Sick of your laminate countertops? That’s not surprising. According to the National Association of Home Builders, only 14 percent of new houses installed laminate as of 2016. We know what you’re thinking. “Here I am off-trend and without the extra cash to pony up. Is painting countertops an option?” Actually, yes. Yes, it is.
Like-new inexpensive countertops are only six steps away. And all you have to do is decide whether you want black countertops or a faux-granite countertop painting kit (or anything in between).
Painting vs. Replacing
Before you head out to that big-box home improvement store to pick out your paint, it’s worth considering whether you should spend a little extra on replacing your old laminate with newer, still inexpensive laminate options (more info here). Painting does take some work, and there’s no shame in deciding to spend a little extra cash in lieu of sweat equity. But painting also gives you more control over the look of the finished product. If you decide the DIY route is the one for you, we’ve got detailed, step-by-step instructions for painting countertops on a budget.
Here a few of the supplies you’ll need to get started:
- Fans (optional but recommended, especially for less well-ventilated spaces)
- Drop cloths (you can use plastic sheeting or old sheets too)
- High-quality painters tape
- Protective gear (goggles, gloves, dust mask/respirator)
- Handheld sander and sandpaper (150-grit)
- Paint rollers (and brushes or sponges if you need them for the type of paint job you’re doing)
- Countertop refinishing kit or regular interior paint (acrylic)
- Countertop resin (optional, but highly recommended)
- Crème brûlée torch or blow torch (if you’re using resin)
Step 1. Ventilate the Area
Even with protective gear, you should make sure you ventilate the area well. Open as many windows and doors as you can and set up fans to blow the fumes outside. While immediate symptoms of paint fume inhalation seem relatively minor, long-term exposure can lead to several health issues with your nervous system, liver and kidneys later. If you start experiencing any symptoms of paint fume inhalation, immediately step outside, and the symptoms should start to subside soon.
- Eye, nose or throat irritation
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Difficulty breathing
Step 2. Prep the Area
Remove everything you can from your kitchen, including things you keep on your countertop, small appliances or even large appliances you can safely move and store somewhere else. Lay down your drop cloths to protect the floors and any surfaces you’re not painting that can’t be moved (such as appliances that are too large to move or store somewhere else). Use the painters tape to tape down the drop cloths so they don’t move around or fall as you’re walking around.
Then, use painters tape to tape off any areas you don’t plan to paint that are adjacent to areas where you will be painting countertops. Scrub the countertops well with the degreaser and allow them to dry. While they’re drying, read the directions on your kit if you’re using one. Now read them again. These painted countertops will be around a while. You don’t want to skip any steps!
Step 3. Sanding Countertops
To ensure the paint sticks to the surface of the countertops, you’ll want to lightly sand them first. Don your protective gear and attach the 150-grit sandpaper to your palm sander. Gently sand the entire surface of the countertop laminate. Wipe the countertops clean with a damp rag and let them dry thoroughly.
Step 4. Priming Countertops
Using a paint roller, apply a thin layer of the primer to the entire surface of the countertops. Make sure you read the directions on the primer. Some brands may have specific instructions you should follow to get the full benefit. It’s important to be patient during this step. The primer layer must be even, as it will affect the texture of your finished product. Let it dry thoroughly, then repeat.
Step 5. Painting Countertops
If you’re using a kit that simulates granite, stone or a specialty surface of any kind, practice a little on a piece of scrap cardboard or wood to make sure you have the technique down before you get started. Follow the kit instructions for applying the paint or use a roller to apply the first coat. Let it dry thoroughly, then repeat unless your kit instructs otherwise.
Step 6. Apply Resin for Durability
Painted countertops aren’t as durable as other surfaces. They’ll scratch when you use knives on them or even if you slide a pot across them. Easy enough to fix, but a countertop resin will give them real longevity. And do make sure you’re using resin. Polyurethane isn’t the same and will leave a yellowish tint.
Pro tip: Don’t start applying the resin until you’re ready to finish the job from start to finish. It also helps to have a second (or even third) set of eyes to help you look for drips and eradicate bubbles. Mix the resin according to the package directions. Pour it over the painted countertops. Just make sure you save some for all the surfaces if there’s more than one.
Use an unused foam paint roller to distribute it evenly over the surface of the countertop laminate. Be on the lookout for drips coming over the side. Those can be cleaned up quickly (before they dry!) with a damp rag. If you see any bubbles as you go, that’s where the blow torch comes in. Just hold it a few inches away from the bubble and give it a blast of heat. Now you can allow the resin to cure according to the package directions.
New Rules for Your Painted Countertops
Even with the resin, it’s important to care for your newly painted countertop laminate carefully. We don’t recommend using knives directly on your countertops. Honestly, we don’t recommend that for any countertops. Even if it’s not bad for the countertop, it’s bad for the knives. Invest in some nice cutting boards instead. You should also always use trivets or hot pads under hot dishes on laminate. The resin doesn’t add heat protection.
To clean your newly painted countertops, skip the abrasive cleaners and sponges and opt for mild dish soap and a damp rag or soft sponge. If you make a mess on the countertop, clean it up immediately to avoid letting it become dried and stuck-on. But you were already doing that anyway, weren’t you? If it starts to look a little dull, whip out a soft cloth and hit it up with a little mineral oil. That should perk it back up.
Get More DIY Tips
Now that your done painting countertops in your kitchen, you’re probably itching for another DIY to improve the room. Or you can follow these same steps to upgrade your bathroom cabinetry. For tips on everything from simple home repairs to room-changing makeovers, check out more DIYs and need-to-knows in our home improvement section.