Learn how to paint IKEA cabinets. Painting a slick surface like melamine cabinet doors is easy with proper prep.
You might be interested in how I built a desk using IKEA Sektion cabinets.
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IKEA cabinet doors are made from melamine foil, which is durable and easy to clean, but difficult to get paint to stick to.
Proper prep is key to painting a slick surface like melamine or laminate. This technique works for all IKEA furniture. I used the same process for painting an IKEA Besta cabinet.
How to Paint IKEA Cabinets
My DIY desk is made from IKEA sektion cabinets with Grimslov doors. The room felt a little boring, so I decided to paint the cabinets.
- Sand paper
- Primer – (This brand is the only one I would trust for melamine.)
- Chip brush
- Paint brush
I left the drawer fronts attached, but you can remove them if you want. Doors will be easier to paint without being attached. For the drawers, I just pulled them out to different levels to let them dry.
- Remove knobs or handles if they are installed.
- If your cabinets are not new, be sure to thoroughly clean the cabinet doors to remove grease. I recommend Simple Green for removing grease.
- If you’re using latex or chalk paint, rough up the surface by lightly sanding. (I used an enamel paint, so I skipped this part.)
- Use a chip brush to paint the entire cabinet door with primer. This primer will make paint stick to anything! This is the important part, so don’t skip it!
- The brush can be cleaned by soaking it in ammonia and rinsing with water.
Painting the Cabinets
I painted the cabinets with Valspar cabinet paint. This paint is a water-based enamel that comes in a semi-gloss finish. It can be tinted in thousands of color. The color is Sherwin Williams Haven.
This paint does have a weird smell, but nothing toxic. Just weird. I thought it smelled like stinkbugs, but my family said they only smelled paint.
- Paint the inner panel first, being sure to get in the cracks.
- Paint the outer rails next.
- Then paint the edges.
- Check for drips and smooth them with the paint brush.
- Let dry.
- Apply 1-2 more coats as needed to achieve full coverage. Glossier paints usually need more coats than a flatter finish.
Using Valspar Cabinet Paint
Valspar cabinet paint felt a little tricky to use, but it dried with a flawless finish. It did a pretty good job at self-leveling, but because of that, it was more prone to drips. Paints with a higher sheen can be tricky to apply without streaks. Here are my tips for a cleaner finish.
- Don’t touch paint that is partially dry with wet paint. Similar to polycrylic, let it dry and go back with another coat. Touching partially dry paint can cause streaks.
- Apply light coats.
- This paint is thin so watch for drips. Go back after every coat and smooth them out.
- For best results, use a paint brush with soft bristles, like this angled brush.
- Clean up was easy. Just soap and water. It was harder to get off of skin, which I always see as a good thing. If it’s hard to get off of skin, it will do a good job of sticking to whatever I’m painting.
Paint needs at least 30 days to fully cure, even though it feels dry to the touch after a few hours.
For best results, wait as long as possible before handling the drawer fronts or the paint might scratch.
I scratched a drawer front while re-installing the hardware. After 30 days, I plan on giving it a scratch test to see how it holds up.
If it’s a horizontal surface that has been painted (like IKEA furniture), wait as long as possible before placing items on it.
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