Ask the Staff
I want to reface a painted cabinet. The cabinet is painted with latex paint and I want to glue
thin pieces of wood over the paint. Is this possible? What preparation must I do? What glue would
adhere to latex paint?
Gluing veneer down onto a paint film coating is generally not recommended. A respectable
professional kitchen resurfacing company would remove the paint completely and glue down veneer or
laminate directly to a clean and smooth wood surface that was prepped with care. Gluing to a clean
wood surface is the best way to guarantee positive adhesion of the new laminate/wood veneer to the
That being said, you could try a few tests to see if you may cheat fate. First determine how
well the paint film is adhering to the existing cabinet. Take a razor knife and strongly score an X
a good inch high and wide into the paint film. Take some good quality masking tape and cover the
scored X, rubbing it down really well onto the surface for 30 seconds using strong pressure with
the side of your thumb or a paper pad (generate a little friction heat). Let the tape stay on
overnight. Then lift a small corner of the tape and snatch it back quickly to peel it off the
surface. If the paint film pulls away from the cabinet, adhesion is poor. If little to no paint
film comes up with the tape, it would appear you have good paint adhesion to the wood underneath (at
least in the area you tested).
The next test is to glue down a sample of your veneer to the painted surface (at least a 3"
square size or an index card size). Scuff the painted surface lightly with some 80x grit sandpaper
and wipe off any sanding dust with a damp cloth. I would only try using contact cement for gluing
the veneer to the paint. Contact cement has its own pros and cons as an adhesive in woodworking.
It needs to be applied according to directions, paying close attention to applying a smooth layer so
you do not get lumps of glue "telegraphing" through the veneer. It has noxious fumes that are
flammable. It has instantaneous registration in that you cannot move the laminate as you are gluing
it, so when the two pieces you are gluing together begin to touch in that specific orientation, there
is no wiggle room to move about the veneer. The positive aspect of using contact cement is that no
clamps are involved. You use the pressure of a roller to "clamp" the laminate to the substrate.
Once you glue down your test sample, wait at least a day (maximum strength reached in 7 days per
the label on Weldwood contact cement), then try to lift the test sample up off the cabinet. Use a
razor or putty knife to get under the edge and try to pry it up. If it holds well, you may feel you
can cheat fate with a reasonable possibility of success that your glue down will hold for a
reasonable length of time (until you sell your house or build a replacement cabinet??)
Of course all the effort of testing is energy that you could use towards prepping the surface
correctly (scraping off all the paint and sanding down smooth to bare wood).
Test and verify as the saying goes when gluing or refinishing onto "unknown" surfaces.
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