Upcycling laminate furniture is a budget friendly way to have beautiful furniture in your home. Here is how to paint a laminate dresser that will have a long lasting and durable paint finish.
Get more of our favorite DIY Dresser Makeovers here!
Laminate dressers are a dime a dozen these days. A quick search on facebook market place or craigslist usually brings up a few pieces of laminate furniture for cheap!
Laminate Furniture Vs. Veneer Furniture
Laminate furniture has a shiny and slick appearance. A wood grain pattern is printed onto synthetic materials, giving it the appearance of wood, but it isn’t wood at all. Laminate usually covers cheaper wood or MDF to give the appearance of high-quality wood.
Ikea furniture is the same way! So this tutorial also covers how to paint IKEA furniture.
Veneer is different than laminate though. Veneer is made of very thin pieces of high-quality wood. It’s not synthetic or printed to appear as wood. It is actual wood. Its purpose is the same though; to cover cheaper wood and give the appearance that the dresser is made of solid high-quality wood.
Good news though! You can paint both laminate furniture and wood veneer furniture!
But, because of the laminate’s shiny and slick surface, extra care needs to be taken when painting laminate furniture.
How to Paint a Laminate Dresser
Painting a laminate dresser or Ikea furniture isn’t hard at all. Follow these simple steps, and you’ll have a lasting and durable dresser for years to come.
- Clean off the surface with a degreaser cleaner.
- Scuff sand the surface to remove the shine and create better adhesion.
- Prime with a bonding primer.
That’s not so bad, is it?
Let’s get into the details of refinishing laminate furniture.
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Supplies for How to Paint a Laminate Dresser
- Old Laminate Dresser
- Krud Kutter and an old rag
- Bonding Primer (more on that below)
- Paint Brush / Paint Sprayer
- Paint / Polyurethane
Start by removing any grease, grime, or contaminations that will repel paint. I like to clean my furniture off with Krud Kutter because it quickly cuts through grease and grime.
Spray the Krud Kutter all over the dresser and then wipe it down with a damp old rag. Then let it dry.
After the laminate is dry, grab some 220 grit sandpaper and scuff up the surface.
Since laminate is shiny and slick, scuff sanding is super important!
You don’t need to get out the power sander, and you don’t want to sand through the wood grain pattern. You just need to dull the finish and remove the shine.
Then remove the dust with a vacuum hose attachment and a clean damp lint-free rag.
Priming laminate furniture with a bonding primer is the only way to really get the paint to stick to laminate furniture. Even after you have scuff-sanded it, and even if you are using chalk paint.
Prime your laminate dresser with 2 coats of bonding primer for the best results. You may be able to get away with 1 coat, but I always do 2 coats to get the best results.
Pick the best bonding primer for laminate furniture from down below!
After your primer is dry, you can paint your laminate dresser just like any other dresser!
My favorite paint for furniture is Country Chic Paint. It’s a chalk style paint that has excellent adhesion, and the colors are the best (Peacoat, Jitterbug and Fireworks are my favorite colors)! It also has no VOC’s, and is super easy to use.
Get 10% off your first order with this Country Chic Paint coupon!
Depending on the color, paint a few coats of paint, making sure to let it dry between coats.
When the paint is dry, I recommend applying 3 coats of my very favorite water-based poly to give the painted finish extra durability, especially if you use chalk-style paint.
If this is your first time painting furniture, learn more about how to paint furniture here!
Learn how to paint furniture with a paint sprayer here! Spraying cuts down on my time, and gives a truly brush free finish that I love!
Best Bonding Primer for Laminate
The number one question when learning how to paint a laminate dresser is what is the best bonding primer for laminate. The primer is the biggest thing that will create a long-lasting durable finish.
Honestly, there are a number of good bonding primers out there! But which one is the best for your project?? Here are the pros and cons of top my choices for bonding primers.
BIN Shellac Based Primer
BIN Shellac Based Primer is my go-to white primer when preventing bleed through on furniture. It blocks the tannins in wood really really well.
But you don’t have to worry about tannins on laminate furniture, because it’s not real wood!
BIN Shellac Based Primer has excellent adhesion though, as shellac has great adhesion properties and sticks to slick surfaces like ceramic tile, glass, metal, plastic, and hardboard.
