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DIY Guide to Painting Laminate Furniture (Before and After Makeovers)

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The Ultimate Guide to Painting and Staining Laminate DRAFT

Is it possible to paint laminate furniture? This DIY Guide to painting laminate furniture will show you everything you need to know along with some stunning before and after reveals.


Not only is there a right way to paint laminate, but there are some easy tricks to make your project look like a painted solid-wood piece instead of low-cost laminate.

Imagine yourself walking into a used furniture store on the hunt for the perfect desk. Then you see it… that furniture piece that is just the right size and style to transform into your ideal workspace.

As you walk up to it, you are SO disappointed. You realize it’s laminate and you aren’t sure exactly how to refinish it so your paint doesn’t peel off…

It is absolutely possible to paint laminate furniture so its durable, has a smooth finish and lasts as long as solid wood furniture

Knowing how to refinish laminate gives you so many more options when you’re on the hunt for a new project piece!  No longer are you limited to solid wood but now you can redo just about any surface by knowing a few important but simple pro tips.

Be sure to check out the video tutorial that goes with this post and don’t forget to download my FREE Must-Have Painting Tips & Tricks HERE to save you time and money on refinishing furniture.

how to paint laminate furniture

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How do you get Paint to stock to Laminate?

Painting laminate furniture is not difficult as long as you do one important step – priming before painting! But priming furniture is so easy when you have the right tools and the right primer.

Also, it is not really adding any time to the process because the primer layer provides the same coverage as one of your coats of paint. In other words, you are not adding any extra work to painting over laminate because priming just replaces a paint coat.

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What Happens If You Don’t Prime Laminate Furniture?

Laminate or furniture with any kind of plastic or epoxy coating is very slick which means the paint cannot grab onto it. Because the paint can’t adhere well to the surface you will more than likely run into one of these problems:

Bubbles Appear As You Paint

You will notice that as you paint over the surface bubbles appear with each stroke. As you try to brush over them again, they keep appearing because the paint can’t even, bubbles appear, no matter how many times you roll over them they still break up the surface of the paint because they can’t adhere.

The Paint Peels When Touched

If you paint over laminate surfaces without primer, your dried paint job can look great but you find that it peels with very little pressure on the surface. This is the surface of my daughter’s secretary which I intentionally sanded but did not prime. As expected, the paint job looked great at first, but rubbing my finger across the dried surface caused the paint to peel off in large pieces.

how to paint laminate furniture
Here is the water-damaged corner of my desk but you can see the top layer and the particleboard underneath.

You can see how the paint did not adhere and just slid off the surface. Fortunately, it was only the top surface I didn’t prime in order to show what happens when you don’t prime furniture. At that point, your only alternative is to re-sand and start the whole process over again.

Surface Bubbles and Peels When Comes In Contact With Water

Because I’ve made lots of mistakes in painting furniture, there was one laminate piece I didn’t prime. It seemed well until I put a wet glass on it. I only put it on the surface for a few seconds but the moisture was just enough to make the paint peel in a big sheet.

What is Laminate Wood Exactly?

Laminate furniture is made mostly of medium-density fiberboard (MDF), which is composed of small shavings a of lower-quality wood pressed and glued together.  Therefore, it’s strong but highly susceptible to water damage (this process will help to protect the surface though).  A very thin printed sheet of wood or paper covers the MDF to mimic the look of solid wood. (This paint process also works for other plastic or epoxy-coated flat surfaces.)

how to paint laminate furniture
This is the water-damaged corner but you can easily see how thin the top layer of laminate is and then the particleboard underneath. Sometimes there is a thin layer of real wood veneer on top.
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Want to transform a piece of furniture but don’t know where to begin?  Download the FREE step-by-step printable checklist that shows you the exact process I’ve used on dozens of furniture pieces while saving you time and money! And it costs you nothing. #confetti toss  Click here to access your checklist now: FREE Must-Have Painting Checklist

How To Paint Laminate Furniture LIke a Pro

Did you know it’s possible to paint laminate pieces of furniture so no one can tell they are laminate? In this post, I’ll show you some easy tricks so that your furniture piece looks like a painted piece of solid wood furniture that came straight from Pottery Barn.

