Not all home repairs and renovation projects are created equal.

For example, replacing ductwork can be relatively easy or nearly impossible depending on the building’s duct layout and growing a nice, healthy lawn is dependent on the quality of soil, species of grass you’re looking to grow and the overall state of the original lawn.

There’s no need for an expensive HGTV makeover when a simple paint job can be a relatively easy and inexpensive way to spruce up a kitchen or bathroom. But painting and repainting are similar to other renovation projects in the sense that some surfaces are more difficult to paint than others. One material which you may have a hard time with is Formica. In this article, we’ll go over what it is, how to paint formica and how to maintain it after painting it.

What Is Formica?

Before we get into how to paint Formica, we should explain what Formica is.

Formica is a brand of laminate.

To make an analogy that’s easy to understand, Formica is to Kleenex what laminate is to tissue paper.

Many people think Formica is a special type of laminate because we talk about the two as if they’re different but they aren’t. The process is the exact same no matter if one wants to learn how to paint Formica or if they want to learn how to paint generic laminate.

Supplies for Painting Formica

Preparation for painting Formica is not much different from preparing other surfaces. First, one has to gather the correct supplies. Most of these might seem obvious for any painting job. But some are unique to painting formica, like a window cleaning solution.

Make sure to have:

  1. A bucket
  2. Soap or an appropriate cleaner
  3. Two rags that can get wet
  4. One rag that can effectively dry
  5. Sandpaper 120-150 grit
  6. Several brushes
  7. Primer
  8. Paint

How to Prep the Surface for Painting

Once you have all your supplies, there are a few more preparation steps.

1) Remove any and all materials from the surface intended for painting. If painting a counter, remove anything on top of it. If painting a wall, remove pictures, nails or anything else attached to it. If it’s a piece of furniture, remove any and all hardware.

2) After removing everything that should not be painted from the laminate object, use warm water and soap to scrub the surface clean. If there is dirt or residue on the object, the paint will not stick well to the surface. You can use soap or a window cleaning solution to clean off the countertop. Use one rag to apply the soapy water and to scrub the surface and use the other one to dry it.

3) After cleaning the laminate, it’s time to sand the surface. Painting Formica can be difficult because laminates usually have slippery smooth surfaces. Sand the laminate surface to give it enough texture for the paint to stick.

4) The last step of preparation is to use the second damp rag to carefully clean all of the laminate dust from the surface. Make sure the surface is clean because Formica dust won’t make painting any easier.

How to Paint Formica

Once the surface is prepared, painting laminate isn’t much different from painting any other surface. Follow painting best practices and apply as many coats as necessary to get a rich, even color.

1) Open a window to ventilate the kitchen, bathroom or whichever room you’re working in. Paint fumes are strong and can cause headaches while you’re painting. Opening a window or turning on a fan can help you get more fresh air.

2) Place painter’s tape on nearby surfaces that you don’t want to paint. If you’re painting a surface like a table, you can probably skip this step. But countertops or cabinets are usually near areas that you want to keep paint-free.

3) Apply primer. Experts recommend before painting laminate that one applies some sort of primer. Because of the slippery nature of laminate, it’s recommended that one uses a stronger primer like shellac. This will maximize the primer’s effectiveness. It’s also worth mentioning that shellac is harder to clean off of brushes. Some paints are made specifically for laminate but if one’s using a general purpose paint, make sure to use a primer.

4)Apply paint. Painting laminate is a little difficult because of most laminate surfaces (tabletop, countertop, cabinets, etc.) experience a lot of wear and tear. This means you should choose tough paint. You could buy a laminate paint kit, interior acrylic paint, or two-part and water-based epoxy paint. It’s typically best to paint on a few thin layers of paint. You should let the paint dry in between painting the multiple layers. Normally the paint takes about three hours to dry.

5) Remove any painter’s tape or other painting supplies.

How to Care for Painted Formica Surfaces

Look at the paint can to see if the paint requires time to cure. If so, follow those instructions exactly. Also looks to see if the paint should avoid water, direct sunlight or anything else. Following the paint company’s instructions is the best way to properly care for and maintain painted formica. If the paint doesn’t have time to cure, the paint could smudge or scratch. Even placing heavy weight on a recently painted countertop or table can damage the paint.

In the long-run, it’s best not to cut directly on laminate countertops that you have painted. The paint isn’t too difficult to chip or cut into. It’s also helpful to keep hot pots, pans, plates or bowls from resting directly on the painted surface. Tough sponges or strong chemical cleaners can also damage the paint.


Whether we’re talking Formica specifically or laminate generally, these surfaces are known to be difficult to paint. It’s important to remember that, although it is difficult to paint Formica, it’s far from impossible to paint it. With a couple extra steps and some good primer, anyone who needs to can paint laminate without help.

Tired of not having a home warranty and paying out of pocket?

Give your home systems and appliances the protection it needs with a Home Service Club home warranty

Get a Quote

It only takes a few seconds.