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How To Paint IKEA Furniture (in 5 easy steps)

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How To Paint IKEA Furniture

I love IKEA …..LOVE!! I mean, who doesn’t right? Most of their popular on-budget furniture pieces like the LACK, KALLAX, MALM, BILLY(sorry nerd alert!) have such huge potential for customisation, its unreal!

The process of repurposing or updating IKEA furniture, also known widely as ‘IKEA Hacking’, is quite the craze these days (hence the birth of the IKEA Hackers website). There are lots of different ways to achieve a hack – but the simplest method of all and my favourite, is just to paint IKEA furniture.

IKEA furniture can be tricky to paint at times, especially the laminate coated pieces, but when done the right way, can make such a huge difference (you can see for yourself by viewing some of my IKEA projects here).

Today, I am sharing how I paint IKEA furniture in 5 easy to do steps. Disclaimer: I am by no means a painting expert, but like to think a few years of hacking has taught me something!

How to paint IKEA furniture


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Most IKEA furniture, have a laminate wax type coating that makes it difficult for paint to stick effectively to its surface. I know it may be a controversial choice, but I ALWAYS sand as part of my prepping routine . In my opinion, the sanding process just helps to scuff and dull the surface a little, giving the primer something to grip on to.



You can either sand by hand with a 150 grit sander or use an electric sander ( I love using the Black and Decker sander personally, but I hear the Boshe Orbital Sander is also very good).



I don’t always stress the importance of this in my painting tutorials but cleaning after sanding is a must! I usually dust off with a damp cloth and then I like to use this (or TSP) to give it a more thorough clean. Cleaning this way just helps to get rid of any grease that may further prevent the primer from adhering to the surface.



Always prime (this will help the paint to bond to the surface) and if its the laminate effect IKEA pieces you are painting, then it needs to be an oil based primer . NOTE: Oil paint primer needs to be applied in a WELL ventilated area as fumes are quite strong!

I like to use cheap foam brushes to apply primer to avoid brush marks. I’d like to add here that sometimes I do get away with just using spray on primer applied in very thin layers s…as long as it doesn’t scratch off once dry… you’re on to a good start!


It’s important to note that the key to good priming is allowing the primer paint to cure the required amount of time as stated on the product manufactory details so don’t forget to look at the package. PAINT PRIMERS TO USE : Rustins, Zinsser, Rustoleum




Now that you have primed your surface like a pro – you can use just about any type of paint (latex, milk or chalk ) for your top coat. Personally I like to use latex (emulsion) paint as I find it more cost effective than chalk paint. I also love the easy coverage and application of it.

My favourite latex brands to use are Valspar, or Wickes, but sometimes I may use Rustins blackboard paint if I want a chalky finish. I usually apply 2 -3 coats of paint depending on the look I’m going for and always use a foam roller (but you can also use a paint brush or spray it on with a paint sprayer)



This is, I think the most important part of the whole process.

Coating your newly painted surface with either a clear non-yellowing varnish (polyurethane) or a clear wax ensures it remains protected for years to come. If you plan on using your furniture in a high traffic area, then using a Varnish/polyurethane may work out better in the long run.

(I had used wax to seal my sons DIY under bed toy box, but maybe using a varnish might have been smarter as it now has a few knocks and scrapes)


If you do choose to use wax as a sealant, ensure you are using a wax brush or cloth to apply it and also that you are leaving it the recommended amount of time to cure (normally about 24hrs). When applying polyurethane a good quality paint brush is enough, but again it needs to be left to dry before applying further coats.

Since I’ve been using progress pictures from my previous IKEA HACK post where I transformed a standard white KALLAX into a cool looking industrial piece for my son – I think it only fair to share the final picture! What do you think?



And that its guys…. everything I know about painting IKEA furniture. Not too complicated I hope? Do you think this post has given you the confidence to tackle your own IKEA piece?















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