How to Paint Laminate With Oak Trim Cabinets

Spruce up laminate cabinets with a coat of paint.
Spruce up laminate cabinets with a coat of paint. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Many kitchens feature outdated laminate cabinets, some with an oak trim. The laminate finish is a glossy looking veneer that may fail to complement the real oak wood surrounding it. If the laminate is in good condition — that is, not peeling or cracked — you can paint the laminate with oak trim cabinets over the course of a weekend.

Things You'll Need

  • Screwdriver
  • Warm water
  • Liquid dishwashing soap (grease fighter)
  • Cleaning cloths
  • Painter's tape
  • 80-grit sandpaper
  • 150-grit sandpaper
  • Acrylic water-based primer
  • Paint rollers
  • Paintbrushes
  • 220-grit sandpaper
  • Tack cloth
  • Water-based latex paint
  • Acrylic oil-based primer

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Paint Laminate Only

Remove the cabinets from the hinges and take the hardware off the cabinets.

Clean the laminate with warm soapy water and a grease-fighting liquid dishwashing soap. Rinse the soap away and dry the surface with dry cleaning cloths.

Place painter's tape along the oak trim edges. Make sure to place the tape directly at the edge of the laminate and oak wood.

Scuff the laminate with 80-grit sandpaper. This medium texture sandpaper prepares the laminate surface by removing the glossy finish to enable the primer to bond with the surface.

Apply a coat of acrylic water-based primer. Use either a small sponge paint roller or paintbrush to paint the coat of primer. Let the primer dry four to six hours.

Sand the cabinets gently with fine 220-grit sandpaper. Wipe the dust away with a tack cloth.

Paint the laminate area with water-based latex paint. Use the foam paint roller and paintbrushes to apply the paint. Let the paint dry overnight. Apply a second coat if desired.

Remove the painter's tape from the oak trim. Replace the hardware and hang the cabinets back onto the hinges.

Paint the Laminate and the Oak Trim

Take the cabinets off the hinges and remove all hardware. Clean the cabinets with warm soapy water. Dry the cabinets with a clean cloth and let them air dry for an hour.

Sand the entire cabinet surface with 150-grit sandpaper. Wipe away all the sanding dust with a tack cloth.

Prime the laminate and oak surfaces with an acrylic oil-based primer. Use small foam paint rollers for large areas and a paintbrush for the corners and crevices. Let the primer dry six to eight hours.

Scuff the cabinets with fine 220-grit sandpaper. This prepares the primed surface for the final coats of paint.

Paint the cabinets with water-based latex paint. Use the rollers for larger surfaces and paintbrushes for the corners and crevices on the cabinets. Let the paint dry overnight. Apply a second coat if needed. Replace the hardware and hang the cabinets back onto the door hinges.

Tips & Warnings

  • Set the cabinets over two sawhorses if available. Otherwise, place them on a flat surface covered with painter's plastic.
  • Use melamine paint instead of latex paint, for its special formula that makes it suitable for laminate surfaces. This paint may be a little more expensive than basic latex interior paint and not as easy to find at your local home improvement store.


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