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How to Paint Laminate Kitchen Cabinets

I did a little decorating tweak in my kitchen over the weekend.

Kitchen decorating ideas on a budget

I wanted to make the kitchen feel a bit more easy and breezy for the summer months. The tweak was just that…a tweak… nothing too drastic. I simply removed 2 cabinet doors to create the look of open shelves.

Kitchen decorating ideas on a budget

This is the opposite side of the kitchen. I love what I did to the open shelves here about a year ago and thought I would expand upon the idea.  The orange backdrop is removable.

How to paint laminate kitchen cabinets

For this side,  I removed the cabinet doors to create the look of open shelving. I put the cabinet doors in storage in my basement so I can put them back on someday when I tire of the open shelf look.

I chose this cabinet to expose since the contents were white plates and glasses that would look nice on display. What is hidden behind the other cabinets in my kitchen is not as orderly. :-)

When I painted my kitchen cabinets years ago, I didn’t even know about chalk paint. If I did I probably would have used it to paint the cabinets.  Since I painted them the traditional way with a primer and latex, I stayed with it to keep the finish the same.

The cabinet doors are wood, but the insides of the cabinets are made of laminate. Here are the steps I used to successfully paint the laminate so it would adhere for a long time.

How to Paint Laminate Cabinets and Shelves

The best primer to use when painting laminate surfaces

I painted the cabinets white 15 years ago. They have held up well, so I used the same products to paint the inside of this cabinet. I used a latex “bonding” primer and a semi-gloss paint finish.

A bonding primer is crucial. I always use Glidden Gripper. It works great and is affordable.  For the paint color, I used Pure White.

How to sand a laminate surface before painting

1. Use 100-grit sandpaper on a hand sanding block to rough up the laminate surface. You just need to scratch the surface to provide some “tooth” for the paint to grab onto.  A 5-minute going-over is all that is needed.

2. Clean surface well and let dry.

How to fill a hole with Spackle
How to paint laminate surfaces. I always use Gripper. It is the best primer over shiny surfaces.

3. Use Spackle or wood filler to fill holes where cabinet door hinges were attached. When dry, sand to smooth and then prime and paint.

4. Use a 2 – inch angled brush to apply a light coat of primer to the inner corners and edges of the cabinet and a foam roller to prime the flat surfaces. Let dry. Add a second light coat of primer, let dry.

5. Apply 2 light coats of paint, letting the first coat dry, before applying the second. Let second coat dry overnight.

Water based sealer I used to seal each painted shelf

6. So you won’t have that “icky-sticky” latex paint problem that happens when you place items on latex painted surfaces and remove them, seal the top of each shelf with water-based poly.

You don’t have to do the sides of the cabinet, only the surfaces on which the items will sit. One or two light coats will be enough. Let dry for at least 24 hours before placing items back on the shelves. If it is humid, wait even longer to ensure the paint and poly are fully dried.

How-to-create-open-shelves-in-a-kitchen

An easy and budget-friendly way to give a kitchen a fresh look for summer. The plant by the sink is a Lemon Cypress. It thrives in the sunny window. I have 3 of them on my counter by the sink.

Pretty peonies

The peonies are real… from my garden :-)   I wish they would last forever.   The dishtowel is from Walmart.

I plan to keep the back of the shelves white for the summer, but come fall I think I will add some color just as I did on the open shelves on the opposite side of the kitchen.

Do you like to change up your kitchen for the summer?

More budget friendly kitchen decorating ideas:

How to paint laminate kitchen cabinets and other budget friendly ideas for decorating your kitchen .

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38 Comments

  1. Thank you for the easy to read articles and beautiful photos! Am super excited to paint my babinets a dark brown/black. Should I add the poly to the cabinets? It’s only the bottom cabinets. What would you do?

    1. Hi Christie – I don’t poly cabinets since most brand name semi-gloss paints are quite durable and scrubbable. Even satin is quite durable. I always poly on shelves where items will sit on so there is no tacky stick when you lift items off. If you want extra durability it can’t hurt to add the a coat or two of poly especially on a cabinet under the sink that may end up getting wet a lot. There are a few different sheens, choose the sheen you want. Satin to Gloss. Use one to two light coats of Polycrylic applied with a high quality brush for the smoothest finish.

