How to Reface Melamine Cabinets


Most people think that melamine cabinets can be difficult to remodel since the plastic-like surface is notorious for being hard to paint over. But this reputation is unnecessary. With a primer made to adhere to plastics and difficult surfaces, you can have your cabinets refaced in a weekend. And if you prefer something less messy or want a wood finish, contact papers are an easy option. Contact papers allow you to get extremely creative with various finishes without a mess or emptying your wallet.

Things You'll Need

  • 220-grit sandpaper
  • Latex or oil-based primer for plastics
  • Furniture paint (in your desired finish)
  • Polyurethane varnish (optional)
  • Clean rags
  • Tack cloth
  • Contact paper
  • Measuring tape
  • Cutting Board
  • Utility Knife
  • Rubber Brayer

Painting the Cabinets

  • Sand the cabinet with 200-grit sandpaper to remove finishes or residue.

  • Remove sanding particles and dirt with a clean tack cloth.

  • Apply a primer made to adhere to plastics to the cabinets, such as Aqualoc or Rustoleum Plastic Spray Primer. Apply a single thin coat with a foam brush or roller and let dry for about an hour. Apply a second coat of primer and allow it to dry fully before proceeding to the next step.

  • Apply a latex acrylic paint with a foam brush or roller in long, even-handed strokes. Let this coat dry for about two hours before applying a second coat. A third coat may be necessary depending on what color you are covering. You may also use a spray paint.

  • Wipe on a clear varnish with a clean cotton rag. Follow the directions specified on your chosen wipe-on varnish.

Covering with Contact Paper/Veneer

  • Lightly sand the surface of the cabinets to remove any residue or dirt.

  • Remove dirt and sanding particles with a clean tack cloth.

  • Disassemble the cabinets, removing all doors and drawer fronts. Measure each cabinet piece with a measuring tape.

  • Place a cutting board on top of your cutting surface to prevent any damage to your table or countertop.Cut the contact paper according to the measurements taken, using a sharp utility knife.

  • Apply the contact paper to the cabinets by starting at a corner and slowly moving across the top of the cabinet. Gradually move downward, making sure you avoid any bubbling along the way. Use a rubber brayer to eliminate light bubbling that might occur along the way.

Tips & Warnings

  • Test all paints on small areas to make sure it sticks.
  • The contact paper is best when applied with the help of a second party.
  • Apply all paint in well ventilated areas.

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  • Photo Credit kitchen image by Rich Johnson from
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