You’ve been living with dated or damaged laminate kitchen countertops, but beautiful countertop replacements are just not in the budget right now. After painting the original counters in our 1979 mobile home and living with them for almost two years, here are my pros and cons of painting kitchen laminate countertops. (Psssst, I would do it again in a heartbeat. Read more to find out why and painting tips.)
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In This Article
Pros and Cons of Painting Laminate Kitchen Countertops
Pros of Painting
- Budget friendly – the lowest cost option to give your counters a new look on a tight budget. It cost us $2.27 per square foot for our paint and supplies.
- Medium Easy – requires some but not extensive painting experience
- Quick – this project only took me 4 – 5 total hours of dedicated work, including sanding and cleaning
- Lots of style options – depending on how artistic you are, you can make your painted counters look like marble, wood or other natural stone
- Durable enough – done correctly, the paint should last several years before touch up is needed
- Temporary solution – if you need a new look just while you save up for a full counter replacement, this is the way to go
Cons of Painting
- Not as durable as real material – paint will never equal stone, wood or cement in the long term (but even those materials require upkeep)
- Certain food can stain white counters if left – I’ve always been able to remove stains, but certain foods do stain if left on my white counter a long time. Pickle juice, tomato products, etc should be wiped up right away.
- Not AS food safe, “earth natural” – most epoxy paints are considered food safe, but if you are highly concerned about your food never coming into contact with man made ingredients, well, paint is man made
- Not a beginner project – this is medium difficulty and more touchy than just regular paint. Practice on something else for your first time and then try this.
Why I Chose To Paint Our Kitchen Counters
While doing a massive renovation on our farmhouse, our family of four decided to move into the 1979 mobile home out back. (And it wasn’t the cool, retro, Mid Century vibe either.) She was uuuuuugly. So ugly we had to give her a name and give her a makeover before I would even think of letting my babes play on the floor. That’s how Bertha’s transformation began.
We painted practically every surface to get rid of the nasty mouse residue and to hide the ugliness. I was lovin’ how the kitchen turned out after the walls and cabinets were painted, but what to do with the old yellow laminate countertops? They just didn’t fit the Mid Century Modern look I was going for, but there was no way we had the money or the time to install new counters.
Solution: Paint the countertops. This article will detail my experience in painting laminate kitchen countertops. I used Rustoleum Appliance Epoxy paint. There are other tutorials with different paints and different types of countertops. I can’t speak to those experiences, but you can look them up on Pinterest. Here are my pros and cons of painting kitchen laminate countertops and the process I used.
Tools Needed for Painting Laminate Countertops
The tools needed to paint your kitchen counters are pretty minimal, unlike the tools needed to replace your countertops.
- Medium Grit Sandpaper (and power palm sander, optional)
- Rags for Cleaning and Krud Kutter Cleaner (seriously, the BEST and recommended by my professional cabinet painting sister)
- Quality Painter’s Tape
- Painter’s Plastic
- Utility Knife
- High Quality Trim Paint Brush
- Small Foam Roller and Paint Pan Set
- Rustoleum Epoxy Appliance Paint (the exact paint will depend on the style you paint the counters)
Ease of Painting Laminate Counters vs Replacing Counters
I’ve painted countertops by myself, but I’ve only assisted in replacing countertops. So I can’t give you detailed information on the process of replacing counters. However, that should tell you something. If you have a fairly good grasp on how to paint well and do a detailed job, it’s a one person task for a couple hours. Replacing countertops requires a lot more work and know-how. The more artistic you are, the more options you have when it comes to painting styles.
Cost Comparison: Painting vs Replacing Kitchen Counters
This category is the biggest pro in my list of pros for pros and cons of painting kitchen laminate countertops. No matter how cheap your new replacement counters are, they can still cost hundreds of dollars up to thousands of dollars depending on your material. And that is not including labor (if you hire it done) or tools needed (if you DIY the project).
- Painting Countertops (2021 numbers from our mobile home kitchen) – $91 total for 40 square feet of countertop/$2.27 per square foot
- Replacing with Butcher Block – estimated $20 – $40 per square foot
- Replacing with Quartz – estimated $55 – $150 per square foot
- Replacing with Laminate – estimated $15 – $40 per square foot
Style and Color Choices of Painting Kitchen or Bathroom Counters
There are loads of style and color options when it comes to painting your counters. I needed simple white paint to offset my black kitchen cabinets. If you search Pinterest for “painted countertops”, there are tutorials on how to make painted countertops look like wood, marble, granite and so much more. So if you feel pretty confident in your artistic ability, painting countertops also have a ton of style choices.
Preparation for Painting Countertops
My countertops are laminate, so that is what I’ll be focusing on. I like to do things as fast as possible, so I took a power palm sander and medium grit sandpaper to the counter’s entire surface. You can just use sandpaper though. Press hard enough to rough up the surface well but not so hard that you start wearing through the laminate. You don’t want holes in your counter.
- Sand large surfaces and edges with medium sand paper.
- If using power hand sander, go back to the edges and corners that you missed with piece of sandpaper.
- Rub your hand across the laminate surfaces to make sure no gloss or slickness remains.
- Wipe down every surface with wet rag, making sure you get all the dust off. (You may want to vacuum first.)
- Spray Krud Kutter on the counter surface to get the last bit of residue off. You need the cleanest surface possible!
- Wipe down and let dry completely.
- Tape all edges of cabinets and around the sink with a good quality painter’s tape. If using spray paint, you will want to also tape up plastic.
Painting the Laminate Countertops
- Make sure your paint is well mixed/shaken.
- Open windows and have fans going for ventilation (but not blowing directly on the counters). Mask is optional in my opinion. I didn’t find epoxy paint to be any more stinky than normal paint. (This is NOT a kid friendly time! DO NOT do this during naptime since any interruptions could ruin the project.)
