Can You Pull Laminate Off Cabinets & Paint the Pressed Wood?

Laminate gets worn and stained after years of use. It is possible to pull laminate off cabinets and paint the pressed wood. The drawback is the pressed wood, or particle board, may flake off as you pull the laminate from the wood. This results in an uneven surface that must be patched and sanded before you apply paint.

Kitchen sink
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Refinish laminate cabinets with paint.

Laminate Removal

Manufacturers use a bonding cement to apply laminate to cabinets. The cement must be heated to remove the laminate from the cabinets. Use a heat gun to loosen the cement and gently pull the laminate from the face of the cabinet. While the cement is still pliable, scrape the cement from the surface of the cabinet with a wide putty knife. There may be some bonding cement that remains on the wood surface. Remove the remaining cement and create a smooth surface by sanding with a fine-grit sandpaper.

Repairing Pressed Wood

The process of removing the laminate and bonding cement often leaves dips in the pressed wood. Loose particles of wood come out when you pull the laminate or when you scrape the cement. Fix the marred surface with wood putty. Push the putty into the cracks and crevices of the wood. Smooth the putty with a putty knife and allow it to dry completely. Depending on how thick the putty is, the drying time could be up to 24 hours. Putty shrinks as it dries and you may need to reapply it to get the pressed wood surface evenly smooth. Sand the entire cabinet surface and wipe it down to remove any dust or debris.


Pressed wood is not treated and absorbs paint and stain in various degrees so the finish is not evenly distributed to the surface. Seal the wood with a primer for an even distribution of the tinted paint. Use a white primer for light color paints and a gray or black primer for dark colors. The primer keeps the paint from seeping into the wood and gives a uniform coverage during application.


The nap of the roller is important when applying paint to the pressed wood. Use a short-nap roller for high-gloss paints and enamels. Latex paint is best applied with a long-nap roller. Use a bright light when painting to avoid missing spots or uneven application. Allow the paint to dry completely and check for any areas that may need a second coat of paint.