How to Paint Melamine Kitchen Cupboards in South Africa

Has your melamine kitchen seen better days? Painting those dated cupboards can transform the space with a fresh new color. But successfully painting melamine requires proper preparation and technique.

With over 10 years of experience as a painter in Cape Town, I’ll share my proven process for painting melamine kitchen cupboards.

Follow these steps and advice to achieve a smooth, durable finish that revitalizes your kitchen on a budget.

Should You Paint Melamine Cupboards?

Should You Paint Melamine Cupboards

Melamine cupboards are affordable, but the laminate surface shows wear over time. Before painting, consider:


  • Inexpensive way to change color
  • Modern matte painted finish
  • Conceals scratches and damage
  • Alternative to replacing cupboards


  • Surface requires extensive preparation
  • Paint prone to chipping over time
  • Won’t match gloss of new melamine
  • Very time intensive process

Painting melamine makes the most sense if:

  • You’re on a tight budget
  • The layout/design of cupboards is sound
  • You have time for thorough surface prep
  • Your lifestyle is low-maintenance

Replacing worn melamine with new laminate or wood doors would cost 5-10x more than painting. If you simply want a color change without breaking the bank, painting melamine can work with proper expectations.

Step 1: Remove Cupboard Doors and Hardware

Detaching the doors and handles allows you to paint the cupboards most effectively.

You’ll need:

  • Philips screwdriver
  • Damp rag
  • Container for hardware


  1. Wipe each door with a damp rag to remove grease and dirt.
  2. Using a Philips screwdriver, fully unscrew each hinge and remove doors.
  3. Unscrew handles and knobs. Place hardware in a container so it’s not lost.
  4. Set doors on a protected surface like cardboard or dropcloth.

Leave doors detached until painting is complete. Now let’s prep the melamine surfaces.

Step 2: Sand Cupboards and Doors

For paint to properly adhere, the melamine must be scuffed up. This is the most important step!

You’ll need:

  • Sandpaper – 120 and 220 grit
  • Sanding block/pad
  • Tack cloth
  • Dust mask


  1. Put on a dust mask to avoid inhaling particles.
  2. Using 120 grit sandpaper and a sanding block, scuff the entire melamine surface. Sand in circular motions.
  3. Use 220 grit paper to finely smooth sanded areas.
  4. Wipe surface with a tack cloth to remove all dust.
  5. Inspect closely to ensure entire surface has a dull, matte look. Re-sand slick spots.
  6. Vacuum thoroughly to remove every speck of melamine dust.

Proper sanding is vital, so paint sticks. Now we’ll clean and prime the cupboards.

Step 3: Clean and Apply Primer

With the melamine prepped, it’s time to apply primer before painting.

You’ll need:

  • TSP cleaner
  • Clean rags
  • high-adhesion primer
  • Paintbrush / roller


  1. Mix TSP cleaner according to instructions. Wear gloves.
  2. Wipe all cupboard surfaces with TSP mixture to degrease.
  3. Allow surfaces to fully dry.
  4. Apply 1-2 coats of high-adhesion primer, allowing proper drying time between coats.
  5. Lightly sand primed surfaces with fine 220 grit sandpaper.
  6. Wipe with a tack cloth again to remove dust.

Priming seals the melamine and allows paint to adhere. After drying overnight, the cupboards are ready for paint.

Step 4: Paint the Cupboard Doors and Frames

Time to breathe new life into your kitchen with a fresh coat of color!

You’ll need:

  • Interior cabinet paint
  • Paintbrush and/or paint roller
  • Painter’s tape
  • Drop cloths


  1. Cover surrounding surfaces with drop cloths.
  2. Stir paint thoroughly before starting. Pour paint into roller trays.
  3. Use painter’s tape to mask off edges and hardware holes.
  4. Apply 2-3 thin, even coats of paint using a brush, roller, or both.
  5. Allow each coat to dry fully before adding the next coat.
  6. Remove painter’s tape immediately after the final coat.
  7. Allow doors to cure 48-72 hours before hanging again.

Thinner coats allow paint to cure properly. Take your time with multiple coats for smooth, shiny results.

Step 5: Re-hang Doors and Reinstall Hardware

The final step is reassembling everything once the paint has cured.

You’ll need:

  • Philips screwdriver
  • Saved hardware
  • Soft cloth


  1. Wipe down newly painted doors to remove dust.
  2. Carefully reattach hinges using a screwdriver.
  3. Hang doors back on frames and adjust as needed.
  4. Reinstall handles/knobs with screws.
  5. Buff away any small paint marks on hardware with a soft cloth.

Be gentle opening/closing doors for the first week to allow paint to fully harden. Then step back and admire your refreshed, colorfully painted cupboards!

Best Practices for Painting Melamine Cupboards in South Africa

Best Practices for Painting Melamine Cupboards in South Africa

To ensure your painted melamine cupboards look fantastic and last long, follow these best practices:

  • Degrease surfaces thoroughly before priming
  • Use high-adhesion primer formulated for laminates
  • Allow proper drying time between coats
  • Opt for satin or semi-gloss paint over flat
  • Caulk gaps between door frames and walls
  • Avoid slamming doors or overloading shelves
  • Gently clean painted surfaces with mild cleaner

Final Thoughts

With proper preparation, priming, and application of paint, you can give worn melamine cupboards new life affordably. While requiring more manual labor than replacing cupboards, painting is a budget-friendly way to enjoy updated kitchen style. Just be sure to thoroughly scuff the melamine for paint adhesion.

With my years of experience painting cabinets in Cape Town homes, I’m confident these steps will help you achieve a smooth, durable finish. Work carefully and methodically for satisfying results. Your freshly painted melamine cupboards will look fantastic for years to come!

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