10 STEPS TO TRANSFORMING UGLY LAMINATE COUNTERTOPS INTO A BEAUTIFUL GRANITE LOOK

Finished Kitchen

First, The Back Story
(Impatient persons can skip this part and go directly to Ingredients List and STEP 1)

For anyone who has ever been stuck with an ugly, outdated laminate countertops, but cannot afford to have expensive granite ones installed, or even a nicer grade of laminate, despair no longer. There is hope for you. Yes, Formica countertops can be painted to look like granite, it can be done to last, and most importantly, you can do it yourself for a pretty low cost. I know because that’s exactly what I did, and my countertops look so much like granite, it initially fools everyone that walks into my kitchen. Of course, I tell them truth, mainly because I enjoy people knowing how awesome I am, but also because I want to pass on the wonderful truth that no one has to be stuck with ugly countertops, no matter now broke you may be.

First, let it be noted that I am not a professional handy-man (or woman as the case may be).  I am a school teacher, a wife,  and a mom, so that means I spend a lot of time making do with what I have and trying to come up with creative ways to make what I have look better.

What I had was country blue Formica countertops from good old 1986. When we first purchased our home in 2010, those were going to be the first to go, but life happened, other expenses arose, and two years later, we were still stuck with the same ugly countertops.

Now, I had seen countertops painted to look like granite; some looked good, and others looked like pure old crappola (like the ones in my former apartment complex). Not to mention, paint over laminate doesn’t always stick so well and can be quick to peel off, which will obviously ruin the whole look. Personally, if I was going to spend the time and money to paint countertops to look like granite, I wanted them to actually look like granite. And I wanted them to last. So I did a lot of research, plus I put to work my own savvy know-how, and figured out how to do just that. Lucky for you, you get to save all that time and the possibility of goofing up, because I’m going to tell you exactly how to go about it.

Ingredients List:  Here are links to every item on the list, so if you desire, with just a few clicks you will be in business. (full disclosure, the links below are affiliate links. If you purchase through the link I get a small commission and it doesn’t cost you anything extra. These are all the actual products I used so I can wholeheartedly recommend them.)

3M Aluminum Oxide Sandpaper, 9-Inch by 11-Inch, Coarse

3M ScotchBlue Painter’s Tape for Multi-Surfaces, .70-Inch by 60-Yard, 1-Roll

Shur-Line 7-Inch Premium Pad Painter #00740C

Shur-Line 7-Inch Premium Pad Painter Refill #00610C

Zinsser 2004 “Bulls-eye” Primer Sealer and Stain Killer 1-2-3 Qt

6 Pack Biodegradable, Disposable Paint Trim Trays. For All Paints, Stains, Solvents. 6.5″ x 6.5″ x 3″

Acrylic paints in at least 4 colors Sargent Art 25-2381 8-Ounce Metallic Acrylic Paint, Gold (these will vary depending on the look you’re going for, but they must be Acrylic)

ProPlus Natural Painting Sponge Medium Texture, Large

Minwax 23333 Satin Polycrylic Protective Finishes, 1/2 Pint (not polyurethane)

Epifanes Clear Varnish (This product is essential for the shiny, lasting finish we want, and it’s the one all other blogs leave out)

Total cost of the entire project: $124.47!

Before

Our old ugly blue formica countertop from when our hose was built in 1987. Please excuse the clutter in the background.

STEP 1:  Using painter’s tape, tape off all the edges and any area that you don’t want paint on.

STEP 2: Using coarse sandpaper, sand the countertop. Your goal is to get as much of the shiny finish off as possible so the paint will adhere to the surface. Don’t forget the edges. When you’re done, use soap and water to clean the counters very good. You want a clean, dry, smooth surface.

STEP 3: Using the pad paintbrush and primer paint, prime the countertops, completely covering the surface. Let dry.

Primer

After sanding and applying a coat of primer it is time to lay down the first level of paint.

