Asked on Aug 04, 2014

Can I paint MDF Furniture?

by LinJ47
I have 2 1980's old Sauder pantries. I think they are made of MDF with some sort of thin laminate over them (the kind of stuff you'd have bought at a WalMart or Kmart! LOL!) Both pieces are still in great shape structurally but that old brown wood grain has to go! Does anyone know IF they can be sanded, primed and painted? Or are they a lost cause? I hate to dump them. They are very functional but I would like to give them a facelift with some neat paint jobs. Any suggestions? PS I contacted Sauder for advice and they never answered me!! :o( Thanks!
  15 answers
  • Susan H Susan H on Aug 04, 2014
    Yes they can be painted. I had an MDF entertainment center and i wanted it to be that dark IKEA shade of brown. So I lightly sanded and used a latex primer then used a paint pad (my favorite) to apply 2 coats of satin latex and it came out great. It didn't peel or stick. Good luck.
    • Jackie Walsh Jackie Walsh on Jun 02, 2018

      Hi Susan I have kitchen cupboards made of mdf with a kind of laminate stuck over it that has bubbled so I’ve peeled it off to find very sturdy solid mdf cupboards underneath, would it work with them do you think


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  • LinJ47 LinJ47 on Aug 04, 2014
    Thanks so much for the quick response! I think I'm just going to dive in and do it!!! Do you think I should finish them off with some water based polyurethane to protect the finish?
  • Shari Shari on Aug 04, 2014
    With the all the primer and paint choices on the market today, virtually anything can be painted. Of course, chalk paint is really popular right now and is suppose to stick to anything without prep work or priming but I absolutely detest the waxing step that is recommended to give some luster and protection to the flat, matte finish. If you decide to use latex paint (which is my personal preference), just be sure to get a good quality bonding primer and the best quality paint you can afford. Multiple light coats are better than a single heavy application and allow adequate drying time between coats. I do not recommend the all-in-one primer/paint combos that all the paint companies are pushing now. They may be okay for walls but I have not been happy with the results I got on furniture. I wouldn't recommend using paint out of an aerosol can either. It's too hard to get an even, consistent finish. A protective finish coat is a matter of personal preference. It depends on how much use and possible abuse you think the pieces may get. Personally, I don't use a protective coat on my painted furniture because a lot of my pieces are painted white and even non-yellowing top coats can change the color of the paint. If I get a few nicks or dings in the paint from daily use, I prefer to just use a little brush and a dab of paint to touch them up.
  • Colimbia1 Colimbia1 on Aug 05, 2014
    Agree with Linda and Susan - lightly sand and use a primer. Kilz is a good one I think. I would suggest that if these are used in your kitchen where there is grease and steam in the air to use a protective coat. If you use Chalk Paint, don't use the wax. Instead use a clear varnish. You can test whatever kind of primer, paint and protective cover on a piece of wood and see what you like best.
    • Sherry Mason Sherry Mason on Aug 05, 2014
      @Colimbia1 Very sound advice. I'm a repurposer of furniture, and even though I love chalk paint, I hate the waxing step also. A clear varnish is best. And even the 2 in 1 paints need primer, especially if the piece is a medium to dark wood. Light wood, you can get away with no primer, but the wood should be roughed up a little. Paint adheres better.
  • Jeanette S Jeanette S on Aug 05, 2014
    These pieces are fantastic! I love the narrow depth of these. Be sure and post results!
    • Sheila D Sheila D on Aug 06, 2014
      @Jeanette S All these answers apply to your entertainment center... we don't have to make chalk paint, we can do any finish you'd like! :)
  • Diane Daughdrill Diane Daughdrill on Aug 05, 2014
    I used chalk paint on my MDF desk and it didn't stick. I should've primed it first. Now I have to redo the entire thing or chunk it out.
  • Spray paint. That is an easy way to do this piece too. Rustoleums 2x the spray paint needs no primer and you could just take your time and spray paint the piece- just make sure the piece is clean and free from dust. Rustoleum has a great line of paints. The possibilities are endless!
  • Lorrie Schumacher Lorrie Schumacher on Aug 06, 2014
    Sand it (just lightly scuff it up) so the paint can grab. Primer lightly. Paint with whatever you desire (I prefer enamel-I think it's tougher and stands up better to daily use with furniture, but latex is ok too.) I ALWAYS put a clear coat on furniture-otherwise it will chip constantly with use. It will slightly change the color over a long time, but well worth the headaches of constantly touching up. White will look a little yellow after awhile. If you aren't going to use it much and it's just decorative, (and you are worried about color) you can forgo the protective finish.
  • Kris Kowalski Kris Kowalski on Aug 06, 2014
    Chalk paint would work nicely. You don't need to sand first. Just make sure it's clean. The Lowe's website has the recipe to make your own. I've used it and really like the results.
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    • Kris Kowalski Kris Kowalski on Aug 07, 2014
      @Diane Daughdrill Sure! I did not layer colors, but just used a creamy ivory for my tables. I did use wax, but I've heard some people use poly. You can find the plaster of paris at Lowe's, but mine only had a gigantic and you don't need much. So I bought mine at Home Depot, but I've heard craft stores will have the plaster of paris as well. Once the tables cured, the finish seems pretty durable. But I did let them dry for a couple of days before I let anyone use them.
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  • Leslie Try Leslie Try on Aug 06, 2014
    I did an MDF with chalk paint and it turned out great. Don't find the waxing that bad. Just turn on HGTV and you can get lost in their programming........that's one of the best features of chalk paint, you can paint in the dining room without worry!!
  • Chris aka monkey Chris aka monkey on Aug 06, 2014
    @LinJ47 yes any kind of paint can be used i suggest though a water based paint for easier clean up poly acrylic makes a fabulous top coat. lala xx
  • GR GR on Aug 06, 2014
    I've painted every kind of surface including MDF with chalk paint. As long as the surface is really clean there shouldn't be a problem (in fact the paint seems to go on better if it isn't wood!) I use wax or varnish depending on the use it's going to get. Waxing can be a pain but I still prefer it to sanding and priming :-)
  • LinJ47 LinJ47 on Aug 06, 2014
    Thank all of you for these wonderful tips!! I think I'll go with the light sanding, priming, latex paint (might even go for a little darker glazing for added drama) and then coat the whole shebang with clear poly. It's SO great to get all this feedback from more experienced "Repurposers" (is there such a term?? There is now!!). Many thanks to all of you! xoxox Linda
  • Diane Daughdrill Diane Daughdrill on Aug 11, 2014
    thanks Kris for the link! :)
  • Debbie DeVault Alexander Debbie DeVault Alexander on Sep 01, 2016
    I'm new to this chalk paint and waxing. Can someone fill me in?