How to Paint Particle Board? (4 Easy Steps)

Particle boards have a synthetic formula and a porous surface, so painting them is tricky. Since the board is made of synthetic glue and wood particles, the paint will soak into the surface, and when this happens, the particle board starts to swell.

To prevent this from happening and to get a smooth and even (flat) finish, you must sand, seal, and prime the board before painting it. Also, since primer is thicker than paint, it won’t penetrate the surface as deep, so the board won’t swell.

Things To Know

Particle board doesn’t accept paint well, so don’t paint directly over it. If you do, the paint will soak heavily into the wood board, causing it to swell. To prevent this, you must sand, seal, and prime the wood with a solvent-based primer.

The particle board looks like natural wood, but it isn’t. Instead, it is a faux or artificial wood made by gluing wood shaving, wood chips, sawdust, plastic waste, and synthetic resins. This synthetic formula makes it very porous. So, if you apply it directly, the paint will soak heavily and cause an uneven finish.

Also, because of the over-absorption of the paint, the particle board will swell. Avoid using water-based paint as its solvent (water) can weaken the adhesion and cause more spaces (gaps) inside the surface. The more spaces (gaps) the surface has, the more porous it is, and the more paint will get soaked.

Types of Paints To Use:

It’s recommended to use an oil-based paint for particle boards. This is because oil-based paint is thicker and doesn’t swell the material like water-based paints. Also, oil-based paint will offer good protection, a glossy finish, and protect the surface from moisture.

If you use water-based paint, you must seal it with a waterproof sealant to prevent damage. If you don’t, the water will penetrate the particle board and cause it to swell. That’s because water-based paint doesn’t offer any water resistance. 

You must also use a stain-blocking oil-based primer. Avoid using a water-based primer, as it can swell the surface.

How to Paint Particle Board?

Painting particle board is hard because you need the right tools and types of paint to prevent swelling. Here are the tools you need:

  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Oil-based or solvent-based primer
  • A portable vacuum or duster
  • Paintbrushes
  • A screwdriver
  • A sealant like polyurethane (optional)

1. Sand The Particle Board

Sand The Particle Board

First, remove the attachments and fittings from the particle board. Metal fittings, handles, wall sockets, and the like must be removed, as you can accidentally paint them too. After removing the fittings, clean the surface with a dampened rag.

Next, sand the surface with fine-grit sandpaper (220-grit). Sanding will remove splinters, loose particles, and grain and make the surface smooth and ready to be painted.

If the particle board is sealed, painted, or laminated, sand it with coarse-grit sandpaper (120-grit). Coarse-grit sandpaper will remove the laminate coating, paint, or finish from the surface. If you don’t sand, the laminated layer will repel the paint and prevent it from sticking. 

After sanding, clean the surface and remove dust using a vacuum.

2. Apply A Coat Of Primer

Apply A Coat Of Primer

Apply 2 coats of oil-based primer over the particle board. Avoid using a water-based primer, as it can cause the surface to swell.

To apply the primer, use a paintbrush. Wait until one coat dries before applying the next one. Optionally, sand between coats, including the final one. 

3. Apply The Paint

Apply The Paint

Once the primer dries, apply 3-4 coats of oil-based paint. To apply paint, use a paintbrush or sprayer. Wait until one coat dries before applying the next one. Sand between coats, except for the final one. 

After the paint dries, seal the finish with a sealant such as varnish or polyurethane (3 coats). 

How Long Will The Finish Last?

On average, a finish on particle board will last 5-10 years. However, how long the paint will last depends on the paint you use. For instance, the finish will last less than a few months if you use unsealed water-based paint. However, if you use oil-based paint and seal it with a waterproof sealant, the finish will last 10 years.

Where you place the particle board also matters. If you place it outdoors and expose it to constant moisture, the finish will last 5 years. But, if you place it indoors, the finish will last over 10 years. 

The cleaning and maintenance routine also determines how long the paint will last. If the paint is frequently wiped and maintained, it will last longer. But, if you leave the paint to accumulate dust and stains without cleaning, the paint will get stained and wear off.

Final Words

In summary, painting over particle board is tricky as you must prep its surface and makes it ready to accept paint evenly. To do so, you must sand, seal, and prime before applying paint. That’s because particle boards are very porous and can over-absorb paint, causing its surface to swell. 

Sealing the finish with polyurethane or spar varnish is recommended for maximum protection and durability.

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