STEP 4: using fine sandpaper, smooth out any little bubble or paint run. If necessary, repeat STEP 3 and 4. For me, it only took one coat of primer and a little touch up.

STEP 5: Pour your first color of acrylic paint into a tray or plate. I started with black but it’s up to you. Dip a sea sponge into the paint, blot off the excess, and tap, tap, tap all over the countertops. You want to pretty much cover the white primer, but there will still be white specks peeking through. Allow paint to dry (Acrylic paint doesn’t take long at all to dry).

STEP 6: Choose your second color of acrylic paint (I chose dark brown), and using another sponge, repeat the process. This time, focus on covering all the white specks, leaving some of the first color to peek out. Let dry.

More Paint

After a couple more coats we are far from the finished look but don’t despair!

STEP 7: Choose your next colors of acrylic paint and beginning dabbing this on randomly (like granite). You will likely use less of these secondary colors now that you’ve got the original surface covered. This is where your own creativity and personal preference really comes into play. I suggest having a picture of a real granite countertop for a model. If your colors start to look wonky or not at all like what you envisioned, just play around with it. You might need to water down your colors a bit or even mix them together to achieve the shades you desire. The goal is to get it looking as much like the granite you like as possible. You want to give it depth. The gold or silver metallic paint is works to give the look of quartz chips in the granite, but don’t get too heavy with those colors or they will overpower. The greatness about this part of the process is there’s no right or wrong way, and you can just keep going over it until you get it like you like it. You don’t have to allow every color to dry completely before you start another color. That’s where the muted look of granite comes in. Keep working at it until you are pleased with it. I ended up really watering down my brown for the top layer and doing a sheer stain of the surface with that, allowing the other colors to seep through. Every counter will look different. Think of it as art.


TIP: Whatever you do to one area of counter, do immediately to the rest. As in, don’t paint the island to see how that’s going to look, and then attempt to do the same thing to the rest of the countertops the following day, because they may end up looking like two entirely different projects. This is especially true if you are mixing paints or muting the colors while they are damp.  Not saying you have to paint it all the same day (though you certainly can), but  if you’re  going to suspend the project until later, make sure that everything you’ve done to one counter, you do to the rest.

STEP 8: After you are satisfied with the look of it, and after allowing paint to dry completely, fine sand any little bump, run, or blemish. Clean off the residue. If you sand off too much, dot over it with the appropriate paint color.

Almost there!

We are nearly finished. All the color coats have been applied and all the remains is the clear sealer.

STEP 9: Check and ensure all surfaces are completely dry, not at all tacky to the touch. Whereas in the other steps, you can get away with a little dampness, you cannot here, because if it’s wet, the polyacrylic might pull some of the paint up (If that does happen, just fine sand and reapply colors). Insert a clean, dry, or preferably new paint pad on the brush holder. Pour polyacrylic in a clean paint tray and dip the pad in, blotting off excess. Paint the countertop surfaces with a thin coating, being careful of runs and drips. Let dry completely. Fine sand any blemishes or beaded up areas. Apply a second layer of polyacrylic and let dry. The polyacrylic only takes a couple hours to dry, unless you apply it too heavily or it’s humid in your area.

STEP 10: Place a clean, dry, or new paint pad to the brush holder. Apply a coat of marine varnish over all surfaces. While you don’t want to apply it so heavily that it’s dripping or running, you also don’t want to go sparingly with this either. The marine varnish is what gives the hard, shiny finish you want, protects against liquid spills, and keeps the paint from peeling.  It should be noted that marine varnish is extremely thick (think honey) and is not going to be as easy to apply as the polyacrylic.  It takes at least 24 hours for one coat to dry. After it’s completely dried, sand any imperfections and apply a second coat. When that dries, sand and touch up if needed.

And then…. Enjoy your fabulous new countertops and send me a picture! Also, if you have any tips or comments about the process, I would love to hear about them.

NOTE: Never place hot object directly on countertops. If you spill something sticky or acidic, wipe it up ASAP so it doesn’t eat the finish. Also, always use a cutting board when you are chopping or cutting foods. You know, use your brain.

