How To Paint An Ikea Desk [10 Simple Steps]

It may be necessary to paint an ikea desk if the shape and size are a fit, but the look is not. Fortunately, there are some basic steps you can follow to successfully repaint an IKEA desk. This will allow you to apply personal preferences and match the desk with your home’s overall style. The painting process isn’t very different from other brands of desks. We have carefully researched how to paint an IKEA desk in just ten simple steps.

An IKEA desk should be painted with the following simple steps, in order to effectively create a lasting and durable result:

  1. Assemble your tools
  2. Prepare the area
  3. Disassemble the desk
  4. Clean the desk
  5. Add necessary wood filler
  6. Sand the wood
  7. Apply primer
  8. Use wood stain or paint
  9. Apply wood finish
  10. Reassemble desk

Painting an IKEA desk is usually a straightforward project, but it can also be a time consuming process. It is important to complete these steps correctly for the best results. Keep reading to learn the details of each step, what IKEA furniture is actually made out of, and how to work with laminate.

An interior of a modern home office with laptop on desk, How To Paint An Ikea Desk [10 Simple Steps]

1. Assemble your Tools

You can read the post Does IKEA Furniture Come With Tools? to review if IKEA offers anything for your desk model. To take the desk apart for painting, you will require screwdrivers.

You will then need the desired wood stain or paint, which should accommodate interior work. To apply the paint, you will need a traditional woodworking paint brush as well as a paint roller for larger surfaces.

Click here to find this interior wood paint on Amazon.

Next, you should look into a scraping tool such as putty knives for the surface of old wood. In addition to this, any repairs would then potentially require wood filler. 

To clean the desk, you might want commercially sold wood cleaner. You would also need sandpaper. This should be finer sandpaper, which means you should shop for a higher grit; we'd recommend 220 grit.

You should also have paint primer ready. A paint primer will ensure that the paint bonds to the desk. It will often be necessary to find a proper wood finish to protect the wood. Painting inside, you’ll also need a tarp or similar drop cloth to work on.

2. Prepare the Area

It is considerably important to remember that it is best for you to paint the desk in a well ventilated area. If you must paint inside, the windows should be open and an appropriate level of airflow should be maintained. 

For example, experts at Poison Control warn that some solvent-based paints can contain VOCs, which are potentially dangerous volatile organic compounds.

You may also need to lay down some kind of tarp to establish an interior workspace. This will prevent paint from getting on the floor, which can potentially require a special cleaner of its own.

3. Disassemble the Desk

It is always best for the IKEA desk to be painted in separate pieces. This will allow you full control of the area when you paint.

It is also easier to evenly distribute the paint for each surface without having to carefully maneuver around tight corners and crevices.

Many times, an IKEA desk is already disassembled when it is first purchased. If you are repainting the desk, then you will have to take it apart yourself.

It is best to work from the top of the desk to the legs. There are various screws that will need to be removed using a screwdriver. 

If necessary, you should also remove all of the hardware, metal pieces such as handles, and drawer slides. These are obstacles when you proceed to cleaning and painting.

You can watch the following YouTube video to review how to disassemble an IKEA desk:

4. Clean the Desk

Click here to find this MURPHY Oil Soap on Amazon.

Now you should use a cloth to apply an appropriate wood cleaner onto each disassembled desk piece. The goal is to remove any buildup and filth that would disrupt a smooth surface.

It is important for the wood to be perfectly even when the primer and paint are added. 

There are many commercially sold products to safely clean wood without damaging the desk. But Murphy Oil Soap is one of the oldest and most popular brands. Remember not to clean the bare and unprotected wood of the desk. 

5. Add Necessary Wood Filler

If your old IKEA desk has accumulated damage over time, then any splintered wood or dents will cause an uneven surface. This needs to be fixed prior to applying any primer or paint. 

Click here to find this wood filler on Amazon.

Larger wounds to the desk may need to be scraped off. This is best achieved with a flat tool that will provide accuracy, such as a putty knife. 

