I would like to turn a wooden desk from a wood finish to a white painted finish with a hard "plastic" like surface.

We currently have a wall mounted fireplace with a wooden surround that has the same sort of look im going for.

enter image description here

Now im not sure if the above image is laminated, or painted and then coated with a finish of some sort. The finish is very shiny and I have noticed that it is also very durable, it take a lot of abuse from our toddler knocking into it with toys etc.

Can someone point me in the right direction? I was thinking a polyurethane finish but im not sure if that is what is used here or if it would be durable.


  • 1
    How about epoxy?
    – matt.
    Commented Oct 26, 2023 at 13:10
  • Acrylic is a user-applied very durable shiny waterproof finish (think new car) available in a variety of colors and finishes, often sold as higher-end spray paint.
    – dandavis
    Commented Oct 26, 2023 at 17:24
  • A lot of ikea tops are. ... basically expanded cardboard cored. Scewing it down might be tricky Commented Oct 28, 2023 at 15:14

3 Answers 3


That appears to be a "thermofoil" finish - where the wood or composite-wood base object has a thin plastic layer applied with heat and vacuum so that it form-fits to the surface. It's a factory-technique, not suitable for DIY. The lack of any visible corner seams is a clue. It's a much thinner finish than sheet laminates.

For DIY, sheet laminate or melamine (which is a specific type of laminate, but normally not lumped with the others) is the usual method to get a plastic surface. That will be limited to flat, or very large radius curves, and the rounded corner detail shown can't really be replicated.

You could also use epoxy paint, but that may not give the result you are looking for - it's a plastic surface, but not the same as a thermofoil plastic surface. Best to test on scrap and see if it's what you want before buying a lot of material or applying it to the thing you want to paint/finish.

  • 1
    Thanks for the info, I was wondering how they managed to do the corners without any visible cuts or lines etc. I may look at an expoxy and give it a go on a scrap piece of the desk.
    – ORStudios
    Commented Oct 26, 2023 at 15:02
  • 2
    I agree with what the linked article says about thermofoil finishes being prone to peel away over time, too. They are perfect on day 1, but their adhesion to the wood is not good. If an edge cracks or warps, they will start to peel right off. Commented Oct 26, 2023 at 21:28
  • 1
    So /potentially/, if the desktop could be separated from its base, the finish could be applied by an advanced woodworker with a vacuum table used for laying up laminates etc. Commented Oct 27, 2023 at 8:44

You could apply a bar-top finish to the desk either before (to preserve the wood grain look) or after painting it (whatever color you'd like).

This is multiple coats of polyurethane that is commonly applied to bar tops (hence the name) to provide protection against liquids and other damage from (often) drunken patrons. It will protect your desk against little Johnny's toys until he learns that not every toy is a hammer and that not everything else is a nail.

  • Didn't realize polyurethane was a durable as that, alsays thought it was jus a thin layer that might be easily chipped. I may look into it thanks.
    – ORStudios
    Commented Oct 26, 2023 at 15:13

That isn't paint and a finish. It a plastic laminate which is applied in much the same way veneer is applied. You can purchase sheets of the stuff.

  • 1
    That is not laminated. If it were it would show the edges of the laminate. It looks as if it is some solid surface and not wood at all.
    – RMDman
    Commented Oct 26, 2023 at 12:34
  • It could still be something like a heat bent/molded laminate, especially on commercially made furniture. Hard to be sure from photo. Can be hard to be sure without cutting into it.
    – keshlam
    Commented Oct 26, 2023 at 12:44
  • 1
    Consensus is that it is not painted wood.
    – RMDman
    Commented Oct 26, 2023 at 12:53
  • 1
    Agreed that the fireplace surround pictured is not laminate. However, laminate is what the OP would apply to his desk to get a similar type surface. +1
    – FreeMan
    Commented Oct 26, 2023 at 13:06
  • 1
    I managed to get down and take a look underneath it. The bottom and inside is wood painted white (slightly rough finish). The face is smooth and shiny, I can also just about see the outline of a sheet edge underneath where the smooth meets the rough wood. Out of interest is this the same approach that is used on kitchen/bathroom doors to get the same finish?
    – ORStudios
    Commented Oct 26, 2023 at 15:19

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