ANOTHER NOTE: The directions on the marine varnish state that it is to be used on wood, and does not give any indication of using it for other materials. I first used it years ago at my contractor’s suggestion to seal the surface of an antique washstand that had been converted to a vanity sink. And as I was so impressed with the longevity of the seal and the amazing shine of it, I wondered if it would also work on laminate. It did, and I feel like it’s the best thing I could have sealed it with. Still, I feel compelled to mention that this use is not in accordance with the directions. So consider yourself disclaimed.

Bar

Same angle of the finished bar as the before pics.

Close up

Close up of the finished granite look.

Here is a a link to the ingredients list again. I hope you have found this site helpful. Please feel free to ask any questions in the comment section below. I’m happy to help and share your experience with other. Let me know what worked for you. Thanks!

 

Check out Susan’s step by step photos of her countertop transformation using our methods! We’re so happy to see people putting it to use and getting great looking countertops! We think she did an amazing job and we’re so happy she shared them with us.

If you have photos of your own to share send us a message!

Before and after painted formica countertops


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Angela shared a new photo of her finished product! I think they look amazing! Thanks so much for sharing!

Angela shared a new photo of her finished product! I think they look amazing! Thanks so much for sharing!


Comments (71)

  1. Just an update since we painted the countertops. Things have been holding up very well. No complaints in that department. A couple of people have actuality asked if we got new countertops! My mother-in-law was shocked when we told her that we had just painted the old ones!

    • I followed all of your instructions and was super excited about the entire process until I got to the last step. I did my countertops as a gray granite. I ordered the exact marine varnish from Amazon that you recommended and when I put it on, it turned all of my countertops a yellow color. Any tips on what to do? I applied it with the Shurline paint pad and it must have been applied too thick. I had hoped it would dry clear, but it definitely added a brown/yellow tint to everything. Any advice you have would be greatly appreciated!

    • I must say they look amazing. Great job!

  2. How many square feet or linear feed did you cover with the amounts you listed above? How long did the whole process take? I saw the Countertop Transformations “kit” that Rustoleum has…It was $125 for 30 sq. ft/12 linear feet. Love this and you did such a great job.

    • We did about 30 sq ft. There was a fair amount of supplies left over. I had a buddy of mine who is a contractor check it out. He was pretty impressed and said it looked a lot better than the kit ones he’d seen. Mad me feel pretty good. Thanks for the feedback!

  3. Is it pretty durable? My husband is really concerned about that. I know you need to use cutting boards to cut stuff and not scrape the mixer across it or put hot pans, etc. on it….Thoughts?

    • It has been durable. We have moved the coffee pot all around, toaster oven, utensil holder, microwave, cutting boards, etc and had no issues. I would avoid putting a hot pot down on it. We haven’t and I would expect it would be damaged by that. We have used magic erasers, all manners of cleaners, and scrubbers with no issues.

  4. Great. I’m sold. I’ll post my pictures. I’m going to do black with gray tan and white accents. I’m excited.

  5. hi; this is SO great. I have been talking to people about “affordable options” for months. No creativity; no ideas, no options. DIY looks like my best bet. Any thoughts about doing this around the stove or sink? Anything in particular to watch out for?

    • Thanks Maureen! I masked off of the sink with tape. I would recommend pulling the stove out so you can paint the edges of the countertop if they are viable. Have fun!

    • I ended up taping off the sink too, I pulled it off after the primer and first coat of acrylic. Ended up having to re-prim a few tiny spots and retaped. Came out awesome!

  6. Just finished! Thanks for the info! Looks freaken amazing!

  7. I would send pics but I can’t figur out how?

  8. Ok check my pics out on twitter @angelichioshair

  9. Do you remember the colors that you used? Also do you think that black cabinets would be too much or do you recommend the white like you have in the photo? The area that I get to test is our master bathroom just in case I screw up!! Thank you for all the help this is the most perfect blog I have seen (I have looked at hundreds of videos and read hundreds of blogs, love the step by step.)

