Learn the best way to paint laminate furniture on a budget with my printer cart makeover.
Of course we prefer real wood furniture over faux (aka laminate), but sometimes you have to take what you can get, like this cart for example. My work was getting rid of some things we don’t use in the office any more and I got this baby for free! The cart wasn’t the prettiest but it was in fine shape. I wasn’t using it to its fullest potential until I decided to reorganize my craft room. As I mentioned in my How to Organize a Messy Room post, I wanted the craft room to function as a mini office which included a printer station too. So, I went to Google and Pinterest for inspiration. A ton of carts popped up when I searched “printer station”, and that’s when I remembered the free cart from work!
With a little tlc and paint, I now have the most perfect printer cart for very little cost. Now I know what you are thinking, “won’t the paint peel right off?” Yes, if I painted directly onto the laminate surface the paint would very easily peel or scratch off. However, there is a trick to transforming your cheap (or in my case FREE) laminate furniture to something more stylish and attractive, and I am going to share it with you! Don’t worry, there’s no sanding involved!
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Supplies to Paint Laminate Furniture
- Drop Cloth
- Paint brushes – You can use foam (to avoid brush strokes) or regular
- Primer – I used Dixie Belle’s Slick Stick
- Paint – I used Rustoleum’s Midnight Navy, and then Navy Blue
What is the Difference between Laminate and Veneer Furniture?
Both laminate and veneer furniture is made of synthetic material, but the difference is in the top layer. Veneer furniture often has a thin layer of real wood adhered to a less expensive material and the wood grain in laminate furniture comes from a printing process (basically a high quality sticker). Veneer can be (very carefully) sanded and sometimes stained, but laminate can not. Both materials can be refinished using a proper primer! Did you read that? PRIMER! Primer is the trick!
Instructions on how to Paint Laminate Furniture
Before you begin priming and painting, make sure your furniture is nice and clean. Skipping this step will cause chipping later on and could prevent the paint from adhering all together. So do not skip this step! I sprayed my cart down with good ol’ simple green and it seemed to do the trick. Since we used this piece in our garage prior to refinishing it, I sprayed and wiped it down two times. The bottom was especially dusty and full of cobwebs. Once the furniture is dry, you can move onto the next step, PRIMING!
Why Do I have to Prime?
This step is super important when refinishing furniture. To me, priming is similar to sanding because it creates a surface the paint can stick too. Since you can’t sand laminate pieces, priming is crucial. I used Dixie Belle’s Slick Stick Primer, and I am very happy with the result. Plus, I enjoy supporting small businesses when possible.
Unless I am staining, I don’t plan to ever sand something again!
Be sure to thoroughly stir (not shake) your primer before using. Once your primer has been properly stirred, start painting the primer onto your piece of furniture. I began with a foam brush to avoid brush lines, but it broke on me so I switched to a regular brush for the 2nd coat. The brush strokes are not real noticeable. Most primers dry quickly, so you will want to avoid painting over the same spot too many times. As you prime, be sure to check your edges for drips and runs.
For the best outcome, start by reading the instructions that come with your primer. From my experience, I find it best to use a total of two coats of primer on furniture. Wait 2 hours before adding the second coat, and then overnight before you begin to paint. I recommend doing a scratch test before painting, by scraping your fingernail along a primed area. If the primer comes off, it needs more time to cure.
Out of laziness and curiosity I used spray paint for this step and I was pleasantly surprised with how well it turned out. Although I didn’t care for the color I used, I can’t deny the durability or quality. I’m not sure I will ever brush paint furniture again. Especially free pieces like this cart.
Since I didn’t care for the color, I sprayed my preferred shade right on top of the first shade. I DON’T RECOMMEND THIS! Do as I say, not as I do. I should have primed beforehand, but I justified this mistake with the fact that this cart was free. Honestly, it’s holding up perfectly. So paint at your own risk!
Spray Painting Tips
There are simple ways you can make spray paint not look like spray paint.
TIP#1: Shaking your can for 60 seconds may seem excessive, but trust me it makes a difference. You will want to continue shaking between strokes as well.
Tip#2: Spray your 2nd coat within the first hour to avoid “wrinkling” the first coat. In other words, the first coat needs to be wet enough to accept the second coat. If the first coat has began to set for over an hour, the solvents in the fresh coat will lift and wrinkle the existing coat. If for some reason you can’t spray the second coat within the first hour, then wait until it fully cures for 24-48 hours.
Tip #3: If your spray paint isn’t spraying a smooth finish (and you’ve shaken it thoroughly), you may be standing too far away or it may not be humid enough. This has something to do with small droplets drying too soon.
Tip #4: If you experience a run, gently blot it with a lint-free rag. This will still leave a textured “mark” in your finish, but I think it’s less noticeable than the run.
Tip #5: Read the back of your can! That’s where some of these tips came from!
Once your project has dried for 24 hours, I say it is safe to use. However, most spray paints will not fully cure for up to 5-7 days. Again, use at your own risk!
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