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topic 20194

Repainting formica kitchen cabinets


Q. I am interested in painting my existing kitchen cabinets. They are contractor grade with what I believe to be, a formica finish. They are only about 7 months old but are a pale gray, almost lavender color and don't match my decor. I would just like to repaint them white. Do I need to apply a primer first? Also, what type of paint should I purchase for this project and what technique should I use to apply the paint? Brush or spray?

Thank you!

Tracey P [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Tarpon Springs, Florida


A. You might consider removable paint for a test run. If you don't like the change you'll have the choice of restoring the basic surface.

Keith W [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Atlanta, Georgia


A. I am a professional Faux and Decorative Artist and I have painted MANY cabinets. This is what I would do... Make sure the cabinets are clean. Lightly sand them using a fine grit sandpaper (20 grit). You are LIGHTLY sanding because the you need to rough the surface up a little bit to give the primer something to stick to. Wipe the cabinets down with a damp cloth to remove dust from sanding. Apply a primer (best results use a sponge roller) Let Primer dry 24 hours. Apply the first coat of paint (I use Sherwin Williams) If needed apply a second coat of paint. Apply a coat of urethane. (use a sponge roller) NOTE: If you remove the cabinet doors...number each door by writing the number on a piece of tape and sticking it to the back of the door, and doing the same on the inside of the cabinet so that you will know where each door goes back. If you have any questions I will be glad to help you.

Cindy H [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
Tampa, Florida


A. I wouldn't even bother sanding - you need a primer product called X-I-M UMA Bonder [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] it will adhere to anything (class, ceramic, wood) and will give you a flat primer finish to work with. I have used it over formica and ceramic tiles and it has worked wonderfully and has saved a lot of money not replacing the existing foundation. I've made the mauve tiles in my boys bathroom look like beige tumble marble.

Kris B [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
Tampa, Florida


Q. You have suggested using X-IM primer on formica cabinets. I am unable to access information on where this or similar products can be purchased.

- Weirton, West Virginia

Ed. note: We've now hotlinked your mention of it to a page on Amazon where you can get it, Macaluso.

October 21, 2011


Did you try painting your Formica cabinets? How did it turn out? Curious because likely your cabinets are similar to mine. We just bought a house and I want to redo the Formica cabinets. Painting seems like the least expensive option but want it to look great and last. I would appreciate hearing your feedback.

Pam Thompson
- New Cumberland, West Virginia


Q. Has anyone tried to stain white formica cabinets another color? I am thinking about trying it and would like any advice?

Susan L [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Natick , Massachusetts


Q. I have dark formica cabinets in my kitchen can they be painted will the primer X-IM work and then paint I appreciate an answer thank you.

Kathleen B [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Etowah, North Carolina


Q. I wanted to know if the dark cabinets turned out looking great or just so so. I am purchasing a home with a huge kitchen and 3 walls, upper and lower of dark formica cabinets.Much too expensive to replace. Can I paint them and make them look new?

sheila fox
- ft.meade Florida


A. Hi, I just painted my formica cabinets. Yes, I had to use a primer first. I actually used a few before finding one that would not peel, chip or scratch off. Its called Zinsser B-I-N Primer Sealer [linked by editor to product info at Amazon]. Its wonderful and dries in 45 minutes. It does contain Shellac so I think that makes it really sticky. I went through many brushes, but did not want to rush the process. So you may want to prepare the area with lots and lots of drop cloth. It seems to go a long way. You can probably get it at other stores. Ok, the first thing I did was lightly sand the cabinets to take off the sheen, than wiped down with Clorox wipes, let dry, than applied primer. It was really easy. The hard part came when trying to choose a color. If anyone has a suggestion, I would greatly appreciate. Good luck.

Jennie Waitkevicz
- Ocala, Florida


Q. I have white formica (or maybe thermofoil) cabinets all throughout my home. Would really like to have them look like wood cabinets but I don't think that is possible (If it is, let me know how!). So I would at least like to give them an "antique" look. Any ideas on how I would go about doing that?