    Thank you!!

    • I think it would work just fine with black. Just use the primer first and it won’t be a problem. We used dark brown, black, cream, gold, and a medium rusty color.

  10. I am pleased to find your detailed instructions. We just moved into a house that was built in 1978 and has the wallpaper and countertops that were put in at that time. The countertops are gold, and they have a backsplash that covers the wall from the countertop to the cabinet. My question is: should I try to paint those also, or just pull them off and paint the wall?

    • Hard for me to say without seeing it. My personal inclination would be to pull them off and add a new backsplash of some kind.

    • Hi, I just re-read your question about the backsplash. If the backsplash is laminate as well, you should be able to paint that also, but of course do whatever works best for you. Thanks and good luck!

  11. A friend of mine did almost the same process as you, except that she recommended two part epoxy for the top coat, which I can not find- any suggestions? Is the marine varnish foodsafe? Amazon only the varnish in 1000 ml size. How much did you use? I painted my kitchen cabinets turquoise so I am going to add flecks of turquoise stone to the counters!

    • No idea about the two part expoy. I haven’t tried it or have any experience with it. As far as Marine Varnish being food safe, this is the article that I based my decision to use it on: http://www.woodcentral.com/articles/finishing/articles_497a.shtml Basically, all coatings are food safe once they’re fully dried. I used one 1000ml can but I was running low at the end. How much you’ll need of course depends on how much you need to cover.

      Love the idea of the turquoise flecks. Send us pictures if you do. Would love to see it!

  12. Hi! I just love your counter top make over. My husband & I have decided to use your method to make over the burgundy counter top in our master bathroom. The colors you used would be perfect in our bathroom. We are purchasing the ingredients list online but I cannot find the cream, dark brown and rusty color paint in the Sargent Art paint line. Where did you find them?

    • Hi Roxanne thanks for your comment. You don’t have to worry about the exact brands or colors. When I ran out of what I started with, I used some acrylic paints from my son’s art kit! You will be mixing them anyway, every thing is muted, so as long as you have acrylic acrylic brown, cream, and something in the rust family, you will be fine. Hobby Lobby or even Wal-Mart should have these. Just keep mixing the colors and dabbing until it looks good to you.
      Good luck and I would love to see some pictures when you’re done!

  13. I am excited that I found your site and want to thank you for being so generous with your information, which is very helpful. I intend to re do my counter tops now, based on your step by step guide. They currently are navy blue with oak back splash and oak edges. This process/these products will work for the wood as well, correct? Also, I am seeking feedback about which colors to choose for the granite effect, since I plan to paint the bottom cabinets a dark brown and the top cabinets white. My kitchen is very small, so I would like the counter tops to be on the light side. Any ideas? Thank you!

    • Hi, Rosalie, thanks for your comment! I am certain this will work on the oak edges as paint adheres to wood better than laminate anyway. For lighter colors, I would go with a beige, brown, and some metallic gold and silver. Perhaps two different shades of brown, one with more yellow tones (that would make for an orangey-rust color). Use those colors both separately and also mix them for the in-between shades. The only color I would differ from than what I used for my counters is, stay away from black, unless you want to mix black with white for a gray marble look. Use the metallics sparingly, but they will definitely give you that quartzy effect, or the inside of cut rock. Just play with your colors and don’t freak out if it’s not what you want at first. The great thing is you can just keep painting over it until you get it like you like. Just keep fine sanding any bumps.
      Good luck and I would love to see some pics when you are done!
      Kelly

  14. Thank you to everyone who has commented and asked questions. Like yourself, I was originally concerned that the paint eventually might start peeling, and I want to reaffirm that it has not, nope, not one bit! After many months of continuous use and abuse, our counters still look great! Even around the sink and under the dish drain basket, where it stays wet most of the time, the paint has not budged!
    So go forth and paint those ugly counters!
    Kelly

  15. How long did you wait after the last coat of varnish was applied before using the countertops?

  16. I know you used a pad painter, but is there are reason a good paint brush wouldn’t be just as good? I am thinking of the short back splash with its rounded edges. Is this just a preference thing, or is there a quality issue with using paintbrushes? I have been investigating doing this for some time, and am ready to take the plunge, but want to make sure I do it right. thanks for the recommended products and rationale behind them. Thanks too for the step by step. (the photos really help!)

