Making Granite Out of Laminate

Since the beginning of our master bathroom mini-makeover, seen herehere, and here, we've been tossing around ideas in regards to replacing the dated, cream-colored, laminate countertops.  After shopping around and realizing that nothing we could buy in a store would fit in our budget (or be worth the investment in this house, with this market), we thought we were on track to create some concrete countertops, and then Tuscan Accents from Lowe's came into the picture.  Tuscan Accents is a line of paint products made to give your walls a sort of Italian charm using two different kinds of paint - one as a base and one as a top coat with a cool spotty effect achieved by using a stippling brush to dab on paint, waiting for the paint to semi-dry, and then wiping excess paint from the surface.  You can read more about it and see some examples by clicking here.  We, on the other hand, took the idea to our countertops, thinking that we'd conduct a little painting experiment - if it didn't work, we had the concrete to fall back on and if it did, well, we'd be two happy little jumping beans.  :)

When we decided to paint our tops, we actually toyed with two different techniques before we chose the Tuscan Accents route.  The other idea was to use a spray paint with a stone-looking effect.  So, to decide which idea would win, I tried out both on a piece of backsplash we removed the week before.  First, I primed the entire piece with a spray primer - Rustoleum's White.  Then I went to work using some leftover paint from our living room.  Here's what it looked like when I was done (with a little photoshopping for results sake):       
1 - Stone spray paint - a no go.  We weren't crazy about the colors - speckled ivory with a sort of greeny-beige - and couldn't find another color we liked.
2 -  Tuscan Accents with a semi-gloss white base - I liked it, Anthony didn't.  The lines between the dried, stuck on paint and the wiped off paint were very obvious.
3 - Tuscan Accents with the white primer as the base coat - nope.  I put too much paint on here so that when I wiped the excess off several minutes later, most of the paint was still wet and therefore came off leaving large splotches.  It really wasn't bad but in the end we liked...
4 - Tuscan Accents with the white primer as the base coat - winner, winner, chicken dinner!  Just the right amount of paint was dabbed on, left to dry, and wiped off to create this look.
5 - Tuscan Accents with the white primer as the base coat - nada.  This was actually my first attempt at the Tuscan Accents but I didn't wait long enough to let some paint dry and it ended up just looking like one big smear. 

So, after we decided on #4, I applied a glossy polycrylic finish (more on that later) over the area make sure it wouldn't yellow the TA finish and to see the look of it.  It worked great.  Then came the real test.  I pulled out my curling iron and straightener to test the durability of the future bathroom countertops, thinking they would be it's biggest ransackers.  It passed with flying colors!  Even though the surface became pretty hot after I left the straightener sit on it (on it's highest setting for 10 minutes), the surface was unscathed!  So anyway, on to the good stuff after I just rambled on for about a million words to set the stage...


First, we prepped by removing the sinks and covering all surrounding areas (thank you Catholic Weekly) since we'd be using the same spray primer as on the test strip.

Then I took a hand sander to the top to remove any sheen and build-up and to create a surface the primer would stick to.

After wiping any and all residue caused by sanding, we were ready to prime.  We made sure the window was wide open and even set a box fan in it, blowing any fumes outside.  While I sprayed, Anthony held a large piece of cardboard underneath the front lip of the top to protect the cabinets.  Here it is, all primed and ready to go:

Next up - painting or should I say, stippling.  I mentioned above that the TA look is achieved by dabbing on paint with a stippling brush.  They sell the brush at Lowe's for 20 bucks.  But, I wasn't going to spend 20 bucks for it considering it was basically a glorified scrub brush.  On the tester strip I 'tested' with a scrub brush we had on hand and it worked wonderfully, so why not continue using that same scrub brush, right?  It saved us $20 and now can brag that it's multi-purpose - "for all of your cleaning and painting needs".  :)  
All I did was dip the brush into a tupperware dish filled with paint and dabbed it onto the top.  I worked in sections, dabbing one section, waiting 17 minutes for it to dry, wiping excess paint, then moving on to the next section.  It was hard to get good pictures of the process as the paint we decided on was so light, but I tried... 

Waiting for it to dry:

Right before wiping (see how some of the paint is dry and some is shiny and wet?):

(Side note:  I might be worth mentioning that to wipe, I used an old, cut up t-shirt of Anthony's and also used a fresh, dry piece for each section.)

To do the front face of the tops, Anthony ran a line of tape underneath the lip to protect our freshly painted cabinets:

Here it is, all painted and ready for poly:



For added protection and to achieve the glossy sheen we were looking for we used Minwax Polycrylic.  After searching "painted laminate countertops" on Pinterest, we decided to go with the popularly used, non-yellowing polycrylic over epoxy ($$$) and polyurethane (yellows).  Using our best paint brush, I painted on seven coats over three days, leaving at least 2 hours of drying time in between each coat.  I also lightly (and I mean lightly) sanded down each coat before painting on the next because the poly directions said to and to get a smooth surface (in the beginning, the paint was a little bumpy so sanding each coat eventually leveled the top out).

This is after two coats of poly:

And this is after the lucky seven coats:



We are SO happy we decided to take the painting route.  You'd have to see it for yourself, but we honestly think that you'd have to take a second glance to realize it wasn't quartz or granite.  As for what it cost us:
Primer - already had
Paint - sample size at $3
Scrub brush - already had  :)
Polycrylic - $16.50 at Wal-Mart (cheaper than the same stuff at Lowe's) and we only used about half of the can bringing the total down to $9 
Paint brush - already had
Grand Total = $12

Some other possibly pertinent information:
1.  Our countertop is 18 square feet.
2.  The paint color we used for the top coat is called 'Oatlands Subtle Taupe' by Valspar.  (I had them add only 75% of the color at Lowes so that it was a little lighter but then added more white at home so really it's a custom light grayish-tan color.)

[Three years later, the countertops are still doing good!  Read the update post here!]

Anyway, I feel like I just wrote another ba-jillion word post about diy but I hope you enjoyed our little, muy successful painting experiment!  As I type these last few words, Anthony is putting the sinks back in (muttering "I hate plumbing" under his breath) so I'm gonna skidaddle and help him and then I'm off to play hair dresser and make-up artist for the day for some teens as Homecoming is this eve.  :)  Have a great weekend everybody!  I'll be back next weekend with more diy craziness!

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P to the S:  If anyone has taken on the task of revamping their laminate countertops with paint, please send us pics and tell us how they've fared so far!  We'd love to hear from other peeps who are as paint crazy as us!  If you're contemplating it, we encourage you to take the leap...and then send us your pics!

3 comments

  1. It looks good now, but the paint may peel back if you didn't let it sit and "cure" for at least a few days. If it's latex paint it will remain soft for awhile and that polycrylic will stop it from curing properly, causing the paint to stay soft and fail prematurely. But, maybe you are alright and it's held up the past few years!

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    1. I guess I got lucky with not letting it cure because there hasn't been any peeling whatsoever. :) Staining is a different story though. There are a few of those. I need to do an update post on these soon...

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