If your white melamine laminate cabinets look dull or boring, painting them will give you a new look without the expense of new cabinet doors. Have you thought that melamine couldn't be painted—at least not with any lasting success? Think again. Several paint products on the market cover plastics such as melamine very well and are easy to use. Most melamine cabinets on the market today are white. If you simply want to refresh the white finish and hide scarring or defects, take a cabinet door or drawer front to your paint specialist and he can match the color.
Melamine is an organic compound made from calcium cyanamide combined with formaldehyde to form a resin. It's a durable, non-porous, heat-resistant plastic. The glossy nature of the material requires proper surface preparation to help the paint adhere. Carroll Compton, paint specialist at Sherwin-Williams, recommends Adhesion Primer Latex for melamine. The top coat can be oil-based or latex in a semi-gloss finish. According to Compton, the oil-based paint gives a slightly harder finish. Decotime, Inc. manufactures a specialty paint for melamine called Cabinet Rescue.
Remove cabinet hardware—pulls and hinges—using a screwdriver. Place doors on sawhorses or other horizontal support at a comfortable height for working. Fill any holes or chips with spackling compound using a putty knife. Let dry.
Mix TSP with warm water in a bucket according to package directions. You can find TSP at most hardware or home improvement stores. Using rags, wipe down all surfaces to be painted, paying particular attention to the pull area, where most of the dirt and grease collects. Make sure the surface is grease-free. Let dry.
Lightly sand all surfaces with fine-grit sandpaper. Roughing up the surface improves paint adhesion. Wipe away all dust with a damp rag.
Apply primer to one side of doors and to edges. Let dry. Flip doors and prime the other side. Let dry.
Apply a thin top coat with a high-density roller, or use a brush if you prefer. Make up-and-down strokes from top to bottom, bottom to top of doors. Don't forget the edges. Let dry. Flip doors and top coat the other side. Let dry.
Repeat Step 5 to apply a second coat.
Repeat Steps 2 through 6 for drawer fronts and cabinet framing.
When all surfaces are dry, rehang doors and replace pulls or knobs.