    • So glad that was helpful! I think you could do it with a regular paintbrush. We wanted to avoid the possibility of brush strokes showing up in the final results.

  17. How long did you have to wait to use the countertops after applying the final coat of varnish? Thanks

    • We waited about 24 hrs. Probably wouldn’t have hurt to wait a bit longer but I’m not a patient person! All did fine.

  18. How big of a can of epigrams did you use? Mine didn’t seem to go very far??

  19. Hi there…
    I must say thank you for your blog- it was very helpful and I followed your instructions and supplies exactly. I do have some feedback- my counters turned out beautifully and I am very happy with the finish. The one thing I wanted to let y’all know is that the varnish does have a slight colour tinge to it, which I thought would be only slightly noticeable but does infact quite change the colour scheme. My countertop pre varnish matched my chip perfectly- post varnish has a very distinct amber/green tinge. A bit disappointing but a repainting of the kitchen will help. Happy to send pics if you give me an email. Thanks again. Nikki

    • Thank you, Niki. I’m so happy the information was useful for you!

    • I did not use the brand top coat recommend by admin.. And after more coats of varnish ended up with an amber finish too. Disappointed that it changed my original color scheme to a 70′s amber tone, I sanded (just roughed up) repainted with acrylic colors, and top coated with several coats of min wax polycrylic clear gloss . I’m happy to report that they are even better! Seem to be super durable. I’ve even finished my backsplash. Posting new pic on my twitter @angelichioshair

  20. Help! I followed your directions, and when I got the first coat of spar varnish on, it turned a bright yellow over night. My countertop was light, predominantly shades of ivory, cream and cocoa brown, and now it’s sooooo yellow. I worked really hard on these countertops, and now I really don’t like the yellow. Any idea what I can do besides sanding off and starting over? That is not economically feasible for me at this time.

    • Sorry you had that problem Doris! I don’t have any solutions for you because I’ve never had a problem with it. Maybe one of the other readers will have a suggestion.

    • See my earlier comment had the same thing happen I think it’s the lighter colors we used. I sanded ruffed up. And redid colors and just used several coats of the min wax dries crystal clear.

  21. Would this work in a beauty shop with all the colors being set on the counters

    • Hard for me to say. Haven’t dealt with those chemicals before. I will say that we have 3 young kids and they’re constantly doing things with water color and acrylic paints and we’ve never had an issue with them staining the countertops. Hope that helps!

    • I own a beauty shop and after using them at home I would say yes

  22. Thank you soooo much for these instructions. I too need to do a counter make-over. I was thinking of buying samples so I could try it out in kind of a mini- run through before I go all out on my countertops.Any suggestions on what I should use? Artists canvas? Cardboard? Foamcore? I wanted to try it on something that would give me similar results. Thoughts? Thanks!

    • You’re so very welcome! As for testing it out…different surfaces will absorb the paint differently and could effect the results. I would try to find some scrap Formica. I’ve seen some on craigslist before. Could put a notice on there that you’re looking for some or do a Facebook shout out. Worth a shot at least! If none of those are available, I would think that foamcore would be the most likely of fits.

  23. Your pictures look great! I am so ready to do this to my kitchen. I would want to do a lighter color scheme but, I don’t want to end up with yellow countertops. Is there a specific varnish I need to use to keep the color true?

  24. I will be doing two bathroom counter tops in a few days, What I am not clear on is the paint. Did you use Artist paint acrylic for your black base coat? How many tubes did you use?

