Can You Paint IKEA Furniture?

Love a certain piece of furniture but don't love its color? Try painting it.

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Big box stores like IKEA are great places to find reliable furniture that won’t break your budget. Unfortunately, the ready-to-assemble (RTA) furniture sold there often comes with limited customization options

Finding the perfect new piece for your living space, only to discover the color isn’t perfect, can be frustrating. Luckily, there can be a simple solution: Just paint it.

Yes, you can paint RTA furniture from IKEA or any other store. Of course, this rule doesn’t apply to every piece of IKEA furniture. We wouldn’t recommend painting anything covered in fabric. And anything made of plastic can be tricky to paint and get right. The furniture we’re talking about is made from laminate-covered particleboard, the prevalent material in most of the “wood” furniture sold at IKEA.

If you’re buying a desk or a bed frame from IKEA, it’s most likely made of this.  With a little prep work and the right kind of paint, you can change the look of your IKEA particleboard furniture to whatever shade you want.

What Kind of Paint Works Best?

You’ll need three types to paint IKEA furniture: a primer, topcoat and sealer. The primer needs to be specifically for laminate surfaces. Applying a coat of primer to your laminate particleboard surface will allow whatever paint you choose to stick to the surface and not quickly peel off.

After you’ve painted over your primer with your chosen color, you’ll apply a final layer of sealant to ensure your new paint job lasts.

How to Paint Laminate Particleboard

Step One: Sanding

Don’t worry about putting together your furniture before you break out the paint. It’s much easier to paint particleboard furniture when it’s disassembled.

If you’re painting a piece of furniture you’ve owned for a while, take it apart and clean it with a damp cloth. Once everything is completely dry, take each piece of the furniture and lightly sand any surface you want to paint. Use a piece of fine sandpaper, something around 120 grit. You don’t need to sand the laminate down entirely —  just scuff the surface consistently so that the primer can stick to it.

Step Two: Primer

Once you’re finished sanding, it’s time to apply the primer. Wipe the surface clean with a dry cloth to remove any lingering dust. Then paint on the first coat of primer. You need to cover the entire surface with primer, so you might have to apply up to two coats to ensure full coverage.

Primers can take up to four hours to dry. Some experts recommend waiting up to a week for a coat of primer to fully cure before painting on top of it.

Step Three: The Topcoat

Apply the top coat of paint once your primer has fully cured. Don’t put the paint on too thick. The finished paint job will look much better if you apply it in multiple thin coats. You can use many kinds of paint for your topcoat — even spray paint will work.

Step Four: Sealant

A quality sealant will protect your new coat of paint from stains and other damage. Use a product like this sealant from Varathane, which is water-based and dries quickly. You can start to put your furniture together as soon as the sealant has fully dried.

Harrison Kral
After spending his college summers pouring concrete and building decks, Harrison Kral decided to find a way to put his insider knowledge of construction to use…. just in an air-conditioned setting. He’s an established writer and editor in the DIY space who has written extensively on the home building industry, the housing market, and general DIY trends.