Painting Laminate Cabinets

A blessed Easter it was, we spent some time with my family, ate too much, and came home happy and content. I trust you had some good times with your family too this weekend.

painting laminate cabinets

Several of you asked me about painting these white laminate cabinets, so I thought I’d do a little post on that. These are indeed white laminate cabinets, as are my kitchen cabinets. I think the bases are probably wood, but the doors are definitely laminate (that plasticy material). And the good news is, you can paint it! I painted this 3 years ago and it still looks great.

I found this bit of information by Googling Laminate primers:

The Zinsser company makes two primers that it recommends for use over laminate: Bulls Eye 1-2-3, an acrylic formula in a water base, and B-I-N, a pigmented shellac formula with an alcohol base. Tim O’Reilly, manager for primers and sealers at Zinsser, recommends the shellac formula even though it will leave your kitchen smelling like alcohol for an hour or so and even though it’s more of a hassle to remove from your tools. (You’ll need to use ammonia or denatured alcohol.) The reason for his recommendation: Once the alcohol evaporates from the primer, typically in 45 minutes, the shellac finish is fully cured. Not only can you can proceed immediately to put on the finish paint, but you greatly speed up the time when your kitchen can return to being fully functional.

painted laminate cabinets

I did not use a laminate primer on my cabinets, but I did prime them with water-based Kilz, so if you want the extra protection OR you are going to paint your laminate kitchen cabinets, I would definitely recommend you get a primer made specifically for slick surfaces like laminate. This will save you a lot of headaches. Mine have held up well, since this bathroom is not used all the time, it’s a guest bath. I primed first, then did 2 coats of Satin Ralph Lauren paint called Turret Stair (you can get Ralph Lauren paints at Home Depot). It’s a deep rich, chocolately brown. I used a small foam roller and a 1 or 2” brush to get into the crevices. It goes on pretty smoothly with the roller. You can see I only painted to the edge of the lip inside the cabinets and the same with the drawers and kept the insides white. Save yourself the headache of painting the insides of your cabinets!

Painted laminate drawer



I did take my doors off to paint them, but next time I would just leave them in place. I had a little bit of a hard time getting the doors back on properly, so I think you could just as easily leave them on. You’ll just need to stand on your head to get underneath the bottom of the door. 🙂 Let every coat dry one day in between and you should have a great looking coat of paint on your laminate cabinets.

I’ve painted several cabinets, but this was the first time I’ve had laminate, so be sure to prime them well first and it should work out great. Proper prep is the key! I do have laminate doors in my kitchen too and may end up painting them one day if they end up getting beat up. Laminate is bad about getting nicks around the edges of the doors, so I think painting them would seal them up and make them last longer. I know in our bathrooms, we had some water damage on the edges of some of them, so laminate doesn’t even last forever.

I’ve also heard about a product called Cabinet Coat, but have never used it. It’s supposed to be a tough as nails finish that leaves a very hard and protective surface for cabinets. I think you can get it at Ace Hardware and other places. So, this would be a very good option for painting cabinets too. One thing I read online was that this gives a really smooth surface over a sanded primer, and to lightly sand between coats for the best results. That’s how you get a really professional looking painted surface, not that any of my cabinets I’ve ever painted are professional looking, but they were good enough for me.

Cabinet coat

I’ve had to touch these cabinets up just a couple of times in the last 3 years. Sometimes the pressure points of the doors will leave a little spot and I just take a paint brush and touch it up. Not a problem! I know there are also tougher paints especially for cabinets that you can get, so that is another option when you are buying your paint.

If you want to paint your laminate cabinets, go for it! I’m joining Susan over at Between Naps on the Porch for her Met Monday party. I think this makeover fits the bill.

If you haven’t seen it yet, don’t miss the giveaway on my Review Blog that is currently happening! it will be going on until early a.m. Wednesday and you don’t want to miss it.

- Rhoda


  1. LOL @ Susie Q.
    Oh we had a great relaxing Easter here at home. I don’t really have any family up this way but my sister and she was out of town.
    You cabinets look just awesome and so expensive looking to me to. You remind me SO MUCH of myself when I want something different I FIND a way to make it different. I made some finials for my curtain rods. You got to check them out. lol

  2. Pretty Organizer says

    hey lady! These are great. I need to refinish all of the laminate furniture that I bought 11 years ago… when i was poor… I mean poorer. Now the kiddos are using it and well, you get tired of laminate pine from K-mart after 11 years. I’m waiting for my furniture to grow up… it only grows old. You did a great job! How well has it held up?

  3. Cote de Texas says

    you make it all look so easy – and they look so great in the dark brown – at first i thought it was a black. 3 years later – wow! i hate to tell you what our cabinets are made out of = a faux wood, pressed wood or something like that. we did it to save money when we were too broke to build our house. they havent held up well at all either. I really need new cabinets everywhere! oy.

  4. abeachcottage says

    hi rhoda

    nice post and yep you do make it seem so easy

    I enjoy reading about how you go about it, now all I need is some laminate, haha! I just thought, oh errr actually I don’t have any, quite unusual really I suppose


  5. Thanks for sharing the color you used on those cabinets. That would be the perfect paint for my hall bath.

  6. Doris the Great says

    Great job on the cabinets! I just moved into a duplex 1.5 yr ago and the kitchen & bath have varathaned oak cabinets that are so dated. I want to strip them and paint them (probably) a cream color. Any recommendations on how to do this the right way?

