I am admittedly new to DIY and especially painting furniture, this being my first project. I put together a custom desk two months ago using a laminate IKEA countertop. I followed the instructions most often repeated for painting laminate pieces like this: first I cleaned and sanded the countertop, then went in with two coats of primer ("the red" Zinsser) and then three coats of paint (acrylic latex interior paint), sanding in-between each application of primer and paint and allowing 12 hours for the primer to dry and 6-12 hours for the paint, just depending on when I got around to painting.

As mentioned, it's been two months since then and the countertop is still tacky. It doesn't feel tacky when you touch it, but if I place anything on it for even 10 minutes there is a noticeable peel when I go to pick it up. I placed a stack of papers on the desk and two days later the bottom piece of paper was very stuck, so much so that small bits of paper tore away and were stuck onto the desk when I peeled it off.

Is two months not long enough for the paint to fully cure? Did I just use the wrong kind of paint? Am I safe to just put a topcoat/sealer on it now?

  • 5
    Think you put on too much of everything. Usually one coat of primer and one coat of paint, unless the bottom colour bleeds though(something like covering red with white). Maybe not enough sanding the countertop to let the primer/paint in. Not sure, but maybe stripping is in your future.
    – crip659
    Jan 3, 2023 at 23:51
  • I had this issue when I bought inexpensive latex paint (i.e., the stuff I'd paint drywall with) from my town's big box home improvement store. I later went to a local paint shop and they recommended an entirely different kind of paint for high-touch surfaces like desks and cabinets. Much more expensive per can, but it only took one coat and it hardened quickly. Your local shop will suggest the appropriate type for your area and project.
    – Phlucious
    Jan 5, 2023 at 18:11
  • As another point of reference perhaps unrelated to your question, I just had a professional painter sand/prime/paint (enamel) my new bookshelf and he told me I had to let it cure for 20 days.
    – jrw32982
    Jan 6, 2023 at 19:29
  • It's not cheap, but whenever I have a painting struggle, I use KILZ Adhesion Primer, Interior/Exterior. It helps paint stick to anything and smoothes out the surface.
    – Kelly O.
    Feb 18, 2023 at 19:59

5 Answers 5


Old paint, thick layers, cold or humid work area / storage all contribute to this problem. This also extends the drying time between layer application, meaning that even 24 hrs might not have been enough. This is a well known problem with painting doors and trims: they can take months to harden if for instance paint was applied in a rush in a basement type environment.

Two layers of primer on an already sealed (counter top) surface certainly make it hard to dry, and it won't start to cure until it's dry. It's possible that moisture from underneath layers is keeping the top from curing. This also risks incomplete curing, keeping the finished paint soft when finally dried.

You could wait, or use a trick from the art world by applying a varnish overtop. Since this is a working surface I would first let it dry & cure in a warm area, and if that is not satisfactory, strip it and try over.

  • 2
    I think you've hit the nail on the head. Temperatures were in the 60s and we had rain a few days before and a few days after I finished the painting process. Temperatures inside are 65-75 and not too humid right now. How long should I give it to completely dry and cure under these conditions before throwing in the towel? Are there any downsides to going the varnish route without letting it dry more? Jan 4, 2023 at 1:46
  • 3
    @user-2147482428 hard to say, but I have a suspicion that the varnish would lock in the moisture since it can't escape from the back, since the counter top is well sealed. I'd go with letting it dry at high temp for days (sun, radiant heater), and if that fails, redoing it. Sorry...;)
    – P2000
    Jan 4, 2023 at 4:45
  • 1
    With what I've got here, I'd use a fan heater to blow warm air over the top for a day or two, moving in every couple of hours for even coverage, at times when I want the house warm. Not maximum power, and not very close range
    – Chris H
    Jan 4, 2023 at 10:43
  • 1
    If you can put a dehumidifier next to your countertop, it would help. If you have a lot of renovating to do and live in a humid environment, this may be a good investment.
    – Mołot
    Jan 4, 2023 at 14:34
  • 3
    +1 especially for 'thick layers'. When painting, go thin for the win. While it seems like a thicker layer is faster/or better, you will get much better results with more, thinner layers.
    – JimmyJames
    Jan 4, 2023 at 18:40

When painting laminates and other hard to paint surfaces you typically want to use a bonding primer, these will penetrate the substrate and allow for better adhesion of your topcoat.

From the sounds of it, the primer wasn't completely cured before adding a second coat, when the first coat isn't dry and you add an additional layer, we call this "stacking". What happens is, instead of forming two layers, they become one, thick layer which can take even longer to dry.

