Counter Magic

I was happy with my 70’s kitchen cabinet makeover, but the countertop…well, let’s just say any happy description is an understatement! I’ve had multiple responses from people who couldn’t believe it was just craft paint and varnish, all thought is was granite or other stone material. Color me happy!

Before and after countertop refinishing.
Before and after countertop refinishing.

PHOTO GALLERY

BASIC INFORMATION

Project

Painting and coating an old laminate counter with acrylic craft paint and pour on, high gloss.

What supplies do I need? 

  • Acrylic, craft paint (any variety of colors you choose)
  • Sponges
  • Plastic grocery bags
  • Pour on, high gloss epoxy
  • Plastic drop cloth & painter’s tape
  • Plastic spatula
  • Mixing containers and sticks
  • Blow torch or straw for blowing air

TIPS & SUGGESTIONS

  • Don’t be afraid to try! I learned quickly that undoing the paint job and starting over was as easy as removing nail polish.
  • Try multiple tools and techniques to see what gives you the look you want.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to the letter when mixing the epoxy.

PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

I’d have tackled this project sooner but for the following unknowns: 1) I didn’t know for sure if I could get the look I wanted with painting techniques, 2) I was intimidated by the pour on varnish, 3) I didn’t know how much it would cost. Now that it’s done I’m kicking myself for waiting!

If these are holding you back too, I’m here to tell you go for it! It was much less scary than I’d anticipated and the results exceeded all my expectations. So if you’re like me and wished you could find some answers to these questions, I’m here to share my learning curve.

1) I knew I wanted a stone look, but wasn’t sure I could achieve the desired look with painting techniques. I found a picture of a stone counter sample I liked. I used the colors I saw in that sample to pick out paint colors. This was critical because I’d have never picked up the orange on my own and it adds the depth of color needed. I bought my paints at a local craft store – even hit their 99 cent sale, making the cost all of about $5.00 for paint.

I filled any nicks and imperfections in the old counter with wood filler, then started painting. In trepidation, I started in one corner. I didn’t worry about painting on a base coat because I wanted the yellow to show through. The first result showed  I could indeed simulate a stone look with enough effort, but I knew immediately I’d made a mistake on colors. The yellow was completely covered so everything looked too grey. Also, because I’d started in one smaller section, I couldn’t match without seeing a seam (insert sad face). I knew I needed the additional paint color and that I needed to do the entire surface at one time. So, I scraped off what I’d done, wiped the space with a little acetone and voila! The space was back to it’s original state and ready to try again.

Endless possibilities to start over and get it just the way you want.
Endless possibilities to start over and get it just the way you want.

Lesson of the dayyou can always start over until you get it right. I so wish I’d known this before I started! It really took the fear out of trying. In the end, I already knew I’d probably like anything better than what was already there, but such a simple and endless “redo” option, well that was magic!

So when I started the second time I took photos of each step so I could duplicate on the rest of the counters later. Mine ended up being a 7 step process to get the look I wanted. And yes, following these photos gave me a matched look when I tackled the rest of the counters a few weeks later.

7 step process of sponging craft paint onto old laminate.
7 step process of sponging craft paint onto old laminate.

I used two tools – sponge and plastic bags. The plastic bags made all the difference in getting the look I wanted. I highly recommend using them. If you’re really scared to start right on the counter, try it out on some card stock or paper to see what the different tools do. I’ve also used paper towels on craft projects with success. Acrylic craft paint is so versatile and forgiving, plus it dries fast. Give it a whirl – who knows what will work best for you? When you’re done, your finished work will be 100% authentic and unique. Isn’t that cool?!

The next things holding me back were connected – cost and intimidation of the product. As you can see from my pictures, I have a large peninsula, sink and corner counter as well as a separate section on another wall. For me, this space was approximately 60 square feet. I purchased the pour on glaze product in kits of 32 ounces to the tune of about $30.00 per kit. It took 48 oz to cover the side counter (approximately 12 sq feet) and 192 oz to cover the rest (approximately 48 sq feet). That’s a grand total of about $225.00 for 240 oz of pour on gloss. I’d love to say this was as cheap as the paint, but it is what it is. The finish is totally worth the cost in my opinion, and I’ve worked with enough polyurethane to know comparisons. One critical note about this product – follow the manufacturer’s instructions to the letter. Don’t skimp on the amount, measure, and mix according to the directions. I had no problems, I read several who did and all tried to cut corners on these steps.

Pour on, high gloss glaze process.
Pour on, high gloss glaze process.

Starting on the side counter gave me a taste for the project to see if it was as intimidating as I’d feared. It wasn’t. I did watch several you tube videos of people pouring this stuff, it’s not an exact science just know the better you pour evenly the less smoothing and relocating of the product you’ll have to do later. Oh, and there is PLENTY of time to spread the mixture with the plastic spatula without panicking. From what I’d read and heard, I thought it would start curing fast so I was pretty worried about covering large spaces. No worries, the mixture takes 8 hours to cure to a dust free stage. As long as you’ve measured and mixed the product as directed, there’s no need to worry . . . like I did . . . all night. It worked as beautifully as they said it would, a high gloss, level, finish cured to a hard finish.   I used the same spatula to run the product that spills over the side along the edge, and then over the next couple of hours I’d run it along the bottom of the edge to remove drips.

The blow torch was also less scary than imagined, in fact it was kinda fun! We bought a kitchen torch (now we can have creme brûlée – bonus!). Just as the manufacturer’s instructions stated, the bubbles from the chemical process start to form about 15 minutes after application. You simply run that torch over those spots in quick movements and those little bubbles pop like magic. In my experience, you’ll never get every bubble, and given the large surface area I’m not sure it’s realistic to expect. As the product continues to cure and harden, removing bubbles became problematic as they didn’t fill back in smoothly. This was the point (about 1 1/2 hours) that I stopped babysitting and let the product finish hardening. Depending on your lighting, you may always see little imperfections, but honestly I have to be looking for and studying mine to find them. I’m extremely happy with it.

One thing I would mention, the glaze darkens the finished look. I like it, but I wasn’t expecting it. So if you’re going for something really light you may want to compensate for that by doing more light than you’d planned.

The paint job finish is lighter than the final result after the glaze.
The paint job finish is lighter than the final result after the glaze.
Stone look, glossy shine
Stone look, glossy shine

I think the finish gives a real look of depth:

The finished product looks like stone
The finished product looks like stone

Check out my other fabulous facelift projects! Brown Paper Floor, Goodbye 70’s Scroll

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10 comments on “Counter Magic

  1. Is this easy to work on top of? Can you cut on it or does it scratch?

    • Hi Valerie,

      I’ve found it very easy to work with but it is not comparable to a surface designed for abuse of cutting or extreme heat like stone. I refinished my cutting board, which I use for that purpose, and I can see a few knife marks but ironically, no where near as many as there should be for the amount it’s already been cut on. I’m also careful to avoid extreme heat. I think it’s exactly what the manufacturer said, durable and resistant to abuse but definitely not bullet proof.

  2. We have tile counters with dirty grout. Could we paint that?

  3. I came across your blog today while looking for instructions on brown bag walls/floors. I’ve read your cabinet redo (wallpaper? Genius!) and this countertop preface. I have to say you are AMAZING! I love your step by step instructions, the pictures, and your amazing creativity! Thank you so much for including every detail, mistakes and all. The way you describe each process is so clear and helpful! You’ve given me the confidence to try any home improvement project! Please continue you’re blog and thank you so much for all of the great, detailed information. I will be checking back frequently to see more genius at work!!

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