In a recent conversation with a friend they told me of a laminate countertop that they were unhappy with due to discoloration over many years. Although the countertop was in relatively decent physical condition it seems stains, scuffs and scratches were making the countertop look unappealing. They then asked my opinion on painting the countertop and told me of a few websites that had suggested painting could restore the countertop to new condition.
After hearing this I walked them through a few decision to better understand what they would be left with in the end if they decided to paint the countertop and helped them make the decision of whether it would be better to take a different approach.
The first consideration is cost. Most people who consider the idea of painting a Laminate Countertop do so because they feel the cost of replacing the countertop would be more then the cost of paint. A 4 foot x 8 foot piece of laminate costs about $80 or less and stock color countertops are not that much more.
It may cost less in the long run to just replace the countertop with a brand new piece.
The people that they were talking to recommended household oil based primer and paint as a proper undercoat with a clear polyurethane on top. At the bare minimum paint alone would cost $40 and the other materials like sandpaper, rollers and incidentals would probably cost another $20 at that point you are approaching the cost of new countertop.
In the end the paint that they selected would be very prone to chipping and scratching off.
I then offered the suggestion of using a belt sander to rough up the surface of the laminate and take out that front roll on the edge and then applying Tile or granite sheets. They were interested in this idea but the cost was the main factor so we were back to painting.
Now before I explain the better method of painting a laminate countertop I want to say if you are deciding to paint a countertop because you want a special design, maybe you have a business and want to paint a logo on your customer service desk, it is possible to order single sheets of laminate with a custom color or image in single sheets. You could put a number of logos on one sheet and inlay them into many areas or you could have a big mural or photo made custom from the manufacturer with orders as short as a single sheet.
The Materials you will need for painting your countertop include:
Acetone or Reducer
200 grit wetsand paper
400 grit wetsand paper
Masking Tape, Paper or Plastic Drop Cloth
Automotive Primer Surfacer Paint
Automotive Finish Paint
Automotive Clear Paint
Prepare the surface of the countertop by washing with a good grease remover soap then follow up with water until the surface is clean of all wax, grease, food and other materials and no soap remaining.
Begin by sanding any scratches and the entire surface with 200 grit sand paper. You need to make sure you have prepared all surfaces so the automotive primer will adhear
Once dry you want to use a soft cloth that is very lightly damp with acetone or automotive paint reducer and wipe down the entire surface. This step will slightly soften the top layer of resin on the laminate and it is very important that your rag be just wet enough that the reducer will almost immediately evaporate while you wipe very lightly.
Immediately once the surface is prepared and dry you want to apply the primer surfacer. The processes of loosening up the surface with acetone will only last a few minutes but it will allow the primer to get a good bond.
If you visit a automotive paint store to pickup your supplies you might ask them for another specific product but this is how I would do it since I would mix my own paint and have extra reducer on hand.
Apply two full coats of primer to the countertop allowing about 15 minutes between each coat so the paint will flash and release enough thinner to continue.
If you have deep gouges or scratches you should apply one or two more full coats of primer in just those areas.
Allow the primer to dry at least a few hours or overnight for better sanding results if you have time. Do Not force the paint dry with fans or heaters but keep an average room temperature between 70F and 85F or the best that you can get.
Wetsand the entire surface with a 400 grit sandpaper then wash the surface with water only.
Apply the top color coat and allow it to dry at least 4 hours or overnight before applying your clear coat.
Automotive paint has specific time intervals between coats of the same material and also between coats of Primer coats, Color coats and Clear coats. You should follow the directions as the manufacturer recommends or at least allow the paint to dry to touch before continuing or you will endup with runs. Never touch the painted surface directly! Touch the masking tape that also has paint on it to test if the paint has dried enough to continue.
Once the surface is painted you will not be able to use a wax on it for about 2 weeks so be careful of what products you place on it.
After the countertop has cured for about 2 weeks to 20 days you can then use a carnauba or natural wax to protect the paint do not use a liquid or silicon wax on the surface or it may penetrate the paint.
If the surface is rough from dirt in the top clear coat you may be able to sand with 2000 not 200 but 2000 grit sand paper and then buff with an automotive compound, not a wax.
Even if you have extra paint laying around the house and think you can get good results as you might on a cabinet door or piece of furniture you have to understand that latex and oil based home and furniture paints are made to be used on porous materials like wood that will let the paint grip and last longer.
Painting regular house paint no matter how well you do it on a laminate countertop is asking for pealing, scratching and other problems that will make your countertop look worse in a month then it did before you started.
Painting a Laminate resin coated countertop with Automotive paint give you slightly more life and durability BUT that first hot fry pan that touches it will make it bubble up just like it would on the hood of your car.
With that said I guess there may be a reason to paint a countertop to get a custom design for a business where the countertop is not used for cooking but if you are designing a restaurant or custom countertop contact the manufacturer like Wilsonart about a one off custom laminate sheet. It may cost you $200 but you can submit PSD photoshop files and get a sheet of laminate back up to 44″ x 12 feet long which could be used for everything from a countertop to maybe a wall background in your garage. And best off it will offer the same general protection that normal laminate materials offer such as some resistance to heat and chemicals and light abrasion.
And if you are just cleaning up a kitchen countertop price out in stock replacement countertop and maybe take a look at granite and tile as an application on top of your old countertop… with a little skill and the right granite tiles it can look like thousands were spent for only a couple hundred.