Particleboard furniture is a cheap option when you need to decorate your home on a tight budget, but this type of furniture does not always withstand the test of time. Particleboard panels are made from wood by-products, primarily sawdust, mixed with plastic resin glues and pressed into large sheets. When used for furniture, these panels are usually faced with layers of plastic veneer. Over time, or with especially hard use, the plastic veneers can get scratched, chipped, or scuffed with permanent stains. Moisture can also damage the core particle board, causing swelling.
If you're noticing your particleboard bookcase, end table, or coffee table starting to show signs of wear, it is possible to refurbish the item instead of tossing it. The easiest method is simply to paint it.
Painting particleboard will help you save money by eliminating the need to buy new furniture, and it can add more personality to an existing piece. You can use stencils, a bold paint color, wallpaper, or decoupage to further enhance the item.
Equipment / Tools
- Putty knife
- Fine-grit sanding block or sandpaper
- Veneer roller or wood block (where needed)
- Paint roller
- Paint tray
- Wood filler or putty
- Contact cement (if needed)
- Lint-free cloth
- Roller cover
Repair Chips and Scratches
You will achieve the best results with your furniture piece if you carefully clean the entire piece and repair any damage before painting.
Particleboard furniture can chip, scratch, or crack fairly easily. If you see this kind of damage, begin by filling the damaged area with wood filler or putty, using a putty knife. Smooth the patch area so it is smooth with the surrounding surface.
Let the putty or filler dry overnight. After it completely dries, gently sand over the repaired area with fine-grit sandpaper until the surface is smooth.
Repair Damaged Veneer
The glues holding plastic veneer to the particleboard core can often loosen over time, especially at the edges. This can be re-glued with contact cement.
Carefully lift up the loose veneer and use a putty knife to scrape away as much loose, dried glue as possible. Apply a thin layer of contact cement to both the particle board surface and the bottom surface of the veneer. Use a small stick or a pencil to keep the surfaces apart for 15 minutes or so, until the glue is no longer shiny.
Press the plastic veneer down onto the particleboard core, using a roller or block of wood. The veneer should bond firmly.
Repair Water Damage
Some particleboard furniture is not faced with laminate, but instead is already painted. With these pieces, long exposure to water can create bubbles and permanent stains on the surface. The particleboard may even soften and begin to break down.
To fix water-damaged sections of particleboard furniture, remove the damaged areas using a sharp razor, then fill the space with wood filler (see above) and sand smooth.
If the damage is extensive, remove the damaged areas and replace with a new piece of particleboard. If the furniture item is not that important or sentimental, you may want to evaluate the cost of the repair versus purchasing a new piece of furniture.
Sand the Surfaces
Once all the damage has been repaired, it's time for sanding. Since particleboard furniture faced with laminate has a glossy finish, it's difficult for paint to stick to the surface. If you skip this step, you might find your new coat of paint chipping off in a matter of days.
Sand the entire item with fine-grit sandpaper or a sanding block to remove any old finish, lacquer, or gloss. The goal is not to sand off the plastic veneer, but simply to scuff the surface and give it "tooth" that will help the paint coat adhere. Be careful not to sand too harshly on the edges or you risk chipping away the top layer of the laminate.
Prepare the Primer
Picking the right primer will save you time by eliminating the need for many coats of paint.
- Use a gray primer if you plan on painting dark-colored particleboard.
- Use a white primer if you plan on painting light-colored particleboard.
Since we had white primer already on hand but wanted to paint a black particleboard bookshelf, we opted to tint the primer with some of the new paint.
After sanding the item, apply the primer to the surfaces. It's tempting to skip right to the painting, especially if you're using chalk paint. However, resist the urge and take the time to add a coat of primer. This step makes it more likely that the new paint will last.
We opted to apply a thin coat of primer using a paintbrush rather than a roller, in order to get into every crevice. Make sure to let the primer dry completely before applying any paint. Wait a full 24 hours before going on to the top coat of paint.
Lightly Sand the Surfaces
Before applying paint, lightly sand the primer layer. This will ensure that the top coat goes on smoothly and sticks well. After sanding, remove any dust with a lint-free rag.
If possible, use a roller to paint particle board furniture. This tool will ensure that the final finish is smooth and doesn't show obvious brush strokes. (However, if you like the texture created by brush strokes, then, by all means, use a paintbrush; You'll need to use one anyway to cut in corners that a roller won't reach.)
There are special closed cell foam roller covers designed to be used with high gloss paints. Using them will give the smoothest gloss finish.
While painting, watch the edges for any paint drips and use a brush to wipe them away before the paint begins to dry.
Depending on the paint, one coat may cover the surfaces adequately. But the best result is often achieved if you apply two or even three coats of paint in thin, inform layers. If you need a subsequent coat, be sure to let the first coat completely dry before applying the next one. A very light sanding between coats will help adhesion.
When choosing paint for furniture, a gloss or high-gloss finish is usually best. Gloss paints resist marking and are easier to scrub clean, an especially important trait with furniture.