Can You Successfully Paint MDF Cabinets?

Close-up of someone holding a paint brush with cobalt blue paint up to inside of MDF cabinet door.

If you’re ready to update your kitchen and are to save some money by painting rather than replacing your current kitchen cabinets you might be wondering, “Can you paint particle board cabinets?” The answer to that question is yes. You can give your kitchen the fresh, new look you want by painting your particle board or MDF cabinets. However, unlike wood, painting MDF and particle board requires some different painting techniques to achieve a great-looking finish.  

How to Paint Particle Board Cabinets 

Before you pop open that first can of paint, you should make sure your cabinets are worth repainting in the first place. If particle board gets wet, it can warp and deteriorate. And if damaged, particle board is difficult to repair. Damaged particle board is usually not worth the time, effort, and money it takes to repair them. You are better off replacing any damaged cabinets. So do a visual inspection to make sure your existing cabinets are in good condition.  

If your cabinets are in good condition, let’s get ready to paint! To complete this project, you’ll need to gather the following materials: 

  • Oil-based paint 
  • Oil-based primer 
  • When painting particle board or MDF, we recommend an oil-based cabinet paint with a semi-gloss or gloss sheen. Avoid water-based paints since water tends to make particle board swell.  
  • 120-grit sandpaper 
  • Paint brush 
  • Wood filler 
  • Sawhorses 
  • Painter’s tape 
  • Plastic sheeting 
  • Respirator 
  • Plastic gloves 
  • Eye protection 

Painting cabinets involves painting the cabinet doors, bases and/or frames. The steps are similar for each part of the cabinet. Any differences will be highlighted below. Be aware that your kitchen will get pretty messy during this process, which could take anywhere from a few days, to an entire week. Since you might not want to prepare meals in the middle of this project, try to plan accordingly to accommodate for the disruption.  

If possible (to minimize mess and disruption to your kitchen), it’s best to prep and paint the cabinet doors outside the kitchen, like in your garage or basement. Since this isn’t an option with the cabinet bases, hang some heavy plastic sheeting in the doorways leading to the kitchen to contain the dust and paint fumes.  

Related Topic: Five Tips to Paint Laminate Cabinets 

Remove the Cabinet Doors 

Start by removing the cabinet doors from the hinges. Then remove the cabinet knobs. Label each door so you know exactly where it goes when you start putting things back together. Be careful not to damage the area where the hinge attaches to the cabinet. If you’re reusing the old hinges, you may need to add wood filler in the original screw holes to give the hardware a better “bite”. Once the cabinet doors are removed, take them to the prep and paint area.  

Related Topic: Best Paint Color for Kitchen Cabinets 

Tips for Painting Cabinet Doors 

If the fake wood veneer is peeling off, glue it down and let it dry before you begin painting. 

If your cabinets are old and have accumulated grease or other cooking residue, take a little extra time to clean them well. 

One of the main reasons why painting old cabinets can look bad is because they were not properly prepared before applying the paint. So, taking the extra time to prep your cabinets and it will pay off once you begin painting!  

Prepare the Cabinet Bases and Doors 

Once the doors have been removed, clear everything out of the kitchen and clean off the countertops. Use plastic sheeting to cover floors, countertops, and anything else you don’t want to get paint on. Next, use painter’s tape (looks like blue masking tape) to protect the areas where your cabinets meet the wall, floor, and/or backsplash.  

Use 120-grit sandpaper to sand the cabinet bases, frames, and doors. No need to sand off all the old paint. You just want to scuff the particle board enough so the new paint has something to adhere to. However, be sure to remove any loose or peeling paint. 

Once the cabinet doors and bases have been sanded and scuffed, wipe them down with a damp rag to remove the dust. Next, apply an oil-based primer to the particle board.  

Related Topic: Should I Paint Behind My Cabinets? 

Call the Professionals for Help and Advice 

If you’re looking to change the look and feel of your kitchen, then painting your particle board cabinets is a terrific way to do it. But prepping, painting, and reassembling your kitchen cabinets does take a considerable amount of time and effort. And, your kitchen may be out of commission until the job is finished. 

If you want to update your kitchen cabinets, but don’t have the time, energy, or patience to do it all yourself, call the local painting pros at Five Star Painting. We can have your kitchen cabinets prepped, painted, and looking great with minimal disruption to you and your family. So you can use your new kitchen for what it was intended for, preparing those great family meals. And if you would like more than just your cabinets refreshed, we can help with that too! Give us a call at (888) 261-3633 or request a free estimate online today.