The Right Way to Paint IKEA Furniture
Many great IKEA hacks begin with paint. But while you may know how to paint a room and how to paint wood furniture, painting IKEA furniture can be a different beast entirely. That’s because while the retailer features furniture made from a range of materials, its most common is particleboard covered in laminate. The combo is super affordable, which makes it a great option for budget-friendly projects, but the slick surface can be tough to paint for a lasting finish that doesn’t bubble or peel.
How to Paint Laminate IKEA Furniture
- Use primer before painting.
- Paint in thin coats.
- Make sure to seal your project and allow ample dry time.
That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, though! With the right method, you can paint IKEA furniture — or any flat-pack laminate furniture — and achieve a lasting finish. The key for painting IKEA furniture lies in using the right tools, choosing materials that play nicely with laminate furniture, and investing proper prep time. Eager to get started? Here’s what you need to know before you paint laminate IKEA furniture. Follow these steps to get a perfectly painted finish every time.
What You’ll Need to Paint IKEA Furniture
How to Paint IKEA Furniture
1. Disassemble IKEA piece and prep your work space.
If possible, always paint your furniture disassembled; it’s a much faster process and allows you to be more accurate.
It’s easy if you’re painting a new IKEA piece, since the items will be packaged disassembled. If you’re painting a piece you already own, take as much of it apart as possible before proceeding. (Here, I was only able to remove the drawer hardware without damaging the furniture.)
You should also lay down a drop cloth at this point to protect your work space.
2. Lightly sand the surfaces.
When you’re painting a super smooth surface like laminate, you will need to slightly rough up the surface to help your primer get a grip.
Lightly sand, or de-gloss, the surface using a fine grit sanding block.
3. Wipe all surfaces clean.
Be sure to use a damp cloth to wipe away any dust, then follow with a dry cloth. Running a tack cloth over the surface will help collect any debris left behind.
4. Prime all surfaces.
Using the correct primer is key when it comes to painting laminate.
You have a few options to choose from. I used water-based Zinsser Bulls-Eye 123 here. For pieces that will be high-traffic, choose a shellac primer.
Whichever primer you use, make sure that is made to adhere to laminate and glossy surfaces without extensive sanding.
You might use painter’s tape at this stage to protect any areas that you don’t want to prime and paint.
5. Paint at least two coats.
Apply the first layer of your selected paint to the surfaces of your furniture. You can use the same roller you used for your primer, or a paint brush.
Be careful to keep your paint layer thin. It’s better to apply two thin coats than one thick coat for complete, even coverage.
Once your first layer has dried a bit, apply the second coat. Follow the instructions on your paint for the recommended wait times between coats.
And yes, you can use spray paint — it just takes a while longer to build up the layers for a nice, even finish.
6. Finish with a protective sealer.
Wait until the last coat of paint is completely dry, then cover the surface with a sealer.
If you’re painting a piece of furniture that won’t be getting a lot of traffic, a simple spray-on clear acrylic sealer will do the job (just be sure to match the sealer finish to your paint finish).
However, if you’re painting shelving, a door, drawers, or something that will see a lot of action, you’ll want to use something heavy duty, such as Minwax Polycrylic sealer.
Give the furniture ample time to dry and cure before assembling per the instructions on the can. It’s best practice to add a day or so for good measure. Then you’re ready to display and use your newly remade IKEA furniture!
Pro Tips for Painting IKEA Furniture:
- If you’re making over something that will get a lot of heavy use, choose a primer with a shellac base (such as Zinsser’s B-I-N). It smells terrible, but dries rock hard and is the best defender against chipping paint for a piece of furniture that will see a lot of action.
- A super smooth roller brush is the best tool for the job, but if you’re looking for an even more professional finish, use a paint sprayer.
- When possible, paint furniture disassembled.
- Allow as long as you possibly can for the sealant to dry before assembling and using your piece of furniture.