Chances are, if you have a piece of furniture that is either
A) built in the 80s
2) from IKEA or
3) at a garage sale
There’s a good chance it’s laminate.
Laminate is shiny, smooth, and non-porous, making it difficult to paint. It’s basically a picture of wood that is glued onto a wood-like material. Painting over laminate is not ideal, but laminate furniture is cheap and easy to find. This makes it the perfect DIY project, as long as you know a few of the tricks to painting laminate.
One of the problems with laminate furniture is that is cannot be sanded very much. Because laminate is faux wood with a shiny finish, rigorous sanding it will only cause more damage. Instead, you should sand very lightly and then use a quality primer to ensure the paint will adhere.
Start by cleaning the piece entirely. The shiny surface of laminate is a magnet for dirt and dust, so you may need to use window cleaner or vinegar to get the piece completely clean before applying primer. When you choose a primer, make sure it says for shiny surfaces. One coat is usually enough, but you can do two if you’d like.
Without primer, paint will bubble up and peel right off of laminate furniture. Primer also neutralizes any odors, so if you happen to get a smelly old piece of furniture, primer will take care of that as well. Bonus! Let the primer dry completely (at least a few hours, or overnight if possible).
Once the primer is dry, give it a once-over to be sure the primer looks smooth and adheres well, if so, you’re ready to continue with the paint. If not – it’s better to lightly sand, and apply another coat. Once the primer is completely dry, you’re ready to paint. **Note: laminate furniture can not be stained, so be sure you’re using paint and not wood stain.
Painting laminate is no different than painting any other project. Once it is primed and the primer has dried completely, you can paint as you normally would. I love to use a small foam roller for the sides, and an angled brush for any small crevices. If you notice any areas of your piece that are bubbling, or look spotted, don’t panic. Lightly sand the piece in between paint coats, and it may take three or four coats to adhere completely.
After the paint has dried, finish off your project with a polyacrylic sealant that is thick and durable. This is especially important for dressers, tables, or other pieces that get a lot of wear and tear.