How to paint vinyl laminate shelves

Written by darren white
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How often do you look at your vinyl laminate shelves and think about how to change them? For many homeowners, those cabinets were a quick, simple solution to updating the bathroom or kitchen, but when you want a new update, painting can seem an impossible task on vinyl laminate, which is essentially plastic. With the proper tools, you can give your shelves a colourful update with little hassle.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Screwdriver
  • Dish detergent
  • Clean rags
  • 220-grit sandpaper
  • Sanding block or palm sander
  • Tack cloth
  • Primer/sealer formulated for plastic
  • Natural bristle paintbrush
  • Acrylic latex paint
  • Foam paintbrush or rollers
  • Wipe-on polyurethane varnish

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  1. 1

    Break down the shelves as much as possible with a screwdriver. This will allow you to paint the smallest corners of the shelves that might be unreachable otherwise.

  2. 2

    Remove all oil, dirt and grime from the surfaces of the shelves by wiping them down with a clean cloth soaked in a mix of household dish detergent and warm water. Once cleaned, dry the cabinets thoroughly.

  3. 3

    Sand all surfaces of your shelves with 220-grit sandpaper or a sanding block. This will create a stronger surface for the primer and paint to stick to.

  4. 4

    Wipe over the shelves with a tack cloth to remove any loose particles created by sanding.

  5. 5

    Put a thin coat of primer/sealant on the shelves with a natural bristle brush. Let the boards dry for an hour or until dry to the touch, then paint a second coat with a foam brush in long, consistent strokes. Let the second coat dry fully to the touch.

  6. 6

    Paint a coat of acrylic latex paint on the shelves in your desired colour or finish with a foam brush or roller. Use even strokes across the surface. You may need to apply multiple coats, depending on the shelves' original colour. Allow the paint to dry fully.

  7. 7

    Apply a thin coat of a clear, wipe-on polyurethane varnish to the shelves with a clean cotton rag. Follow the specific directions on your brand of varnish.

  8. 8

    Put the shelves back together with the screwdriver once all pieces are completely dry.

Tips and warnings

  • You may apply the acrylic latex paint with a spray can or electric paint sprayer for the most professional finish and the least evidence of the human hand.
  • Apply all paints and varnishes outside or in well-ventilated areas. The primer and varnishes in particular have extremely strong fumes.

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