Painting Particle Board Cabinets

Particle board cabinets provide an affordable option for kitchen and bathroom cabinetry. However, over time, they can start to look worn, dated, or simply need a refresh. Painting particle board cabinets allows you to transform the look of your kitchen or bathroom for a fraction of the cost of new cabinetry.

Painting Particle Board Cabinets

With proper preparation and paint products, you can give particle board cabinets a beautiful, long-lasting facelift. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know to paint particle board cabinets like a pro.

Overview of Painting Particle Board Cabinets

Painting particle board cabinets is doable for DIYers, but does require some special considerations compared to painting wood cabinets. Particle board is made of sawdust and adhesives compressed into sheets. This composite material does not hold paint as well as solid wood.

With the right prep work and paints, you can achieve a freshly painted look that lasts. The keys are using an oil-based primer and paint, light sanding, and proper surface cleaning and preparation.

The steps for painting particle board cabinets include:

  • Lightly sanding the cabinets
  • Thoroughly cleaning and removing grease/grime
  • Scuff sanding for paint prep
  • Priming with an oil-based primer
  • Applying two or more coats of oil-based paint
  • Re-installing doors, drawers, and hardware

Oil-based primer and enamel paints are recommended for painting particle board. The oil-based products help prevent paint from peeling and chipping down the road.

Benefits of Painting Particle Board Cabinets

Some top reasons to consider painting your particle board cabinets include:

Cost savings – Painting existing cabinets costs a fraction of full cabinet replacement. You can update the look for hundreds of dollars rather than thousands.

Quick update – A fresh coat of paint provides an instant facelift and updated look, without waiting and paying for new cabinets.

Customize the color – Paint allows you to pick any color tone to match your style, from bold colors to classic white.

Cover flaws – Painting can hide flaws, damages, stains, and other imperfections in older particle board cabinets.

Increase home value – Kitchen and bathroom updates like painted cabinets help boost resale value if you plan to sell your home.

Preparing Particle Board Cabinets for Painting

Proper prep is crucial for good results painting particle board cabinets. Here are the key steps:

Remove Doors, Drawers and Hardware

Removing the doors, drawers, and all hardware is essential to allow full access to paint the cabinets. Number or label each door and drawer to ensure proper reinstallation later.

Fill any screw or hardware holes with wood filler before sanding and painting. Remove hinges and other hardware using a screwdriver.

Clean the Cabinets

Use a degreaser or TSP substitute cleaner to remove any grease, dirt, or grime on the cabinets. Scuff marks or sticky areas can be sanded down. Wipe the surfaces down with a clean, lint-free cloth.

Sand the Cabinets

Lightly sanding the cabinets helps prep the surfaces for painting. Use medium grit sandpaper first, then fine, then superfine.

Be careful not to scour too hard, which can damage the particle board. The goal is to rough up the surface slightly for the primer and paint to adhere well.

Prime Cabinets with Oil-Based Primer

Priming is highly recommended before painting particle board. Oil-based primers work best to seal in the composite wood material. Allow for drying time before painting.

Fix Imperfections

Use wood filler, spackle, or putty to patch any holes, cracks, or flaws after priming. Sand smooth when dry. Wipe away dust with a tack cloth before painting.

Best Paints for Particle Board Cabinets

Using the right type of paint ensures it adheres properly and lasts. The best choices include:

Oil-Based Paints and Enamels

Oil-based paints and enamels are ideal for painting particle board cabinets. The oils allow the paint to flex rather than chip or peel. Alkyd enamels provide a durable, glossy finish.


Primer-sealers are formulated to work well on composite wood materials. Use an oil-based primer as the first layer under your topcoats.

Epoxy Paint

Two-part epoxy paints provide a thick, protective coating for high-wear areas. Epoxy paint holds up better to moisture than other paints. Use for cabinet interiors or near sinks.

Urethane Trim Paint

Urethane paints offer a flexible, durable finish for trim and cabinetry. Oil-based urethanes adhere better than latex acrylics on particle board.

Avoid Latex/Acrylic Paints

Latex and acrylic paints do not flex as well on particle board. They are more prone to chipping or peeling over time compared to oil-based paint.

How to Paint Particle Board Cabinets

Follow these steps for priming and painting particle board cabinets like a professional:

1. Prepare the Surface

Lightly sand, clean thoroughly, fill imperfections, then wipe with a tack cloth before priming or painting. Proper prep promotes adhesion.

2. Apply Primer

Use an oil-based primer designed for composite wood. Apply a thin, even coat with a high-quality brush or sprayer. Allow drying per manufacturer directions.

3. Lightly Sand Primer

Use superfine 220-400 grit sandpaper to lightly smooth the primer coat. Avoid scouring down to bare particle board. Remove dust.

4. Apply First Coat of Paint

Use your chosen oil-based paint, applying a thin, even coat. Allow proper drying time before recoating, usually overnight.

5. Sand Between Coats

Gently sand again with fine sandpaper to smooth out any drips or bumps. Wipe clean and apply the second coat.

6. Apply Second Coat

Apply the second finish coat in thin, even strokes. Oil-based paints may require up to 24 hours of drying time before recoating.

7. Add Third Coat if Needed

For a perfectly smooth finish, apply a third thin coat after sanding, especially on cabinet doors and visible areas.

8. Reinstall Doors and Hardware

Once the paint has fully cured per the manufacturer’s instructions, reinstall the doors, drawers, and hardware. Admire your work!

