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Life is too short to be stuck with a generic piece of mass-produced furniture. Learning how to paint laminate furniture is a wonderful way to dip your feet into the DIY world. This is due to mistakes being inexpensive to fix, and you will more than likely end up with a beautiful and unique piece of furniture. Below, we have taken the liberty of providing you with all of the information that you would need when it comes to painting laminate furniture. So, keep reading to discover how you can transform your home!
Table of Contents
- 1 What Is Laminate Furniture?
- 2 Advantages of Painting Laminate Furniture
- 3 Brief Overview of the Painting Process
- 4 Preparation
- 5 Painting
- 6 Finishing Touches
- 7 Tips for Success
- 8 Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Laminate Furniture?
Laminate refers to a hard-wearing type of coating applied to furnishings. While laminate is typically produced from plastic, some modern varieties are made from compressed layers of paper. While laminate comes in a range of colors, you can also print on laminate to produce an artificial veneer that can mimic everything from marble to wood.
Laminate is usually applied over engineered woods such as particle board and MDF that are more stable and affordable than natural wood. This allows manufacturers to mass-produce furniture quite efficiently and inexpensively.
Keep in mind that the surface of laminate is typically super smooth, non-porous, and very difficult to paint if you do not know what you are doing.
On the positive side, laminate is far more resistant to scratches and stains than natural wood. So if you want affordable furnishings in a wide variety of colors and simulated materials that can take some punishment, then this is a good option.
Advantages of Painting Laminate Furniture
Painting or refinishing laminated furniture comes with a set of advantages that make it worth the effort. Without spending too much money, you will be able to completely change the look of an inexpensive piece of furniture that could change the look of a room.
A coat of paint will also preserve the surface of old laminate, and save you from spending more money on new furniture.
For example, most modern kitchens may have laminate doors and cabinets. If you regret some of your past design choices, or buy a house that is perfect, except for the color of the kitchen cabinets, you can save yourself a lot of time and expense by simply painting over that laminate instead of ripping out and installing a whole new kitchen.
Brief Overview of the Painting Process
When it comes to painting laminate wood there is very little margin for error. Yet, the good news is that any mistakes can easily be fixed with very little costs involved. The entire painting process can be broken into three sections, namely preparation, painting, and finishing. To ensure that you do a great paint job, you will need to ensure that you have the required tools and materials that are required. This includes the following:
- Clean lint-free cloths
- 220-grit sandpaper
- Fine finish roller
- Interior paint
- Oil-based primer
- Dry cloth
All of the tools and materials that are needed can easily be found at your local hardware store. Additionally, these are relatively inexpensive products, and most of them can be reused for future projects or if you have more laminate furniture to paint. Below, we will take a look at the preparation that takes place before painting followed by the rest of the process.
When learning how to paint laminate furniture, it is crucial to pay attention to the condition of the furniture. Try to avoid buying second-hand furniture that has deep cracks or chipped corners, as no amount of wood filler will be able to fix it. Before you can begin painting laminate wood, you will need to ensure that the surface is prepared to accept paint.
Cleaning the Furniture
The first step in the process is to get the furniture as clean as possible. You will need to check that there are no foreign substances on the surface. While it is possible to get rid of all dirt and grime with sanding, we would rather minimize the amount of sanding that needs to be done.
Remove all dust and grime from the surface by thoroughly cleaning it with warm water and dish soap. For stubborn dirt, you can also use a degreasing agent.
Sanding the Surface
Now that you have the surface clean, you may be tempted to heavily sand the surface, but we implore you not to do that, as you may end up removing sections of the laminate. Instead, use 220-grit sandpaper to add some texture to the surface while simultaneously removing the sheen of the laminate. Once this step has been completed, use a clean dry cloth to remove the dust.
Filling the Gaps (If Any)
If you have found any dents or gaps in the surface of the wood laminate furniture, you will need to fill them. This can easily be done with a high-quality wood filler and a standard putty knife. All that you would need to do now is wait for it to properly dry and then sand off the excess wood filler.
When sanding, it is best to use 150-grit sandpaper and sand in circular motions.
You should also be mindful of the amount of pressure that you are using, as too much pressure will damage the surface.
Priming the Surface
Before you can start priming the surface, you should ensure that you are working in a well-ventilated area. Once you have done this, you should lay down a tarp to catch any spillage, but if you do not have any tarp, the newspaper would make an adequate substitute. While latex primers are good, oil-based primers are the ideal choice for this job.
For surfaces that will be exposed to extensive wear, it is advisable to use a primer formulated specifically for surfaces like tile and laminate. These cost more, but will ensure your paint does not peel and flake off after a few months.
