MDF cabinets and furniture can come in a wide array of colors and finishes, but sadly, the color of your favorite cabinets may not be contemporary. For those looking to update their kitchen’s look, a paint makeover may be just the ticket. Having kitchen cabinet doors painted by a paid professional can be costly, though. Instead, you may want to go the DIY route. 

Assess the MDF and Repair It

MDF is often a lower-budget alternative to traditional cabinetry. While it is easy on the wallet, the durability isn’t exactly lifelong. Before starting any project with MDF, cleaning and careful inspection are extremely important. Wipe everything with a moist cloth and quickly dry it. 

Look for stains, warping, peeling, loose wood chips from degraded MDF, and sagging frames. These parts should be repaired, or replaced if necessary. This helps ensure the cabinetry is structurally sound and capable of being painted. For minor MDF damage, here are a few quick fixes:

Peeling Laminate

Carefully use a heat gun on medium heat to make the laminate pliable, then use a flat object to push the laminate back into place. With any luck, the adhesive will have melted and become sticky again. If it hasn’t and the laminate won’t stick to the MDF, it's time for some wood glue and heavy books or c-clamps to hold the laminate while the glue dries. 

Minor Warping  

Major warping is a sign of serious water damage. If this is the case, replacement is recommended, as the integrity of the MDF is completely gone. With minor warping, however, there are a few tricks that can help. As with peeled laminate, laying the MDF flat and using heavy books or c-clamps can help flatten it out. 

Stripped Screw Holes

If the screws practically fall out of a cabinet when taking it apart or putting it back together, then repairs are necessary. Grab some wooden toothpicks and cut them to the depth of the hole. Push them in along with some wood glue, then let it dry and sand it smooth. This should be enough to hold a screw in place. For the best results, pre-drill a small hole in the hardened toothpick/wood glue before inserting a new screw. 


Fortunately, the laminate surface of most MDF cabinets should make removing stains easy. If it is an oil stain, degreasing your kitchen cabinets may be necessary. Use the least possible amount of degreaser on a cloth, dry it, and repeat until the stain comes out or becomes as light as possible. Too much degreaser can cause warping, so proceed with caution. 

Materials and Process

MDF is a special material that requires certain types of paint. It can absorb water from latex or other water-based paints and primers, which will cause swelling and may damage the MDF beyond repair. Here is a list of what you’ll need:

  • Sandpaper (fine grit)
  • Clean cloth
  • primer (oil-based)
  • Paint (acrylic or enamel)
  • Paintbrushes (medium and small)
  • Painter's tape
  • Drop cloths or plastic sheeting

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As noted in the article on DIY painting kitchen cupboards, you must remove the cabinet doors. This must be done carefully while fully supporting the weight of the doors the entire time. MDF can be fragile, especially when removing or reinserting screws. Leave the hinges attached to the cabinet frame and simply cover them with painter's tape. 

Put up your plastic sheeting and drop cloths and tape all of your edges. Cabinet doors should remain flat on the floor to keep paint from running and causing drip marks. If there is existing paint on the MDF, removing it may cause more harm than good. Sanding it off is an option, but it is often better to simply paint over it. 

Gently sand the entire surface of the laminate and wipe away any dust and debris. Now the MDF is ready for a coat of primer. Apply the oil-based primer and be sure to let it dry according to the manufacturer's recommendations. Once again, gently sand the primer and clear any debris–this helps the paint to adhere to the primer. 

Finally, paint over the primer using slow brush strokes and the least amount of paint possible to ensure an even finish. Use a smaller brush for the finer details and grooves, and let everything dry. Remove the painter's tape, and carefully reinstall the doors. 

Upgrade from MDF to HPL

At 27estore, we take our materials seriously. In contrast to MDF, we offer metal, wood veneer and even high-pressure laminate (HPL). HPL has significant robustness compared to MDF and is much less prone to warping or degrading in humid environments. Visit 27estore today and browse our full selection of kitchen cabinetry and see how we can help give your kitchen a makeover at a fair price!