The biggest reason I am putting this on my list of best bonding primer for laminate is because it comes in an aerosol can for quick and easy painting!
This primer is shellac-based, which means that I would only brush it on with a cheap or old paint brush that you don’t care about. Cleanup is with denatured alcohol.
It also has a very strong smell, especially if you’re spraying it. So I only recommend working on your laminate dresser outdoors or in a well-ventilated area if you use BIN Shellac Based Primer.
It dries to the touch in 15 minutes and surfaces can be painted in 30 minutes!
Zinsser Cover Stain Primer
Cover Stain Primer has excellent adhesion to enamel paints and varnishes, paneling, laminates, and ceramic tile. It also sticks to nongalvanized metal, glossy paint, ceramic, tile, and glass.
It is oil-based, so paint brushes and spills have to be cleaned up with mineral spirits. It also has a strong smell like BIN Shellac, so it needs to be used in a well-ventilated area.
But Cover Stain Primer also comes in an aerosol can for easy painting!
It dries to the touch in 15 minutes and surfaces can be painted in 1 hour.
STIX Bonding Primer
STIX primer is a water-borne white bonding primer. It has low odor and was made specifically for slick surfaces that are hard to paint like PVC, Vinyl, Plastic, Glass, Tile, Metal and Gloss Paints.
It’s tack free after 30 minutes, and you can re-coat in 3-4 Hours. You can paint over it after 24 hours and cleanup is with warm soapy water.
Its adhesion is amazing, but it does have to dry for a whole day before you can paint over it. But it’s not as smelly as some of the other options!
Clear Bonding Primer
The Clear Bonding Primer from Country Chic Paint is hands down my favorite bonding primer for laminate furniture for two reasons.
Get 10% off your first order with this Country Chic Paint coupon!
It’s clear, and it’s 100% VOC free!
I like to distress painted furniture, so this is the best way to be able to distress laminate furniture.
It was made for painting smooth an slick surfaces like laminate furniture, glass, and metal, but it was also made to be eco-friendly and water-based.
So, if you want to paint your laminate dresser indoors, this clear bonding primer is the very best option for painting indoors.
Let the clear bonding primer dry for several hours before painting.
Here are some more Frequently Asked Questions on how to paint a laminate dresser!
Will Chalk Paint Stick to Laminate?
Yes and no. But mostly no.
Yes, chalk paint may stick to laminate if the laminate isn’t very slick or shiny. But I wouldn’t recommend it. You will more than likely end up with paint that easily scratches or peels off. If you want something that will last for a long time, be sure to prime with a bonding primer before painting with chalk paint.
So can you use chalk paint on laminate furniture? Yes. But be sure to prime first! Or test the chalk paint on every surface of your laminate dresser before painting the whole dresser in chalk paint. Let the chalk paint dry for 24 hours, and then try to scratch it off with your fingernail.
If it easily scratches off, then you need to prime first. If it doesn’t scratch off, you can skip the primer.
How to Whitewash Laminate Furniture
Once again, you’ll need to prime before painting, or even using a whitewash!
Since most bonding primer is white, you can’t just paint a couple of coats of primer and then whitewash over it. Your dresser would be completely white!
But I have the perfect solution for you.
You can use the clear bonding primer (get 10% off with the code shown above) and then whitewash as usual with watered down white paint. Since the clear bonding primer dries clear, you won’t see it between the laminate and the whitewash.
Best Paint for Laminate Furniture
After you have painted a coat or two of primer, you can paint your laminate dresser with a few different kinds of paint.
You can use chalk paint, latex paint, acrylic paint, or enamel paint! My go-to paint is chalk paint, but here is my list of the best paint for furniture that explains why I use specific paint when painting furniture.
The only paint I wouldn’t recommend is powdered milk paint, as I haven’t had much luck with using it over primer.
How to Distress Laminate Furniture
Distressing laminate furniture can be difficult if you use a white primer under a dark-colored paint. So, if you want to distress laminate furniture, be sure to use the clear bonding primer (get 10% off with the code shown above) under the paint.
Then when you go to distress after painting, you can distress down to the laminate without seeing white primer.
If you’re worried about sanding through the laminate, you can wet distress instead of using sandpaper.
Learn more about distressing painted furniture here.
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