Painting Laminate Furniture
Laminates are the addition of a fake wood finish on the surface of the furniture and are made of thin slices of wood or other non-wood materials and held together with glue and polymers. Laminate furniture is quite useful as a cheap, temporary or disposable furniture solution.
Laminate furniture is cheap and easy to replace. But the painting it's over still cheaper than buying new furniture. And painting a piece of furniture rather than replacing it contributes to a sustainable lifestyle. And with the right kind of primer, it can be done in such a way that more good will for years.
Laminate looks like wood, but it’s plastic.Acrylics, latex or regular oil based paints won’t stick to it or – only for a short time. Shellac will. Shellac is a very tough, but non-toxic materials. It’s high on VOC during the job, but when dry considered safe for children’s toys and furniture. Shellac is available as a clear sealer, and as a pigmented primer, so laminate can be glazed (and look as if it’s stained), and it can be painted over with hiding layers of paint.
Mind, that shellac can only be painted over with latex or oil-based paint – not with polyurethane. Latex is not a very strong paint, even if you get the better quality. You’d think it’s not suitable for painting furniture. However, once the shellac is covered with latex, you can give that a coat of polyurethane, and still have a strong paintcoat on your furniture. It may seem time-consuming or like a lot of work, all these paint layers. But the shellac is dry and ready to paint over, within the hour. Latex is a fast drier too. Within one weekend, you can complete the shellac- and latex layer and have your furniture piece looking like new. It’s best to let the latex paint harden out for a few days, and then to give it the polyurethane coating. And of course, you’ll have to be careful with your piece during these days. When the paint hasn’t hardened out yet, it’ll be vulnerable to scrathing etc. If you want to be sure, it’s better not to use the piece (or put back the shelves and drawers) during the days it’s still hardening out.
Preparations are necessary, for getting good results. If your piece of furniture can be taken apart, it’s best to do so. If not, take out the shelves and drawers. Sanding has to be done meticulously, with a medium sanding paper that is new and sharp. All the shine has to be sanded away. After sanding, clean the piece with alcohol or ammonium -diluted with water-). Also take away dust from the rest of the room – then it won’t fall into your fresh paint. Open the windows, as shellac is high on VOC during the job.
Painting furniture shellac has to be done fast, as the paint can be dry to the touch within fifteen minutes. When you’re doing big surfaces -like a bedroom closet-, make sure the edges on the left don’t dry while you’re working your way to the right. Develop a system, where you get back to every edge on time, before the edge is dry. You might use some alcohol for that, or just work in thin patches from left to right, and get back to the left in time.
When you use a few screw-eyes, you can hang every piece to be painted, and work the whole piece in one go -instead of first one side, drying, and then the other side-. Have a horizontal stick, like one you use to hang your clothes on. With a bit of wire, the furniture slabs can be hung on clothes hangers, with the eyes you screwed in on the sides -do that on a side that’s hidden when you put the painted furniture back together again-. But on the other hand: shellac dries so fast, that you hardly have to wait. If you covered one side of every panel, your first panel will be almost dry and ready to turn over.