How to Refinish MDF Cabinets

What You'll Need
Sandpaper (various grits)
Wood putty
Putty knife
Paintbrush or paint roller
Sponge or pieces of cloth

MDF cabinets are a popular choice due to the price and the fact that MDF is easy to work with. The MDF boards require painting since they don't have an appealing look. If you need to refinish MDF cabinets, you will most likely have to remove the old paint.

Step 1 – Remove Cabinets

Remove all contents from the cabinets. Remove the cabinet doors using a screwdriver to be able to work more effectively. When refinishing cabinets, you will typically refinish the doors only. However, you may refinish the sides as well. In this case, unscrew the entire cabinet off the wall. Remove any handles.

Step 2 – Clean Cabinets

Use a duster to remove dust and then wipe the cabinets with a damp piece of cloth or soft sponge. The cabinets should be dry before you go on.

Step 3 – Sand the MDF Cabinets

Use a rough grit sandpaper and a sander to remove the old paint and finish from the MDF cabinets. Perform circular movements and check if you have sanded all areas of the cabinets that you want to refinish. Wipe off all dust with a moist sponge.

Step 4 – Patch the Cabinets

If there are holes in the cabinets, patch these with wood putty. Insert putty in the holes and level with a putty knife before the compound starts hardening. Most wood putty products harden within 20 minutes. Allow the putty to dry completely, which takes up to 12 hours. If there are no visible holes in the surfaces you intend to refinish, skip step 4 and 5.

Step 5 – Sand the Cabinets

Sand the cabinets again to remove any excess of wood putty and even the surface for the primer. Use a rough grit sandpaper.

Step 6 – Prime the MDF Surfaces

Use an oil or water based primer for the MDF. Oil based products are more recommended for MDF, since the surface is more absorbent than other natural woods. Apply the first coat of primer and after it is completely dry, sand with a finer grit sandpaper and apply the second coat of primer. Typically, two coats of primer are sufficient for MDF boards.

Step 7 – Paint the Cabinets

Sand the cabinets after the last coat of primer is completely dry. Start from one top corner and apply the first coat of paint. Use a smaller paint roller, if you want to avoid visible brush strokes. Use a small brush to cover the areas that you cannot reach with the roller. Allow the cabinets to dry overnight. Use a second coat of paint if the first coat of color is uneven.

Step 8 – Reinstall the Cabinets

Reinstall the cabinets after the paint is completely dry. Use a screwdriver and if you have removed entire cabinets, have someone help you while you screw them back on the wall.