If y’all are anything like me, you absolutely detest sanding and will do ANYTHING to avoid it. This led me on a search to find the best methods ( and Primers) to be able to paint laminate furniture without sanding.
I found there are a couple different ways to go about this, so let’s dive into them!
This post may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure statement here.
Can you Paint Laminate Furniture Without Sanding?
YES! The best way to paint laminate furniture without sanding is a really stellar bonding primer.
Can you paint straight onto laminate? No. I would not try this, the paint will just scratch off because the laminate is slick and gives the paint nothing to bond to which is why a bonding primer is so important.
If you are lazy and like to cut corners like me, try painting laminate furniture with chalk paint. This method requires a protective finish of some kind.
Don’t have chalk paint on hand, I made my own chalk paint when I painted my laminate ikea dresser.
Can You Paint Laminate Cabinets Without Sanding?
Short answer, YES! Long answer, you don’t have to sand with a sandpaper, but you do need to use a liquid deglosser of some kind to remove the sheen from the laminate cabinets.
Sand with a high grit sandpaper in between coats if you want a smooth finish.
3 Primers for Painting Laminate Furniture Without Sanding
Here are 3 primers I tried out my laminate bookshelf before I painted it:
- Bullseye 123 Primer
- Bin Shellac Based Primer
- KILZ 2 All Purpose Primer
Prep Laminate Furniture for Painting
If you are in a pinch, hot water and dish soap cuts through the grease and oil beautifully too.
Clean: First, make sure your laminate furniture is clean. Use a microfiber cloth and some kind of degreaser, I like Krud Kutter. Don’t skip this step, whether you sand or not, this is an important step to get the paint to stick.
Sand: I know the point of this post is to learn how to paint laminate furniture without sanding first, but hear me out. I decided to put it to the test to see if it really makes a difference to sand before using the bonding primer.
After lightly sanding one of the sides to get the shine off the top, I taped off half of my bookshelf running the tape right along the edge between the sanded and non sanded sides.
One side was for just primer and paint, and the other for sanding first, then priming and painting.
Tape: Then I taped the two halves into 3 sections each. A section for each primer. The question is: did it make a difference to sand first or not?
Testing Primers With and Without Sanding
Bullseye 123 Primer
First, I tried water based Bullseye 123 Primer from Zinsser. I really like this primer. It’s a solid choice and not too expensive the the quart size. On the can, it claims to make paint stick to anything.
Because it is water based, it is not nearly as stinky as others on the list. It does the job. This primer does need two coats if trying to paint something porous, but since the laminate is very slick and not porous at all, I used one coat.
BIN Shellac Based Primer
Next up is BIN Shellac based primer. This primer is easily obtained at your local hardware store. It is a really good primer, but it is has a definite smell.
Whenever I use this primer, I use an old or cheap chip brush that I can throw away afterwards. This primer also only needs one coat unless painting something particularly porous.
KILZ 2 All Purpose Primer
Lastly, KILZ 2 All Purpose Primer is another good budget friendly primer you can get easily at Wal-Mart. I have used it many times and it does the job well.
I used one coat since my bookshelf is white, but for darker furniture, two coats may be needed.
Apply Primer and Let Dry
Now it’s time to apply our primer to our sanded and non sanded sides to see it we can paint laminate furniture without sanding. I painted all the primers in their sections, and let them dry according to their dry times.
What Kind of Paint to Use on Laminate Furniture?
While the primer dries, let’s talk about the different types of paint you can use to paint the laminate furniture. I have used Latex Paint and Chalk Paint.
My bedside tables were painted with a latex paint that has oil enriched enamel and is specifically made for furniture and cabinets. This paint can also be used without a primer if you wish and doesn’t need to be sealed.
Another type of latex paint you can get is one that I mentioned above for painting cabinets. This paint is pricey, but for good reason, they have a smooth finish and there is no need to seal the paint after application.
If you don’t have this specialty paint, you can also try a latex paint meant for walls. That’s what I’m testing out on my bookshelf in this post, but despite what the results show, I will always seal this paint.
My favorite type of paint to use on laminate furniture is Chalk Paint. It can stick to most surfaces without any prepwork, so having a primer as a base can only strengthen its bond to the furniture.
Given the chalky finish it leaves, see what I did there, I always seal anything I paint with chalk paint afterwards with at least two coats of a protective finish.
Remember, if you really want to risk it (I have) you can use just the chalk paint without a primer or sanding first, but it has to be sealed after the paint dries.
If you REALLY want the paint laminate furniture without sanding, make sure it will last by using a primer first.
I include this one because it was a popular question when searching about the different paints for laminate furniture. Can you use spray paint on laminate furniture?
Yes, you can, BUT it requires sanding first. Either Dry sanding or wet sanding. Latex spray paint is the best to use on laminate furniture.
A word of caution on this, I tried to paint a laminate bookcase once with latex spray paint. It stuck to the laminate ok, but it was horrible coverage after the first can, even the second can.
I abandoned the idea on the 3rd can and just used chalk paint. While it may be possible, it’s not the easiest or the most efficient way to paint laminate.
Sealing the Paint
If we are going give the chalk or latex (unless it says on the can or is made for furniture) paint a fair shot of sticking to the laminate furniture without sanding, then it needs to be properly sealed after it dries.
I will probably always do this even if the paint says it doesn’t need it.
I like using a water based polycrylic protective finish in satin, but it also comes in a matte finish.
Painting Laminate Furniture Without Sanding
After the primers had time to dry, I took some chalk paint and latex wall paint I had on hand and painted in each of the sections. I let the paint dry for a good 24 hours before trying the scratch tests.
For the scratch tests, I just used my fingernail. Let’s take a look at the different scratch test results:
Bullseye 123 Primer and Paint Results
First, I tested the paint on both sides of the BULLSEYE 123 Primer. The chalk paint did great on sanded side and scratched a little on the non sanded side.
Latex Paint didn’t really budge either until I really dug in with my fingernail, making all the more obvious that if you use Latex paint it needs to be sealed with at least 2 coats of sealer.
Bin Shellac Primer and Paint Result
Next, the Bin Shellac Primer was tested. I didn’t think either of the paints would budge when I scratched, and I was right except there was a small scratch on the latex paint on the non sanded side.
KILZ 2 All Purpose Primer
Lastly, I tested the KILZ 2 Primer. The results were similar, but the latex paint scratched the tiniest bit on both the sanded and non sanded sides. On the non sanded side, the chalk paint scratched just a little bit.
So final thoughts and things to remember:
The tests conclude that yes, painting laminate furniture without sanding does work well when you have a really good adhesion or bonding primer and seal your piece with a sealer. Some primers did require sanding before priming, the Bullseye 123 and Kilz 2 primers will perform better with a light sanding beforehand.
Of the primers I tested, the BIN Shellac did the best job making the paint stick to the laminate furniture, without sanding and with sanding.
Chalk paint is better at sticking to the laminate furniture than the plain latex wall paint that I tested, but you can also use the latex paints with enamel or those made specifically for cabinets and furniture.
Regular latex paint needs a primer first and a sealer to finish. I will always put a top coat on chalk paint as well.
Sanding is a really good idea as a prep step before painting laminate furniture, but according to my results, the chalk paint did about the same on the furniture with and without sanding before hand.
I will probably keep being lazy and just sealing it really well afterwards because that has worked well for me in the past. But I will always recommend sanding before priming on both wood and laminate furniture.
What about you? Will you sand before hand or take a risk and try just primer and paint?