Melamine and laminate offer an economical yet hard-wearing option for those who want the look of wood. Kitchen cabinets made from these materials typically have MDF or particle board backing bonded with a melamine, thermofoil or laminate topper, so the edges don’t hold up well if they’re not reinforced with banding. One of the cheapest options in modern homes, melamine kitchen cabinets typically start out looking nice but lose their beauty and charm over time, especially when used on countertops, since laminate and melamine have little resistance to heat. Fortunately, however, Real Milk Paint lets you make over these pesky materials easily when you want to give your kitchen cabinets a fresh new look.

Tips for Painting Melamine Cabinets

Tackle DIY projects involving laminate, thermofoil and melamine head-on by understanding the particular challenges faced when you remodel these materials. Since laminate and melamine cabinets — whether in the kitchen or bathroom — tend to be tricky to paint, these tips can help homeowners achieve a high-quality paint job when they’re ready to remodel.

1. Choose the right supplies for the job

The right paint and brushes help you get successful results when you paint melamine, thermofoil and laminate surfaces. Lots of paints work well on these materials, including high-quality latex, acrylic and chalk paints, but most of them require priming. Real Milk Paint, however, requires no bonding primer for application, even on laminate and melamine surfaces. Additionally, our milk paints contain no volatile organic compounds, so you don’t need to open your windows or use fans for ventilation. For the best results, however, we suggest mixing the milk paint colors you choose with our Ultra Bond Adhesion Promoter additive.

Once you have the paint colors on hand to paint laminate, thermofoil or melamine, select application tools. With wood materials, standard paintbrushes work well because they mimic the flow of the grain. Melamine and laminate, however, are basically plastic coating, so adding texture to the surface doesn’t provide good results. For this reason, we recommend using foam rollers and brushes for a brush-mark-free finish when painting melamine cabinets. Alternatively, consider using a device to spray-paint the area for a completely smooth look that requires lots less work.

Other supplies necessary for this DIY project include:

  • Drop cloths to protect your flooring and furnishings
  • ​Painter’s tape to block off areas you don’t want to paint
  • Rough grit sandpaper to roughen melamine surfaces
  • Clean, lint-free cloths to wipe down surfaces
  • Tools to remove hardware from cabinet doors

2. Repair any damage before painting

If your laminate or melamine kitchen cupboards have damage, you need to repair it before you continue with your DIY home improvement project. To do this, wipe down the damaged area with a reliable cleaner such as Tri-Sodium Phosphate, then let it dry. Next, use paintable putty or filler such as our Real Wood Filler to even out any gouges, scratches or nicks. Do this by spreading the filler product on with a putty knife, evening out the area until it blends with the laminate or melamine surface around it. Finish up by using a clean, lint-free cloth to wipe around the repaired area.

3. Remove all kitchen cabinet hardware

Tips for Painting Melamine CabinetsPainting melamine cabinets can be challenging enough without leaving obstacles in the way to your bathroom or kitchen makeover. This means you need to take the time to remove all the hardware from your melamine or laminate kitchen cupboards before you start painting. If you don’t want to take the hinges off your kitchen or bathroom cabinets, be sure to cover them completely with painter’s tape to protect them. Consider also using a small piece of tape to cover the hardware holes so paint doesn’t drip into those spaces and cause problems during the reinstallation process.

4. Roughen melamine surfaces first

Paint adheres best to wood when you sand it first because pulling up the wood grain adds some tooth. Laminate and melamine unfortunately don’t have wood grain to pull up, so roughening the surface by sanding is a very different process than when you’re dealing with wood. Additionally, sanding first helps repair minor chipping damage so you achieve a better finished result. Rather than doing a deep sanding, use 120-grit sandpaper to lightly dust the surface, since it’s much thinner and more fragile than wood. After sanding, use a clean, damp cloth to wipe down the surface so no dirt, dust or grime is left behind.

5. Complete the job properly

After adding your first coat of paint, give it ample time to dry before using a paint roller to smooth on your second coat. By letting the laminate, melamine or thermofoil surfaces dry first, you can see how much more coverage you need to get the look you want for your kitchen or bathroom cabinets. Typically, Real Milk Paint requires only two coats of color for excellent coverage that stays put, and it has the added advantage of making cleanup quick and simple since it’s a water-based formulation.

Next, add a sealer that’s compatible with your paint. For example, our finishing waxes that double as high-quality sealers let you add as much or as little sheen as you want, and many options have a slight tint that imbues your bathroom or kitchen makeover with a bit of trendy distressing. When you achieve the appearance you desire and your cabinets are dry, reinstall the hardware carefully. Keep in mind that painted and sealed cabinets may take as long as 30 days to properly cure and be careful with them in the meantime.

While painting melamine cabinets and thermofoil or laminate surfaces may seem like a difficult task, it doesn’t have to be when you follow these tips. Products from the Real Milk Paint Co. offer a fuss-free way to facilitate smooth bathroom and kitchen makeovers, providing reliable paint colors, tough sealers and handy additives that help make your home improvement job go much faster.