Saturday, November 2, 2013

Painting Laminated Cabinets

Laminated Cabinets??
If you have laminated cabinets, you know it...and I'm sure you know all the problems that come along with them. 

Unlike real wood cabinets, these are made from pressed particle board, and covered with a laminated plastic material. I've only ever seen them in white. 
These are usually just in a bathroom or laundry room, but I have even encountered them in a kitchen...yikes! 
They don't seem bad a first. 
They are stark white, usually have nice beveled edges, and they aren't paint, so they don't chip. 

The problem is they do peel off. The front piece of plastic is separate from the back piece. They join around the edges. When this area gets moisture, the particle board starts to expand, and the plastic lifts of at the edges. Most people see this, and just live with it. 
You don't have to live with it, and you don't have to replace the cabinets either!
You CAN paint them!

First things first...get the laminate off! If the plastic is already peeling go ahead and pull it all off, it will come off easily, as you can see here. 

If your pieces aren't peeling yet, you can speed up the process by lifting the edges with a knife.
Here is what it will look like when its off. I wouldn't worry so much about the base pieces, but if you can get them off, even better.

From here, you will have to prime them, use an oil based primer. It has be oil,and not latex, it will not seal them in right if you use latex. Oil will harden the surface, and not allow any more moisture to penetrate the particle board.  

I would use two coats, to make sure it is sealed well. 
Getting a smooth finish is easiest with a foam roller, you may need to sand it lightly between coats. A cheapy chip brush is good also. They are around $1, and you won't feel guilty throwing it away afterwards. Oil is not the funnest to clean up.

From here your options are endless. You can use an oil based paint in a solid color, or do a faux treatment. 
 For these cabinets I used a silver leaf finish. I started with a black base paint, then a leaf glue, then a silver leaf. On top I put a black wash, and a couple coats of sealer. The knobs were found at Hobby Lobby. They have a great selection of fun pulls, perfect for bathroom cabinets, and furniture. 


  1. Your cabinet looks great! Did you have to do anything extra to the base part of the cabinet before painting or just paint over the laminate?

  2. I have so enjoyed your "makeovers." You have done an outstanding job on everything. I appreciate your tutorials. Tells us the process exactly and makes it sound doable to a novice like myself. Thank you so much.

  3. Very nice tutorial! I was also wondering if you had to sand or specially prepare the base sections that didn't have the top laminate shell removed? Were you able to just prime right over it and just sand between coats?

  4. Can latex paint be used over the oil based primer?

  5. I have the laminated kitchen cabinets and cabinet doors described in this tutorial.
    However, mine aren't white, they are an ugly natural wood color.
    The cabinet itself is also the same color however, it doesn't seem to be laminated like the doors are.
    I'd like to redo the cabinets and doors to a whitish color.
    Any suggestions on what how to paint the cabinets since not laminated?