How to paint laminated kitchen cabinets

Updated February 21, 2017

If you want to spruce up your tired looking laminate cabinets, but cannot afford to replace them, then consider painting. Painting over laminate involves choosing the right paint and preparing the surfaces correctly. When these two things are done, the results are a great finish that lasts for years. While this is not overly difficult, it does involve some effort and will require you to remove the cabinet doors for several days.

Wash the cabinets to remove any dirt, grease and grime.

Use TSP and wash the laminate cabinets again. This will remove any remaining grease and help to degloss the cabinets. Rinse well.

Remove all cabinet hardware. This includes removing the doors from the hinges. Set the cabinet doors on a dust sheet or newspaper.

Sand the entire surface with a medium or fine grade sandpaper. You need to remove the gloss of the laminate to provide a surface the primer can bond with.

Wipe the cabinets with a damp sponge or a tack cloth to remove all of the dust caused by sanding.

Tape off wall areas and cover counters and floors with newspaper or dust sheets to protect them.

Paint your cabinets with a coat of primer. Use either tinted shellac or alkyd (oil-based) primer. Although these are harder to work with, they dry faster and adhere better to smoother surfaces. According to John Dee, from "This Old House," spray-applied primers hold better than brush on primers. Therefore, you may want to spray the primer onto the cabinet doors---which will get more wear than the cabinet bases and can be taken outside to spray.

Allow the primer to dry and cure according to the manufacturer's guidelines. This can be anywhere from 2 to 48 hours.

Lightly sand the primer with a very-fine grade sandpaper. This will smooth out the primer as well as giving the paint a better surface to adhere to.

Apply a thin coat of paint and allow to dry.

Apply a second coat of paint and allow to dry. Applying two thin coats will give you better coverage than one thick coat.

Once the paint has dried and cured, protect it with two or three coats of satin or high-gloss polyurethane sealer.

Allow the sealer to dry for at least 24 hours before replacing the cabinet doors and hardware.

Apply a tiny amount of cooking oil anywhere the cabinet doors touch the cabinets. This oil will ensure that the paint does not stick, but still allows them to cure.


Have your primer tinted the same colour as your paint. Use a roller or paint pad to avoid leaving brush strokes.


Do not use both water-based primer and water-based paint. It can takes weeks to fully dry and cure. Wear a respirator when sanding.

Things You'll Need

  • Detergent
  • TSP (trisodium phosphate)
  • Screwdriver
  • Medium grade sandpaper (80 to 120 grit)
  • Fine to very-fine grade sandpaper (150 to 220 grit)
  • Paint roller with dense roller cover
  • Shellac-based or alkyd (oil-based) primer
  • Latex or alkyd paint
  • Polyurethane sealer
  • Newspaper or dust sheet
  • Painter's tape
  • Roller or paint pad
  • Cooking oil
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About the Author

Darcy Logan has been a full-time writer since 2004. Before writing, she worked for several years as an English and special education teacher. Logan published her first book, "The Secret of Success is Not a Secret," and several education workbooks under the name Darcy Andries. She received her Bachelor of Arts in English and Master of Arts in special education from Middle Tennessee State University.