How to paint formica furniture

Formica has been used for everything from counters to cabinets and even bedroom furniture. Your outdated Formica furniture may no longer be in high style, but it can still have a lot of good years left. Painting is a quick solution for a colour that you no longer like or Formica that's chipped and dinged. But approach the paint job with care. Formica is slick and resists paint. Good prep work will make all the difference in getting a good, chip-resistant finish.

Clean the surface of the furniture with trisodium phosphate (TSP). TSP is a powerful cleaner and will also strip the shiny finish off the furniture, making it easier to prime and paint.

Tape any parts of the furniture that you don't wish to paint. Remove any knobs or other hardware from the furniture.

Attach medium grit sandpaper to a palm sander. Sand the entire surface of the furniture. The vibration from the palm sander will create a more even texture on the Formica than hand sanding. Sand any chips in the Formica until the surface is smooth to the touch.

Apply primer to the furniture with a smooth foam roller. A foam roller adds little to no texture to the furniture, giving it an even finish. Choose a bonding primer formulated for slick surfaces. Apply primer to the hard-to-reach areas with a paintbrush. Let the primer dry for four hours.

Paint the furniture with enamel paint, employing the same techniques used to apply the primer. Enamel paints adhere well to slick surfaces. Apply multiple thin coats of paint. Let the final coat dry overnight.

Paint on a coat of polyurethane. Polyurethane will help to protect the painted Formica from chips and cracks. Apply two to three layers of topcoat with a good quality brush.


Let any drip marks dry completely. Sand the drip marks with fine grit sandpaper and touch up the paint.

Things You'll Need

  • Trisodium phosphate
  • Rags
  • Low-tack painter's tape
  • Sandpaper
  • Palm sander
  • Primer
  • Paintbrush
  • Smooth foam roller
  • Paint
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About the Author

Lisa East Hunter is a consultant and freelance writer in Phoenix. Her background in marketing and technology led her to explore all avenues of writing. She is currently dividing her time between freelance writing and her consulting business. Hunter has a Bachelor of Science in management information systems and marketing.