How To Paint Laminate Furniture {So It Looks Like Painted Wood}

How To Paint Laminate FurnitureNot only is there a right way to paint laminate furniture but there are some tricks that will make your project look like a very nice, solid-wood piece that had been refinished.

Knowing how to refinish laminate furniture gives you SO many more options when you are 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 special tricks.

This is why its important to know how to paint laminate:

IMG_2859Here is a piece I got a little cocky with… I thought I could get away without using a primer because there was primer in my paint.   I was wrong!

You can see how the paint did not adhere and just slid off the surface.  Fortunately, through a lot of trial and error, I’ve learned what to do and what not to do when painting laminate.

First of all, what is laminate furniture?  It is furniture made mostly of medium density fiberboard (MDF) which are small shavings of a of lower quality wood that are pressed and glued together.  Therefore, it’s strong but highly susceptible to water damage (this process will help to protect the surface though).  A thin printed sheet of wood covers the mdf to mimic the look of solid wood.

I saw this secretary desk online.  I thought it would be perfect to refinish 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!

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What You Need:

  • Electric Mouse Sander – Who in the world wants to sand by hand when you could use an electric sander?!? They are SO easy to use.  If you know how to iron, you already know how to use a sander!  It will make any project go so much faster with very little effort on your part.  I’ve used this one for only $13 on and was happy with it.
  • Sanding Pads – I used 120 grit
  • Elmer’s Wood Filler
  • Zinsser Bullseye 123 Primer – This is a water-based primer that levels well, dries fast and is very low-odor.  It’s good stuff!
  • Brushes
  • 6″ Paint Roller– I used the Home Depot brand – “Best”
  • Paint – I used Behr Ultra in Satin but also really like Sherwin Williams.  Behr is cheaper but doesn’t cover as well.
  • Floetrol (Optional)


1. Remove Hardware – Unscrew all the hardware and put it aside in a plastic baggie.  I also removed the trim from the top.  Fortunately it just unscrewed.

2.  Fill holes – Laminate furniture pieces often have several rows of peg holes so the shelves can be adjusted easily.  It can be a dead giveaway that a painted piece is laminate and not solid wood so I like to fill these holes before I sand.

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.

I also filled some gaps in the legs before sanding out some serious water damage.  Priming this piece will make it less susceptible to water damage like this in the future.

3.  Sand – You could probably get away without sanding but I like to sand laminate furniture to ensure the primer adheres well.  Plus, it only took me 5 minutes with my sander, so why not!  Sand enough that the surface looks like this:


4.  Sand Edges – 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.

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5.  Prime – Once your piece is sanded, you can wipe it off with a damp cloth before priming.  Paint on your primer with a brush in one THICK coat.  You will be able to start painting in one hour because it dries so quickly.

6.  Paint – After your primer has dried, paint on your first coat of paint.  I like to use a roller or you can continue to use your brush.

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.  Like I said, this is not required as I’m a little OCD.

***You can also add some Floetrol to your paint according to the directions on the back (optional).  Floetrol makes your paint dry much smoother but keep in mind it takes long for that coat to dry.

7.  Fill Seams – Often the back panel of laminate furniture is a very thin piece of wood with long vertical seams.  The seams are another giveaway that your piece is laminate so I like to fill those seams with caulk.

You can see the seam more clearly since I sanded.  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.

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.

7.  Final Coat of Paint – Paint on your final coat just like you did the first.  Normally, I would try to get away with one thick coat of paint but usually on lighter colors I need to add two coats.  It also depends on the coverage of the paint you use.



I bought some new hardware and also spray painted the existing hinges.   After the paint dries 24 hours, you can add the hardware.  You are done!

Secretary DeskSecretary DeskWhite and Pink Secretary Desk

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

Here is the side by side comparison of the desk:

How To Paint Laminate Furniture Before and After

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

It makes such a nice addition to 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!

I’d love to hear what you think of this renovation!  If you like this post, you may also like:

How To Gel Stain Wood

DIY Topiary Trees with Tiered Boxwood

The Kind of Mom I NEVER Want to Be


‘Til Next time,


Jesus Loves Me

How To Paint Laminate Furniture - Before and After

The Right Way to Refinish a Rolltop Desk

Roll top desks are such classy statement pieces in any home.  It’s so rare to find one in excellent condition.  They are notorious for being difficult to paint because you can easily gunk up the tambour (rolling portion) with paint causing it not to roll at all.  If you are lucky enough to come across one, here are some tips for a successful transformation.

You Will Need:

  • Brushes and 6″ rollers
  • Wood Filler
  • Mouse Sander with low (60) and higher (180) sanding pads.
  • Zinsser 123 Primer
  • White Paint – I used Behr Ultra in Ultra White Satin
  • Base Coat for Faux Stain – I used Behr Honey Butter Flat
  • Gel Stain – I used Minwax Gel Stain in Walnut
  • New Hardware
  • Minwax Wipe-on Polyurethane.

