It’s common for older homes to have laminate cabinets in the kitchen. However, these cabinets can be unsightly and outdated — not to mention they can detract potential homebuyers.
If you want to modernize your kitchen cabinets, you have plenty of options. One of the best for those with laminate cabinets is to simply paint them. While you can always replace the cabinets entirely, this isn’t the most cost-effective option. Painting your laminate cabinets on the other hand can be inexpensive and provide a quick fix.
Many people think laminate is a difficult surface to paint, and while this is true, it’s still possible. To get the best results, follow the steps I’ve listed below.
Painting Laminate Cabinets
Step 1: Prepare Surfaces
Preparation is the key to optimal results. Painting damaged or dusty laminate will only highlight imperfections. Now is the time to make necessary repairs.
Remove all cabinet doors and hardware. Don’t forget the hinges! Carefully examine the laminate surfaces and repair any warping or cracking. Thoroughly clean and sand lightly. Wipe down with a tack cloth for a dust-free surface.
Step 2: Prime The Cabinets & Doors
Select a high-quality brush and roller to apply your primer. We recommend INSL-X Stix Acrylic Waterborne Bonding Primer because it’s formulated to bond to surfaces such as slick laminate cabinets. To achieve a stroke-free finish, use the brush to paint the edges and tight spots, and a roller on the large surfaces.
Step 3: Sand Your Laminate Surfaces Once More
Allow the primer to dry fully. Lightly sand surfaces using fine-grit sandpaper, and wipe down with a tack cloth.
Step 4: Apply The Paint
Time to paint! Select a paint that will dry quickly into a hard, chip-resistant finish that is easy to clean. We’ve had success on many cabinet jobs with INSL-X Cabinet Coat Enamel. Satin finishes help hide any imperfections, and tintable paint will allow you to color-match your cabinets.
Adding molding to your existing cabinetry can easily transform the look of your flat-front doors. Wood or composite moldings in various designs and widths are available at your local hardware store and can be miter-cut on-site to your specifications. Following the same steps above, prime and paint the moldings. Once fully dry, attach them to your cabinet fronts with wood glue.
4 Things to Avoid When Painting Laminate Cabinets
1. Painting Over Damaged Laminate
Painting over damaged, warped, or peeling laminate does not allow the paint to adhere properly to the cabinet. Repairing minor laminate damage or refacing the cabinets must be done before paint application.
2. Leaving Dirt & Grime Behind
Dirt, grease, and grime are not your friends while painting. Thoroughly clean the surfaces to allow the paint to adhere evenly to your surfaces. Trisodium phosphate will gently clean away any lurking detritus. Rinse with clean water and allow to dry.
3. Using Paint or Primer That Isn’t For Laminate
Not all paints are created equal, and laminate surfaces are finicky. A coat of bonding primer will allow you to select tintable oil or latex-based paint. Want to skip the primer? Select paint that can be applied directly over laminate, but be aware your color selections will be limited.
4. Leaving Brush Strokes Behind
Before whipping out your paintbrush to tackle your cabinets, beware of the brush strokes that will be left behind. A roller, sprayer, or paint pad will give you a more reliable streak-free finish.
Best Paints For Laminate Cabinets
1. INSL-X Cabinet Coat Enamel (INSL-X)
INSL-X Cabinet Coat Enamel provides an ultra-smooth “factory-like” finish. Made of durable urethane-reinforced acrylic, it provides a super adhesion to surfaces, requires no priming, and results in a durable finish that resists chipping, scuff marks, food stains, grease, and water.
The enamel can update and refurbish cabinets, trim, crown molding, and furniture. INSL-X comes in either a standard quart or gallon size.
One gallon provides approximately 350-450 square feet of coverage per gallon, so you’ll have excess, but you won’t risk running out like if you get a quart.
2. Rust-Oleum Chalked Ultra Matte Paint
The Chalked Ultra Matte Paint from Rust-Oleum can be used on both cabinetry and furniture to create a truly vintage look. It can also be applied on a variety of other interior surfaces, making this a truly versatile choice.