  7. Well aren’t you just a wealth of information! I love your cabinets and the leopard trimmed hand towels. We have very similar taste.

  8. Hi Rhonda! I am a newbie to blogland and I just LUV your blog! I have been studying this post on painting laminate cabinets. I have a piece of furniture that I purchased a few years back from Target. I think it is the Sauder/Saunder/??? brand. Of course it is not real wood, I guess it is that fake wood lookin laminate stuff. Do you think I can paint it? If so, please point me in a direction as to what type of primer and paint I should use. I live in North Alabama, and shop often in Bham. So, I love seeing your “outs and abouts” in the area! 🙂
    Thanks! Andi

  9. Love the post. We don’t have laminate BUT a 70’s ranch. I let my teenage son do his bathroom in the colors he wanted 4 yrs. ago. So, the dark wook cabinets became a dark blue with dark tanny walls. Inspired with this, I had him take a screwdriver to remove the doors and bring them and the drawers to my shop. I’m sanding them down a little and they’re now going to be black…along with the cabinet. Now to choose a wall color….
    That’s what I love about blogspot, I get so many ideas…then I’m irresistably motivated.

  10. I just finished and I used your blog as a direction guide! Thanks so much! Great blog.


  11. Oh My Goodness, this is exactly how we are doing our guest bathroom that I wrote to you about in an earlier post. and my husband is having a tough time with the laminate cabinets. Thank you for this tip!

  12. This is awesome info! Thanks for sharing. I’ve been looking for info on how to do it and what to do. This was very helpful. Thank you. I hope to get my kitchen a face lift soon! I think I may try this on my laminate counter tops as well.

    Preemie Mami

  13. Janet McReynolds says

    This is beautiful : ) I love that you can paint anything!

  14. Just found this post and I’m thrilled!~ I have 4 daughters sharing 1 bathroom and you can only imagine what my laminate cabinets look like. (as a matter of fact I think they are they same ones you have)
    I’m going to try your advice and paint them either black or a dark, dark brown… Thanks for the tips, it will be my Spring Break project this year! I’m following!

  15. Oh my gosh, my blogging/home partner Cane just sent me this link, and I can’t believe I’ve never seen it before. I so dislike the laminate cabinets in our kitchen/bathrooms, and I thought I just had to live with them. This is great! New hope rising in me! Thank you!

  16. Lynn Rechsteiner says

    You never fail to amaze me. Love you choices of color. I have been stuck in my kitchen remodel in regard to color. I wanted my old built in cupboard to receive a pop-color redo. I am have now tried three
    different choices–yes three and I’m not satisfied. Once the color dries it just clashes with the other colors or just doesn’t appeal. Maybe I need to keep it simple. Can’t wait to see your finished product!

  17. I’m so glad you posted about this! I have a dining room table that looked like really nice wood, until something ruined the finish. I can’t wait to try and paint it black. I had no idea that a water based primer was the way to go. Good think I stopped by here before spending money at the store!

  18. Diane Ruiz says

    Rhoda, I was reading your blog on painting laminate
    cabinets and I’m very interested.
    But I am not sure on the primer issue. It seems you primed
    It twice, am I wrong? If so why didn’t you use the shellac primer with the alcohol base, it sounded kind of interesting.

    Thank you
    Waiting for your answer.

    • Hi, Diane, I only primed those cabinets once, with regular latex primer. But if I was doing it again, I would use the shellac primer. I didn’t know about it when I did that cabinet. But, really an oil-based primer or shellac primer would definitely hold up well on these laminate cabinet bases. Either one should be fine, the shellac is extra tough. Mine held up pretty well with only a water-based primer, but I’d recommend the oil or shellac in the future.

  19. Hi
    I wonder if you have ever painted a laminated counter top. I was watching the Nate Berkus show and he said that there is paint for this at the Home Depot……..

    Love your tips..thanks

    • Hi, C, I did use Rustoleum Countertop transformations kit and used it on my laminate. I really think you could use their Zinsser shellac primer and scuff up a laminate and prime and paint it. It would be worth a shot!

  20. Rhoda, how can one tell the difference in laminate and fiberboard construction? Our house was built in 1977 and I think the vanities are fiberboard; they don’t have a shiny, plastic-like finish. We’ve lived here 8 years now; way past time to start updating these bathrooms. We have replaced one toilet and I want to replace the vanity in that same bathroom as that is what I classify as the main bathroom; it is the one any guest in our home even for a few hours or overnight would use. I feel that the Master bathroom is private for just us so that can wait a while before being replaced. We have installed new shower door in master bathroom though and love it. Have you had any experience painting fiberboard vanities? They are white, and have that standard decorated gold trim. No shine to the construction like laminate would be.

    • HI, Betty, you should be able to paint fiberboard or whatever you have with a good primer. Just prime with a good oil-based primer and then use 2 coats of paint, either satin or semi-gloss if you want a little sheen. Any surface like this can be painted.

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