How to Reface Laminate Kitchen Cabinets

Laminated kitchen cabinets are generally made of particleboard or plywood, with a thin wood veneer or plastic laminate over it. Yup. You cannot refinish that laminate the way you can real wood, but that does not mean you cannot reface it. New laminate can be installed right over the old, as long as the old laminate is solid and clean. Do not laminate over real wood, metal or anything other than existing laminate.

Laminates themselves are used on cabinets because they are durable and easy to clean. The product is manufactured by fusing paper and plastic materials at high heats until they form a solid surface that is resistant to scratches and stains. Because of its durable manufacturing process, laminate is also difficult to resurface. The best choice for resurfacing or refinishing laminate is paint. Because laminate surfaces are shiny and slick, surface preparation is the most critical step. Using the right technique will give you a long-lasting and attractive new finish for your laminate cabinets.

Things you’re going to need:

Vibrating power sander
Medium sandpaper
Tape measure
Self-adhesive laminate
Utility knife
Square piece of wood, and
Firstly, use a vibrating power sander to dull the surface of all laminated parts of the cabinet (generally the box frame, but usually not the doors). Don’t sand all the way through the existing laminate, just get it flat and free of any shine. Wipe off the dust.

Secondly, measure one side of the cabinet that’s going to be refaced, transferring the dimensions to a sheet of laminate. Add an inch all around as you mark it on the laminate. Cut out the piece with a utility knife, scoring and then snapping it. Before you separate the two pieces, cut along the wax paper on the back of the laminate, so the paper stays intact on the cut piece.

Thirdly, hold the piece of laminate up to the part of the cabinet where it’s going, with an inch of overhang all around. Peel back a little of the paper at one end of the laminate piece and press the adhesive surface to the cabinet. Pull off the rest of the paper and press the rest of the laminate piece to the cabinet.

Fourthly, use your utility knife to trim off the overhanging portion of the laminate, cutting along the edge of the cabinet. Press over the laminate with a flat block of wood wrapped in a dishtowel, to squeeze any air out from under the laminate.

Fifthly, repeat the process for each span of the cabinet, cutting and installing a piece of laminate for each one. Let the laminate set for a day before reassembling the cabinet.

Before we end the tips today, if you want to paint the cabinet before reassembling it, paint the laminate choosing either an oil-based or latex paint. Latex paints are more likely to chip than oil-based but latex is easier to work with and less messy. Apply multiple, thin coats of paint. Allow the previous coat dry before applying the next.

6Avoid using the cabinets for at least seven days. Test the durability of the paint by pressing a fingernail into the cabinets. Oil-based paint takes longer to cure than latex. If your fingernail makes a dent, the paint is not fully cured. Be gentle with the surface until it is fully cured. If the painting is all done, you can start reassembling your precious cabinet.

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