How to Paint an IKEA Billy Bookcase

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The Billy bookcase from IKEA may be sleek and affordable, but the colors they come in are uninspiring. If you’re after something that isn’t white, black, or brown, you may have to do some painting job. So, how do you paint an IKEA Billy bookcase to give it a less dull color?

Painting an IKEA Billy bookcase starts from disassembling the entire structure. After disassembling, you’ll apply a coat of primer before applying paint with a roller. For the best results, always avoid sanding the bookcase before painting.

Painting the IKEA Billy bookcase is not an easy task. This article will show you the step-by-step process required to paint an IKEA Billy bookcase. You’ll also learn some expert tips about painting a Billy bookcase from IKEA to avoid messing up the entire process.

What Kind of Paint Should You Use on an IKEA Billy Bookcase?


An advantage of purchasing IKEA furniture is that everything stays cheap. If you need to repaint your Billy bookcase from IKEA, you won’t spend disproportionate amounts on the paint. So, what kind of paint is ideal for an IKEA bookcase?

To answer the question, it’s important to know what material IKEA uses in making the bookcase. Since IKEA uses particleboard for all of its budget furniture lines, its bookcases are also unsurprisingly made of particleboard.

Another factor that plays a massive role in your choice of paint is that IKEA uses a laminate coating on particleboard. This makes the process somewhat different from painting a piece of furniture that’s purely particleboard.

With that said, you’ll need a primer on the particleboard before applying any paint. After priming, you can apply any oil or lacquer paints, depending on what you can access. Chalk paints also work fine, even though they all have advantages and disadvantages.

You can also use water-based paint since you’re priming the particleboard before painting. However, water paints look muter and duller, which doesn’t work if you want a glossier look for your bookcase.

How to Paint an IKEA Billy Bookcase

Much has been said about the kind of paint best for painting IKEA bookcases, but that’s not all you need. You’ll need many tools and materials to get started for a smooth job. In addition to that, you’ll also need to follow the steps below to avoid making the bookcase look worse.

Get the Materials Necessary for the Task

Since you’re doing a painter’s job, you’ll need some painting tools to help you with the job. You don’t need to get all the materials listed here; improvisation is allowed, and some tools are unnecessary. So, it’s possible to start with the tools you deem necessary since you can get others on the fly.

However, materials like the primer and the paints are essential for obvious reasons. You’ll also need a roller to apply the paint. Since it’s impossible to complete the task without these, you don’t have many options.

Here is a comprehensive list of the tools and materials required to paint an IKEA Billy bookcase.

  • Laminate primer (you can get this at a nearby paint store)
  • Paint
  • Smooth paint roller
  • Paint tray
  • Dropcloth
  • Sanding block (optional)
  • Painter’s tape (optional)
  • Sealer

The items marked optional aren’t very necessary for the task. If you don’t have them handy, you shouldn’t take the pain to source for them.

Disassemble the Bookcase

If you don’t have prior experience with painting, you may be unaware that disassembling before painting is a best practice. Regardless of what kind of furniture you’re painting, you should always strive to disassemble it first. This step is crucial when you’re painting a bookcase.

A disassembly makes it easier for the paint to reach corners where it ordinarily wouldn’t. You can also place smaller bookcase parts in a drop cloth to prevent any paint spills. Good luck trying to fit your gigantic bookcase into a drop cloth without disassembling it.

While it’s possible to paint the bookcase without disassembling it, it won’t make your job any easier. However, taking a few minutes to disassemble the structure is easier than leaving some areas unpainted because the roller won’t reach.

Apply Primer on the Surface

After disassembling the bookcase, the next step is priming the bookcase to make it ready for painting. Since the IKEA Billy bookcase is particleboard, you should avoid using a water-based primer. A water-based primer may allow water to seep into the material, causing unnecessary damage.

You can apply the primer to the surface of the bookcase without sanding. While you’ll have to sand most particleboard furniture, the design of the IKEA Billy bookcase eliminates the need for any sanding. Some DIYers have even reported negative results from sanding their IKEA furniture before applying paint.

Always try to avoid painting on any IKEA furniture without priming. While some wood can take primer without swelling, your IKEA Billy bookcase is not wood. It would be best to try wiping the surface with sandpaper to remove any impurities before applying any coat of primer.

Paint Over the Primer After Drying

After waiting for about 30 minutes for the coat of primer to dry, you can begin repainting your bookcase. Using the paint roller, you procured earlier, start applying the paint over the primer to get your desired color.

You don’t need to go with any paint available on the market. However, it would help if you always tried to paint your IKEA Billy bookcase with oil-based paint for the best results. You should also try to get the color of your choice, which may be unavailable out of the box.

If you can’t get your preferred color on the first try, you should try talking to the store owner. Most times, mixing two or more colors will get you your desired color. As long as you’re willing to pay, the storekeeper should also be willing to help you out.

Cover the Paint with a Sealer

It’s always recommended to apply a coat of acrylic sealer over the paint to seal it. Also, to avoid messing up your job, you should always wait for the paint to dry before applying the sealer. Otherwise, you risk mixing up the sealer with the paint and having a messed-up job.

You can find a simple spray-on acrylic sealer at any paint shop. It’s recommended to buy the sealer with the paint to enable the storekeeper to make accurate recommendations.

Tips for Painting an IKEA Billy Bookcase

It’s possible to follow all the steps above and end up with a very bad-looking job. That doesn’t mean this tutorial doesn’t work; you may just be doing some things wrong. When painting, there are some things to keep in mind to ensure it always turns out fine.

Firstly, you should avoid sanding the bookcase before painting. While you may have good memories of furniture pieces that turned out well after sanding, those aren’t IKEA Billy bookcases. If you take the trouble to sand your bookcase before painting, it will likely turn out worse.

Also, your paint choice will hugely affect how the job will eventually turn out. For example, certain paints don’t work well with particular sealers. To avoid mismatching anything, try to purchase everything from the same store; the storekeeper will always help out.

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