How to Prime Raw Plywood Cabinets

Updated February 21, 2017

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.

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

Wipe sawdust from the plywood cabinets, using tack cloths.

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.

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

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.

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.


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.

Things You'll 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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About the Author

Ryan Lawrence is a freelance writer based in Boulder, Colorado. He has been writing professionally since 1999. He has 10 years of experience as a professional painting contractor. Lawrence writes for High Class Blogs and Yodle. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism and public relations with a minor in history from the University of Oklahoma.