I stumbled upon this desk on a Facebook page that a friend was selling.  This desk was perfect to redo because the top portion comes off and the tambour just slides out making it so much easier to refinish.  The desk was structurally in great shape but the surface needed some love.

Rolltop Before

I knew I was going to sell this piece so I decided to do the surface a dark stain using my gel stain method and would paint the rest white.  I realized that the plastic sleeve on both sides that the tambour slides into was already dark brown so I tried to spray paint it white to match what would be white.  Let me save a little spray paint and a lot of frustration by telling you that was a horrible idea.

Spray Paint Rolltop

The spray paint started peeling away when I moved the tambour up and down.  It looked horrible so I spent over an hour scraping the spray paint out with a putty knife.  I decided to faux stain the interior of the top to better match the plastic sleeves as there was no easy way to change their color.

Spray painting the tambour is also a horrible idea.  Ask me how I know…

I took off the hardware and filled obvious holes, scratches and dents on the desk with wood filler.


After 48 hours of drying, I sanded the entire desk with a rough sandpaper pad (60) with my mouse sander.  Have I mentioned lately how much I love my sander?!? Below is a picture of the two of us!   (Also, wear a respirator or mask when sanding the wood filler because those tiny particles can get in your lungs…No bueno!)


Sand the tambour by laying it out flat on the ground and sand as you would the rest of the desk.


After sanding it was time to prime.  Once again I used Zinsser 123 water-based primer.  I just found out they made a spray paint  version which I will have to try out on my next project.  Get a nice thick coat of primer on your piece of furniture.  You’ll notice that I didn’t get any primer on the groove the tambour slides into.

Prime 1

After priming the rest of the desk, I laid the tambour over a round kitchen garbage can that was on it’s side.  I wanted to open up the creases so I could get primer in each crease between the wood slats.  I was able to do this with a thin coat of primer.

Prime Tambour

Get just enough primer to fill in the dark portion in between the wood slats.  Use your brush to wipe off any excess and wipe your brush on some paper if you have too much paint on your brush.  You have time to wipe off the excess before it dries.  What you don’t want is a thick layer of wet, drippy paint on the tambour or the paint will crack once it dries.  The Zinsser 123 Primer is perfect for this application because it is thin but clings well to the grooves while covering well.

prime 2

At this point, fill any remaining holes, dents or scratches on the rest of the desk.  You should now be able to see them easier with the piece primed.  Sand those parts after they are dry.

Halfway into this process, I realized  that this desk didn’t have any of the cute ‘card catalog’ style drawers that you so often see on these desks.  I decided to add some using some unfinished jewelry boxes I found online.

Jewelry Boxes 1Jewelry Boxes 2

I bought two for each side and glued them together with carpenter’s glue and clamped them overnight to dry.  I also pulled off the wooden knobs, filled the holes and then made holes for some cute pulls.  Make your holes before you paint because you don’t want to risk screwing up the final finish.  I then glued the drawers onto the inside of the desk using wax paper to ensure the glue didn’t seep onto the desk top.

Base Coat 1


I started painting the desk with the yellowish base coat on the places I would faux stain and used white on the rest.  It took a couple coats of white paint because the desk was so dark.

I used the same process on this desk as I did with the end tables in my post How To Gel Stain Wood  Here is a pic of the first coat of gel stain.  You want to leave some sections only partly covered in the first coat to make the second coat a little more translucent and “wood-grain-like” in those parts.

Gel Stain

Back to the tambour…While I let each coat of gel stain dry at least 24 hours, I laid the tambour flat on the concrete and added a thin coat of white.  Again brush off any excess.  It was still a little streaky at this point but you will touch that up towards the end

After the second and final gel stain coat, I added a coat of wipe-on polyurethane to the stained parts.  The nice thing about latex paint and polyurethane is that you know that in 10 years the finish will look the same and be just as durable.   Both finishes provide a clean, wipe-able surface that will not hold dirt easily.

I have a friend that did her entire kitchen cabinets in chalk paint and wax.  They looked fantastic but after only 6 months they looked awful because the porosity of the chalk paint held on to every speck of dirt and dust in her kitchen.  She ended up redoing them in latex shortly after.  (Getting off my soapbox now…)

After touching up the tambour one last time, I put the desk together including the main drawers, the top and the tiny drawers.  I also added new hardware to the whole desk including ‘card catalog’ style drawer pulls to the top drawers.  Didn’t they turn out cute?



Desk Transformation

Rolltop Desk with Stained Top

Notice the concrete floors in the background.  We had a massive flood which I shared about in my post Beauty From Chaos: How to Find Peace in Any Situation.

Rolltop Desk with Closed Top

This desk was quite an undertaking but worth it to bring out the full potential of such a fabulous vintage piece.  Thanks for stopping by and be sure to check out my other furniture transformations!

Writing Desk Makeover

Coffee Table Reveal and a Word About Transparency

Made Over, Inside and Out – China Cabinet Transformation


‘Til Next Time,


Rolltop Desk at www.renovatedfaith.comTheRightWayToRefinishARolltopDesk