Apply the primer with a paintbrush or finishing roller while prioritizing even coverage. Once the primer has been applied, you will need to wait a minimum of four hours for it to completely dry. The final step is to sand the surface with 220-grit sandpaper to guarantee a smooth finish. When this is done, clean the surface of any dust and then move on to the next step.
It is very easy to get carried away with different paint options and application techniques when refinishing laminated furniture. Fortunately, we have given you all of the information that is required to ensure that you can get the best possible results without spending too much on unnecessary products and tools.
The painting process is very simple once you have gathered everything that is needed and that you have properly prepared the surface. In fact, it can best be described as an enjoyable experience, especially since you can use any color you like.
Choosing the Right Paint
It is easy to assume that you would be using oil-based paint because of the type of primer that you are using. However, we have found that latex paint works best due to its smooth finish and incredible durability.
We would recommend sticking to either a matte or gloss finish as this is what suits furniture; however, you are free to choose the finish you like best.
Another important reason for choosing latex paint is its lack of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which makes it a much safer product to use.
Choosing the Right Brush/Roller
The type of paint applicator will play a huge role in the quality of the finish. It is important to keep in mind that not all paintbrushes are created equally and since we are using latex paint, we will need a brush that is designed to be used with that type of paint. The ideal paintbrush for this job is a synthetic brush with a nylon or polyester blend.
If you are after a professional finish then a foam roller is the ideal choice, particularly when it comes to painting laminated furniture.
The finish is similar to what you would get from a spray gun but without the mess, you will easily be able to clean up once you have finished. Foam rollers are available in a variety of sizes and they are much better to use on furniture than standard paint rollers.
Applying the First Coat
Now that you have your surface primed and sanded, you can apply your first coat. The first coat is not as important as the second, but this does not mean that you can do a bad job.
Apply the first coat in even strokes that are heading in the same direction.
For the best results, you can wait until the first coat dries and then lightly sand it with 1000-grit sandpaper.
Applying the Second Coat
Once the surface of the first coat has been cleaned, you can apply a second coat. Follow the same painting method as you did with the first. Additionally, you can also opt for a third or a fourth coat if you are trying to get the smoothest finish but do not forget to keep sanding between each coat once it has dried.
Once you have finished painting, allow the paint to cure completely. This curing process can take up to seven days.
Allowing your paint to cure is essential, since laminate is non-porous. This means that the paint cannot bond by soaking into the material, but must form a hard layer on top of the surface.
Any knobs or handles that you have removed should not be reinstalled. At this point, you should avoid setting any items on the furniture as this will damage the paint. Once the paint has fully cured, you can start with the finishing touches.
Regardless of how good the quality of the paint job is, you should always strive for perfection. With the appropriate finishing touches, you will be able to get the most out of your paint.
There are a few different finishes that can be used on laminate furniture, but products such as wood stains and varnishes that are designed to bond with porous materials such as natural wood are not ideal.
Once your paint has fully cured you can apply a sealer for additional protection and then re-attach all of the hardware.
Sanding the Surface (If Necessary)
It could be tempting to try and learn how to paint laminate furniture without sanding, but we would advise you to sand the surface whenever it is necessary. A rough surface cannot be fixed with a coat of paint, in fact, it will make the paint look worse once it dries. There are certain situations that will allow you to get away with not sanding, but we would always sand as much as possible.
Keep in mind that laminate is a very thin veneer and aggressive sanding will very easily burn through the 1/8-inch surface.
For this reason, we would also advise you not to use any sandpaper that is below 120 grit. Proper sanding is an amazing technique that can easily fix the rough surface, giving the piece a fresh look.
Sealing the Surface
Sealing furniture after painting is a great way to enhance its lifespan, but how is it done? Before we explain how you can do it, it is crucial to understand that there are different types of sealers on the market and each one is designed for a specific purpose. Think of a sealer as a suit of armor that allows the surface to repel different types of damage.
Consider the fact that you are working with wood laminate before investing in a sealer. Since you are working with wood laminate, a polyurethane sealant is your best choice. It gives a long-lasting, clear coating that defends against scuffs, moisture, and sun exposure while also providing a glossy sheen to the surface.
You have the option of using an oil-based or water-based polyurethane sealant. The former has a beautiful amber flow, but it requires more time to dry and has a strong odor. Water-based polyurethane sealer is somewhat more expensive, but it dries faster and is clear, which makes it the perfect choice since you have just repainted the surface.
Applying Polyurethane Sealer
When applying polyurethane to seal painted furniture, it is crucial to stir rather than shake the can since shaking the can will allow air bubbles to develop, resulting in bumps on the finished surface – which is the last thing that you would want. If the polyurethane becomes too thick while stirring, it is possible to thin it with mineral spirits.
Begin by using a paintbrush and apply the first coat in long, wide sweeps. To minimize dropping or pooling, keep the layer as thin as possible. After covering the whole area, allow it to cure for at least four to six hours. Once dry, apply the second coat in the exact manner as the previous one to ensure uniform coverage and thorough drying.
