Refinishing Plastic Laminate
Re-Glue Loose Laminate Or Paint The Cabinets
I'm hoping you can advise me
regarding the best way to improve the look of cabinets covered with
photographed (artificial) wood vinyl. These cabinets are in the
kitchen & bathroom of my mobile home and are hideous, as you can
guess. I've never owned a mobile home before, so I'm continually
frustrated by the construction and materials in my home. Wish I
could afford to just rip those cabinets out, but I must try to do it
myself instead. I've considered replacing only the doors, if I could
paint the rest of the cabinets. Is there a good way to do this so
paint will adhere permanently? The vinyl is very thin, on a coarse
The edges of the doors are peeling
away from use, and the bottom edges can injure tender fingers. I
will be doing this myself...possibly with the help of my 10 year old
Looking for your answer
fully relate to your situation, having more experience with mobile
homes than I care to talk about. Yes, the cabinets are typically
cheap plastic fake woodgrain glued to even cheaper particle-board.
But there are things that can be done.
Replacing the doors is a good
idea, if your budget allows it. But... I would not assume that
conventional cabinet doors will easily fit your cabinets. Mobile
home manufacturers seem to go to great lengths to obtain
non-standard materials. (Even the electrical fixture boxes may not
accept an ordinary light fixture!)
If the doors are reasonably
intact they should be paintable. They key to painting most things
is surface preparation. Vinyl is smooth and glossy, and
paint will peel right off. The surface MUST be sanded with fine or
medium sandpaper. The objective is to "scuff-sand" the
plastic and give the paint a rough surface to hold onto. We're not
trying to sand through the vinyl!
You mentioned vinyl peeling away
near the edges. If the narrow edge laminate is peeling, I would
peel it off completely. On large surfaces, I have had success by
simply shaving off the peeling portion with a sharp knife, cutting
into the particle board if necessary. I have been able to stop
further peeling with this technique.
If you can peel off an intact strip
of laminate, then it should be possible to re-glue it, but only if
all surfaces are clean. It might be necessary to prime the particle
board edge and use some type of solvent (such as Goof Off or Goo
Gone) to remove the glue residue from the back of the laminate
If re-gluing the old laminate was
not possible, the edges of the particle board could be cleaned
up and painted. I would recommend filling any
voids or holes with a good wood filler like Durham's Water Putty
or any of the many pre-mixed products available. After the wood
filler dries it should be sanded smooth. Bare
wood (and filler) must be primed with a good quality primer (I
like Kilz Total One... it's water-based and doesn't stink much).
Buy a gallon, it'll be useful for many projects.
I'm not sure what type of paint
would work best, however. You should be able to paint with a good quality
100% acrylic (satin or semi-gloss please, or the finger prints may never come
off), but I'm interested in how well oil-based paint will hold up.
I would do a test... paint one door with latex, and one with a
brushed-on oil-based enamel and after a few days of drying,
see how well the paint resists the gouging of fingernails.
Oil-based paint is usually much harder and more durable than
than acrylic latex, even 100% acrylic.
Spray painting might be an option, too. I often buy the cheapest spray paint at Wal-Mart,
about 97 cents a can. You can get gloss white or almond or
whatever other color you want. The doors you can remove and paint
outside, but the rest of the cabinet will need to be masked to
keep paint off the walls and floor (and the overspray can get
EVERYWHERE, so be careful.) You might find the odor of spray
painting inside the house to be objectionable... maybe a brush-on
can of oil-based paint (like Red Devil) would be best for the
Bruce W. Maki, Editor.
Since writing this reply, I have
received some information from a sales representative from William
Zinsser & Company, which makes an extensive line of
excellent primers, some of which can bond to very unusual surfaces.
One document titled "Painting
Kitchen Cabinets" explains how alkyd (oil-based) paints are
usually superior for this task because they are harder, more
stain-resistant and more durable. It also notes that epoxy paint
would be ideal.
Zinsser recommends a thorough
cleaning of cabinets (because they tend to have spots of grease on
them) using mineral spirits, followed by a 50/50 mix of ammonia and
water to remove the solvent residue.
On cabinets Zinsser recommends
using their B-I-N Primer (which is shellac-based) or their Bulls Eye
1-2-3 acrylic latex (water-based) primer. But they say that all
latex primers take a long time to fully harden (14 days for theirs)
which may affect the paint if the cabinets & doors get bumped
around. B-I-N Primer cures to a tough film within a few hours.
I have the highest regard for
Zinsser's products and use them often.
Related Web Links:
Melamine paint made for
covering laminate cabinets.