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How to Paint Laminate Cabinets: Everything You Need to Know

Do you want to give your laminate cabinets a makeover? Get all our tips to get great results when you paint your laminate cabinets!

Do you have a room in your house where pretty much everything needs a little updating?

That was my laundry room.

I’ve lived in this house for 15 years, and not only have styles changed during that time, so has my taste.

But a big renovation wasn’t really in the budget.

AnnMarie decided to give her laundry room a makeover at the same time, so we’ve been helping to keep each other motivated to finish our rooms!

You can check out my inspiration board for a French country laundry room, and also AnnMarie’s ideas for her modern farmhouse laundry room.

Our styles are different, aren’t they?!

But we’re both drawn to a neutral color palette.

We’re both waiting on our money trees to actually start showing us the money, so our makeovers are gonna be done on a budget.

I set out to give my laundry room a glow up using the power of paint, and some millwork from Woodgrain.

Let’s take a look at where I started…

Laundry room with blue walls, white cabinets, and a window

You’re not gonna believe how it looks now.

Be sure to scroll all the way to the end to see the comparison!

So far, I’ve added a custom wood valance over my window.

Created a feature wall using picture frame moulding.

Swapped out the door for a French door.

Built a wall-mounted beadboard drying rack.

Painted the walls and trim.

And enclosed the space above the cabinets.

Now it’s time to paint the laminate cabinets!

Can You Even Paint Laminate Cabinets?

Because the room is on the small side, I decided I wanted to paint it white to help it look a little larger.

But what about those white laminate cabinets?

Wouldn’t they just blend into the wall?

I really wanted to turn them into one of the focal points in the room!

The easiest way to make these basic laminate cabinets look a little less basic was to give them a whole new color.

It turns out you can paint laminate cabinets, but you need to do a little prep work and use a special primer to get the best results.

While it may take a little effort, this DIY can save you a lot of money compared to the cost of hiring someone to paint your cabinets!

Please note: The tips in this article assume you’re working with undamaged laminate surfaces. If your laminate surface is chipped or peeling, you’ll need to repair, and possibly resurface it before painting.

Our Tips for Painting Laminate Cabinets

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To Remove, or Not Remove the Doors?

Since we were enclosing the space above the cabinets, it was easier to do that work without the cabinet doors in the way.

You’re gonna need to do some other prep work to the cabinet box, so I really do recommend removing the doors.

You can put them back on for painting if you prefer, but I like giving the doors and the box some time to cure without the risk of them being shut and possibly damaging the paint job.

When you remove the doors, be sure to mark the doors so you know where they hang to make re-hanging them easier!

I used a fine tip sharpie marker and wrote in tiny letters on the metal hinges.


I actually didn’t.

That’s what I should have done.

So do what I say, not what I do…

My husband let me know that it was much more challenging figuring out how to orient the doors correctly since I skipped this step.

If you have knobs on your cabinet doors, it may be easier if you accidentally forget?

Because then at least you’re not trying to figure out whether you’re looking at the top or the bottom of the door…

Remove the Hardware

If your cabinets have any hardware, remove that before moving to the next steps.

It’s much easier to paint when you’re not trying to avoid hardware.

If you decide to paint the cabinet doors after you’ve hung them, you can tape off the hinges to protect them.

But honestly, the whole process will be much faster if you remove the doors and then remove the hardware.

Clean the Surface

One of the first steps to prepare your surface is to clean it and remove any grease.

I recommend using TSP (trisodium phosphate) which cuts through any grease, dirt, soot, stains, and mold.

Be sure to follow the package instructions when you use TSP!

I like to wear gloves when I work with it.

After cleaning, wipe the cabinets and doors down with clear water and then dry them.

Sand the Surface

Laminate surfaces are considered to be tricky to paint because they tend to be so smooth.

Paint can have trouble sticking to smooth surfaces, so the next two steps help improve your paint’s adhesion.

Lightly sand the box and the cabinet doors with 120 grit sandpaper.

But be careful!

hand holding a sanding block and sanding wood putty on an above cabinet enclosure

All you’re doing is giving the smooth surface a little texture.

You don’t want to remove the surface!

So sand lightly.

Just enough to make some dust.

But not enough to go through the thin laminate surface.

Be especially careful on the outer corners and edges!

Woman using sand paper to sand the surface of laminate cabinet doors that are lying on a table in a garage.

I used both a sanding block and some sandpaper for this job.

It was much easier to sand the box part of the cabinets.

Not only was it all straight lines, but the laminate also didn’t seem to be as thin on this part.

Woman's hand holding a vacuum tool with a dusting brush removing dust from laminate cabinets with doors removed

Once you’re done sanding, use a shop vac to remove the dust from all your surfaces.

Then go over the surfaces again with a tack cloth to remove any dust that may have been left behind.

I’m always shocked by how much the tack cloth picks up!