With minimal prep work and excellent adhesion, the paint offers one-coat coverage and dries in 30 minutes. Removing hardware, washing, and lightly sanding the surface is recommended for a smooth application.
If your project involves bare wood, especially one prone to tannin staining, applying a primer coat will yield the best results for your project. Redwood, mahogany, and fir are examples of high-tannin woods. One gallon will cover 150 square feet.
3. Heritage Collection All-in-One Chalk Style Paint
Heritage Collection – All-in-one Chalk-Style Paint has a built-in bonding primer and wax for a simple application process, becoming durable once dried and cured.
An excellent choice for hard-to-paint surfaces, the Heritage Collection All-In-One adheres well to wood, formica, glass, ceramic, stone, and cement, with no sanding or priming required. However, we would strongly recommend using a primer when painting laminate cabinets!
It is available in 8-oz sample size and quart-sized containers with a twist-top jar lid.
4. General Finishes Water-Based Milk Paint
General Finishes is perfect for updating furniture and cabinets. This water-based milk paint has a strong mineral-based component, making it UV resistant and ideal for indoor or outdoor use.
Drying to a low-luster sheen, General Finishes can be sprayed on or hand-applied with a brush. As a water-based paint, mistakes can be easily corrected, and clean-up is easy.
Available in 35 different shades, the paint can be customized by mixing, distressing, layering, or glazing. It is easy to create a bespoke look with limitless combinations and techniques.
General Finishes QSW Water-Based Mil Paint is available in standard quart, pint, or gallon sizes.
5. Renaissance chalk finish furniture paint (Retique It)
Retique It by Renaissance is an eco-friendly, non-toxic furniture paint that results in a chalk finish. With zero VOCs, it is safe to use indoors, and you will avoid the new paint smell.
Designed specifically for furniture and cabinets, Retique makes it easy to achieve a smooth chalk finish, perfect for shabby chic, vintage, or contemporary looks. With no sanding or priming and superior coverage, most projects only need one to two coats.
It is available in pint (16 oz), quart (32 oz), and gallon (128 oz) sizes and comes in 36 different shades. A deluxe starter kit is also available.
6. The All-in-One Kit: Nuvo Cabinet Makeover Kit
Nuvo Cabinet Paint is an all-in-one kit that claims virtually no preparation. Say goodbye to stripping, sanding, priming, and sealing. Additionally, removing the cabinet doors before you apply Nuvo is not required!
This water-based acrylic paint is available in Earl Grey, White, Black Deco, and Oxford Blue. Nuvo Cabinet can also be paired with Giani Countertop Paint Kits to makeover kitchen and bathroom countertops.
Each kit includes two 31 oz cans of Nuvo Cabinet Paint, a 2-inch angled paintbrush, two stir sticks, two roller covers, one roller arm, and easy-to-follow instructions. One kit will cover nearly 100 square feet of cabinet surface (or 40 linear feet).
7. KILZ TRIBUTE Interior Matte Paint and Primer in One
KILZ Tribute Interior Matte Paint and Primer In One is an all-in-one, 100% advanced technology acrylic paint. With a low VOC level, KILZ Tribute provides superior coverage and a durable, mildew-resistant finish.
For the best results, surfaces must be properly cleaned and prepped, free of dust, grease, chalk, mold, rust, peeling paint, or general debris.
In addition to the 26 color choices available, KILZ Tribute comes in 4 different finishes: Matte, Eggshell, Semi-Gloss, and Satin. All finishes are available in one-gallon and five-gallon sizes. One gallon will cover approximately 400 square feet.
The color selection covers an array of pastels and muted shades but does not offer dark or bold colors.
As you can see, painting your laminate cabinets can be a cost-effective and quick way to breathe new life into your kitchen. If you’re on a budget, explore this route before investing in new cabinets.