Painting Melamine

Scuff sand and clean thoroughly, and paint should adhere well to melamine. March 29, 2006

I want to paint the side of two upper cabinets to match the new doors I am putting on the cabinets. The cabinet is made of melamine. The finish on the new doors is a catalyzed lacquer. Can I paint the melamine with this same paint if I scuff it first with 80 grit, then rime and paint with the lacquer?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor R:
I think 80 grit may be too aggressive. If you are trying to scuff the surface to give the primer more bite, you might try 120 so you do not see the sanding marks. As far as adhesion, you may have initial success, but down the road it will not hold up. Do this only as a last resort. Alternatively, you should consider sanding the melamine away entirely, exposing the wood underneath (depending on your substrate, this could be particleboard or MDF). For this, you can use 80 grit, but make sure once you have removed the layer of melamine, you go up to 120/150 to ensure a smooth finish.

From contributor J:
You can try epoxy primers. They have some for Formica countertops.

From contributor G:
I've done this lots of times. You'll be fine with your plan. If the melamine is scratched up with 80 grit, there will be plenty of mechanical adhesion for the primer. A good primer will not telegraph sanding scratches if it's on heavily enough and then sanded back.

From contributor M:
Make sure that you first clean and dewax the melamine. I don't buy into that mechanically bonded stuff - it's the cleanliness of the substrate and the coating that's my concern.

From contributor F:
I looked into this a while ago and was told by two paint company reps I would need a special adhesion promoting primer to paint melamine if I wanted the finish to last. In the end, the job didn't come off, so I never found out what specific product it actually was.

From contributor U:
I have done this many times and over many years without any problems. Just make sure the surface is wiped clean of all waxes, fingerprints, etc, scuff sand (120 ga or enough to take off the shine, maybe using a palm sander), vacuum or wipe off all sanding dust, then apply a good primer (waterbased or oilbased), and finish. There is no reason this finish shouldn't adhere permanently.