Particle board furniture is a cheap option when you need to decorate your home on a tight budget, but the 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.
If you're noticing your particle board 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 particle board 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.
Tools and Supplies
- Putty knife
- Wood filler or putty
- Contact cement (if needed)
- Fine-grit sanding block or sandpaper
- Lint-free cloth
- Roller and tray
Prep the Surfaces for Painting
Your furniture piece will achieve the best results if you carefully clean the entire piece and repair any damage before painting.
Chips and deep scratches: As you may have noticed, particle board furniture can chip, scratch, or crack fairly easily. If you notice your furniture has existing damage, repair these blemishes with wood putty or filler before painting.
- Full 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 the filler or putty completely dries, gently sand over the repaired area with fine-grit sandpaper until the surface is smooth.
Peeling 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 particle board core, using a roller or block of wood. The veneer should bond firmly.
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 particle board furniture, remove the damaged areas using a sharp razor, then fill the space with wood filler and sand smooth.
If the damage is extensive, remove the damaged areas and replace with a new piece of particle board. 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 laminate particle board furniture 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 particle board.
- Use a white primer if you plan on painting light-colored particle board.
Since we had white primer already on hand but wanted to paint a black particle board bookshelf, we opted to mix some of the new paint with the primer to tint it.
After sanding the item, apply the primer to the surfaces. It's tempting to skip right over to 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 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 next 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 for painting particle board furniture. This tool will ensure that the final finish is smooth and doesn't show obvious brush strokes. If you like the look of 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.
While painting, make sure to watch the edges for any paint drips and use a brush to wipe them away before the paint is able to dry.
Depending on the paint, one coat may cover the furniture completely. But remember that the best results are achieved if the paint is applied in a very thin and uniform coat. This is often best achieved if you apply two, or even three coats of paint in thin 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.
- Note: 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.
Enjoy your new piece of particle board furniture!
All images by Lauren Thomann, Heirlooms at Home