Kelly Qvern
Tampa, Florida


Q. I, too, would like to know how to paint Thermofoil cabinets. Any suggestion would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Carol Bokinz
- Melbourne, Florida

60 Ways to Transform Your Kitchen Cupboards
from Abe Books


July 13, 2008

A. Don't paint the plastic finish, peel it off! Using your fingernail, or a small knife, pick the corner on the side of the cabinet until it pops away. The plastic should peel away in one clean sheet. Since Thermofoil is heat-sealed to the cabinet, there is no glue of any kind. Underneath is clean, smooth MDF that can be lightly sanded, primed and painted. Particle board is much better to paint than plastic. I did this with my kitchen and bathroom cabinets, and they are beautiful and durable.

Susan Foust
- Oxford, Mississippi

July 26, 2008

Q. I too have the ugly white builder cabinets in my bathroom. I cannot afford new cabinets (along with everything else I would like done in my bathroom). I would like to hear more pro's or con's on people who have tried this. My fear is that it will start chipping and then I have a big mess on my hands!

Theresa Bell
hobbyist - Lithia, Florida

July 31, 2008

A. Hi, Theresa. I understand your concerns--that's why I hesitated so long to do anything with my Thermofoil cabinets. After I learned that the laminate could literally be peeled off from someone online who had done it, I experimented on an inconspicuous door in the corner above my refrigerator. I was thrilled when the Thermofoil peeled off easily and cleanly in about 15 seconds. Just use a good quality oil-based primer and paint for durability. I did all the cabinets in my house a year ago, and they still look perfectly beautiful--no chips or cracks whatsoever. It's SO much better than the thermofoil, and I can repaint easily if I ever want to change my color scheme. I'll be anxious to hear your feedback if you decide to go for it.


Susan Foust
- Oxford, Mississippi


Q. Can I antique finish formica cabinets? I was planning to replace my bathroom cabinet because it is white, builder-grade formica and very ugly. I watched someone on HGTV paint an old piece of furniture with black paint and then sand off the edges to make the cabinet look old. That is the look I'm hoping for, but I'm not sure if I can do this with formica cabinets. Anyone have a suggestion?

Ginny Kinslow
consumer - Rockledge, Florida

January 23, 2008

Q. I would like to know if you have a pictures of refinished formica cabinets.

I am considering painting mine, but want to see a finished product first.

Thank you

Ernest Caron
- Marblehead, Massachusetts

February 17, 2008


Carol Alexamder
- Rockledge Florida

April 4, 2008

Q. Would you use an oil base paint over the primer? Oil base has always been a tougher, chip resistant paint.

Paula Atreides
buyer - Hollywood, Florida

July 19, 2008

Q. We are original owners of a home with white formica and oak trim bathroom vanities. All are odd sizes and the last quote we got for 4 new vanities was over $2800. Can I repaint them to look like a wood finish? How would I do that? We just want to freshen up the bathrooms without spending a fortune and would like to try to salvage 2 of the 4 vanities that still are in good shape.

Mindy Gilbert
hobbyist - North Brunswick, New Jersey

July 21, 2008

A. Hi, Mindy. Susan F seems to have the right idea if you can get the formica laminate off like she suggests. If not, then you would need to try one of the good adhesion promoting paints as suggested by several readers nearer the top of the page. Good luck.


Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

August 2, 2008

Q. We just bought a house almost 20 years old and the kitchen is huge with white formica and oak trim cabinets. It would be very expensive for us to replace them and they still in good shape,but I am looking for something more modern and updated. Can I repaint them to look like a wood finish? How would I do that? We just want to freshen up the kitchen without spending a fortune.

Minnie Polo
hobbyist - Kissimmee, Florida

August 5, 2008

A. I purchased this summer home with very ugly custom made formica cabinets. The base was orange and the doors and draws were a Dunkin Donuts raspberry color. I removed the draws and doors and placed a hot iron across the formica. This melted the glue allowing me to slide a scraper starting at the corners edge under the formica. (The iron does not melt the formica) I also used a blow dryer in some areas. Once the formica was removed I sanded the pine. I kept the drawer base however removed the drawer front and replaced it with a piece of cut pine sanded and shaped into a simple drawer front. For the doors I purchased 3" wide pine bead board from Lowe's and made my own custom doors. The pine was ready to stain or prime and paint. Good luck and hope this helps!

Kathy Sullivan
- Truro, Massachusetts

September 12, 2008

Q. I have read the questions and answers. The persons that are responding are they professionals in painting of formica cabinets? I have one shot to redo my cabinets that are southwestern white style. I would like to change them to a gloss white. I understand to light sand first, clean off dust, primer and then paint. The finish paint I want hi gloss. What do you recommend to use in primer and paint to get this finish? TY DeAnna

DeAnna Wilson
- Newbury Park, California

September 19, 2008

thumbs up sign Hi, DeAnna. I don't think anyone yet has claimed to be a professional. There may be few or no professionals anywhere who paint old formica cabinet doors; it's probably only practical as a do-it-yourself project.