Tips for Painting Particle Board Successfully

Follow these tips and tricks for a flawless painted particle board cabinet finish:

Use quality brushes/rollers – Inferior tools can leave bumps, drips, and brush marks. Use high-quality synthetic bristle brushes and microfiber mini rollers.

Take doors off – Removing doors allows full access to paint sides, edges, and interior frames. Mark doors to reinstall correctly.

Clean between coats – Wipe sanded primer and paint layers with a tack cloth before recoating for optimal adhesion.

Give proper drying time – Rushing the process can ruin the paint job. Oil-based paints take up to 24 hours drying time before recoating.

Lightly distress – For worn cabinets, lightly distressing adds character. Be sure to prime first before sanding down edges or corners.

Spray tricky areas – For hard to reach spots, use a paint sprayer for a smoother finish. Practice first before spraying cabinets.

Work in a dust-free area – Painting in a garage or basement helps avoid dust that can mar the finish.

Achieving Different Painted Finishes

Beyond basic painting techniques, there are several finish options to achieve unique painted looks:

Distressed Paint

Lightly sanding edges or contours after priming gives a worn, distressed appearance. Add character to dated particle board cabinets.

Glazed Finish

Applying a translucent glaze coat over painted cabinets adds depth. Rub or wipe glaze to keep darker in recesses.

Stained and Painted

Stain cabinet frames, but paint doors in a contrasting color. The combo looks great in open-frame cabinets.

Textured Paint

For visual interest, try textured paints with varied effects like crackle, wrinkle, stone, or matte finishes.

Chalk Paint

Chalk paint lightly adheres to surfaces for a matte, porous finish. Can be waxed or sealed for protection.

Paint and New Hardware

Refresh old cabinets by painting and adding updated hardware like knobs, pulls, or hinges in on-trend styles.

Maintaining Painted Particle Board Cabinets

While the oil-based paint creates a durable finish, take steps to keep your painted particle board cabinets looking fresh:

  • Allow a full 30 days drying time before use and cleaning
  • Avoid slamming cabinet doors or scraping finished surfaces
  • Use cabinet bumpers to prevent door impact damage
  • Clean with mild soap and water

Common Questions About Painting Particle Board

Many DIYers have additional questions when it comes to painting particle board cabinets. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.

Can I Use Latex Paint on Particle Board?

Latex and acrylic paints are not recommended for painting particle board cabinets. Since particle board is prone to minor expansion and contraction, the latex paint is more likely to chip or peel away over time. For best results, stick to oil-based primer and paint.

How Long Does It Take to Paint Cabinets?

The entire process of properly preparing, priming, painting, and drying particle board cabinets typically takes 5-7 days. Rushing the process risks ruining the paint job, so allow proper drying time between coats.

Should I Remove Cabinet Doors to Paint?

Yes, removing the doors makes painting easier. It allows you to fully paint the cabinet frames, sides, interior edges, and door fronts. Lay doors on sawhorses to paint.

How Do I Fix Paint Drips?

Carefully scrape off any drips with a razor blade. Smooth with fine sandpaper. Spot prime and touch up paint. Avoid drips by applying thin coats, checking for runs.

What Sheen Should I Use?

A satin or semi-gloss sheen provides a subtle shine and is easy to clean. High-gloss paints show more imperfections. Low-sheen matte paint works for a more modern, suede-like finish.

Can I Paint Just Cabinet Doors?

Painting just the doors is an option for a quick update. Use adhesive painters tape to cover hinges and edges for full coverage. Prime and paint doors laying flat for best results.

How Do I Paint Inside Cabinets?

Use a small roller or angled trim brush to paint cabinet interiors. Floors should be protected from drips. A flashlight can help to fully see inside cabinets.

Painting Other Materials

In addition to particle board, cabinets may contain other materials that require slightly adapted painting techniques:

Laminate Cabinets

De-gloss and scuff sand laminate prior to painting. Adhesion primer helps the paint stick. Avoid oil-based paints which can soften laminate.

Wood Veneer Cabinets

Lightly sand veneer to rough up the shiny surface before painting. Avoid sanding through the thin wood layer.

Thermofoil Cabinets

The plastic film on thermofoil cabinets needs fully sanded off prior to painting. Use extreme caution not to damage the underlying particle board.

Metal Cabinets

Clean and degrease metal cabinet surfaces before priming with a metal primer. Apply 2-3 finish coats of enamel spray paint for a smooth factory-like finish.

Painting Particle Board Cabinet Doors

Cabinet door fronts often receive more wear and tear than cabinet frames. Follow these tips when painting cabinet doors:

  • Remove doors and hardware to paint laying horizontally on sawhorses
  • Fill any holes from old hardware and replace with updated hardware
  • Use high adhesion primer before painting
  • Lightly sand doors between coats for a smooth finish
  • Use a small brush for the grooves and molding details
  • Paint the cabinet door edges as well as front and back
  • Work methodically door-by-door for an even finish

Prep the doors properly, apply oil-based primer and paint in thin coats, and you will achieve beautiful results.


While painting particle board cabinets requires careful prep and painting approach, the results are well worth the effort. Follow the techniques outlined to achieve a flawless, durable finish.

With proper materials and some elbow grease, you can paint particle board cabinets to look like new again for a fraction of the cost of cabinet replacement.

Not only will you save money, but you’ll also get to enjoy a beautiful kitchen or bathroom transformation. Turn those worn particle board cabinets into your dream painted cabinets!

Scroll to Top