Use Primer and Paint Made for Premium Adhesion

Most of the time, I’m happy with Zinser’s Bullseye primer.

But painting laminate cabinets calls for something special.

There are several primers that can work well for this type of cabinet painting project.

Either this primer or the one I chose are recommended for having superior adhesion on slick surfaces.

The XIM primer is a low VOC paint, and also low odor.

I also chose to use Benjamin Moore’s Advance paint for the color (another low VOC, low odor paint).

The Advance paint not only looks great on my bathroom cabinets, it’s held up amazingly well in my garage drop zone, and on my kitchen island.

Can of X-I-M Advanced Technology UMA primer and a can of Benjamin Moore Advance satin paint

I also knew that the color I wanted to paint my cabinets would coordinate well with the other Benjamin Moore colors I used in the laundry room (White Dove and Revere Pewter).

Be sure to carefully read the instructions for the primer before proceeding!

XIM primer recommends priming before caulking.

You’ll also need to stir the primer thoroughly!

overhead view of an open can of X-I-M UMA primer before being stirred

It took a while for the primer to be completely blended!

Once I got it to this point, I stirred it a little longer for good measure…

overhead view of an open can of X-I-M UMA primer with a wood paint stirring stick in the primer after being stirred

After priming the box part of the cabinets in the laundry room, I got to work on the cabinet doors down in my garage.

I set up the cabinet doors on top of old paint cans to make it easy to paint the edges.

Folding table in a garage with paint cans on top holding laminate cabinet doors for painting

Caulk and Fill Holes

After you’ve finished priming, caulk all the edges and fill any nail holes.

I always use DAP all-purpose caulk with silicone for caulking jobs.

This is my favorite paintable wood filler because it doesn’t dry up the way the ones that come in tubs do!

I usually do this step before priming, but the XIM primer said it could cause caulk to crack if applied over top.

So I did things differently for this project.

Tips for Painting Laminate

Before going whole hog and painting everything, test your paint’s adhesion.

Pick an inconspicuous place, and apply the paint you chose, and then let it cure.

I tested it on the far side of my cabinets, on the part that’s not visible unless you’re standing at the window.

If you notice the paint is bubbling, then it’s not adhering properly. You should consult with a paint store professional to see what you should do next.


If there’s no bubbling?

Then go ahead and paint your laminate cabinets!

I used Frog Tape for delicate surfaces to protect the fresh new paint on my walls.

Painting the cabinets was possibly my favorite part of this whole makeover.

I was so excited about the paint color I chose for the cabinets!

It’s called Lafayette Green (HC-135) and it’s by Benjamin Moore.

It has so much depth and looks beautiful paired with Revere Pewter.

View into a laundry room with laminate cabinets over the washer and dryer with the cabinet doors removed for painting and the washer and dryer covered with a drop cloth.

And don’t forget to protect your surfaces when you paint!

It took two coats to get coverage that wasn’t streaky.

Because Benjamin Moore’s Advance paint has amazing leveling abilities, I used a 2-inch angled paintbrush to paint the cabinets.

All the brushstrokes just disappeared as the second coat of paint dried.

Depending on the color you choose, you may need to do three coats of paint.

Remember, when you’re painting cabinets, you’ll get the best results with multiple thin layers of paint.

Let each coat of paint cure for at least 16 hours before adding the next one.

Install Hardware and Rehang the Doors

I let the cabinet doors cure for a full week before we installed them.

The paint is supposed to be fine after 72 hours, but I figured a few more days would be even better.

Since I didn’t properly mark which door was which, it took a little flipping and figuring to get them hung properly.

Once my husband knew which door was which, he installed the new cabinet handles.

Close up of painted laminate cabinets with gold bar handles

Aren’t they lovely?

I had planned to get the 5-inch handles, but when I ordered them, the 6-inch version was on sale!

For less than the 5-inch ones!

And after seeing them on the cabinets, I’m so glad I went with the longer handle.

Once the handles are attached, simply rehang the cabinet doors and make any adjustments necessary for them to be level.

Man hanging the newly painted laminate cabinet doors in a laundry room.

And then?

Step back and enjoy the view.

Since everyone loves a good before and after, here’s a side-by-side comparison for you.

Side by side comparison of laundry room cabinets before enclosing the space above and painting the laminate cabinets and then after.

What do you think?

Will you try painting your laminate cabinets now?

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Laminate cabinets with enclosed space above painted Lafayette Green with gold bar handles in a laundry room above a washer and dryer.
Collage of products and tools used to paint laminate cabinets.

Sources: TSP Cleaner | 120 grit Sandpaper Sponges | 120 grit Sandpaper | Shop Vac | Tack Cloth | XIM UMA Acrylic Bonder Primer | All-Purpose Caulk | Paintable Wood Filler | Frog Tape Delicate Surfaces | 2-inch Angled Paintbrush | Putty Knife

If you have any questions or suggestions, contact me or leave a comment!

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