  2. Diane,
    My hubby and I just purchased a home in the Sonoma Coast, The Sea Ranch. I Love the tile counters and backsplash. However, the 80s oak cabinets are atrocious! Uppers are in good condition; lowers not so much. We dont have the cash to rennovate, nor the desire! I think I’ve convinced Bob into painting. Chalk paint sounds like the way to go! I will do one of our bathroom vanities (small project) to see how I like it

    Thank You For this awesome Blog.

  3. Dianne,
    This is fantastic! I have been reading and re-reading this just to make sure. So I can sand all the doors and counters, then use the latex bonding primer, then semi-gloss (any specific type?) and it’s as good as new?

    Here is some background: I’m renting and the kitchen cabinets and countertop are an ugly cork brown laminate. The owners said that I can paint them, aslong as it is brown. So I was thinking of a cherry. It’s a small kitchen. What are your thoughts? The fridge is white.

    Thanks so much!
    Alina

  4. LOVE IT Diane! I’m just reading this now since I’m doing our cabinets soon! Our laminate is peeling so I’m wondering if I should peel the ones that are peeling and go to the MDF board and paint that? Have you had any experience with that?

    1. Hi Debi – I have painted over peeling veneer successfully, but not peeling laminate. When I painted over the peeling veneer, I pulled up all the loose pieces and then used SPACKLE to fill the peeling parts. Once the SPACKLE was dry I sanded and then painted. It has held up for over 25 years. :-)

      Are you thinking you may replace cabinets or shelves with MDF? It will work fine as long as it does not get wet. Not sure if this answers your question or not. Let me know. :-)

  5. I love the doors off! I am thinking about doing that for my kitchen. I am going to paint my cabinets white soon. Are your cabinets still antique white? They look whiter in the pictures. Love your blog!!

      1. Thank you Diane. I did miss the new paint job. I love how your kitchen is so bright! If I could ask you a question regarding painting cabinets and get your expert advice it would be great if you could share. I want to paint my kitchen cabinets white but I have a Kohler biscuit color sink. What white color would you recommend I use? Should I try to match the sink or go whiter from the sink? I am really struggling with this! Any help would be appreciated! Thank you.

  6. I am doing this technique on a glass door cabinet. The paint came out beautifully! I will be leaving the glass doors on and adding the pop of color to the back. I have been obsessed with this post since I first saw it and now it is almost complete. thanks again.

    1. Hi Patty – I enjoy hearing from readers that got right to a project :-) The back drop inside the cabinet will add a lot of impact to your kitchen. Enjoy the new look.

  7. Oh I love your summer redo/refresh!! I wish my dishes looked that pretty on the shelves. And yet again you taught me something new. I did not know that trick about using the water based poly on the bottoms of painted shelves. Fabulous to learn this from you. Thank you. And to think I almost missed this post……. I advise everyone reading to never miss one single post from Diane.

  8. I love the cabinets with the doors off – they look so pretty with your white dishes. Ponk peonies are my all-time favourite… I wish they’d last all year too. Great tip about the poly topcoat

  9. Hi Diane,
    The kitchen looks great!
    We just renovated and installed white cabinets, which I have wanted for 6yrs, and then sold our house. Our new house has maple colour cabinets, which I believe are laminate. My question is, would you recommend chalk paint or the method you used here to transform them?
    Thanks for your time! (I’ve been following you for a couple years now, love what you do!)

    1. Hi Jess – If I move to a new home and need to paint the cabinets I would use chalk paint and water based poly as the sealer. Here are the reasons why. Chalk paint does not get that gummy tacky feel that latex gets. It is super durable, has less build up of paint, and sands beautifully so you can lessen the look of brush strokes before applying the sealer even if you are not going for a distressed look. I did this on the cabinet in my powder room: https://inmyownstyle.com/2014/03/sink-cabinet-makeover.html

      When I paint furniture with chalk paint, I always use wax as I love the patina if gives the finish, but it does require work and muscle to buff to get the sheen. For a large kitchen with lots of cabinets that may become a big job. But in favor of wax, if a cabinets finish get damaged, all you need to do is sand a little, repaint and rewax. With poly it is not as easy to make a fix, you would see the layers of new paint and poly. Water based poly is once and done. With wax, you may have to re wax a cabinet from time to time depending on the wear it gets. Choosing between wax and poly to seal the chalk paint is more of a preference and how much time you want to put into waxing and buffing each surface.