  25. Maybe I didn’t read it specific enough just yet, but when I choose my paint colors, what type of paint do I need to pick. I looked at the materials I need, and I didn’t even see it in the list.

  26. Sorry if I missed it…how long did the project take to do? I desperately need to update my kitchen and want to do the counters before I paint the walls and put up the backsplash. This looks well worth it without having to spend tons of money! I’m all about saving!

  27. I loved the pictures and instructions you posted. I’m thinking of trying it on my old formica countertops, probably the original put in when the house was built in 1963. Did the finished project turn out a little lighter then when you started?

  28. How much do I need to sand before I start? Really looking forward to getting rid of all the bright red.

  29. Love the colors you chose for your countertops. In what order did you use your paints? I know you started with black, followed by brown but I don’t know about the other colors.

  30. Is the epifanes clear varnish water based? I am having a hard time finding this product. Where did you get it?

  31. Did you thin your Epiphanes at all? Were you able to get two coats out of 1 can? And did the Shurline pad apply it ok? I am almost to that step and am a little nervous! Thanks!

    • Hi Jamie. We didn’t thin it at all and we did get 2 coats but it will all depend on the square footage of your counters. The shurline pad did great. Thanks!

  32. We are planning on doing this but trying to Decide how much we need! Did you use just one can of each the primer, varnish and protective finish? And about how much were you able to do with what you bought!? Thank you!!! So excited to try!

    • My wife and I did about 60 sq. ft. of counter space in the kitchen. Although I bought a gallon of primer, it only took around a quart. The same can be said for the black base coat that was used. Once coat was sufficient for the primer and base coat for us. We wound up using 7 different colors and one 8 oz. bottle of each was more than enough to do both this and 18 sq. ft. in a bathroom. We used 3 shades of brown, white, black, copper and gray. I am not sure if someone had recommended varathane in this article or in another for the top coat, but that is what I wound up using instead of the marine varnish. I bought a gallon of the water-based varathane and used over half of it on the kitchen alone.

      One thing that I would recommend is to wait at least two days between putting down the acrylics and applying the top coat. Although the acrylics appear dry they had not fully cured when I put the top coat on and they started wanting to bubble a little bit. I used a hair dryer to make it settle back down, but when I first saw it happening I went into full panic mode.

      Another item is that I was absolutely thrilled with the varathane. It was no where near as smelly as I had imagined that it would be and left a crystal clear coat. Varathane is a rust-oleum product and is labeled for the top coat on wood floors. I figured if it could hold up to foot traffic surely it could withstand counter traffic. The water-based coats dry in about 2 hours instead of the 6 hours for oil based. I put the coats on fairly thin and wound up with 5 coats of varathane. I wish that I had put at least another couple of coats on it because I really wanted the counters to wind up with a finish that was smooth as glass. I am expecting that the 5 coats that I did use is going to make it pretty durable. It is has been on for around 3 months now and there have not been any problems and that is considering that I have several projects going on, including a stone backsplash that the counter has had to hold up to.

      The final thing that I will mention is the difference in application that can be done with the acrylics. In the kitchen we dabbed with a sponge and that created more of a granite or quartz type look. In the bathroom we applied the acrylics with a dab, stroke and swirl that created more of a marble look. It is absolutely amazing to me that using the exact same colors we created two completely different looking counters.

  33. You’re counters look amazing! I have painted a test piece and I look forward to getting started on my counters! Im a little worried about the varnish tunring yellow so I’m going to see how it looks with the few coats of polycrylic like Susan did, and if that doesn’t work I think I will try the varathane that Tim reccommended! Wish me luck!!

  34. WIth the marine varnish did you have to allow time for it to set? Some posts and youtube videos I’ve watch talk about giving it 48 hours to set completely (not just dry).

  35. Thanks for the great post. I am going to try this in our rv.

  36. What size can did you need for the clear varnish?

  37. I have read to use only acrylic paint when doing this. Does that go for the base coat also?

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