Once the larger debris is removed, any lingering dents and holes may need to be filled in. You can use wood filler for interior desks, but this may need to be sanded down. Also, make sure that your wood filler can be stained or painted.

6. Sand the Wood

Sandpaper is a flexible abrasive that levels out wooden surfaces. Sandpaper strength is measured in grit, where a lower grit is rougher and a higher grit is finer.

It is usually best to avoid using a lower sandpaper grit on IKEA furniture. Instead, use a finer sandpaper grit of 220 to create a smooth surface.

It may be necessary to clean up residue afterward. You can wash and dry the desk, wipe it with a tack cloth, or even a shop vacuum. The vacuum should have an appropriate filter to avoid feeding back any debris.

7. Apply Primer

Click here to find this shellac primer on Amazon.

The primer is distributed very much like the paint itself. But a primer will ensure that the paint is able to successfully bond with the desk. This may require multiple layers, with drying time in between.

You can use a paintbrush to apply the first layer of primer in smaller areas. A paint roller can be used for covering larger surfaces. Remember to purchase a primer that works well with the type of material your desk is made of.

What material is Ikea furniture made of?

According to IKEA, the majority of their furniture will likely make use of recycled and composite materials. Most of the time, your IKEA desk will be laminate. It is particleboard made of waste wood pressed together, with an image layer on top that is subject to change.

You can read the post What Is Ikea Furniture Made Of? Is It Real Wood? for more details about laminate and what other materials IKEA might use.

8. Use Wood Stain or Paint

You can now decide if you want the desk to have a wood stain or fresh paint. A wood stain will only change the appearance of the wood.

According to Home Depot, wood stains are different from paint because they operate by soaking pigment directly into the fibers. Wood stain usually doesn’t provide enough protection for the wood.

Use the paintbrush to apply wood stain or paint to the smaller areas and corners of the wood, just like the primer. This ensures you will be more accurate.

You can use the paint roller to apply wood stain or paint to the larger areas of the desk. Either coating may require multiple layers, so plan on waiting for each layer to dry before applying more.

Can you paint over laminate?

Yes, it is possible to paint directly over a laminate surface. Certain primers, such as shellac, may prove more effective. However, this is not ideal because the paint will not adhere as well. Shellac is also known to be flammable.

Keep in mind that laminate cannot be stained because it isn’t porous, and wood stains are designed to soak into fibers.

What kind of paint do you use on laminate wood?

It is commonly advised to use Latex paint when applying it directly to the laminate surface. It looks smooth enough to imitate the original appearance. Latex paint is also considered resistant to chips and cracks, and it’s easier to use inside.

Usually, water is enough to clean up latex paint, and it doesn't leave lingering smells. If the laminate has been sanded, using the right primer with a corresponding paint will allow you to use anything you prefer.

Can I use spray paint on laminate furniture?

It’s also possible to spray paint laminate furniture, so long as the surface is lightly sanded and primed. Even spray paint needs something to adhere to.

The right primer can make this job easier, but more effective primers such as shellac may be more ideal for outside work.

9. Apply Wood Finish

Click here to find this indoor wood finish on Amazon.

The wood stain or paint may not be enough to fully protect the wood. The desk pieces should be treated with wood finish, one at a time.

Use a natural brush to stir the wood finish, and then apply it to each of the pieces. Remember to work with the grain of the wood. 

You may also need to clean off leftover wood finish that doesn’t soak into the pieces. You can watch the following YouTube video for a complete review of the wood finish process:

10. Reassemble Desk

Once the desk is dry and cleaned again, you are free to reassemble the desk using the existing screw holes and screws. You can follow the unique instructions of your own desk model to put the pieces together again properly.

In Closing

IKEA desks are popular because they are inexpensive and reliable enough. However, it is still important to paint the desk properly to make sure the coating will last long and look good.

While it is time consuming to follow some of the above steps, they are basic and do not require complicated tools or machinery. And the results are worthwhile to avoid having to repeat the process sooner than later.

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