this kitchen. I would recommend you begin by removing all doors and hardware and then adding a strip of MDF (thin) around the perimeter to create a shaker style door. You can mount the MDF with construction glue and/or staple. Fill in any holes with wood putty - including the black scroll design. This new "chalk paint" is very promising as far as no priming and great results. If that is too expensive for you, there is a pinterest board that will tell you how to make your own chalk paint. Do a search. I often times buy "Oops" paint at the local hardware store with deep discounts. I once painted a very large room (16x18') with 4 gallons of oops paint - all different colors, that I mixed together as one. They were similar in lightness, all with primer base and the final result was fantastic. All for the price of one gallon at regular price. The trick was to mix it all together before beginning the process. The same will be true if you decide to "make your own chalk paint" - in order to be consistent. Another alternative is the more expensive, kitchen cabinet paints - might run you as much as $100. My recommendation would be to save that money and put it into some lovely hardware (kitchen jewelry). I might also consider adding a nice crown molding - maybe even paint that (molding) black or contrasting color. As for your kitchen counters, you could begin by tearing them out, lay down a 3/4" plywood and tile them. Or look for a solid surface alternative. Personally, I found an 8" long kitchen counter - uncut, at a garage sale for only $8 that I use in my garage for additional work space. - This retails for $138 at Lowes. You might well be surprised by the things that people practically give away at garage sales and also on Craigslist. Why? Because they just want it gone! Good luck with your project. You go girl, shop till you drop!
  • Dakota Dakota on Jan 07, 2016
    Annie Sloan chalk paint would work wonderfully for your cabinets. I think they would look glorious in white because of the trim on the doors. As for the counters, look into Giani Countertop Paint. Changed my life and my kitchen!
  • The Redesign Habit The Redesign Habit on Jan 07, 2016
    If I were you and you really don't want to put too much money into it, I would simply get a good primer and paint them and then replace your hardware with something more contemporary. This in itself will make a huge difference. You can redo your countertops yourself if you are looking for an inexpensive fix that will get you to the point where you replace them. I have done this in two different kitchens and except for some small touch-ups they have held up well. You can check out the process and cost on my post here. Once you have your cabinets and countertops updated, you can decide what else you might like to do, if anything, with the walls, window treatments, etc. Good luck!
  • Cherie Cherie on Jan 08, 2016
    Forget Annie Sloan paint if you're trying to stay on a budget!!! There are so many good recipes for making your own cheaply and they work as well, believe me! Your counters could use paint, just stipple on to look like marble and then coat with envirotex lite - it's a clear "epoxy" type coating. Also look on internet for it. I think Pat Ruge and The Redesign Habit also have great ideas for you, especially with the trim around the doors! That would look great! Keep us posted on your progress!
  • Kathy Evans Langford Kathy Evans Langford on Jan 09, 2016
    The chalkpaint is a good idea, but I would also add a clear varnish over it instead of wax. Also you can add inexpensive planks to hid the scroll work, see photo.
  • Nancy Flemming Nancy Flemming on Feb 28, 2016
    Adding inexpensive planks around edge was my first thought too, updates nicely. Also do not put your cabinet pulls back in the middle of the doors, they should be 2.5" to 3" up from bottom of upper cabinets opposite the hinge and 2.5" to 3" down from upper corner of lower cabinets opposite the hinge. You will discover your had can more comfortably grab the pull to open. I love chalk paint less prep required but with your cabinets I would lightly sand and check the internet for one of the chalk paint recipes and make your own. Agree with Kathy to finish with polyurethane the one that doesn't darken with age.
  • Jack Jack on Feb 29, 2016
    I updated my hardware with something simpler after painting all the "woodwork" with 1 coat of original kilz, 2 coats of latex paint, 4 coats of satin PolyAcrylic. I also refinished countertops with 1 coat of kilz, 2 coats of latex and craft paints, and 8 coats of glossy PolyAcrylic. Worked well in my old farmhouse....
  • Mzf68799205 Mzf68799205 on Aug 01, 2022

    I have to know where I can find the costs for those cabinets. I have been looking and looking. I need that information for my homeowners insurance company. They want the manufacturer so they can pay only that cheap amount. PLEASE HELP Thank you!!