Complete Guide On How To Paint Laminate Kitchen Cupboards

How many times have you considered renovating your kitchen cupboards, but you have put it off due to the huge cost? Many times, I’m sure! But have you ever thought of painting them yourself? Nope! Why? Wood is pretty easy to paint, in contrast to melamine and MDF that require more preparation.

kitchen with white cabinets, wooden counter top with plant pot on top

If your kitchen has laminate cabinetry, like most old houses have, you can paint them yourself. And it isn’t such a tough task to do. You might need a couple of days of work, some elbow grease and proper preparation, but in the end, you’ll have a completely new kitchen. Once you have finished painting them, you can move on to paint the kitchen tiles to complete your kitchen new look and reorganising your kitchen the right way. Ready to find out how to paint kitchen cupboards?

Why paint your laminate kitchen cupboards?

Most of you might wonder, why should I paint my cupboards? Here are the reasons why:

  1. You give an entirely new style to your kitchen, and you make the room more pleasant and enjoyable.
  2. You make them chip-resistant and durable, and you prolong their life.
  3. And most important, it’s cheaper to paint them than to change them.

Things you need to know before starting your project

Even if it’s the first time you try to paint something, or even if you have done DIY projects before, there’ll probably be things you don’t know, and you must keep in mind before starting painting the cabinets.

kitchen with white cabinets, wooden counter and lights hanging

How long does laminate paint take to dry

You should leave 6 hours between each coat of paint to dry before adding the new one. As you can see, you’re going to need a couple of days to paint kitchen cabinets. As soon as you finish, allow the colour to dry for a week. You better avoid using the doors until a week after the DIY project has finished. If you do want to use your new  cupboards earlier, then be really careful not to damage them and don’t clean them thoroughly.

You need to prime before painting

Priming helps the paint stick and adhere to the surface. If you don’t prime the surface, you might notice bubbles preventing the smooth finish that you should aim for, making it look uneven.

How can you paint laminate cabinets without sanding?

You can paint your cupboards without sanding. However, if you ask an expert, he’ll tell you better not to. This material has a smooth enough finish that doesn’t allow the paint to stick naturally. If you insist on painting the surface without using a sander first, you must clean thoroughly and apply an Adhesion Promoting Primer.

Type of paint you can use on your laminate cabinets

The ideal paint to paint your kitchen cabinets “Tile and Laminate” paint, available in almost every hardware stores. You can use the premium-quality paint you would use to paint real wooden cabinets if you prepare, prime and sand your materials properly.

How much paint you need

Don’t overdo it when buying paint for your project. You won’t need much. A general rule is 4.5l for 32 square metres of space. Now you can do your calculations.

Painting a kitchen cupboard door with a small painting brush

How to understand if your cupboards are laminate

There’s a very easy way to understand if your cupboards are laminate. How? Check the doors. If they have a finish, then you’ll see the point where the two surfaces meet.

However, if you still can’t understand, make a small cut in an inconspicuous area, under the hinges, for example. If they’re laminate, you’ll notice two materials, the finish and the wooden core.  If you can’t distinguish the 2 materials and aren’t sure, then it’s time to ask a professional.

You can paint fake wood cabinets

If fake wood cabinets are made from laminate, you can paint them. Sand, prime, and then paint them following the steps below.

Paint your laminate kitchen cupboards step-by-step

If you want to paint your cabinets properly and have a smooth glossy finish, you better follow the below steps. We have a step-by-step guide on how to paint them  properly.

Here are the things you’re going to need for painting:

  • High-quality wood paint
  • Paintbrush and/or microfibre roller
  • Adhesion Promoting Primer
  • Sandpaper (240-grit and 400-grit)
  • Special cleaner and/or bleach
  • Sponges/cloths
  • Protective sheets/coverings/masking tape
  • Screwdriver
  • Lacquer (optional)

Now follow the below steps that will lead you to a successful kitchen makeover.

1. Sand your cupboard doors

The most important part of the paint job is using a sander. This material isn’t as porous as real wood neither has grooves to let paint stick on the surface. Instead, this process roughens the surface and creates grooves allowing the paint to sit on when you apply it.

Opening a laminate cabinet door with satin finish

Use 240-grit sandpaper. You can either sand it by hand or with a sander. You need to be careful, though, while sanding, not to make any scratches. You just want to make the surface rougher. It will also remove dirt and grease buildup from the doors.

Extra tip: If you have a shiny finish, you’ll have to adjust your power.

2. Clean the doors

You’ll probably have noticed that doors are imposed too much dirt, crumbs, grease and moisture due to everyday use. Hence, if you want a nice satin finish, clean them thoroughly before painting. Otherwise, they’ll look messy and cheap.

Get a tile and a specialised cleaner and spray it on the doors. Let it sit for 30 seconds and rinse it with a damp cloth or sponge. You may need to repeat the process if your cabinets are very dirty. If your cupboards are very old, mould might have developed. To get rid of it, create a solution of 1 part bleach to 3 parts water and wipe them with a sponge/cloth soaked in the bleach-water solution.

