How to Laminate Cabinets in 6 Steps

dark wood cabinets
  • 2-4 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 50-100
What You'll Need
Sand paper
Tack cloth
Wood glue
Finishing nails
Self adhesive laminate
Laminate veneer

To laminate cabinets in your kitchen, the easiest, and most cost and time effective solution, is to use self-adhesive laminate veneers. The results can be beautiful, at a much lower cost than replacing cabinets.

Step 1 - Remove Doors, Moldings, Hardware

Open the cabinet door a little then use a screwdriver to remove the hinges. You can remove the molding using a hammer fork. Simply pry off the hinges, being gentle so as not to break the cabinets themselves. Keep hardware and screws together if you are planning to reuse the hardware. If there are loose or peeling finishes on the surfaces you plan to laminate, you should sand and clean to remove them. Use putty to fill in any scratches or large depressions. Any putty will do and usually takes about an hour to dry.

Step 2 - Sand and Clean Surfaces

Use a fine, 150 grit sandpaper and lightly scuff the surface where you plan to install the laminate. Using a tack cloth, remove all sawdust and particles from the surfaces, then clean them with a cloth dipped in a solution of water and dishwashing soap. Use the cloth barely wet, not soaking. If you have wax on your cupboards, remove it with ammonia.

WARNING: Wear gloves and old clothes while using ammonia, and wear a face mask if you have a history of respiratory issues. If you're sanding wood that was previously stained or painted, wear a face mask and safety glasses while sanding.

Step 3 - Install Cut to Fit End Panels

Cut to fit end panels are strips of veneer that come in packages of five to 10 and are easily “cut to fit” your cabinets. Use the cut to fit pieces of plywood to cover the end panels of your cupboards. Measure, then cut the panel to size. Use wood glue and finishing nails to attach it firmly. Sand with 150 grit sandpaper and sand the edges of the plywood so that it is flush with the cabinet front. This will help the laminate to stick to your cabinets and extend the laminate's lifespan.

Step 4 - Install Self Adhesive Laminate to Inside Edges

Use a sharp utility knife, rotary cutters, or scissors, and cut the laminate into strips. Strips allow for curvature and keep from bunching the laminate. Cut ½ inch extra, both in length and width so that you can trim it flush to the cupboard after you install it. Cover the vertical pieces, the stiles, first, and then cover the horizontal pieces (the rails) second.

Beginning with the top of the stile, laminate the cabinets by peeling back a small portion of the backing paper. Uncover just enough of the veneer to firmly anchor the strip to on the inside frame. The top edge of the strip should be placed so it is square with the top of the opening. As you peel off the backing slowly, press lightly and smoothly on the veneer and keep it aligned properly. It is nearly impossible to move the veneer after it is applied, so be sure to do it right the first time. After doing the inside stiles, do inside of the rails. Use a knife to trim the inside edges even.

Step 5 - Apply Veneer to Face Frame

Beginning with the stiles, once again line the veneer up carefully. Anchor the top, and make sure it is flush and square. Then, laminate cabinets by carefully installing the veneer on the face of the cabinet. Keep an even overlap on both sides of the stile. If even one veneer is uneven, it will ruin the entire cabinet. Repeat for the other stile, then apply the laminate on the rails in the same way.

Step 6 - Trim

Carefully use a sharp utility knife to trim the excess and overlap from the openings. Make sure you have a steady hand at this point.