Can You Paint Thermofoil Cabinets? (Find Out Now!)

Heather Robbins
by Heather Robbins

There’s a good chance you have thermofoil cabinets in your kitchen if it was built in the 1990s or if you like cheap kitchen cabinets. Thermofoil kitchen cabinet doors, which are made of MDF wood with a thin coating of vinyl pressed in like shrink wrap, are highly common in many American houses. Many people wonder if you can paint them.

You can paint thermofoil cabinets, but you have to be careful of the type of paint you use, as well as the technique so that the stroke marks don’t show up easily. Since these cabinets are made of medium-density fiberboard, you have to make sure the cabinets are in great shape before doing so.

We’ll teach you how to paint thermofoil cabinets by demonstrating how to prepare and paint this laminated medium-density fiberboard to make it look professional and smooth. We’ll teach you how to paint thermofoil cabinets, what type of paint to use, and much more. Let’s get started!

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Can You Paint A Thermofoil Cabinet?

Yes, a thermofoil cabinet can be painted. These cabinets are made of MDF (medium-density fiberboard) or inexpensive particleboard that has been bonded with a thin coating of vinyl called “thermofoil.”

The overall appearance is reminiscent of laminate cabinets. Painters can paint over this surface (if it’s in excellent shape) with a little preparation and the correct equipment, just like they can laminate cabinets.

Related Guide: Can Thermofoil Cabinets Be Peeled And Painted?

How To Tell If Your Cabinets Are Thermofoil

It’s tough to tell if your cabinet doors are thermofoil or not, but skilled painters will notice the PVC coating that peels away when the cabinets age and/or are exposed to heat in the kitchen.

Make sure you’ve got the proper material before starting the painting experience. Thermofoil lamination can look very similar to what we call “laminate cabinets,” so make sure you’ve got the right material before starting the painting adventure. Both of these finishes are essentially MDF with a thin film bonded on top.

If you need assistance determining what your drawer fronts and cabinet doors are composed of, consider hiring experienced painters to come to your home. You could perhaps contact the house’s previous owner(s) who installed the cabinetry.

Gather Your Tools

It’s time to start gathering your painting supplies once you’ve established your cabinets are thermofoil and determined what color and design you want.

  • Foam Brush
  • 4-inch Foam Roller
  • Regular Paint Brush
  • Plastic Paint Tray
  • Paint
  • Primer
  • 220-grit Sand Paper With Block
  • Masking Tape
  • Polyurethane Topcoat

Prepare For The Project

Painting thermofoil isn’t as straightforward as painting other types of wood; you’ll need to do some preliminary work before you get started!

  • Clean the cabinets. Gently clean the surface of the cabinets using warm water, dish soap, and a clean sponge to remove any stuck-on cooking oil, grease, grime, or filth. Using a clean kitchen towel or paper towel, pat down the area.
  • Sand the surface. Using medium-grit sandpaper (we recommend 220-grit), gently sand the clean wood – don’t go too hard or the thermofoil layer will rip or peel off.
  • Clean the cabinets a second time. After sanding the cabinets, gently clean them again to remove any dust and dirt before letting them air dry.
  • Apply Primer. When applying primer to the cabinet doors, make sure you’re working in a well-ventilated area. Apply a broad brush stroke to the main flat area with a paintbrush before carefully painting in the nooks and crevices or any detailed wood design.
  • Prime with a roller. After applying the first coat of primer, run over the cabinet with your roller to smooth out any brush strokes and make the primer look lovely, smooth, and even.
  • Consider a second coat. After the initial coat has dried, consider applying a second layer of primer if you think it’s necessary. If you’re going for an entirely different look (e.g., changing the cabinet color), 2 or 3 coats of primer might suffice. Then go ahead and paint!

While all of this prep work may seem tedious, it is necessary for painting kitchen cabinets made of this material. Get sanding and priming if you want that paint to last!


After you’ve finished painting your kitchen cabinets, let them dry completely for as long as the paint manufacturer recommends.

Paint dries faster in some cases than in others. Water-based paint, for example, dries much faster (1-2 hours) than oil-based paint (6-8 hours).

After you’ve reattached the cabinet doors to the cabinet frames, take care not to damage them too much right soon.

For the first 7-10 days after painting, paint can be extremely sensitive; if you expose it to too much during this time, you risk ruining the finish and/or peeling the thermofoil.

Keep youngsters and pets away from this section of the house, and avoid exposing your freshly painted kitchen cabinets to excessive heat and dampness.

Safety Tips When Painting Thermofoil Cabinets

Locate A Well-Ventilated Space

If you’re going to remove the cabinet doors from the hinges and paint them separately (which is preferable), you’ll need to find a well-ventilated area of your house with open windows and a method for air to circulate.

The fumes from the paint could become overwhelming if you don’t find a well-ventilated location in your home. It will also take longer for the clothes to dry than usual.

Keep Children And Pets Away

Although it should go without saying, keep children and pets out of reach while painting and drying cabinets. Your design and all of your hard work could be ruined by a misplaced fingerprint or pawprint.

Invest In Good Paint

Make sure you’re using a high-quality product with the right base, color, and finish for your project. However, use a non-toxic product that does not release poisonous fumes into the air when drying.

If you have lung or respiratory difficulties, the last thing you want to do is paint your cabinets with a poisonous paint!

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What Kind Of Paint Should You Use?

There are many various types of paints that can be used on thermofoil cabinets, but the following are the most common:

Latex That Is Made Of Water

Water-based latex paint is inexpensive and dries rapidly (about 1-2 hours per layer). This makes it ideal for updating your kitchen cabinets, with brands such as Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams offering excellent products in this style.


Enamel paint is more expensive, but it’s extremely durable and long-lasting — it won’t chip or peel off as quickly as other paints. Because the kitchen is one of the warmest and most humid rooms in the house, a long-lasting solution is important.

Enamel, on the other hand, has a glossy appearance. If you want a more muted, matte look, this isn’t the way to go.

Satin Finish Latex

Many individuals prefer satin-style latex paint for their home since it is inexpensive and quick to dry, especially if they want a more matte look. Satin-type paints have a low gloss and can look great in any room of the house.

Heather Robbins
Heather Robbins

Heather is a passionate writer who loves anything DIY. Growing up, she learned everything from home repairs to design, and wants to share her tips with you. When she's not writing, she's usually hiking or searching for her next DIY project.

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