Laminate furniture is plentiful these days but often it’s not the most attractive. Good news! You can paint it and add your own character and charm. Below we teach you how to paint laminate furniture and get a finish that will last!
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see our Disclosure Policy for details.
What is laminate?
Laminate is not wood but rather plastic printed to look like wood. Wood veneer is a thin layer of real wood. Unlike wood veneer, laminate cannot be sanded and stained but it can be painted. Because it’s plastic, laminate has a very smooth, non-porous surface which requires a little more work to make sure the paint will stick well. Without the right prep, your paint will bubble up and won’t adhere properly to the laminate surface.
Steps to painting laminate furniture
All used furniture should be cleaned before painting. Even if a piece looks clean, there is still dirt and greasy build up hiding on the surface. The first step is to wash the laminate surface with a good degreaser like Trisodium Phosphate (TSP) or an alternative like this. You have to make sure all the cleaner is rinsed off before continuing with the project.
Scuff up the surface of the laminate with a medium grit sandpaper (around 100 grit). The goal is to remove a bit of the shine, not sand through to anything below. You can use a palm sander if you like, although we often find it quicker to just grab the sand paper and a sanding block. Since you’re sanding plastic, you should always wear a mask like this.
Priming is the key step in the laminate painting process. Use a primer with super adhesion. The primer will stick to the laminate and will give the paint a surface to stick to. We’ve used both Zinsser water based and shellac based primers with success.
We use a foam roller to roll the primer over the laminate. You don’t need the coverage to be opaque, a thin layer is just fine. Use a good quality paint brush for areas that can’t be rolled.
4. Paint & Seal laminate furniture
You’re now ready to paint your piece! You can use any paint on laminate: latex, chalk, mineral or milk. Because you’re painting over primer, it will take at least 2 coats to get full coverage.
Pro tip: If you aren’t painting the piece white, you can have the primer tinted slightly to reduce the number of paint coats you’ll need for full coverage.
Depending on the paint you use, you may also need a top coat to protect it. If you use latex, we recommend a polycrylic top coat. When using chalk or milk paint, we recommend polycrylic or wax. If you use mineral paint or special latex paint (like Benjamin Moore’s Advanced), you don’t need a top coat unless you anticipate heavy use.
The Results – painted laminate furniture
We recently used this laminate painting technique on a faux-teak cabinet we got from family friends. We gave the piece a very quick makeover with Cottage Paint’s Cottage White Serenity mineral paint. It’s now lighter, brighter and ready for action! This piece will be extra storage at the cottage and we’re confident the finish will last for a long time to come.
Do you paint laminate furniture? Have you had any problems with it “sticking”? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!