How to Paint Laminate Cabinets for an Easy Kitchen Refresh

If you have outdated laminate cabinets in the kitchen, you can refresh them with paint—learn how with our simple guide.

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 8 hours
  • Total Time: 16 hours
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Estimated Cost: $100

Many older homes have laminate kitchen cabinets that could use an update. Bring your kitchen into this decade by painting laminate cabinets, changing out the doors, or entirely replacing the cabinets. Your choice depends on how much you want to spend.

Replacing your cabinets is the most expensive option—cabinetry constitutes nearly three-quarters of the price of a new kitchen. Stock cabinets are the least expensive option if replacing cabinetry. Refacing is another option. Adding a couple of glass doors can dress up your existing laminate cabinets. Check out quality companies in your area to do the work, or save money by doing it yourself. You can spend a bit more on real wood cabinet doors and drawers, or go with premium rigid thermal foil. Prices depend on materials, door style, and construction (frame or frameless).

The least expensive option is painting laminate cabinets. Laminate is not an ideal surface to paint, but it can be done. If you consider the paint job a temporary solution until you can invest in new cabinetry, you'll probably be more satisfied with the results. Follow these steps to get the best finish possible.

mint green kitchen cabinets
Robert Brinson

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Drill or Screwdriver
  • Tack cloth
  • Paint brush
  • Roller brush


  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Primer
  • Laminate paint


How to Paint Laminate Cabinets

Before you begin painting laminate cabinets, you'll need to complete some prep work, including any repairs, sanding, and cleaning. Once your doors are ready, we'll show you how to prime and paint laminate cabinets.

  1. Prep Cabinet Surface

    The key to getting the best paint results is preparation. Remove laminate cabinet doors from their frames and remove all hardware, including hinges. Check the laminate for damage and repair any cracked or warped laminate; you don't want to paint over the damage. Finally, clean the doors and sand them lightly. Use a tack cloth to make sure the doors are dust-free.

  2. Prime Cabinets and Doors

    Apply a good-quality primer. Use a high-quality paintbrush to minimize stroke marks as you cut in on cabinet edges or in hard-to-reach spaces. For the doors themselves and any other large surfaces, use a roller to get a smooth, brushstroke-free finish.

  3. Sand Laminate Surfaces Again

    Once the primer has fully dried, give everything a light sanding again. Use fine-grit sandpaper to smooth the surface, but don't sand too much. You don't want to take off all the primer you just applied. Clean off the dust with a tack cloth.

  4. Paint Laminate Cabinets

    Finally, it's time to add your paint. Pick a paint that is designed to work with laminate surfaces. It dries to the touch in one hour, features a tough, chip-resistant finish, and cleans easily with mild liquid soap. We recommend a satin finish that will hide any minor imperfections.

    Don't love your plain flat-front doors? Turn them into paneled cabinets with wood or composite moldings. Find moldings in various widths and designs at your local hardware store, then have them miter-cut to your specifications or do it yourself using a miter box and handsaw. Once they're cut to size, paint the moldings, following the instructions above. When they are dry, use wood glue to adhere them to the door fronts.

    With the proper prep and some hard work, you can transform the look of laminate cabinets. Keep in mind that any DIY painted finish will be more susceptible to damage than factory-finish cabinetry. Eventually, you may need to invest in changing out your cabinets altogether. Painting laminate cabinets will buy you some time and provide an updated look.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do you absolutely have to sand laminate cabinets before painting them?

    You don't absolutely have to, but they'll look much better if you do. Laminate is a synthetic product with a glossy surface, which makes it difficult for the paint and primer to adhere to it. Sanding eliminates the gloss, which allows the paint and primer to stick better.

  • What happens if you paint laminate cabinets without using a primer first?

    The paint needs the primer to help it bind to the cabinets. Use a bonding primer, a stronger product than a regular primer, to ensure it sticks to the laminate. If you don't prime laminate candidates, the paint may quickly flake or peel.

  • How do you know if you have laminate or veneer cabinetry?

    Veneer is made of pressed thin layers of wood on a plywood base. Laminate is made of layers of paper and resins made of plastic fused under high pressure. If you sand a veneer, you'll find wood underneath. If you sand a laminate, you'll find plastic.

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