Refinishing Thermofoil Cabinets

Lead Image for Refinishing Thermofoil Cabinets
  • 8-12 hours
  • Beginner
  • 120-300
What You'll Need
Sand paper
Paint primer
Cleaning materials

With some time and effort, you can repaint or refinish your thermofoil cabinets. Because these types are materials are bonded, or made of synthetic materials, it will take some work to get the old color back or paint over them. You will need to clean and scuff all surfaces if your applying new paint before you can begin the project. This material can be very hard to work with and require painting in layers to make a new surface to hold the color properly. Be sure to let the work dry in between each of your stages, before sanding or adding extra coats of paint to prevent streaking and bald spots.

Clean All Surfaces

Use your cleaners and clean all excess dirt and grime from the thermofoil cabinets surface. Once this is completed and allowed to dry, you will want to scuff the areas to be painted with light grit sandpaper. You do not want to scar the surfaces, only lightly braise them so they will grip the primer coat. Be sure all dust and grime is removed, and be sure to clean the surfaces again, once you're finished sanding to remove any dust or residue that will prevent paint from sticking.

Add a Primer Coat

Once your thermofoil cabinets are cleaned and sanded, you are ready to apply a light coat of primer. You don't want to glob this on the surfaces, instead, apply a very thin coat. The purpose of the primer is to simply create a surface that your final coats can stick to efficiently. Without this primer coat, the paint would simply roll off the material, and not hold to the surfaces properly. Your primer coat is to simply provide a surface to hold the final coats in place and prevent them from running.

Adding Layers to the Surface

The key to getting a final coat to really stand out on your thermofoil cabinets is to apply it in layers. Make sure that the sanding is followed by a primer coat so your paint will stick properly. Once this is done, you can add layers of paint to this to make the color darker and more like painted wood. The materials this is made with can be rough to deal with, and it will take time and patience to get it just right. The more colored layers you add to the surface the bolder the final product will be, this is important when trying to hide the previous surface from view.


Once you have all the layers on the thermofoil cabinets' outer surfaces, you can then do a final sanding once it is dry. Doing this as it dries between stages will also allow your paint to really hold well and it will show in your final product. You only want to do a light sanding with very light grain sandpaper, and it would be suggested to do it by hand. If you sand the surface too deeply, you will wipe away your previous layers.