How to Paint Cheap Laminate Furniture

I saw this secretary desk on Facebook Marketplace and knew it had serious potential, and thought it would be perfect to re-finish as a desk for my daughter Morgan.  I did not realize it was laminate until I saw it in person but that didn’t stop me!

how to paint laminate furniture

FURNITURE BUYING TIP – The good thing about mistakes is that you learn from them.  I had committed to buying this piece before I saw it, not realizing it was laminate.   I still probably would have purchased it but I probably paid more than I would have because I could have haggled some based on the fact that it wasn’t solid wood.  It also had some water damage that I didn’t notice. Now I know to never commit to anything until I see it in person. Lesson learned!

The DIY Guide To Painting Laminate Furniture: Supplies Needed

MY FAVORITE PRODUCTS – CLICK HERE FOR MY FAVORITE TRIED AND TRUE PRODUCTS INCLUDING THE BEST SANDER, SANDING PADS, PRIMER & BRUSH.

  • Electric Mouse Sander – You will love the sander in the link above.  Also, you can check out my beginner tutorial on How to Sand Furniture in Less Than 5 minutes.
  • Sanding Pads 
  • Caulk 
  • Zinsser Cover Stain
  • Brushes
  • Foam Roller and Paint Tray Combo
  • Paint – I used Behr Ultra in Satin but since I blind-tested and reviewed 24 furniture paints, I now prefer Benjamin Moore Advance. You can see the full results for each paint brand here:  The Absolute Best Paint for Furniture
  • Paint Sticks
  • Dry Cloth
  • Painter’s Tape or Masking Tape (Optional)
  • FREE Must-Have Painting Tips for Furniture – Don’t forget to download my free printable full of furniture painting tips & tricks to save you time and money.  You can download your FREE checklist here.

How To Paint IKEA Laminate Furniture (Video Tutorial)

You can reference my video on how to paint laminate furniture from IKEA. It’s the same exact process but just on the desk made out of a door for my craft room. The video should come up as a pop-up but if you have trouble seeing it, you can find it on my YouTube channel here:

how to paint laminate furniture

STEP 1: Remove Cabinet Doors, Drawers & All Hardware

The first step is to unscrew all the hardware and put it aside in a plastic baggie for safekeeping.  I also removed the trim from the top to give it a more streamlined, modern look.  (Fortunately, it just unscrewed.) I decided to take off the cabinet doors permanently to have open shelves.

You can see how I upcycled the doors here: Home Office Calendar

Should You Assemble Laminate Furniture Before Painting?

If you are painting a brand-new piece of IKEA furniture, go ahead and assemble it before painting. That’s because if you paint the individual pieces ahead of time, at every joint, you’ll be able to tell it was assembled. Painting afterward fills any tiny gaps between parts with so you won’t be able to tell it’s cheap laminate. Also, parts might not fit together as well if there is a thicker area of paint.

STEP 2: Tricks for Painting Laminated Furniture So It Looks Like Wood

Laminate furniture is easy to spot. The sharp corners and peg holes are a dead giveaway. If we are going to go to the trouble of painting our laminate furniture, we might as well make a couple of adjustments so our final makeover looks like a high-end piece of painted furniture.

Laminate furniture pieces often have several rows of peg holes so the shelves can be adjusted easily.  It is a nice option to readjust shelves but it makes the furniture look cheap. So, we are going to decide where we want our shelves to stay, and fill all the peg holes except those.

how to paint laminate furniture

To fill them, I used my putty knife to glop on the wood filler.  You want to put it on thick because when it is time to sand, you will sand down to the level of the top of the hole.   Wait a day for the wood filler to dry before sanding.  Here is a pic before sanding and after sanding. Notice the pegs in the holes that I want

how to paint laminate furniture

While I had the wood filler out, I also filled some gaps in the legs that were caused by water damage.  Priming the entire piece will make it less susceptible to water damage like this in the future.

how to paint laminate furniture

If your furniture piece is a thrift store find that is not in good condition, you can repair any damage with this post: The Ultimate Guide to Fix Furniture Damage

STEP 3: Sand Laminate Furniture Before Priming

Sanding laminate furniture is a good idea when painting glossy or smooth surfaces. You are not sanding off the laminate, you are just giving the surface a light sanding so the surface is no longer as thick.  Find out how to sand furniture in less than 5 minutes here: A Beginner’s Guide to Furniture Sanding.  Sand enough that the surface looks like this:

how to paint laminate furniture

Can you Paint Laminate Furniture Without Sanding It?