      I would use the CCP and Plaster of Paris recipe. It is the most durable, but you can’t mix this into a paint with primer in it already. Most paint companies are switching over to paint + primer in one formulas and it is getting harder to find latex that is just paint. If using just the CCP recipe you can use any paint formula. I hope this helps you.

      Thanks for following my blog. XO

      1. Hi Diane – I had followed your blog several years ago and then stopped reading blogs altogether but today stumbled upon your again. I’m in the process of sprucing up my house to put on the market, which apparently you just went through as well! I had 80’s oak cabinets in my kitchen and recently painted them white with Lowe’s Chalky Finish Paint. I have used your chalk paint formula in the past which is great, but because I had so many cabinets to paint and knew it was going to involve several weeks, I wanted to make sure I had a consistent formula for the chalk paint, and sadly when I blend it it, it’s not always consistent. Lowe’s also sells a sealer to go with the Chalky Paint which I’m using. I too prefer a wax finish on chalk painted pieces, but with all the cabinets I had to do, I was looking for something I could brush on.
        I can’t attest to how well the Chalky Finish Paint will hold up, as it’s only been a month since I started painting the cabinets, but so far I really like the look of it and it’s been a fairly easy project.

        Good luck with you lake house. I’m moving to the beach as soon as I sell!

  10. Yes, I agree, I like to change up my kitchen for the summer but I generally just change the dishes to white or lime green and use darker shades in the fall and winter. You have me thinking about opening up a cupboard, but that would mean decluttering! :) Yours looks GREAT!

  11. Since I was ‘introduced’ to you at “Instant Color Swap on Open Shelves” and fell in love with your style, I was so happy to see you’ve removed even more cabinet doors. Your peonies – my most favorite flowers – are so beautiful!

  12. It looks great! Mine are laminate all over, dark brown. I’d like to go with a bright white. Did you take the doors off? Can it be done leaving the doors on? I’m not very handy nor do I have a lot of tools, my reason for asking. Thanks.

  13. Hi Diane!
    I’ve been researching chalk paint for the past week (handy hubby and I are going to build and finish a custom farmhouse dining table from a great DIY tutorial I found) and came across your blog in my internet travels. I’m hooked! I love your style! Your ideas are fantastic yet practical (and affordable!), and your instructions are clear and easy to follow. Your DIY chalk paint recipes are priceless. Thanks for doing all the legwork and experimentation there. Someone’s gotta do it, right? ;0) That’s all, I just wanted to say hello and THANKS from your newest fan :).

    Greetings from the lakes region of New Hampshire,
    Lara

    1. Thanks for the nice note Lara. It makes me happy to know that you have found inspiration in my blog posts. I have been to the lake region in NH…beautiful especially in the summer and fall. What a nice place to live. Thanks for reading XO

    1. Hi Connie – Thanks. I am enjoying the ease of getting dishes and glasses out when I need them. I don’t have to take a step back anymore to make way to open the cabinet door. :-)

  14. job well done! I’d like to add some color in my cabinets as well – still in the thinkin’ stage. always appreciate your skill and tips. the place looks great!

    1. Hi Linda – The thinkin’ stage is good. That way you get what you really want instead of just rushing to do something and then not liking it in the long run.

  15. Gorgeous Diane, the kitchen and the peonies… so fresh and light, bravo!!
    xo
    Kate

    1. Hi Kate – Thanks. I would be sad if I didn’t have flowers to bring in to my home, especially pink and purple ones. I just wish they would last longer than a few days.

  16. Love your “refreshment” and I love the pitcher of Peonies – one of my favorite flowers! Vikki in VA.

    1. Thanks Vikki – Pink Peonies are soooo pretty. I even enjoy the fragrance they bring to the house. It is faint, but delightful, plus they never make me sneeze like many flowers do.

    1. Hi Rosy – I mentioned to another reader that when you go slow, you have time to figure out exactly what the space needs to make it work for the way you live and will use it. Sounds like you are almost finished. Enjoy putting the final touches on to make it a room you will love.