10 STEPS TO TRANSFORMING UGLY LAMINATE COUNTERTOPS INTO A BEAUTIFUL GRANITE LOOK
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For anyone who has ever been stuck with an ugly, outdated laminate countertops, but cannot afford to have expensive granite ones installed, or even a nicer grade of laminate, despair no longer.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.)
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)
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!