How to Paint Melamine and Laminate Surfaces

Melamine and plastic laminate surfaces found on cabinets, furniture, and fixtures can start to show wear over time. Discoloration, scratches and dated hues can make them unsightly. Painting these surfaces offers an affordable way to refresh the look. With proper preparation and application, you can successfully paint melamine and laminate for a custom facelift.

Can You Paint Melamine and Laminate?

Melamine and laminate both present challenges for painting. However, the right combination of materials and techniques allows for adhesion of painted finishes.

Melamine is a thermoset plastic coating fused to substrates under extreme heat. The smooth, non-porous surface needs roughening to accept paint. Specialized primers stick to cleaned melamine.

Laminate fuses resin-saturated papers under pressure. The printed surface resists paint adhesion without intensive preparation. Sanding exposes the paper core for priming.

Neither melamine nor laminate bond optimally with paint. But with extra prep, undercoats, and finish coats, attractive, lasting results are achievable.

Benefits of Painting Melamine and Laminate

Affordability – Painting costs a fraction of replacing substrates. It stretches your remodeling budget.

Customization – Paint any color versus relying on stock laminate choices. Match your decor precisely.

Refresh Appearance – Cover scuffs, scratches, stains and outdated oak to modernize the look.

Quick Facelift – Paint previously fixed surfaces like cabinet boxes while replacing doors.

Eco-Friendly – Avoid landfill waste by extending life of existing materials.

With some extra elbow grease, painting opens new affordable possibilities for surfaces otherwise destined for replacement.

Prep Tips for Painting Melamine and Laminate

Preparation is crucial when painting non-porous surfaces like melamine and laminate. Proper prep ensures paint adheres properly for lasting results.

Clean Surfaces

Use TSP or degreasing cleaners to eliminate dirt, grease and wax buildup. Rinse thoroughly and let dry completely. Remove any residual contamination inhibiting paint adhesion.

Lightly Sand

Use 150-220 grit sandpaper to create micro-abrasions in the slick melamine and laminate. This “tooth” helps the primer and paint grip. Take care not to sand through thin laminate layers.

Seal Raw Edges

If sanding exposes un-plasticized paper or particle board, seal those raw edges with an oil-based primer before top coating. This prevents moisture damage.

Score Surfaces

For added grip, use a scoring tool to cut fine crosshatched grooves into areas like melamine cabinet boxes. Apply painter’s tape “X” hatches and score with a razor blade.

Thorough cleansing, light abrasion and edge sealing sets up surfaces for success.

Recommended Priming Products

The right primer creates a bondable foundation on non-porous surfaces. For melamine and laminate, use:

Oil-based primers – Sherwin Williams All Surface Enamel Undercoater or Zinsser Cover Stain

Shellac-based primers – Zinsser B-I-N Shellac

Clear bonding primers – INSL-X Stix Acrylic Primer & Rustoleum Triple Thick Primer

Oil-based is preferred, but shellac and bonding primers also work. Always test for compatibility.

Prime Coats Application Tips

After proper surface prep, apply two coats of primer for best results:

Follow manufacturer instructions for spread rate and drying times between coats. Most require overnight drying.

Apply with a high-quality roller and angled brush for melamine and laminate. Work systematically and avoid drips.

Sand lightly between coats to improve adhesion. Clean away all dust before re-coating.

Inspect for hollow or lifting areas indicating poor bonding. Spot prime again if needed.

Patience leads to a strong, uniform bonding layer ready for your topcoats.

Recommended Paint Finishes

For your painted topcoats on primed melamine and laminate, consider:

Enamel paints – Sherwin Williams ProClassic Acrylic Alkyd Enamel

Pre-catalyzed lacquers – Lenmar 1-VB-114 Cabinet Coat

Multi-surface acrylics – Behr Premium No VOC Cabinet & Trim Paint

High-hiding alkyd, acrylic or lacquer enamel paints deliver a durable finish. Verify compatibility.

Topcoat Paint Application Tips

Applying your topcoats completes the painted transformation:

Apply two finish coats for ample coverage and an attractive sheen. Lightly sand between coats.

Use a small foam roller and angled brush again for the finish coats. Roll broadly while brushing in trim and edges.

Work methodically and avoid drips, sags and brush marks. Maintain a wet edge for uniform results.

Let topcoats cure fully – around 7 days – before use. Fully cured paint resists impact, moisture and cleaning chemicals.

Consider a clear topcoat for added protection on heavily used horizontal surfaces like countertops and desktops.

Careful application results in a glass-smooth, uniform painted finish that beautifully resurfaces your melamine and laminate.

Maintaining Painted Melamine and Laminate

The properly painted finish on your melamine and laminate surfaces should hold up well to regular use. But exercise some care to extend the attractive painted results.

  • Use cutting boards and coasters to prevent impact damage and scratching.
  • Immediately clean spills, splatters and condensation.
  • Avoid using harsh cleaners and abrasive pads.
  • Hand wash only using mild detergent and soft cloth.
  • Reseal any raw edges that become exposed with primer.
  • Touch up any nicks immediately with matching paint.

With prudent use and care, your painted finish can rejuvenate surfaces for years before needing refreshed.

Troubleshooting Painting Melamine and Laminate

Peeling or lifting paint – Caused by inadequate prep and priming. Strip, re-prep, re-prime and repaint the problem areas.

Visible substrate through paint – Indicates insufficient topcoat thickness. Apply additional finish coats to build adequate film for opacity and protection.

Brush marks in finish – Results from applying paint too thickly with poor brush technique. Use light, even brush strokes and a foam roller for self-leveling finish.

Bubbling or cracking – Sign of excess paint thickness. Strip and reapply thinner, uniform coats.

Discoloration or yellowing over time – Caused by exposure to UV light, heat or cleaning chemicals. Maintain with limited light and gentle cleaners.

Proper prep, priming and application minimizes problems with the painted finish.

How to Paint Melamine and Laminate: FAQs

What type of paint adheres best to melamine and laminate?

Quality oil-based primers, multi-surface latex acrylics and enamels or pre-catalyzed lacquers all work. The key is proper substrate prep before painting.

Can I use chalk style paint on melamine?

No, chalk paint will not bond well directly to slick surfaces. It requires a porous base to grip onto. Proper priming is a must prior to painting melamine or laminate.

How do I fix paint chipping from laminate surfaces?

Chipping paint reveals inadequate prep and bonding. Strip and reprep the laminate, then reprime and repaint using proper primer and technique to achieve durable adhesion.

Is it worth painting vs. replacing old laminate countertops?

Often yes. Painting can refresh laminate countertops for a fraction of full replacement cost. Use heat and impact-resistant enamel paints for durability.

Can I get a smooth painted finish on textured laminate?

Yes, but you’ll need extra finish coats to fully obscure the textured pattern. Ensure proper priming first, then build up finish coats. Light sanding between coats helps smoothness.

Revive Surfaces with a Painted Facelift

With the right approach, melamine and laminate surfaces can be adapted with painted finishes for an updated look. Remove any surface contamination, then thoroughly scuff to improve paint adhesion. Use heavy-duty oil or shellac-based primers specifically designed for slick surfaces. Allow proper drying time between primer and high-quality enamel or lacquer finish coatings. With care and patience, previously unpaintable surfaces become candidates for painted transformations.