Submitted by Designing Dawn
Oh my goodness, I am so excited to share this kitchen countertops project and see what you think. It was a big one and maybe the first time I’ve done something to our home that I was actually really scared to start. I painted our kitchen counter tops. Yes. Paint. Counter tops. Kitchen. Words that don’t seem to go together at all, but yet here they are, living in harmony.
I’m too excited to keep you in suspense, so here is a before and after of the transformation:
Nice, right? I literally can’t stop staring at it. So shiny… As for how i got from A to B, the details get a bit long-winded, so bear with me.
I have to admit, the old counters really weren’t terrible (especially considering that our bathroom counter is laminate magenta) but they weren’t great either. They really actually look a little better in the picture above than in real life, where the laminate surface definitely had a speckled yellow tinge and dark brown seams that were cracked in places. Oh and silver metal edging for that extra something special. On a closer shot you can get a little better idea of what we were working with.
I had resigned myself to the thought that they could be worse, and set a maybe-someday goal of new solid surface counter tops. It’s not like we have any shortage of other projects to focus on or any surplus of funds after all. But dreams of something like this kept floating through my mind:
So beautiful. But so out of reach. At least I thought so until I read this makeover story or this marble painted counter tutorial, from a woman who painted her old countertops. I immediately decided I had to try it. But I was nervous. After all, it’s a big undertaking and new counter tops were not in our budget. I knew if I messed them up it was going to be, well, not good. But in the spirit of optimism I went for it anyway.
I decided not to go too dramatic in the color change. We really liked the contrast of the light counters against our dark cabinets, so the main goal was to get rid of the brown edges and yellow tinge in favor of a more neutral gray with specks of blue to pull in the wall color. I also knew I didn’t want to go for a granite look, like in the article. That would have been a little too traditional for our home decor, as opposed to the more contemporary look of a solid stone.
Painted Countertops Tutorial
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Moving on, here are the supplies you’ll need if you want to tackle a counter top makeover of your own:
Supplies and Materials
(Not all supplies are pictured)
• Paint in a variety of shades. I used a light gray Valspar in a satin finish and added light blue and dark charcoal craft paint (You can really use whatever colors you want. I can’t seem to find my base paint swatch.. must have been left at Lowes, but I’ll try to dig up the exact name of the color.)
• Sponge Brushes
• Sand paper (or sponge)
• Glitter (optional – I used a larger clear glitter and a very fine flake for variety)
• Drop Cloths
• Painters tape
• EnviroTex Lite
• Blow torch (recommended)
• Two containers for mixing
• Clean paint stir stick
• Rags or Paper Towels
And a few more essential supplies:
• at least three days where you can get by with no kitchen
• a friend to help with the sealer step
• a lot of patience and optimism
Update: Wondering how these painted countertops are holding up? See Dawn’s review (plus others) here.
Step 1: Prep- Cleaning and Sanding the Laminate Countertops
Once you’ve gathered all your supplies, you’ll want to start by cleaning and then sanding the laminate counters lightly. You don’t have to go crazy here, but a light sanding with sandpaper on a block or a padded sandpaper block, (try a palm sander to make fast work of this step!) gives the paint a better surface to stick to.
Step 2: Paint on Primer
Once I had sanded everything down, I wiped them down again thoroughly to get rid of any residue from sanding. Then I covered everything with the first coat of paint, a coat of primer. I suggest using a small foam roller for a really smooth finish. (a regular paint roller will leave too much texture on the finish)
Step 3: Base Coat of Paint (thin layers)
After that was dry, three thin coats of my base gray color went down on the whole countertop surface, with drying in between each. (are you seeing yet why patience is on my list of supplies?) It was already starting to look better.
The kind of paint you use for these coats shouldn’t matter since it will be sealed under the resin finish. Choose the best paint for you by color. I avoided oil based paints to avoid yellowing.
Step 4: Optional: Dusting of Glitter
Before the last layer was dry, I also added a light dusting of glitter. I can’t believe I just used the phrase “light dusting of glitter” seriously. I did though, because I wanted some dimension and texture in my layers of paint to help with the illusion of depth found in a solid stone surface.
Step 5: Layering Colors for Added Dimension
This step is where you can make the counters look like any style of stone or finish you love. You can paint veins of color to make it look like marble, but I was going for a more modern look than a tradtional marble.
My next step was applying the layers of color. I wanted sharper edges than I knew I’d get sponge painting, so instead I used plastic grocery bags (which we always keep to reuse- I’m resourceful like that) and started dabbing away in small sections with two colors of paint. (note- avoid bags with bright colors of ink on them, like red. It will bleed when mixed with other paint)
I chose a light blue to play off the walls and a charcoal gray for contrast. I knew I did not want to try to imitate the look of granite. It would just have been too formal for our eclectic/modern home. Instead I wanted a solid stone look that would be similar to the inspiration photos above, but very subtle.
To get depth, I applied the colors liberally over the whole counter. Side note, I wanted the paints to mix for a natural stone variation effect, so I did not wait for one to dry before applying the second.