3. Remove the doors and fittings

For your convenience, while painting kitchen cabinets, use a screwdriver to unhinge them and remove fittings that you aren’t going to paint, like door handles and hinges. You can paint handles as well, but we’ll talk about it in step 10. For the moment, put them aside. Place the door on a work surface to avoid any drops of paint or primer. Avoid painting cabinets while being attached, as you run a great risk of getting the countertop dirty due to dripping colour.

4. It’s primer’s time

Apply 1 to 2 coats of primer. Use a microfibre roller or a brush to apply Adhesion Promoting Primer to the door. Start with the edges first and then move on to the rest of the door. Let the primer dry for 4 to 5 hours. Apply the second layer after the time has passed.

5. Apply the first coat of paint

Now, you can start painting kitchen cabinets! Use a brush or roller to apply the first layer of paint. You can start painting the edges first and then move inwards or as you like.

A large well-arranged, streak-free kitchen in beige color

If you have flat doors, use a roller to paint them as it’s quicker and easier, and you’ll definitely have the smooth-looking finish you wish. But, if your cabinets have an unusual shape, you’d better use both a roller and a brush. When choosing the colour, opt for paint that is specifically designed for this type of cupboards. But, if you’ve prepared the surface, you will be able to use both laminate cupboard paint and high-quality wood paint.

6. Smooth the first coat of paint

If you use a paintbrush, you might notice streaks and marks while applying the paint. To ensure an even finish, feather your kitchen cabinets. It’s pretty easy! Hold your brush at a 90-degree angle and spread the colour to hide the streaks. To make it easier, follow the grain of the finish.

If you are using a roller, move the roller from the top to the bottom of the door to even the streaks. You might need to repeat the process to achieve the desired smooth finish. Once you’ve finished, let it dry for at least 4-6 hours before applying the second coat or moving to the next steps.

7. Apply  a second coat

As soon as the paint has dried, you should apply the second layer. You’ll know that it is dried if you touch it. Check the edges carefully too! Usually, excess paint accumulates there. Thus, be sure that it has dried. Before applying the second one, sand the door with 240-grit sandpaper, making sure not to peel any of the paint. Then, repeat steps 5 and 6 and let it also dry for at least 4 to 6 hours.

8. Lacquer the final coats of paint

This step is recommended, but we suggest not to avoid it. As soon as the final coats are dry, lacquer your kitchen cabinets to give them a glossy finish and protect them from any future damages. Use sandpaper of 400-grit and sand the final coats of paint to get an even streak-free finish. Sand gently not to remove much paint from the doors.

9. Let the doors dry

You’re almost there! Your cabinets new style is about to come to an end. Now, you have to let your painted cupboards dry for at least 8 hours. Keep in mind, though, that the paint will be fully hard after a week. So, if you have the chance, let them dry for that long.

You can reattach the doors after 8 hours, but you’ll have to be really careful while using the cupboards for the first few days. Don’t wash them and protect them from any damages. But, we recommend reconsidering the idea of letting the doors dry for a week, and meanwhile, use your cupboards without doors. It would be better!

kitchen with white walls and cabinets and window to the left

10. Reattach the fittings and spray-paint them

Now that your doors are dry, you can reattach the fittings and handles to conclude the new look! If the door handles’ colour doesn’t match your cupboards colour, don’t worry! You can paint them! Put the fittings you want to paint on a protected surface and spray them with spray paint.

The DOs and DON’Ts of painting laminate kitchen cupboards

We have prepared a detailed list with some DOs and DON’Ts of painting your cupboards. Have a look!

1. DO remove all hardware

To prevent any damages, remove or mask with painter’s tape, knobs, pulls, metal and any other cabinet hardware before painting your cabinet doors.

2. DO clean up the cabinets

Before starting painting, wipe and clean any dust, grease and grime off the cabinets. Otherwise, the paint won’t adhere to the surface.

3. DO sand the cabinets

For better adhesion, scuff them with a sandpaper of 120-grit and clean any dust leftovers with a vacuum cleaner and a damp cloth.

A piece of sandpaper ready for usage

4. DO test your paint

To save yourself time, check the paint first in an inconspicuous spot of the cabinet. Wait until it dries. If you notice any bubbles on the painted spot, then it’s a sign that the paint isn’t adhering well. Pay a visit to the closest hardware store and get the suitable paint.

5. DO protect yourself

Primer and paint release fumes. Be in a well-ventilated room while working and always wear work gloves.

6. DON’T paint damaged laminate

If your cabinets are cracked, warped or peeling, don’t paint them over because the paint won’t repair the damages. First, repair them and then apply the paint.

7. DON’T use old primer and paint

Laminates need special primer and paint. You can’t use the remaining since the last time you painted the walls. Use a primer able to stick to this type of material and then an oil/latex-based paint.

8. DON’T use a paintbrush

Avoid using a paintbrush as it leaves strokes while applying on the surface. You better opt for a roller, sprayer or paint pad to ensure a smoother finish and avoid brush strokes.

A beautiful kitchen with white and beige tones

Painting your cupboards is a great way to update your kitchen at a low cost. Whether you have wooden, melamine or laminate cupboards, painting them is the least expensive option than replacing them or adding some different doors like glass ones. Follow the above steps and turn your old kitchen cabinets into new and glossy with a really nice, smooth, streak-free finish!


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