Learn how to paint a countertop from the pros.
Many homeowners want to know how to paint a countertop, especially formica countertops, because they want a beautiful new look for their kitchen or bathroom, while avoiding the high cost associated with complete remodels. That’s understandable, because compared to granite, or corian, or other overlay products, painting countertops is considerably more cost effective. Plus, it’s a skill that is entirely within the reach of most homeowners.
Like any DIY project, though, there are lessons to be learned, and you can do it the hard way by making mistakes yourself, or you can learn from the experts, and capitalize on their experience.
As professional countertop refinishers, we want to help you avoid these top 5 common mistakes:
1. Inadequate preparation.
As a DIY weekend warrior, it’s easy to let time constraints make you rush into a project, and hurry to get it finished. Refinishing your countertops is a fantastic project, but it’s not something you want to go into half-baked. You want beautiful results, not painful regrets.
One easily overlooked precaution when painting a countertop is taking adequate care to protect the cabinets, flooring and accessories around your work area. The last thing you need to do is have beautiful new countertops, but have to spend valuable time cleaning up stray paint or sealer on cabinets or your hardwood floor. So, take a little time and tape off everything that can get paint on it. Purchase some self-adhesive plastic film and make sure you completely cover the cabinets around the entire work area, and then cover your floor out at least one foot.
Using a drop cloth will give you added insurance against a costly spill. An additional plus is that taking the time to protect your room before you work makes clean-up a breeze.
Once you’ve got everything covered, the other way that amateurs make costly mistakes is not sanding and preparing the surface painting. The real pros use a sanding block. Don’t use an electric sander, unless you really love the idea of having dust throughout your entire home. The sanding block is perfect because it creates minimal dust and helps you achieve that smooth surface you’re looking for.
Even though sanding may seem like it’s smoothing the counter, it’s actually lightly roughing the surface of the countertop so your paint has better adhesion. If you don’t sand appropriately, you may not get a good bond. Your beautiful new finish on your counter may de-laminate. In layman’s terms that means that the paint will peel right off.
And that’s not good.
Tip: Use The Tape Test
One great way to test your freshly painted surface for adhesion is to paint on the base coat, and give it time to dry, then take a piece of masking tape, and place it on top of the counter. Rip it off. Yeah, it sounds brutal. If paint comes off, don’t proceed with sealer or other coats. Instead, sand it down and rough it up, and then apply the base coat. Believe us, you’ll be glad you took the time to make sure your base coat is solid. Otherwise in a matter of weeks or months you’re beautiful new countertop will look shabby. By the way, if you’ve done the proper preparation, and the tape still removes paint, you’re most likely using an inferior paint product. Be sure to use paint specifically formulated for this refinishing project. Standard paint won’t hold up to the wear and tear.
A final way that many homeowners cause themselves grief is failing to fill in nicks and dings in the countertop before painting. It’s easy to think that the paint will smooth out small dips. But it doesn’t. It just highlights them. So, if you find any nicks, you’ll want to fill them in lightly. We recommend a two-part epoxy/clay if it’s a piece of counter that’s actually scratched. If you’ve got wood trim, fill it in with wood filler. Once the compound dries, be sure to sand and make sure everything looks smooth.
2. Using inferior paint.
Paint is paint, right? Well, actually, no. The paint you use for your walls is completely inadequate for a high-traffic, high-heat, and easily abused countertop. Paints specifically formulated for countertops have a high concentration of solids that help make your new countertop paint scratch resistant.
Another inferior use of paint is using oil-based paint. The paint itself is okay, but oil-based paints stink your house up pretty good. You may have to evacuate the house for a day, and that could ruin a good weekend project. The good news is that there are paints formulated specifically for refinishing laminate countertops without the strong odor.
3. Using the wrong tools.
Some homeowners are tempted to use a sponge to create the “randomness” that you’re looking for in a countertop paint finish. However, using a sponge easily leads to fatigue for the user, and that leads to inconsistency in product application. You might think that “randomness” and inconsistency are the same thing, but they’re not. However, you have to be consistent in application and awareness that it needs to be random. Yes, it sounds weird, but you’re going for a “consistent randomness.” That’s why the professionals use rollers. Rolling gives a consistent flow, and yet still looks random.
When it comes to the larger surface areas, rollers work great, but a huge mistake that novices make is failing to continue the consistent randomness into the corners and where the edges of the counter job the backsplash. This calls for a small paintbrush to make it look perfect. Take your time with this part, and remember that you’ll be staring at this countertop for a long time.
4. Choosing the wrong colors.
It may seem that you can just choose a few colors, and throw them together and get a beautiful new refaced countertop, but nothing could be further from the truth. You need to take into consideration the colors of the room. What color is the dominant color in the room? What are the minor colors from the accents in the room such as window coverings, cabinet colors, and other items. Use those colors to help you determine your paint colors for your counter.
With a faux roller, the first coat and the last coat are the ones you see the most, especially the last coat. So, make sure that this color complements your room well. Remember, you want your countertop to blend in with the room, and not stick out.
5. Using the wrong sealer.
Once you’ve put the work into a gorgeous new finish for your countertop, you want to lock in that beauty. So, don’t make the silly mistake of using a cheap, ineffective sealer. Sealers come in various finishes, so make sure you know what you’re getting before applying this.
Some sealers have an offensive odor. Some are difficult to apply. Look for a sealer that has minimal odor and offers considerable durability. As you maintain your countertop, the effectiveness of your sealer will become obvious. If you use a cheap sealer, it will start peeling away. The paint can’t withstand use on its own, so go all-out on the sealer. Use a quality sealer.
One other note is that if your countertop is going to be in contact with food, make sure that your sealer is considered food safe.
If done well, painting a countertop is an inexpensive alternative for replacing your countertops and will give you years of good use.
We hope that we can spare you some awful experiences by avoiding these 5 mistakes when painting a countertop. If this article “How To Paint A Countertop” has been helpful, we’d love to hear back, and we hope you have a fantastic DIY experience as you refinish your laminate countertops.