We know from our experiment before that you cannot paint laminate furniture without priming it. Sanding is a really good idea because it is one more step toward having a layer of paint that will adhere well to the surface.

how to paint laminate furniture

Sometimes furniture transformations start to look worse before they get better, but you won’t believe the beautiful finish you’ll get on your furniture piece when you’re done!

STEP 4: Sand Edges So Your Laminate Furniture Looks Like Solid Wood

While your sander is still out, sand down the edges just slightly.  One difference between laminate furniture and solid wood is the edges of laminate furniture are much sharper and straighter, almost plastic-looking.  Solid wood edges are slightly rounded so you want to simulate this look by running your sander along the edges like so. See how I’m barely sanding that edge in the video.

how to paint laminate furniture

STEP 5: Always Prime Before Painting Laminate Furniture

After sanding, wipe down your furniture piece with a damp rag or tack cloth to remove any sanding dust. Because I’m using an oil-based primer, I would have to clean my roller with mineral spirits which I don’t always love doing. So oftentimes, I will just brush on the primer with a cheap brush and throw away the brush when I’m done.

What is the best Primer for laminate furniture?

I love to use Zinnser Cover Stain because it is an oil-based primer that adheres well and the fumes are not very strong. Another option is Zinnser BIN, a shellac-based primer, but the fumes are really strong and it doesn’t cover as well. The only time I use BIN instead of Cover Stain is when I have a problem with knotholes that bleed through coats of paint. BIN is great for that.

how to paint laminate furniture

TIME-SAVING TIP: You’ll notice in the video that the Cover Stain primer for my office desk is gray. That’s because I had it tinted to a gray slightly lighter than the gray paint. This is so helpful with coverage so I need to do fewer paint coats. If you are painting your laminate furniture a dark color, consider having your home improvement store prime it to a color that’s close to your paint color to cut down on coats.

Paint on your primer with your roller or with a paintbrush in places the roller won’t reach. Be sure to put on a thick coat of primer.  Let the primer dry for about 4 hours before you start painting. If you have a lot of brush or roller marks, you can sand at this point too but it’s optional.

how to paint laminate furniture

STEP 6: Fill Seams On Laminate With Caulk

Often the back panel of laminate furniture is just a thin piece of wood with long vertical seams. This is another sign that your furniture piece is laminate but it can be easily filled with caulk so it looks like the back is solid wood. 

The next step is to fill any seams with caulk. I like to do this after I’ve primed because it makes the seams so much easier to see.  You want to use caulk instead of wood filler on these seams because the panel is flexible and so is caulk.  If you don’t have a caulk gun, you can get a tube like this.

how to paint laminate furniture

Squirt the caulk on the seam like toothpaste.  It’s okay if your line is really messy!  Then wet your index finger and smooth out the seam.  Wipe off any extra on the edges with your finger or a baby wipe. Let it dry for a couple of hours before painting. To see exactly how to fill gaps in furniture with caulk, see my Beginner’s Guide to Furniture Painting.

Sometimes it’s addressing the small details that make ALL the difference in the look of your final furniture piece. You will be so amazed how your furniture no longer looks like cheap laminate after finishing this process!

To cover a seam in laminate furniture, you can also cover it with beadboard wallpaper as I did here: Easy NO-BUILD DIY Media Center Hack

Step 7: How To Paint & Stain Laminate Wood

To paint a faux stain on your laminate furniture, you can now continue onto one of those tutorials, starting first with the step where you paint on a base coat. You can find all of those options for faux stains here:

Options for Staining Laminate Furniture With a Faux Stain

If you want your laminate furniture to be a solid color, start painting on your first coat of paint with your roller. I like to use a microfiber roller to paint and this roller (click here) is the best I’ve found by far!

how to paint laminate furniture

What is the Best Paint for Laminate Furniture?

