How to Prime Raw Plywood Cabinets

Written by ryan lawrence
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How to Prime Raw Plywood Cabinets
Apply two coats of primer to prevent bleed-through. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Raw plywood will not accept a lasting painted finish unless it is pretreated with an adhesive base. Also referred to as bare plywood, this building material is well-suited for a painted finish; but only if it is properly prepared, beforehand. If you add paint directly to your raw plywood cabinets, flaking will soon result. To encourage a lasting finish, coat the cabinets with a flexible, enduring primer. Protect adjacent areas before you begin, or you may permanently stain them with primer.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Screwdriver
  • Tack cloths
  • Masking paper
  • Low-tack professional painter's masking tape
  • Canvas dust sheets
  • Acrylic-based primer
  • Gloss latex paint
  • Acrylic paint
  • Acrylic enamel

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  1. 1

    Detach the handles and/or knobs from the plywood cabinets, using a screwdriver. Store these items in a safe place.

  2. 2

    Wipe sawdust from the plywood cabinets, using tack cloths.

  3. 3

    Shield the countertops by covering them with masking paper. Attach the paper, using low-tack professional painter's masking tape. Do not use any other type of tape, or you may end up with primer bleed-through. Cover the hinges, using this same tape.

  4. 4

    Shield the floors beneath the plywood by covering them with thick canvas dust sheets.

  5. 5

    Open the plywood cabinet doors. Coat the plywood cabinet frame with an acrylic-based primer, using a 3-inch synthetic paintbrush. For smooth results, use a polyester-bristled brush. Do not use a nylon-bristled brush, or the finish will likely appear flawed. Apply gentle pressure with each stroke and apply only a light coating.

  6. 6

    Let the frame dry for an hour. Prime the raw plywood cabinet doors just as you did the frame. Let the cabinets dry for two hours before applying a second coat of primer. Wait two hours before painting.

Tips and warnings

  • Use a gloss latex paint on interior plywood cabinets. If the cabinets are located outdoors, use an acrylic paint. If the plywood will be subject to a lot of duress, apply an acrylic enamel.

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