refinish laminate cabinets

Refinishing Laminate Cabinets

Want to redo your kitchen cabinets without spending a fortune? I know the feeling. I moved into a house that was screaming 1985 every time I walked into a kitchen or bathroom. So, being a penny pincher, I turned to the internet for affordable options that would give me a better look. The biggest challenge that I faced was the material. My house has laminate counter tops and cabinets - which you can't just paint or stain. Here's my step-by-step guide to doing what I did. I only spent about $300.00, and that includes all of the hardware, paint, drop-cloths, etc. You may already have some of these materials at your disposal.

1. Decide the color choice for your new kitchen/bathroom. 
Keep in mind, if you have white cabinets and very little sunshine, that the color could really change the mood of your room and make it much darker. Also, it's terrible to have to get half way through your project and start over because the color isn't right...not that I did that more than once...

2. Clean your cabinets.
I used hot soapy water to clean the dirt off of the cabinet doors. We also had some issues with mold inside our cabinets due to a water leak, so I made sure all of the cabinets were cleaned inside and out with mold spray.

 3. Take down the doors
This is a surprisingly difficult process if your doors have been up there for a long period of time. Don't forget to take the drawer fronts off - otherwise the whole set up may look funny. The clutter can be overwhelming, but I chose to see it as inspiration to finish faster! **If you have as many doors and drawer fronts as I do, you should probably write on the inside of them where they go, that way you don't spend extra time trying to figure out where they go when hanging them back up.**

4. Sanding Time
This is so much fun. At least pretend, because you have a lot to do! Sand every door, drawer front, and face frame. Make sure to get all of the edges/sides so that the paint wont chip. Don't peel the laminate off if it's stuck on there pretty well, otherwise you may have bumpy paint.

If the laminate is peeling off of the boards, this step is the most important. Take your time and make sure that the surface is completely smooth. You may need to apply a thin layer of putty to the door if it's really rough, that way you don't sand into the door too deeply. You want the surface to be as smooth as possible, otherwise every little imperfection will show in the paint job. 

It's best to do this outside, otherwise you'll have very dusty furniture. You may also want to wear a mask because if you have as many doors to do as I did, you'll be breathing in a lot of dust. 

5. Paint Party
Time to grab your rollers and get to painting. Depending on how your painting your project, keep in mind that there are rollers specifically made to paint cabinets. These are very helpful if you're not doing a design or if you just want a really good base coat. You don't need any special paint finish because you will be painting a sealant on top of the paint, so get whatever is cheapest. The only thing you should care about at this stage is the color!

Make sure to go in the same direction each time you roll your paint, otherwise you will be able to see lines. Also, it's very easy to mess up the edges while painting because many laminate cabinets have round edges at the tops and bottoms so there is no stopping point when painting, so make sure you go completely under the door if that's the case. Make sure to use thin, even layers. I recommend doing at least 2 layers of paint, I did 3 on my cabinets. I also had paint/primer in one, so if you don't buy that type of paint, you should probably use a primer, especially if you're going from dark to light or light to dark. Be sure to read the label on the paint can and give it sufficient time to dry and cure between coats. Otherwise it wont dry or it will get bumpy.

I'm not sure how much space you have to paint, but this is the only system that worked for me (space-wise). I didn't want the paint to get everywhere, but I also didn't want what I've painted to get smudged, so I placed each door on a ladder so that the paint wouldn't get messed up and I could paint the edges at the same time.

6. Seal It
 This is the most important step. Don't forget to seal your doors. I highly recommend using Johnson's Water Seal on your cabinets because it's nearly impossible to scratch. I have redone my bathroom cabinets and my kitchen cabinets, and so far nothing has scratched or chipped! This is exterior, oil-based sealant, so be sure to purchase the proper brushes for the job. I couldn't find rollers for oil-based paint, so I had to use a brush. The finer the bristles the better - it makes for a much smoother finish. Be careful in selecting your sealant because many of them are tinted and it can throw off your paint color. You can pick any finish - I chose satin and I love it!

I applied two coats on my cabinets just to be safe. The key to a smooth sealant is to make sure your brush/roller is completely saturated. If there is any beading on your doors, it will dry that way and give a texture that you don't want. Don't forget to let it cure between coats or before hanging. I waited at least 24 hours between coats, usually 48 hours (unless it was raining). If you don't, you risk scratching and smudging your work - and at this point it's worth the wait not to have to redo them!

7. Pick your Hardware
This is where most of my budget went. I spent about $150 on hardware. To me, this was completely worth the cost because it gave my cabinets a whole new style. Depending on what hardware you choose, the price can be much higher or lower than mine. I chose knobs and pulls that were between $3.00 - $3.50 each.

Installing the hardware was tricky because it's very difficult to drill evenly into plywood. I ended up making a template out of some old cardboard and using that to guide me in the installation process.

8. Hang the Cabinets!
 This is the most fun because you get to see all of your hard work pay off!