My suggestion would be to strip it either chemically or by sanding. Get back to a raw surface, apply a single coat of bonding primer and allow it to fully cure before apply one or two coats of the acrylic. If you're brushing or rolling the top coat and you're looking for a smooth surface be sure to get a soft bristle brush or a tight nap roller cover such as a 1/4 microfiber and maybe add some floetrol which will act as a self leveler, removing brush strokes and lessening any roller stipple.

Good luck.

  • 4
    Sanding uncured paint is pain, it clogs the sandpaper instantly. Paint scrapper would do a better job.
    – Mołot
    Jan 4, 2023 at 14:36
  • A scraper might scratch the substrate, but yes, sanding uncured paint will clog up your paper pretty quickly. Personally, I would try a stripper first and then sand the rest.
    – matt.
    Jan 4, 2023 at 14:42
  • 1
    Scrapper might scratch the surface, but sanding with course enough sandpaper to not make it hell would scratch it for sure ;) If someone is willing to sand, sanding scratches would be easier. At least that's what my experience tells me.
    – Mołot
    Jan 4, 2023 at 15:25
  • @Molot Correct, you can always go up in grit to smooth out any scratches, granted they aren't too deep. Sanding would be a viable option if OP can get the paint to dry first.
    – matt.
    Jan 4, 2023 at 17:35

Best off to scrape off all the paint, let the residue cure for a couple of days, then apply coats of paint more slowly.

The problem is that "environmentally friendly, low odour" products are usually a water based paint - before the chemical reactions that cause paint to harden, the water (or in the olden days the hydrocarbon solvent) has to evaporate. Then the chemical hardening reactions will happen. So drying times may be longer.

Wait days between coats..

Using some solvent based paints applied too thickly can also have the issue that the paint forms a chemical skin sealing the solvent in to the paint - I can remember some heavily painted metal where I pressure washed it three months after application, and sticky flakes of paint blew off ..

Try not to put on coats of paint too heavily.

  • This is the answer I would have written. Where I live, we don't even have water-based paint that I would use for a countertop, although I have painted a fair deal, and vendors have offerings that are supposed to work for everything; my experience is that for the same cost, the water-based paint underperforms it's solvent-based competitor.
    – Conrado
    Jan 5, 2023 at 18:50

I have seen this happen (beyond what's already been mentioned) when the paint was not properly mixed and like what's been mentioned, either to many layers were applied or each previous layer was not totally dry before applying the next layer. This usually happens mostly to horizontal flat surfaces versus vertical surfaces but can happen in both cases. What you can do next is take your fingernail and press onto the paint in a few spots one of which should be the exact center of the largest area painted. If you can easily leave a dent, or even if the paint feels "mushy" it will likely never dry because you have sealed off air to the resins that would evaporate to dry the paint. Easily dented paint is removed, as others have suggested best by scraping. You will want to be careful with scraping so you don't gouge the underlying laminate. But, at the end of the day, even this can be remedied with filler and paint. You are, afterall, covering up the orginal material. If you can't dent the paint, sanding with coarse grit may remove the layer or layers that are not dry. Then, you can test with paper like you did before to ensure things don't stick. If they dont, you are free to paint with the topcoat/color layer. If they do, the is a slight chance the resins interacted with the laminate seemingly "melting" making that stickness. Two layers of dry paint are foiled by an underneath layer of wet paint. Paint is sticky when it's not dry so just keep that in mind as you try to resolve. For me personally, I would not add another coat of anything with out getting a solid base underneath. I liken this to pouring concrete on top of mud, sure the concrete will set and be just fine even if the mud never dries. This isn't a perfect example I know but one I thought of quickly enough to type.


My parents have some furniture like that. It was tacky in the 70's and remains tacky to this day...

Before you throw in the towel see if you can rest a plastic trash bag on the surface without sticking or leaving a mark.

My friend complains about his wife buying a black front door because its hot as hell in the summer. It was even warm in 40 degree weather when the sun was on it.

You could try cutting up some trash bags and loosely taping a layer of black over it and leaving it in the sun. If you find wetness its likely from the paint (air is dry in winter).

Don't know if this will work but its almost free to try as a last resort.

  • 2
    A) It's not winter everywhere in the world. B) What does a front door have to do with anything. C) What would this accomplish? Please take the tour to see how this site is different than most discussion forums, then take a look at the guidance on how to write a good answer for some tips.
    – FreeMan
    Jan 4, 2023 at 12:51
  • 8
    @FreeMan I think the "front door" anecdote was just to illustrate how black surfaces help absorb heat, leading to the "trash bags" recommendation.
    – nanoman
    Jan 4, 2023 at 13:34
  • It may help to identify that there is still moisture coming out of the paint (or wood), but it doesn't answer any of the questions asked.
    – FreeMan
    Jan 4, 2023 at 16:46

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