When we first moved into this house we put a lot of money into hardwood floors and stairs, so we tried our best to keep costs down in all other areas. The kitchen was just too ugly to stay as is though. The cupboards were a dated oak, and the countertops were a dark forest green. We planned on painting out the cupboards, so we began looking into similar low-cost ideas for the countertops.
Our long-term plan was to put in quartz countertops, so we really didn’t want to spend much. After some pinterest research, we decided to take a risk and attempt painting them. If it failed miserably, we would bite the bullet and go for the quartz sooner rather than later. Much to our surprise though, the paint ended up working for us for well over a year with only one tiny chip!! The key to our success was definitely the extensive prep we did to ensure proper adhesion. Preparation is KEY!
To get the counters ready to be painted, we used TSP to remove the years of accumulated grease and dirt. We scrubbed them down with an abrasive sponge, rinsed them twice to make sure we got everything, and then allowed them dry completely before moving on.
Next we sanded them down with our orbital sander, using 220 grit paper. Note: this is MESSY! You will have dust everywhere. Because we hadn’t moved our furniture in yet, and because the rest of the house was already a dust pile from the stair and flooring renovations, we didn’t bother covering anything at all. However, if you are living in your house you will probably want to block off the doorways and cover your furniture to minimize the mess. Also, don’t forget your face mask – safety first!
Next it was time for the primer! We did two coats of BIN Shellac, which sticks to just about anything. Between each coat we sanded with 220 grit sand paper to remove any roller marks. To apply the paint, we used a small roller meant for painting cabinetry to ensure the smoothest possible coverage. These are what we use with BIN:
If you have a spray gun, spraying would be idea, but you’d have to cover your entire space in plastic (think dexter style), which wasn’t realistic for us at the time.
Next I did three coats using Benjamin Moore’s Advanced acrylic paint. This is our favourite paint for cabinets, furniture and counters because it has a long open air time, which eliminates brush strokes. It is kind of pricey, but a little goes a long way. You want to use high quality paint here, as you want it to last.
Between each coat of pain – you guessed it!- we did a light sanding with 220 grit sandpaper. We are kind of perfectionists when it comes to painting…
After our base coats, it was time to add the marbling! We used a sea sponge, feather, and toothbrush to make the marble effect. We also used four different shades of grey latex paint, which we had laying around from choosing colours from the house. You could also use regular acrylic paint to do this. The trick is to layer in the various colours first using your sea-sponge, and then add in your “veins” with your feather or tooth pic. If at any point you decide you aren’t completely happy with the design, it is very easy to just add in or roll over with your original white paint.
After you’ve finished your marbling, you will want to add a protective top coat since your grey areas will not be as durable as the white spots (unless you use BM Advanced paint for your marbling as well). I used three coats of satin polyacrylic from Minwax, applied with a high quality brush to apply the top-coat. You want a good brush for this step, as it will allow for a more even finish.
A few things on applying polyacrylic:
- Do not shake your can, but instead stir it very gently before application. Shaking or stirring rapidly will introduce air bubbles into your finish.
- Use a high quality brush
- Run your brush through your hands a few times to ensure there are no loose bristles
- When you dip your brush into your can, do not wipe it – instead either tap to remove some of the excess liquid, or allow it to drip down. Wiping will put air bubbles into your poly,
- After applying each pass, wait a few seconds and then check for air bubbles in your finish another time. If there are some (there probably will be), run over that area while holding your brush at a 90 degree angle
- Sand with 220 grit between each coat
Applying poly is tricky, and it is very easy to get bubbles – which is a disaster on surfaces like a countertop, as it will leave hundreds of little spots for grim to accumulate. Taking the time to apply it properly though will leave you with a very strong layer that will protect your counter for years to come. If you’re using it over top of a white paint, note that it will slightly yellow over time. Also note that you will want to be careful what kind of cleaning products you use on the counters, since anything too abrasive will damage the surface. We stuck with regular soap and water.
And there you have it: brand new counters for less than $25!!! This isn’t necessarily a long term solution, but if you plan to redo your counters down the road this is a quick and easy fix.