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How to Prepare Cabinets for Resurfacing

October 2nd, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

If you need to know how to prepare cabinets for painting or staining, this article won’t help. These are “do it yourself” Formica recovering instructions. Resurfacing preparation for plastic laminate countertops and cupboards is basically done in several easy to follow steps. The tools needed to get your old Formica cleaned and roughed up to accept the new color are minimal.

Tools needed for the prep job:

  • Lacquer Thinner
  • Putty knife
  • Belt Sander (optional)
  • Hand Block Sander
  • Fifty Grit Sand Paper
  • Cleaning Rags

Steps for preparing cabinets or counters to be resurfaced:

1) Using a rag soaked in the lacquer thinner, clean the areas that will be resurfaced with new plastic laminate.

2) Take the putty knife and remove any old caulking from the countertops or cabinets where they meet the walls, ceiling and floors.
3) Sand the cabinets or tops with the belt sander in combination with the 50 grit sanding belts.
4) Use the hand block sander to scuff up the surfaces wherever the belt sander would not reach.
5) Soak your rag again with lacquer thinner and scrub the old plastic laminate’s surface again.
6) Examine what you have done very closely to make sure that all of the dirt and grease have been removed and to ensure that you sanded all of the cupboard’s surfaces complete.


How well you prepare the cabinets and top’s surfaces will directly affect how strong the glue bond is. If you remove all of the grease build up with the lacquer thinner and get the old laminates surface to be good and coarse, using the fifty grit belts, then the new Formica color should stick well.

Tip: Thin strips, such as door edges and the top edges of backsplashes, should be cleaned and sanded very well. There is no margin for error on these areas. They must be roughed up very good. All caulking and paint must be removed. Because these Formica pieces are thin, there’s very little surface for the glue to adhere to. So, they must be prepared correctly.

What Happens When Cabinets are not Prepared Correctly for Resurfacing?

The obvious thing happens when the surface is not prepared correctly, the glue does not bond properly and bubbles form underneath large pieces of plastic laminate. For the smaller pieces that do not adhere, there is risk of them getting caught on cleaning rags and chipping or breaking off. If the glue doesn’t bond, then the laminate will have to be peeled off and resurfaced again.

Just like painting, the quality of the finished product depends upon the perpetration of the cabinet’s surface. The same holds true if you are staining cabinets. If you follow these steps on how to properly prepare the old plastic laminates surface, then the new color will adhere correctly. If the cabinet or countertop plastic laminate resurfacing project fails in certain areas it’s due to either not being cleaned well enough or the areas was not sanded well.

Categories: Cabinet Resurfacing
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