That is, if you include the cost of labor, which professionals must do, it probably costs more to repaint a formica cabinet door than to reface it. Who is going to try to make a profession out of offering a less satisfactory solution than their competition, but at a higher price? :-)


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

November 9, 2008

Q. I have old, fake maple cabinets and countertops in a condo we bought for my mother-in-law. Quote to redo kitchen (cabinets, granite, new lighting) was $11,000!. From what I've read in this thread, sanding is not necessary of you use Zinsser B-I-N Primer Sealer [linked by editor to product info at Amazon]. Well, does this stain it at the same time as it primes or will I still have to paint? Can it be used on counters? What kind of paint is recommended for primed formica? Is it true I don't have to sand?

I need help! $11,000 is too much in a good economy. I certainly can't afford that now.

Thanks in advance for any responses!

Laurie Luongo
- Miami, Florida

Ed. note: The Amazon page we've linked to calls this product a "pigmented shellac" that can be topcoated "with either oil or later paint", Laurie.

January 21, 2009

Q. I recently installed all new cabinets/drawers in my master bath with white "wood" formica. I hate the bathroom - too white. Would appreciate any ideas on how to paint over these new cabinets/drawers to make them look like a cherry wood that would still show the grain. Needless to say I spent a fortune on these cabinets.

Stephanie Osrin
homemaker - Boca Raton, Florida

Cabinet Coat

February 13, 2009

A. I have painted formica cabinets with great success, using Cabinet Rescue. This product DOES NOT require priming before painting, and although it does not require sanding, I did sand lightly first. I would recommend a sponge roller for application. The only drawback is that is is (or at least was at the time) only available in white, and tint-able to light colors only. However, I have seen another brand of "cabinet" paint for sale on line in a variety of colors. Good Luck.

Madelyn McCorkle
- Homosassa, Florida

March 6, 2010

A. I used Cabinet Rescue on my formica cabinets and they looked good for only about a year. They chipped very easy. Now I need to redo them.

Cathy Nelson
- New Port Richey, Florida

February 18, 2009

Q. I have almond formica cabinets with oak trim at the bottom of each cabinet. I would like to replace the oak and paint the cabinet. However, the oak strip when removed will leave a gap or opening. What can I replace this with so cabinet is the original height?

Paula S [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
hobbyist - Winthrop, Massachusetts

February 19, 2009

Q. Thermofoil the same things as formica? I am not familiar with these products at all. Am I assuming correctly when I assume that you have to somehow 'melt' the Thermofoil off a cabinet before beginning the sanding, priming, painting process?

Erin Kirk
- Lexington, Kentucky

September 30, 2010

Q. Would like to know, how do I know if I have Formica or Thermofoil? Thank you

May Langley
Hobby - Huntington, New York

May 5, 2009

A. Thermofoil cabinet doors and drawer fronts are made by using medium density fiberboard (MDF) which, if the foil (plastic) is removed, providing a smooth paintable surface. Laminate doors (formica) consist of laminate over particle board. While the laminate is removable with an iron, glue residue will remain, and will also have to be removed. Laminate doors are flat, no dimension to them. Thermofoil doors can be made to look like raised panel doors or many other door styles available to it's wood counterparts.

I am a general contractor that specializes in kitchen and bath remodeling.

Norm Walters
- Land O Lakes, Florida

February 24, 2009





Shelley De Marco
hobbyist - East Rockaway, New York

Building Frameless Kitchen Cabinets
from Abe Books


March 25, 2009

Q. I have pale yellow doors with dark brown cabinets, which I believe are formica from the 70's, that I would like to paint. They are in phenomenal condition and of excellent quality for the time in which they were made and very sturdy. How would I know if they are Thermofoil before I begin the process of priming and painting?

Thank you.

Mary Brady
- Rocky Point, New York

June 5, 2009

Q. I would really like to repaint the Thermofoil cabinets in my new house. All of the information here has been very helpful. However, I wonder if anyone here has done a distressed finish on the cabinets after they remove the Thermofoil exterior? I really would like a rustic look in my kitchen. I appreciate any information you can provide.