If this is a high-traffic furniture piece, it would be best to apply three to four coats of the sealer. But if this is merely a decor piece, you will get away with using one coat. Regardless of how many coats you use, it is best to allow the sealer to completely dry.
Reattaching the Hardware
Now that you have the furniture painted and sealed, you can begin the process of reattaching the knobs and handles that you removed before painting.
This should be done slowly and carefully as you do not want to damage the surface by incorrectly screwing in the knobs or the handles.
Once this is done, you can move on to the final step.
Polishing the Surface (If Necessary)
While this is not a mandatory step in the process, it will make a difference in the appearance of the furniture. The process is simple, you will use a cheesecloth to apply a silicone-free furniture polish. You need to let it sit for around 15 minutes then buff it in with a microfiber cloth.
Tips for Success
There are a variety of tips and tricks that can be used to ensure that you get the best results when painting laminate furniture. You may have asked yourself, “can laminate furniture be painted?”. The reality is that there are a variety of techniques that can be used to ensure that you get the best results, with some of them being simpler than others.
Additionally, there are also certain things that should be avoided, so let’s take a look at them.
Avoid Common Mistakes
As expected, there are a few things that should be avoided when painting laminate furniture. Treating it like solid wood is a bad idea and you will end up ruining the product. So, we have taken the liberty of providing you with a list of things that you should never do when painting laminate furniture and other surfaces.
Do Not Forget the Primer
By forgetting to use primer, you will not be able to get the paint to adhere to the surface. This will eventually lead to paint peeling from the surface, which will ruin the look of the furniture. Instead, make it a priority to add a layer of primer once you have cleaned and sanded the surface.
Do Not Use White Oil-Based Paint
This might sound like a very specific rule to follow, but it makes sense. White oil-based paint as well as oil-based coatings will eventually yellow. This would mean that you will end up refinishing the surface once the yellowing begins, costing you more money and time.
Instead, use a water-based paint and sealer if you want a crisp white finish.
Do Not Try to Paint Damaged Laminate
No amount of paint will mask damaged laminate, hence, we suggest properly repairing damaged laminate furniture before painting. Since laminate furniture is also inexpensive, it would work out cheaper to simply buy new furniture.
Work in a Well-Ventilated Area
A well-ventilated area is crucial to ensure that you do not breathe in any harmful fumes while working on this project. However, you should also take note of the airflow that is required to ensure that the primer, paint, and sealer dry properly.
Use the Right Tools and Materials
You will not need much to ensure that you get the job done, but by opting for foam rollers in place of brushes and using painter’s tape when needed, you can do a much better job.
The tools and materials that you use will play a significant role in the quality of your project.
Take Your Time
Rushing through a paint job, especially when working with furniture, is never a good idea. Since laminate furniture is not real wood, you will need to be more careful with sanding and general cleaning. By taking your time and following the instructions that we have provided, you will be able to get the best results.
By understanding how to paint laminate furniture, not only will you be able to create something that looks new, but you will also save money by creating a piece that seamlessly blends into the rest of the room. Wood laminate furniture might be cheap, and in some cases flimsy, but there are many different colors and designs that you can use to make it unique. We hope that you have as much fun with this project as we did!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Laminate Furniture Be Painted?
When learning how to paint wood laminate furniture, you will find that there are different ways to go about it. Essentially, laminate furniture can easily be painted if you are willing to do the necessary work. This process requires a fair bit of preparation, but you will be left with an incredible piece of furniture once it is done.
Is It Possible to Learn How to Paint Laminate Furniture Without Sanding?
Yes, you can. Sanding is not entirely necessary for this project, so if you do not need to do any sanding, then it is not necessary. However, it is very important to understand that you are working with laminate furniture, which means that you will need to stick to light sanding if you are going to break out the sanding block.
What Is the Best Method of Painting Wood Laminate?
When learning how to paint laminate furniture, the last thing you would want to see are brush strokes. For this reason, we would recommend using a foam roller to ensure that you get the smoothest application.
Robert Thompson has worked as a self-employed carpenter for over 15 years. He lives with his family in Billings, Montana, where he also successfully operates his business as a woodworker. His main business is the complete interior construction of buildings. He is also passionate about creating high-quality wood furniture with epoxy and other items made from burl wood. Besides the woodwork, Robert is also a skilled DIY professional for all kinds of materials. He always has a solution ready for every craft and construction challenge. Originally, Robert studied civil engineering and has advanced degrees in carpentry and business management. Robert has been working for Craft Art since 2020 and enriches the blog with his immense knowledge and skills in the field of woodworking and home improvement. He writes the articles about DIY and Repair.