After both of these were on and still damp, I covered everything again with dabs of the original base gray. Again, the goal this whole time was an illusion of depth cause by multiple layers of paint. I used my same grocery bag technique here and then sprinkled on another layer of glitter. By now it was looking like this:
Once all that had dried, I added one final layer of dabbed gray base paint to increase the subtlety and another dusting of glitter. (can’t stop…won’t stop)
By this time, my hand was looking like I’d gone a little crazy with nail polish. DIY project life is a messy life.
Step 6: Apply a Coat of Polyacrylic
Another drying one break and then I covered all of this with a coat of polyacrylic. I did this for a couple of reasons. One, I wanted to seal down any rogue glitter and prevent the paint from smearing at all if it reacted with the epoxy- chemical sealer I was about to apply.
Two, I wanted to make sure that if I happened to miss a spot with the sealer, it would at least still be somewhat shiny, especially on the backsplashes and counter edges. I used polyacrilic instead of polyurethane to prevent any yellowing over time, since the base color is so light. Also, it is water-based, for easier cleanup and it’s more environmentally friendly.
Step 7: Mix Epoxy and Apply
Once that was dry (patience patience) I started mixing up the Enviro Tex Lite sealer- this is the top coat. I really suggest that if you use this stuff, you have a friend there to help out. Luckily Dania came over to assist me here while the hub was on baby duty in the basement, away from any fumes.
I didn’t think the fumes were terrible, although we had the doors and windows open for ventilation, but I would recommend wearing old clothes, protective gloves and a mask. This stuff is messy and sticky. Very sticky. Here I am, mixing away:
I followed the directions for mixing that came in the package. Mix together the two bottles into one container for a minute, then pour into a second container and continue to mix for another minute. Then immediately pour liberally onto the counters and spread it out, letting it drip over the edges so you can smooth it onto the front lip of the counters (hence the protective plastic).
Note; we left the sink in place, and wrapped it with painter’s tape. Be sure to remove that tape before the Epoxy is completely dry.
Step 8: Pop Air Bubbles and Watch for Drips
After you’ve covered the whole counter, you will probably have some air bubbles if you’ve mixed it correctly. You can use a blow torch to pop these like so:
If that sounds intimidating or you don’t happen to have a blow torch lying around, I’ve read that blowing/exhaling on the bubbles works too. I would suggest using a straw for some aiming ability. I thought that route sounded a little tedious for not knowing if it would actually work as well, so torch it was. Dania loved it once she got the hang of it.
Besides having the torch ready for any emerging bubbles, I just kept an eye on the counters for drips. A few hours later it was pretty tacky.
WARNINGS and Notes:
There were some issues to take note of if you want to try this yourself. This process is far from perfect or easy.
Some problems we ran into included having to lock poor Luscious (our cat) in the basement for a day to avoid kitty prints on the counters, and any dust or cat hair or anything at all in the air will stick and stay on the counters.
I actually had to dig out one little gnat who got stuck in the resin. Poor guy.
Work in SMALL sections. There were also a few places we somehow missed. I guess we were trying to work fast (you only have about 20 min or less work time before it starts to get tacky once it’s mixed. You know when you paint your nails and try to go back and smooth something once it’s already set and end up with a gloppy mess? Hate that.) and it can be a little hard to see where you’ve coated sometimes. I plan to buy a small kit to touch up those spots. Hopefully it’s not too noticeable with seams or anything like that.
The other thing to note is that vertical surfaces, like the backsplashes and front lips, don’t really turn out quite as glassy smooth as the surface. Because of gravity and drips, the backsplash has sort of a textured look to them. I’m debating if another coating would help or not.
Also we did get some spots where the bigger glitter made little marks or bumps in the surface. I think a thicker coat of sealer or even a second coat would have eliminated that issue, or using only the fine glitter, but think I can sand the more noticeable spots down pretty easily. Here’s a close up where you can actually see the paint detail a little better:
Subtle, but much improved I think!
Overall it was definitely worth it, and actually kind of a fun project. Plus it saved us hundreds on new counter tops.
The EnviroTex is supposed to be food safe once dry, and I’ve read that maintenance for these will be similar to granite.
No placing hot items directly on the surface, and use soap and water, rather than chemical cleaners, to wipe them down, and always use a cutting board. It sets up in about 8 hours and takes 2-3 days to harden completely.
This project could also be done on bathroom countertops.
As for the cost for the total project, it came in right around $120, with the majority of that expense being the sealer (which I bought using 40% off coupons at Hobby Lobby, btw). This project was basically a make your own countertop paint kits – but you can purchase kits here.
Totally worth it! I’m in love with our new counters and so glad I jumped and actually completed this project. Painting Laminate Countertops may not be your first thought when it comes to updating countertops, but I highly suggest it especially if the budget it tight.
And another of the whole kitchen makeover, just for fun:
Let me know if any of you decide to try a counter makeover! I’d love to see pictures!!
Wondering how it’s holding up? Read more from Dawn and other DIYers about their painted countertops here.
Originally published 2-2-12 Updated 5-3-23