One of the most common questions I get is “What kind of paint do I use on laminate furniture?” I like to use Sherwin Williams Pro-Classic Water-based Acrylic Alkyd. I love this paint because it has the benefits of water-based and oil-based paint as seen in my post Milk Paint vs. Chalk Paint vs. Latex Paint.

This is not necessary but before the second coat of paint, I like to sand over the piece very lightly to get the paint strokes or roller marks out.  As I said, this is not required but I’m a little OCD about brush strokes.

After your first coat has dried, paint on a second coat so you have full coverage!

how to paint laminate furniture

Does Painted Laminate Furniture Need A Top Coat?

When deciding whether to apply a clear coat, the first thing you should consider is if you need extra durability for pieces that get a lot of wear and tear. Especially if you have used a good quality paint, I would only add this extra step on heavy-use pieces like dining tables and coffee tables. If you are looking for a high-quality clear coat, you can find the best one for your project and how to apply it with a foam brush here: The Best Clear Coats For Painted Furniture

how to paint laminate furniture

I bought some new hinges but spray pained the bottom drawer handles in my favorite spray paint for furniture hardware.   After the paint dries for 24 hours, you can add the hardware.  Didn’t it turn out cute???

how to paint laminate furniture

Most importantly, Morgan adores it and it looks so cute in the corner of her room. Now if I can just get her to finish her homework at her desk instead of pretending it’s a makeup table!

I made over a chair to match and added some sequin trim to give my girl some bling.

how to paint laminate furniture
You can see how much better the water-damaged leg turned out. For tips on repairing furniture, click here: How To Fix Damaged Furniture Before Refinishing
how to paint laminate furniture

Painting Laminate Furniture (Before and After Makeovers)

This white laminate console table was so much fun to refinish in my faux raw wood finish. It’s hard to believe that the finish is only glaze and latex paint. I’m so happy with how it turned out. One of my favorite things about upcycling furniture is giving old pieces of furniture new life!

Easy Laminate Console Table Faux Stained to Look Like Wood

Did you know that you can paint laminate furniture to look like wood? I updated this cheap white laminate console table to have a faux natural wood finish with latex paint. To see how I did this and other stain shades, check out this post: How to Paint Laminate Furniture to Look Like Wood

You can also check out How To Create A Raw Wood Finish With Paint. This console table is white laminate!

I also refinished this IKEA desk to be the vertical towers of my desk made out of a door.  You can see the full process here: DIY Desk Made From A Door (IKEA Klimpen Hack)

how to paint ikea furniture

Laminate Desk Makeover with Paint

This laminate desk had a lot of water damage on the surface but after some sanding, it is amazing how well it turned out: Easy Writing Desk Makeover

Writing Desk

Painted Laminate Shelves Used as a Media Center

My media center is actually two laminate bookcases combined with a dresser I found on clearance. I painted the espresso-colored bookcases the same white as the dresser. Then, I added beadboard wallpaper to the back panel to make them look higher-end. I wanted them to have a little color so I painted the back panels in Sonata Blue by Behr. You can see the media center transformation here and how to add beadboard wallpaper to furniture here.

Laminate Vanity Makeover with Paint

It’s so amazing to see what a coat of paint can do. This project needed some love but after the right prep work you can make laminate furniture look as good as painted solid wood furniture if not better: Makeup Table Makeover in Blue

Accent Drawers with Molding

Nancy from Artsy Chicks Rule does two things I love here to completely transform this IKEA Dresser.  For one thing, she isn’t afraid of color.  No one is thinking “IKEA” when you see that stunning blue that is accented with gold.  The addition of the molding gives this dresser a pop of detail and glam!  You can see the full tutorial here: Fancy Blue and Gold Chest

how to paint ikea furniture

Add Some Fabric on Upcycled IKEA Furniture

Anika never ceases to amaze me with her projects and this one is no exception.  She adds lots of texture and character by adding fabric to each door and framing each with molding.  You can see the full details here:  Textured Fabric Paneled Dresser

how to make ikea furniture look expensive

 

