It there any way to stain or paint laminate/particle board furniture?
January 31, 2006 9:37 AM   Subscribe

It there any way to stain or paint laminate/particle board furniture without it looking horrible?

I bought a cheap but cool computer desk in a color (light ash) I don't particularly care for. It's your standard laminate over plywood/particleboard sort of thing and I was wondering if there's any sane way to either stain or paint it. It's a long shot, I know, but is there any way to darken it significantly or paint it without it looking awful?
posted by Optimus Chyme to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Not really.

About the best you can do is sand the surfaces well and paint it, preferably with an oil based paint. I would not say that this would look good.

With professional spray equipment you might get something decent. But probably even that might be a stretch.

I've painted some shelves like these. They came out "ok". Nothing special.
posted by RustyBrooks at 9:43 AM on January 31, 2006

Sand, prime, then use a roller for best results. But, no, you might not end up with something beautiful.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:59 AM on January 31, 2006

It seems like with multiple coats of primer and intermediate sanding with fine grit paper that you could get the surfaces fairly smooth, to the point at which they might resemble formica after painting.
posted by craniac at 10:01 AM on January 31, 2006

Best answer: I seem to remember seeing one of those home improvement shows where they picked up a retro 50's coffee table and removed the laminate and applied new laminate. The results looked cool on TV, but no idea what it really looked like. It didn't seem that complicated at the time, but it certainly looked like it was more time consuming than just applying some Killz with a roller.

Personally, if I loved the shape/design, I'd dis-assemble it, and use the pieces as templates and cut them out of plywood. Then assemble it with the new plywood pieces. That's probably far more time, effort and skill than most people would want to invest in a piece though.
posted by inthe80s at 10:28 AM on January 31, 2006

Response by poster: That's actually a really cool idea, inthe80s. Too bad the tools and materials would cost ten to fifteen times what I paid for the desk. :(
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:41 AM on January 31, 2006

Use an oil-based primer, and then you can paint it. The problem with laminate is that it's a lousy surface for most paint to grab onto. Regular latex primer or paint won't stick well, but an oil-based primer (<$10 at home depot) will give you a decent surface to paint over. I don't think staining it would work - it's not porous like real wood so the stain won't be absorbed.
posted by selfmedicating at 10:44 AM on January 31, 2006

I saw somebody painting laminate on a DIY show a couple of days ago. Googling "laminate paint" returned this, among others
posted by SteveInMaine at 10:45 AM on January 31, 2006

Response by poster: Can I just mark all these answers best or does it defeat the purpose?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:53 AM on January 31, 2006

Something you might want to do is sand it to remove the top layer of laminate, then apply designs on paper with adhesive backs (or a more labor intense technique: decoupage) and toss a layer of acrylic gel medium or laminate over it. I've seen it done with dorm room furniture, and it can look really nice.
posted by klangklangston at 11:27 AM on January 31, 2006

A few years ago, I took a cheap but nicely designed Ikea desk with a metal lower frame, glued a 1/4" plywood substrate to the top, dropped a nice sheet of veneer on top of that, edged banded it with matching solid stock, and stained to my taste. You would probably not want to do this if you need to change more than the work surface of the piece.

Another idea: I have a bunch of scrap 1/2" oak ply laying around and am thinking of ripping about 100 2"x2' units, assembling them into a 2" slab (think butcher block) measuring 50"x2' for use as a new work surface that will hopefully look something like this.
posted by probablysteve at 1:26 PM on January 31, 2006

If you have something to test it on, you might try Krylon Fusion spray paint. I've never used it but it is supposed to adhere to plastics. It would be my first choice for attempting to paint laminates.
posted by monopas at 3:54 PM on January 31, 2006

I have had success with painting laminates by sanding, then applying two coats of Bullseye 1-2-3, and then painting with a hard enamel paint. It's a lot of work, but it does work.
posted by toxic at 4:30 PM on January 31, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks, guys. There a lot of different options so I may have to do a few tests. Projects are fun. :)
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:55 PM on January 31, 2006

Heh. You may have to buy more cheap furniture.
posted by klangklangston at 9:04 PM on January 31, 2006

Best answer: Former paint professional here. If you want to paint it, lightly sand until it feels smooth. Wipe down with damp cloth. Prime with an excellent primer, I recommend one that is meant for plastic (XIM bonder). Sand lightly again. Wipe down again. Paint with oil based paint or a top-shelf latex. Sand. Wipe down. Paint. If you want to stain it, you are in for some fun. You are going to have to simulate wood grain. Get some thick oil-based stain (Zar) and a wood graining tool. You can get a pretty good effect if you practice first on a similar surface.
posted by SkinnerSan at 9:55 PM on January 31, 2006 [1 favorite]

Relaminate with vinyl. sciplus always has a deal on "contact" type materials.
posted by hortense at 10:41 PM on January 31, 2006

Response by poster: Update:

Sanded with 100 grit sandpaper, primed with oil-based primer, sanded with 220, re-primed, sanded with 220, painted with latex-based, paint, sanded with 320, second coat of latex. All that's left is to spray on the protective coating.

It looks a thousand times better than the gross light ash color we started with. Thanks again.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:26 AM on February 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

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