How To Paint Laminate Furniture

Painting furniture is a great way to update your decor or give new life to a thrift store find! But what about laminate furniture? If you’ve ever tried to just put a coat of paint on laminate furniture, you know it can bubble and peel off as soon as it starts to dry. Lame! But don’t worry, it’s not actually that hard to prevent that from happening! I recently painted the IKEA Lack tables we use as nightstands, and they turned out great! So next time you find a great piece of furniture at IKEA that doesn’t come in the color you want, get it anyway and follow this simple tutorial to learn how to paint laminate furniture!

How to paint laminate furniture tutorial: Don't pass up that great piece of furniture just because it's the wrong color!

We have been using bright red IKEA Lack tables as nightstands for a while now, and they work great, but the color just does NOT match the rest of the bedroom decor!

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So I finally decided to do something about it, and after a few coats of paint, the tables fit in much better!

How To Paint Laminate Furniture

Here’s what you need:

  • the piece of furniture you want to paint
  • fine grit sandpaper
  • primer
  • paint (either oil-based or latex is ok)
  • polyurethane finish (optional)
  • painting supplies (a brush, roller, paint sprayer, tarp, etc.)

NOTE: Make sure your primer is designed for use on glossy surfaces. The back of the can will tell you what surfaces that primer can be used on. Make sure you use a latex primer if you’re using latex paint and an oil-based primer if you’re using oil-based paint! And if you plan to finish your project with polyurethane, make sure you use an oil-based finish with oil-based paint and a water-based finish with latex paint.

Start by cleaning your furniture. I took a damp rag and wiped down all surfaces of my nightstand, and that was enough. You just want to get any dust or dirt off of the surface.

How to paint laminate furniture tutorial: Don't pass up that great piece of furniture just because it's the wrong color!

At this point if you tried to paint the table, the paint would bubble up and flake off. See how shiny the table is in the photo above? The laminate is too smooth for the new paint to adhere properly, so the first step is to rough up that laminate a bit and prime it for painting.

Grab a piece of fine grit sandpaper and lightly scratch up all surfaces of the table. Don’t sand too hard; you don’t want to go all the way through the laminate! And don’t worry about making it nice and even; the point is just to scuff up the surface everywhere so the primer has something to grip on to.

How to paint laminate furniture tutorial: Don't pass up that great piece of furniture just because it's the wrong color!

NOTE: Depending on which primer you use, you might be able to skip this sanding step and just prime your piece right away. Read the back of your can of primer and see what it says, but the sanding and scuffing only took about five minutes per table, so I personally think it’s worth it to do, regardless. But it’s not absolutely required if you hate sanding!

After you finish sanding, wipe away all the dust with a damp cloth.

Next, put a coat of primer on your table. I use Kilz Original primer for pretty much everything and I love it (and yes, it’s designed to work on glossy surfaces too!)

I used the HomeRight paint sprayer to prime the tables, and it worked great! The directions that come with the sprayer are totally clear and easy to follow; basically you just unscrew the paint bucket from the bottom of the sprayer, pour some primer in, screw it back together, plug it in, and spray! It took me maybe five minutes to give each table a full coat of primer; I’ve never painted anything so fast before in my life!

TIP: If you’re using a paint sprayer, use long sweeping motions from left to right to evenly cover the surface in paint. Go back and forth, overlapping a bit each time. If you just point the sprayer and pull the trigger you’ll end up with runs and drips that will ruin your project! Always err on the side of too little paint; it’s easy to add more later!

If you don’t have a paint sprayer, a paint brush or roller will work just fine! Try to get a solid coat of primer everywhere, but if you’re a little light in spots, don’t worry. There are a few hints of pinkish red showing through on the table below, but the color covered it all up later.

How to paint laminate furniture tutorial: Don't pass up that great piece of furniture just because it's the wrong color!

Let the primer dry for a few hours. If there are spots or drips in your primer, sand those away once it’s dried. You want a nice smooth surface to paint, or you’ll just be painting over drips and rough spots, and they will still show through in your finished piece.

I used the paint sprayer again for painting the tables, and it made quick work of the whole job! This paint sprayer comes with instructions on how to clean out the sprayer and switch colors, and it maybe took me ten minutes to get the primer cleaned out and the new color ready to go. (I used a latex paint and primer, so it all cleaned up with warm water and dish soap!)

Give your table a light coat of paint everywhere and then let it dry for a few hours. Again, if you don’t have a paint sprayer, a brush or roller will work fine for this part.

After the first coat is dry, lightly sand down any paint drips, wipe away the dust, and give it a second coat of paint.

Once the second coat of paint is dry, you’re done!

How to paint laminate furniture tutorial: Don't pass up that great piece of furniture just because it's the wrong color!

NOTE: If you want to, you can finish your project with a coat of polyurethane. I didn’t put a coat of finish on these tables, but it’s easy enough to do if you want to protect your paint job or your piece is going to be in a high-traffic area. Bonus: You can spray polyurethane through this paint sprayer, so it makes it even easier to do!

How to paint laminate furniture tutorial: Don't pass up that great piece of furniture just because it's the wrong color!

The tables look great in the bedroom now, and they actually match the linens!

NOTE: This giveaway has ended! Thanks to everyone who participated!

Disclosure:  I received a paint sprayer from HomeRight in exchange for my honest review of their product. But, seriously, this thing is amazing! I have never enjoyed painting more, and all opinions are 100% my own. I would never write a post about something I didn’t think was useful or interesting for you guys, and Practically Functional will only publish sponsored posts for companies or products I believe in! 🙂


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Jessi Wohlwend

I believe that anyone can do crafts and DIY projects, regardless of skill or experience. I love sharing simple craft ideas, step by step DIY project tutorials, cleaning hacks, and other tips and tricks all with one goal in mind: giving you the tools you need to “do it yourself”, complete fun projects, and make awesome things!

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Reader Interactions

  1. Michelle Smith says

    11 years ago

    I’d start with the dresser in my son’s room

  2. ChiWei says

    11 years ago

    We’ve got some old end tables that could use a new coat of paint, so it doesn’t look like the fake wood veneer anymore!

  3. Mique says

    11 years ago

    I’ve always been nervous to paint laminate. This is awesome. Thanks!

  4. Chelsea says

    11 years ago

    Our kitchen table! It’s so scratched up + could really use a makeover!

  5. mandy says

    11 years ago

    My first project would be to repaint my kitchen chairs a nice bright color that pops!

  6. Melanie says

    11 years ago

    Probably a piece of furniture in my daughter’s room.

  7. brittany says

    11 years ago

    we recently purchased a new home that is in desperate need of repainting! I would start with the living room……

  8. Julie says

    11 years ago

    I would paint all my IKEA furniture too! And my old kitchen cabinets. 🙂

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