Using Inlays To Upgrade Laminate Furniture

One of the easiest ways to glam up laminate IKEA furniture is with an inlay like Monica did at Monica Wants It.  She knocks this transformation out of the park by adding a gold inlay to the cabinet doors of this IKEA Besta Unit here:  Home Office Decor Room Reveal

how to paint ikea furniture

 

Everything Looks Better with Shiplap

Angela at Angela Marie Made completely transformed this IKEA Billy Bookcase with shiplap on the back panel.  I also love that shade of navy!  You can see the full painting process here: IKEA Billy Bookcase Hack with Shiplap

how to make ikea furniture look expensive

 

Spruce Up the Sides of Drawers

Morgan and Sean from Charleston Crafted gave this IKEA Hemnes dresser a major facelift by adding new legs, trim, fresh paint, and wallpaper to the sides of the drawers.  I love how the wallpaper covers the raw wood and coordinates with their walls!  You can see their full post here:  IKEA Henmes Dresser Mid-Century Modern Hack

how to paint ikea furniture

 

Add New Legs to IKEA Furniture

One easy update for any furniture piece is to add legs.  Pick furniture legs that add more style and class to your furniture piece than the basic straight legs that often come with the furniture.  Be sure to check out this post on How to Add Legs to Any Furniture Project.

hot to make ikea furniture look expensive

Laminate Furniture Makeover Using Wallpaper

One of my favorite methods for an EASY transformation is beadboard wallpaper.  You can see a full tutorial and get some ideas here:  How to Add Beadboard Wallpaper to Furniture

diy entertainment center with bookshelves

☑️ My All-Time Best Furniture Painting Tips & Tricks (FREE PRINTABLE)

Don’t forget to download the FREE step-by-step printable checklist that shows you the entire process I’ve used on dozens of furniture pieces while saving you time and money!

RENOVATE YOUR FAITH: Modern Day Idolatry and How God Sets Us Free

Nothing would put me to sleep faster than reading through Leviticus.  Every New Year, I would start my “Read Through the Bible in a Year” plan and was pretty consistent for the first couple months.  However, it never failed that once I reached Leviticus, I got bogged down with the rules, ceremonies and offerings that seem all too foreign to my lifestyle.

Fortunately, this year was different.  To hopefully pique my interest in Leviticus, I decided to do a little research online and surprisingly, I got far more than I bargained for.

As I tried to envision life as a 30-something Israelite woman, the first couple chapters came to life for me.  Her morning started very differently from mine….  READ THE REST HERE

For more spiritual encouragement, click here for the rest of my Renovate Your Faith devotionals.

Here is the side-by-side comparison of the desk:

Now I have a beautiful piece of furniture that no one would ever guess is laminate!

It works so well in Morgan’s room.  Secretary desks are such a perfect addition to any kid’s room because they don’t take up much space but are essentially a bookshelf, desk, and small dresser in one!

how to paint laminate furniture

You can also check out my post How to Paint IKEA furniture for more tips and tricks!

FREE Must-Have Painting Tips For Furniture

Here’s where you can get my best tips for painting furniture that will save you time, money and ensure a beautiful finish every time.   Get the password for the library with all of my free printables including wall art, checklists, and templates by filling out this form:

FAQs on DIY: Painting Laminate Furniture

How to Paint Laminate Cabinets

You can use the same process above to paint laminate kitchen cabinets. Just make sure you put a thick coat of the Cover Stain on before painting because the last thing you want is peeling laminate cabinets.

How To Paint White Laminate Furniture

Painting furniture white can be more time-consuming because it takes more coats of paint to get coverage because white has the least amount of pigment. If you want some tips and tricks on making the process go faster, see this post: How To Paint Furniture White

How to Distress Laminate Furniture

Normally you would distress furniture by sanding edges down to the original wood but since there is no solid wood under laminate, I recommend using paint to get the look of distressed edges. Here is a great tutorial: How To Distress Furniture With Paint

How to Paint Laminate Furniture with Chalk Paint

I’m not a fan of chalk paint because on too many problems I’ve seen a much smoother and more durable finish with latex paint. Here’s why: Why I don’t Use Chalk Paint on Furniture If you really want to chalk paint laminate furniture, just follow this tutorial until the step where you start to paint and use chalk paint for that portion. You will have to of course use wax or you can use one of these clear coats: Easier Clear Coat Options For Chalk Paint.