Josephine Wallworth
- Palmetto, Florida

July 11, 2009

Q. I want to repaint laminate bathroom cabinets. I've been reading this thread and have decided to use Zinsser B-I-N Primer Sealer [linked by editor to product info at Amazon], so that's one question out of the way!
I'm trying to sell my house so it's really important to do a good job. What kind of paint do I use - flat, satin, eggshell .. or is there a special paint for this? Should I use a roller?
Also, is there a way to resurface the vanity? It's a double sink 60 or 72 inches and new ones are too expensive. Thanks

Geraldine Ballance
- Palm City, Florida

November 15, 2009

A. I have painted formica cabinets in the past, I used Zinsser B-I-N Primer Sealer [linked by editor to product info at Amazon], two coats of kitchen and bath semi gloss paint (latex) and then two coats of latex poly. They looked beautiful.

Q. My question now (that some have ask on this page) is, can you distress white Thermofoil cabinets with some sort of brown glaze to make them look like like those new (old) cabinets. If you have done this, please tell me how and is it holding up?

Karen Tabone
- New Port Richey, Florida

February 18, 2010

Q. My name is Marlene. I moved into a condo two years ago that boasts white laminate cupboards. (I miss my
wood maple cabinets in my old home). I want to know if you can glaze these cabinets without totally painting them.
Can you use Cabinet Rescue to do so?
Thank you.

homeowner - Ohio

February 20, 2010

A. I purchase distressed properties for resale or as rentals. I always refinish kitchen cabinets. Previous posts have correct answers, but remember, prep is the most important process.

Remove doors and drawers; remove hardware.
Clean all surfaces with mineral spirits.
Lightly sand (the product I recommend states it is not required, but do it)
Wipe down with strong ammonia/water solution
Prime with Zinsser B-I-N Primer Sealer [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] - wait at least one hour
You can use any paint you want, but oil based will provide harder surface

Never had a problem with this method.

As a response to a prior post, no, professional painters would not do this as a normal process - not profitable enough, mainly DIYers.

Robert Steffens
Tampa, Florida

February 22, 2010

A. I peeled off the Thermofoil coating on my white cabinets in my bathroom. After painting with a couple of coats, I covered with a glaze and then wiped it off, to give a distressed finish. After the cabinets dried, I sealed the cabinets with a water based (to prevent yellowing) sealer. They turned out beautifully and I am now moving on to tackle the kitchen cabinets. Good luck!

Lori Agee
- Alpharetta, Georgia

March 29, 2010

Q. I have almond color formica cabinets, can't stand them anymore, can I paint them and how do I go about it? You would save a marriage lol by telling us how to do it.
thank you

Denise Gonzales
- Taylor, Michigan, USA

September 3, 2010

Q. Stepmother put formica walls in the kitchen 35 years ago the house is old and so is my father, he won't let us change it so please help me paint it what can I do and what works best to cover it

Carol Parker
hobby - Fairmont, West Virginia

September 13, 2010

A. Check out the Country Living Artisans Collection by Caromal Colours; no sanding, stripping, or priming needed...Just clean it with Simple Green. We use this in our workshops in our studio and several non do it yourselfers are going home and redoing kitchens and bathrooms. I have been a professional decorative painter for several years and I love this more than my professional products! Vicki -

Vicki Shoemaker
3 Oaks Studio / Regional Director CIR for Caromal Colors - Clovis, California

December 8, 2010

A. I do a lot of painting and have found a great primer that sticks to EVERYTHING, even Tupperware. Gripper, by Glidden.

Eileen Hamper
- campbell, California usa

January 21, 2011

Q. I've read almost everything I can find and am preparing to paint my formica cabinets. I've taken lots of 'before' pictures to show you what they looked like and will post 'after' pictures as soon as it is complete.
These are formica, builder's grade cabinets from the 80s, with Thermofoil ends on the cabinets. I plan to peel off the thermofoil, sand the MDF underneath and paint.
Wish me luck!

Julie Johnson
- Midwest, Iowa

X-I-M UMA Primer

June 8, 2011

FYI XIM primer is a GREAT primer to use on formica cabinets =>
A professional painter would never say they can stain your formica cabinets. They have a veneer and/or are prefabricated so the stain will not absorb and will just sit. If you want to a wood look you have 2 options:

Hire an artist to Faux your boxes and doors, and/or purchase new boxes and doors.

