Learn the simple process for updating an old bookcase and how to paint laminate furniture.
Updating furniture is a fun way to add color or just a new look to a room. Painting, staining or restructuring a piece are all creative ways to change up an item.
Today, I’m sharing the simple process for painting a laminate, or veneer, wood bookcase.
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What is laminate
The word laminate just means an overlay. This could apply to flooring, countertops or furniture. A veneer is a thin piece of wood that is laid over something, typically a piece of particle board or something that doesn’t have an attractive finish.
Laminate products are durable and rest scratching and wear better than real wood sometimes. They are less expensive and much more accessible when adding to a home.
The bookcase I am painting has been in our basement for years, it’s secondhand and for a while just stored junk. It still has good bones and I want to put it to use.
My children have a playroom just for themselves and I’m decorating it in bold primary colors. This is something that I probably wouldn’t do in a bedroom or living room, but it makes perfect sense in a playroom.
I did some research on how to paint laminate furniture and asked some questions to make sure I did this right. The blog I found that made me say “yes I can” is here. Check her out.
- Primer, specifically Zinsser Cover Stain Primer. Get yours here and read on to see why this is THE product to use.
- Roller (x2)
- Brush (x2)
- Wrapping paper
- Hot Glue
I started by cleaning it and removing the shelves and back. There is one fixed shelf in this piece that stayed put, the rest popped off and I removed the pegs that held them up. The back was nailed on with small tacks and they were easy to pop off with a flat head screwdriver.
I dusted the whole shelf removing any cobwebs and dirt that accumulated. A damp microfiber cloth was enough to get this piece clean.
If you were to apply a regular paint to laminate it would bead up or it would dry then peel off.
Paint needs something to stick to and laminate is too smooth. Typically you can sand down a surface before painting, however with a very thin veneer sanding is not the best option.
Use an oil based stain blocking primer like Zinsser Cover Stain Primer.
Laminate is glossy and this thick sticky oil-based primer works great to cover it up without sanding. A primer is key to a smooth paintable surface.
Since this primer is oil-based it doesn’t clean up easily so I purchased a cheap roller, pan, and brush; for about $5 total. That way I could throw it all away and not worry about the clean-up. I did end up with a few splatters on my hands that scrubbed off in a day or so.
I primed the entire bookcase using the roller for the large flat areas and a small brush for the corners.
The primer dried quickly and I was able to move on to the paint after an hour. The primer won’t look like a finished coat, but it should cover every part of the veneer that you want to paint.
I chose an ultra white semi-gloss latex-based paint for the finish. Pick this up at a hardware store, if you don’t want to use white you can have them mix up whatever color you choose.
For this paint I used a nicer roller and brush, I was able to clean up afterwards with soap and water. A good roller and brush won’t leave residue and brush strokes behind.
I applied 2 coats of paint, letting the first dry about an hour before applying the second.
The result was a smooth, slightly glossy finish, so much better than fake wood brown.
Changing the back of the bookcase
Next up was the back of the bookcase. On this piece and most inexpensive bookshelves, you have a piece of flimsy wood that is nailed to the back. I removed this and covered it with a bold wrapping paper.
I bought this paper on clearance many January’s ago intending to use it the next Christmas. It’s so pretty but just never got around to using it. It is extra wide and perfect for this project.
It was destined to be a focal point in the playroom.
I laid a long piece of wrapping paper on the floor and laid my backing on top. Then I “wrapped” the back and secured the edges with hot glue.
This paper is thin and down the road will probably tear. But it’s easily removable and can be swapped out for another style when I am ready for a change. UPDATE – this paper has not torn and we are 4 years in. This bookcase gets a lot of use too.
I reattached the back of the bookcase using small nails around the entire perimeter. Then I mounted the shelves, and the bookcase was ready for the room.
It’s an awesome first piece in this primary colors playroom.
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Be sure to check out these furniture projects for more inspiration