Did you know you can also use milk paint on laminate? Again, just follow this tutorial up until the point you paint. Unfortunately, one of the pros of milk paint is that it creates a really cool vintage effect when it soaks into the grains of solid wood. So, you won’t get that with laminate but you can still get a beautiful look with milk paint.

How to Paint Spray Paint Laminate Furniture

You can use a spray gun and even spray paint on laminate furniture. If you go with spray paint, I would only reserve that for smaller pieces like a small chair or stool because the cost of spray paint can get pretty high. Be sure to check out my free printable spray painting tips here to get a gorgeous finish. If you go with spray paint, you can also youse a spray-on primer. Zinsser Cover Stain also comes in a spray which you can find here: Cover Stain Spray Primer

How Do I Paint An Intricate Design On Top of Laminated Wood

If you want to paint a detailed design on laminate, you have two options. One is to follow the directions above and go over your painted surface with a brush or stencil. The other is painted on the laminate with a tinted primer. Most home improvement stores including Lowe’s and Home Depot will tint Cover Stain for you if you buy it there. Pick out a paint sample and they can usually get pretty close. So you don’t mess up your design, here’s how to stencil on wood flawlessly: How To Stencil On Wood Without Paint Bleed

How to Paint Laminate Paint without Sanding

I don’t recommend painting laminate furniture without sanding because sanding helps the primer to adhere correctly to your furniture piece. Sanding only takes 5 minutes and I’d hate to see you have to redo your furniture piece so to make sure the paint adheres properly I always recommend sanding before applying a white primer.

What is the right primer for laminate furniture?

There are several primers are the market and more than one will give you good adhesion to laminate surfaces. Good oil-based options are Zinnser Cover Stain, Kilz Primer and Zinnser BIN Shellac Based Primer. Good water-based primers (latex primers) are Zinnser Bullseye and Stix.

Can you use a paint sprayer on laminate furniture?

As long as you prep laminate furniture with a light sanding and the proper primer, you can apply paint with a paint sprayer just like any other furniture piece.

Can You Paint a Laminate Desk?

Wondering how to paint a desk with laminate? The key to painting a laminate desk is ensuring that the laminate top never peels and has a smooth finish. Using one or two coats of primer helps to give you better adhesion but also acts as a base coat of paint so the laminate surface has a durable paint finish.

Can Laminate Be Painted Successfully?

Learning how to paint over high-gloss laminate furniture is easy when you do the right prep work and use the right kind of paint. Using the right type of paint and the best primer will ensure you get the best results and avoid an uneven finish with brush strokes. This blog post shows you how to get a long-lasting finish so your thrift store find looks like brand new furniture even after years of use.

Related Posts to How To Paint Laminate Furniture

The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Refinishing Furniture (The ONLY Tutorial You’ll Ever Need!)

Why I Don’t Use Chalk Paint On Furniture Projects

The Easy Way to Paint IKEA Furniture

How to Paint Furniture to Look Like Wood

The Best Paint Color for Your Living Room

How to Turn Acrylic Paint into Fabric Paint

The Best White Paint Shades for Furniture and Cabinets

DIY Media Center IKEA Hack

The Best Way to Paint Furniture (A Beginner’s Guide)

The Easiest Way to Paint Furniture White

How to Paint Laminate Furniture, YouTube Video

Final Thoughts on Painting Laminate Furniture (Before and After Makeovers)

Whether you are painting furniture for the first time or you’re an old pro, this tutorial shows you how to paint laminate furniture so it looks like high-quality wood furniture. Not only will your furniture piece be stunning, but you can be confident it will last for years to come!

CLICK BELOW TO SAVE THIS POST ON DIY PAINTING LAMINATE FURNITURE:
how to paint laminate furniture

Blessings,

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DIY Painting Laminate Furniture

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