Looking to give your laminate furniture a fresh look? Find out how to paint laminate furniture the right way for a beautiful, durable finish!
Have you ever wondered how to paint laminate furniture so that it will last? I recently picked up a bookcase off Facebook Marketplace. I thought it was going to be a mix of oak and oak plywood, but it turned out to be real oak trim with oak-look laminate panels.
For the record, I usually recommend sticking to real wood furniture whenever possible. But this bookcase was a great price, sturdy, and just the right size for my girls’ room, so I decided to paint the laminate. Let me show you how.
Understanding Laminate Furniture
Laminate furniture is basically a plastic-like layer over a cardboard or particle board filling. Unlike real wood, the finish cannot soak down into the laminate, so it is important to get a strong bond between the paint and the laminate surface.
The key to painting laminate furniture is two fold:
1. Adhesion (making sure the paint sticks to the laminate surface without peeling)
You could achieve this with sanding and priming with 1-2 coats of primer, such as Zinsser BIN primer or Kilz Adhesion. And I recommend this method if you intend to use latex paint. But I have had good success on several furniture pieces simply using a liquid sandpaper and my favorite furniture paint. It’s always nice to avoid sanding dust and extra steps when possible!
2. Durability (making sure it doesn’t scratch or chip easily)
The kind of paint you choose matters. Oil base paints can give you a strong, durable finish. You could also use a polyurethane or wax top coat. Naturally, I’ll share my favorite top coat below… But know that a durable topcoat is important to protect paint over a laminate piece.
How to Paint Laminate Furniture
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I painted a bookcase this time, but you can use this same technique on other furniture. For laminate cabinets, like kitchen cabinets or bathroom cabinets, I would probably recommend this technique instead.
A note on Fusion Mineral Paint: this is not sponsored. They have sent me paint in the past, but their paints have really become my go-to option when painting furniture (like this dresser and this desk). I think they are the best paints for a beautiful, durable, DIY finish. And I like that they are water-based and easy to use.
Painting Laminate Furniture
- Prepare the furniture
Whether you’re painting a laminate dresser, bookcase, desk, or table, remove any drawers, shelves, and hardware and clean the piece with soap, Simple Green, Krud Kutter, or some other cleaning agent if needed. It’s important to remove grease and stains before painting.
- Apply liquid sandpaper
In a well-ventilated area, use a lint-free dry cloth to wipe liquid deglosser over all surfaces that you intend to paint. Please also follow safety precautions, such as gloves and glasses, when using chemicals. Follow the instructions on the product (most ask you to wait at least 30 minutes but no more than 12 hours before painting).
For corners and edges, you can use a high-quality angled brush. But to avoid brush strokes, use a foam trim roller wherever possible. The first coat of paint may not cover fully, but that’s ok. A thin layer of paint is less likely to drip.
- Paint again
If there are any serious imperfections in your first coat, then lightly sand those out with fine grit sandpaper and clean the sanding dust. A second coat is important for a durable finish.
- Top with finishing oil
Using a foam brush, apply the finishing oil lightly over the dry painted surfaces. A few spots uncovered is ok because you will spread the oil in a moment. Using another lint-free rag, rub the oil into the paint and wipe off any excess. The surface should look dry when you are finished polishing.
- Let the paint and finishing oil cure
Paint takes hours to dry but days or even weeks to cure. For the most durable finish on your laminate furniture piece, be sure to let the paint and oil cure before heavy use.
Painting Laminate Furniture FAQs
What kind of paint do you use on laminate furniture?
You can use any paint on laminate furniture if you properly prepare the piece with primer. But I love how liquid deglosser + Fusion mineral paint saves me that step.
Does the finishing oil change the sheen of the paint?
Fusion has a lovely matte finish (and does not actually require a top coat), but the finishing oil adds significant durability. It does have a slightly glossier sheen than the paint alone, but I would say it’s somewhere between a matte and a satin finish, definitely not as glossy as semigloss. It is a beautiful, smooth finished surface.
You’ll have to wait to see the full finished makeover because I have a separate tutorial for you on how I finished the back! But I hope this paint job tutorial helps you for your future painting projects. Get more ideas for furniture makeovers here.