Painting over XIM primer is pretty easy. Suggest oil base semi gloss (talk to local paint store for thinner and proper brush to use for oil base)

Shawnie McLaughlin
- oakland California

July 23, 2011

Q. I was able to peel off the Thermofoil but now how do I get all of the glue off? Is it OK to use a paint that includes the primer or should I prime and then paint?

Susan Straw-Guse
- North Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

August 10, 2011

thumbs up signThank you everyone for the info. It's funny a lot of you have white cabinets and want to get rid of them. I have ugly medium to dark wood laminate cabinets and want to go white for a fresh, clean, modern look.

Jodie Mutchler
- Tampa, Florida, USA

September 7, 2011

Q. Would love to paint my bisque-colored formica cabinets that have oak edging instead of hardware. But am stymied by what to do about the edging.


(I would prefer to put new hardware on to make it look less '80s. Does anyone have suggestions and pictures?

Gail Richmond
- East Lansing, Michigan

November 3, 2011

A. Gail from Michigan,

We had those beige laminate with oak trim cabinets too in our kitchen. While this is not the option we did, I have seen them painted in other homes. They painted the whole door, drawer the same color, it kind of makes the oak trim disappear.

What we actually did 4 years ago, was reface our kitchen. My husband used the doors as templates, kept the european hinges and made NEW doors out of 3/4" oak plywood. He framed out the doors to look like the mission style that is sold today in stores, we finished the raw edges with the oak veneer tape. They came out GORGEOUS! Everyone who has seen them has raved. We have 1" thick solid wood doors in a nice light oak stained finish, there is NO way we could have replaced all our cabinets with same quality for under $15,000. We spent about $700 on supplies incl. NEW handles and knobs, not including labor. : )
We also covered our old beige laminate counter with NEW granite tiles -- 1/4 the cost of a granite slab.

Now we are working on our master bath vanity. We are refacing the 72" vanity with white beadboard framed out doors and new hardware.

Hope this helps.

Karlee Joseph
- West Palm Beach, Florida, USA

October 6, 2011

Q. Has anyone used Devflex as a primer for kitchen cabinets?

C Paige
- Warren, Michigan

February 3, 2012

Q. 80's style almond "laminate" with oak trim ideas? Would like to hear from others about how they dealt with this style of cabinets regarding

1. MPB [melamine particle board?] splaying where water has absorbed in the bottom edge of a cabinet and caused a slightly raised edge.
2. Creative ideas on how to deal with oak trim. I am toying with wedging wine corks in groove; glueing properly sized bamboo into groove, and then attaching some form of handles to the cabinets.

Any other creative ideas?

Casey Fesus Cassandra
DIY'er - Pennsylvania

March 3, 2012

Q. I have dark formica cabinets in my kitchen that are well over 30 years old and would like to paint them a light color to lighten up my kitchen. I would like to know how to go about it from the beginning to the end of the process? Do I have to sand them? Do they need to have a primer after sanding? What kind of paint do I use?
Any suggestions will be appreciated.

Cathy Morgan
- Abington, Massachusetts

January 23, 2013

A. Zinsser primer (oil based) is the answer to most questions. I have learned this from my mother, professional restorer. It's a pain but ... hell, my mom told me so.

Michael Ramsey
- Orlando, Florida

October 2, 2013

A. I'm painting and Refinishing Oak lacquered cabinets 20 years old. Used Howards's restore a finish for the bath and no need to strip; got back the oak look with a luster, great, but the heavy grain look is too much for the kitchen. I tried to prime the kitchen cabinets especially some flaking areas of lacquer. Zinser 123 waterbase did not stick properly even though I had cleaned and scuff sanded. Then today I scuffed with 150 grit sandpaper for a couple minutes on another cabinet door. Then wiped with clean damp rag. Then i sprayed xim UMA white primer on part of the door, thin in areas, a bit thick in others. I also brushed from a can xim uma white primer a small area instead of spray. Both the spray and the can area are great, the thinest areas hours later are quite thin but the best for adhesion, surely can paint on top now. Passes the fingernail scratch test that Zinser 123 couldn't pass. I use clark and kensington from ace with 1/16 floetrol for the top coat of paint and it looks great with 2 coats and passes scrub test better than another highly reputable paint.

Chris Po
- Sedona, Arizona, USA

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