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How to Repaint Laminate Cabinets the Right Way

Well folks I’m at it again; another painting laminate cabinet post. This time I’m sharing all the details on how to REPAINT laminate cabinets. This was another question from a reader that said they couldn’t find a lot of straight forward information. I thought maybe I could shed some light on this subject.

how to repaint laminate kitchen cabinets

Before we dive into how to paint laminate, it’s always a good idea to know exactly what the surface is made of that you’re painting. I want to make it clear that laminate is a printed surface that’s made of plastic.

That being said, since we are discussing how to repaint laminate it’s going to be just as important to know what type of paint is on the surface.

This is important to know because if your laminate cabinets have been previously painted with an oil based paint, you’ll need to apply a bonding primer first before you apply a water based paint (same goes for water based paint to oil based paint too). I detailed a post a while ago on how to know if the previous paint is oil based or water based and how to choose the right paint.

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How do you know if the previous paint is oil based or water based?

You can do a simple test to decipher if it’s oil or water based. Pour a bit of acetone (nail polish remover) on a rag and wipe the surface with it. If the old paint rubs off on the rag then it’s latex or water based. If it doesn’t wipe off then it’s oil based.

Since oil and water don’t mix, figuring out WHAT TYPE of paint is on the surface is a must.

How to repaint laminate cabinets

  • Clean the cabinets with a good cleaner or degreaser and let it dry
  • Sand the surface lightly with a fine grit sanding block
  • Wipe the surface down with a tack cloth or lint free cloth to make sure the surface is smooth and clean
  • Next determine what type of paint you are going to use. If you are going to apply water based paint over oil based paint or vise versa then you need to apply a good bonding primer first. It’s best to repaint the cabinets with the same type of paint that was previously used but if you don’t know what type of paint was previously used, it’s best to start with a primer. You can skip this step if you are using the same type of paint.
  • Apply 1-2 coats of primer if needed and let it fully dry
  • Apply 1-2 coats of your paint of choice and let it fully dry
  • Apply a good top coat (I’m a believer in a good top coat for a high traffic surface)

What’s the best type of paint to use to repaint laminate cabinets?

As long as you’ve prepared the surface correctly (cleaned, sanded and primed (if needed), any good quality paint should work as long as it is compatible with the previous primer or paint. There are lots of paints on the market that are designed to work with laminate surfaces.

You can see where I used a cabinet paint from Ace Hardware to paint our laminate cabinets in our old house.

repaint laminate cabinets

I also used General Finishes milk paint to paint our laminate kitchen cabinet island.

how to repaint laminate cabinets

I wish I had more of a straightforward answer but there isn’t a right or wrong way to repaint laminate cabinets. Just make sure that the paint that you are applying over the previous paint is compatible.

If you need more help I’ve got a handful of other posts on how to paint laminate surfaces. Also don’t forget to check out a few tips and tricks on how to paint kitchen cabinets without sanding here.

Also, it’s probably a good idea to check out my list of Do’s and Don’t for painting laminate surfaces. I’ve had a lot of successes, but I’ve also had a lot of fails and I’ve shared all about it so you won’t make the same mistakes I did!

If you’ve read this far then you’re probably ready to get started repainting your kitchen cabinets. Good luck and let me know if you have any questions.


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