Is There Any Paint That Will Stick to Laminate Cabinets?

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Refurbish old laminate cabinets with a fresh coat of paint.
Refurbish old laminate cabinets with a fresh coat of paint. (Image: Goodshoot/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

Whether your kitchen design is outdated or you simply want a change, painting the kitchen cabinets is one step to giving the room a facelift. If the cabinets are laminate material, the ultra-smooth surface makes painting them a challenging task, as the paint has a difficult time adhering to the laminate material. With proper preparation, including choosing the right kind of paint for a laminate surface, you can completely revamp their appearance. Once you've prepared the cabinets, all that's left is to choose the color.

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What Is Laminate?

Laminate cabinets generally consist of particleboard with a hard veneer covering. The covering consists of layers of paper bonded together with heat and pressure to create a single layer and covered by a glossy coating. The glossy coating can be smooth and plain, or designed to resemble a wood finish or other type of decorative appearance. Laminate cabinets are easy to maintain and will last with proper cleaning, care and, if desired, paint.

Preparation

The key to getting the paint to stick to laminate cabinets is to remove the glossy finish. Before sanding the cabinets, you have to remove any grease and grime. Trisodium phosphate, TSP, is a powerful cleaning agent just right for the job. You simply need to rinse the cleaning agent away and allow the cabinets to dry before you tackle priming and painting. You will need fine-grit sandpaper, 80- to 150-grit, to remove the laminate layer. Once the glossy finish is gone, wiping the cabinets with a tack cloth easily removes the grit and dust left by the sandpaper.

Prime First, Then Paint

A super-adhesive primer is necessary to ensure that the paint you apply lasts. An adhesion primer bonds to the surface, providing a suitable surface for paint. Once the cabinets are primed, you can paint them with oil-based paints, acrylic paints or melamine paints. Melamine paints are specifically designed for painting laminate surfaces, as the moisture-resistant materials in the paint make them just right for the moisture and steam so prevalent in kitchens. This paint is thick and not as easy to apply as acrylics and oil-based paints, but it provides a hard, durable surface and lasting color.

Considerations

Follow safety precautions, and wear protective eyewear and a face mask when sanding. Rubber gloves are necessary, as you have to protect your skin when you use the TSP to clean the cabinets after sanding. Make sure the kitchen has proper ventilation before you begin priming and painting.

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