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How to Paint Laminate Kitchen Cabinets the Right Way without Sanding

A contractor once told me that it was almost as expensive to PAINT CABINETS as it was to buy inexpensive new cabinets! WHATTTT! Sure enough, I had more than one person confirm this statement so I thought it had to be true. Actually, it can be very expensive to have someone update laminate kitchen cabinets with paint. That’s why I decided to tackle this project myself. Let me show you how to paint laminate kitchen cabinets the right way without sanding.

how to paint laminate kitchen cabinets

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What kind of paint should you use to paint laminate cabinets?

In a nutshell, if you use a good bonding primer, the type of paint won’t matter as much as long at it’s a good latex, oil based paint or performance paint.

For this project I’m using a Zinsser Bulls Eye primer with General Finishes Milk paint. Also don’t forget to apply a good top coat or sealer.

I used an Ace Hardware latex paint when I painted the rest of the laminate cabinets (without primer).

Below is what the Island cabinets looked like before I painted them. Yucky brown laminate cabinets!

BEFORE I painted the laminate kitchen cabinets

Materials to paint laminate cabinets:

HOW TO PAINT LAMINATE KITCHEN CABINETS:

  1. Remove the hardware. Please don’t hate me, but my laziness got the best of me and I did do something I regret; I did not remove the cabinets before painting. I DID tape the hardware and the areas inside the cabinets with blue painters tape.
  2. When you paint LAMINATE Kitchen CABINETS you need a good primer. Since laminate is a cheap surface that is often very slick and smooth, you need a product that will really “grip” and adhere to the cabinets. My go to primer and the best bonding primer for laminate surfaces is the Zinsser Primer, which covers all surfaces without the need of sanding.

3.   Before you prime laminate cabinets, clean them really well. If there is a lot of dirt that a good wipe down won’t remove, you need to use a “degreaser” to make sure the surface is completely clean.

4.    After wiping down the cabinets and making sure they are totally dry, apply one coat of Primer.

Below is a picture of the cabinets with only one coat of primer. Because the cabinets are laminate and the finish is a bit shiny, I realized it was going to take two coats of primer.

5. Apply second coat of Primer.

First coat of primer on painted laminate kitchen cabinets

6. Now it’s time to paint. The picture above was taken after the first coat. I used a foam brush for this part to eliminate brush strokes and still decided to use three coats!

7.  Next you need to apply a top coat (don’t skip this step). For any surface that receives a lot of use, you absolutely must use a top coat. Because I used the General Finishes Milk Paint, I decided to also used their High Performance water based satin top coat.

What is the best top coat or sealer for laminate cabinets or laminate surfaces?

My suggestion is to use a Polycrylic rather than a polyurethane. The polyurethane top coats are known for yellowing over time (especially when applied to white cabinets).I used this product on my other Painting Laminate cabinets part 2 post. The milk paint top coat sealer is very similar to a Polycrylic top coat.

A couple things to note for the laminate cabinet makeover;

  • You could get away with 1 coat of primer, 2 coats of paint, and 1 top coat and it will look great. However, I have two small kids and my kitchen Island gets A LOT of traffic, so I wanted to make sure the paint held up well.
  • The best way, in my opinion, to apply paint to cabinets with a good paint sprayer. I used a paint sprayer when I painted the rest of my cabinets. That being said, using the old paint brush and can give you good results too. I used a foam brush to apply the paint to minimize brush strokes and I think it turned out well.

Video on how to paint laminate kitchen cabinets

Since this post I painted the rest of our laminate cabinets without using primer. You can decide for yourself how it turned out. You can also see my entire kitchen update with the painted laminate cabinets before and after for under $4k.

modern farmhouse kitchen update with painted cabinets

After about a year of living with our painted laminate cupboards, I wrote a comprehensive review on how our painted laminate cabinets have held up; with primer and without. You’ll definitely want to read this before you give you reface your laminate cabinets.

It’s always a good idea to explore all your painting options before you dive into a big project like painting cabinets. Also, I hope you can learn from my mistakes! LOL.

I hope this post has been a huge help for those of you wanting to dive into a big project like this. Painting laminate surfaces can be done!

I promise that anyone can transform a drab kitchen with just a few coats of paint. You don’t have to be a pro painter to complete this project, and I guarantee you won’t regret it!

Seriously, if I can make a cheap veneer sticker look good with just a few coats, anyone can!

how to paint laminate kitchen cabinets
Painting laminate kitchen cabinets with NO sanding
How I painted my cheap laminate cabinets with NO prep work!

How to Paint Laminate Cabinets

painting laminate cabinets with NO prep work

An easy tutorial about how to paint laminate kitchen cabinets with no prep work. This laminate painting technique involves using primer, paint and a top coat but no sanding.

Prep Time 1 hour
Active Time 6 hours
Total Time 7 hours
Difficulty Medium
Estimated Cost 75

Materials

  • Foam brushes
  • Regular brushes
  • Bonding Primer
  • Latex, oil based or performance based paint (I used milk paint)
  • Degreaser or cleaner
  • High Performance water based satin top coat

Tools

  • Paint sprayer (not necessary but it makes it easier)

Instructions

  1. Remove the hardware
  2. Use a cleaner or degreaser to fully clean the surfaces
  3. Use a good primer and spray or paint the cabinets with two coats
  4. Once primer is fully dry, apply two coats of paint
  5. Make sure to apply a top coat after the paint is dry. You can apply 1-2 coats.

Notes

  • You could get away with 1 coat of primer, 2 coats of paint, and 1 top coat and it will look great. However, I have two small kids and my kitchen Island gets A LOT of traffic, so I wanted to make sure the paint held up well.
  • Side note about the top coat. The polyurethane top coats are known for yellowing over time (especially when applied to white cabinets). My suggestion is to use a polycrylic rather than a polyurethane. I used this product on my other Painting Laminate cabinets part 2 post. The milk paint top coat sealer is very similar to a Polycrylic top coat.
  • The best way, in my opinion, to apply paint is with a good paint sprayer. I used a paint sprayer when I painted the rest of my cabinets. That being said, using the old paint brush and can give you good results too. I used a foam brush to apply the paint to minimize brush strokes and I think it turned out well.

Lindsey**

Elaine Garcia

Tuesday 20th of July 2021

They look great. I am no painter. I painted my laminate cabins without using primer. I notice they scratched easy. What can I use to protect it from scratching. I am so disgusted

[email protected]

Wednesday 21st of July 2021

Hey Elaine. I would use a Polycrylic or non yellowing top coat for sure. Check out this post; https://repurposeandupcycle.com/how-to-seal-furniture-high-traffic-surface/

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Chelsea

Sunday 31st of May 2020

What technique to do you use with the foam brush please? I'm painting bathroom drawers now, and used a primer (2 coats) & applying thin coats of paint with a foam brush, lightly sanding between coats once dry, but it's still really streaky!

[email protected]

Monday 1st of June 2020

What kind of paint are you using?

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Thursday 7th of May 2020

[…] Download Image More @ repurposeandupcycle.com […]

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Saturday 22nd of February 2020

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