- You will be working quickly and do each coat right after each other, not waiting a “dry time.”
- Trim edges with brush in small sections (not the whole project).
- Go back to the trimmed sections within 5 – 10 minutes and roll large areas in smooth, even strokes. Make the first base coat thin. **This first coat will look bad. DON’T PANIC.** There might be bubbles…they will go away. There will be lines…more coats will hide line. If the paint is too sticky, just add more paint to your roller and apply thicker. **This is where I panicked. But it will turn out ok. Just keep going.
- Finish first coat, alternating between trimming and rolling sections.
- Immediately after finishing the first coat, start the second coat (within 30 – 60 minutes of starting). Work in same fashion as first coat, but roll in a different direction than previous coat. The lines will start to even out after the second time. If the paint roller is sticking to the previous coat, add more paint to the roller so it’s not so “dry.” For best results, change the roller between second and third coat.
- Paint the under lip of the counter at this time. I only did one coat underneath.
- Remember to work quickly but not sloppily.
Third and optional Fourth (Top) Coat
- Work the third coat in the same manner as the second coat immediately after the second coat.
- You may or may not need a fourth coat depending on coverage. Work in the same manner as other coats.
- Let dry 24 – 48 hours before ANY use. Don’t set anything on the counter during this time. Ideally, wait one week before regular daily use. However, we moved in 3 days later, and I just couldn’t keep the daily use at bay. Our counters have held up just as well.
Time and Labor Required for Painting Countertops
Having never painted counters, I was nervous at the beginning and in the middle of the process. But it was easily a one person job. Actually, you wouldn’t want more than one person working on it since the texture could turn out differently between two people.
Our kitchen is approximately 10 foot x 10 foot. It took me about 4 – 5 hours of dedicated sanding, cleaning and painting all three coats. I was by myself, so absolutely no interruptions.
Difficulty of Painting Countertops
The difficulty of painting laminate kitchen countertops is medium. You need to work quickly, and you need to know the basics of trimming and rolling without leaving lines. The more artistic and faux finish you go, the higher the difficulty.
Living with Painted Kitchen Counters (2 years later)
We are not easy on anything. My theory is that if something doesn’t hold up with our lifestyle, it doesn’t belong. I do put a hot pad under anything hot or warm, and we don’t cut food directly on the counter. I do wipe up colorful food (tomato, pickle juice, etc) because my white counters will stain. (Read below how to get stains out.) Other than that, our counters get a fair amount of heavy use on a regular basis.
Two years of living with our painted counters, they are still going strong. There are some tiny chips throughout, but I can touch these up. So as far as normal life with kids, these countertops have held up remarkably over a couple of years with a lot of use.
FAQs About Living with Painted Laminate Countertops
How well does paint hold up around water and sinks?
There are a couple ¼ – ½ inch long chips behind the faucet due (I believe) to the water, but it is not bad, and I can also touch this up. Overall, the paint has held up well around water.
Do painted countertops require special care?
No, there is no special care required for painted countertops. Use hot pads for hot pans and don’t cut directly on the counter.
How do you clean painted countertops?
Daily cleaning just requires wiping down like normal counters. You can use normal kitchen cleaners. I personally use vinegar and water for cleaning.
How do you get stains out of painted countertops?
Since my counters are painted white, they have gotten a few stains. I don’t think colored counters would stain the same. To get stains out, I rub baking soda on the stain with a wet rag. This gets a majority out. For tough stains, I use Clorox water and let it set a couple minutes before wiping. This has never failed to get stubborn stains out. Do be aware that Clorox and extremely strong cleaners could take the gloss off. Don’t leave for long periods of time.
Does the paint chip over time?
Yes, it does have very tiny chips in certain places. It’s not extreme, and I can do light touch up with a small paintbrush or Rustoleum Appliance Touch Up https://amzn.to/3OwVuIU. There has not been major damage to the paint.
Is the paint for kitchen counters food safe?
This probably depends on the epoxy you buy, but, in general, fully cured epoxy paint is considered food safe by the USDA. I would not recommend painting a bowl or a cup with this paint, but the incidental food contact on a counter should be fine. There are VOCs present that need to off-gas and other potential ingredients you personally might not be comfortable with. Do your own research if this is a major concern.
Are painted counters heat safe or do you need a hot pad?
You need a heat pad like any other countertops. You should not put hot items directly on top of the counter.
Can you touch up chips on painted kitchen counters?
Yes, I have touched up chips to the paint with a small artist’s brush. I have not gone to the trouble of re-rolling the entire countertop because my paint is still looking great. But you can also re-roll paint for a fresh coat.
FAQs About the Process of Painting Laminate Kitchen Counters
Can you paint countertops with kids around?
No. I would not. The paint smell for the Rustoleum Appliance Epoxy was not terrible compared to other paints as long as you ventilate. But this is a project that cannot be interrupted. It needs your undivided attention.
Can you paint other types of countertop material?
Yes. I have only painted laminate kitchen countertops. However, this tutorial should also work on stone countertops. There are also special spray paints for stone that you can topcoat with a clear epoxy.
Can you paint damaged and peeling laminate countertop?
Yes! My mother in law wants to renovate her kitchen in the next few years. But until then, she hated the look of her peeling and damaged laminate counters. Needing a temporary fix, she painted them, and they look great.
Would I Paint Kitchen Laminate Countertops Again?
Absolutely, 100%, yes, I would paint kitchen laminate countertops again…in the right circumstances. For a quick, easy and budget friendly makeover, this was our best choice. For our mobile home, we will keep these long term and just touch up as needed because we don’t want to sink a lot of money into it.
However, if I were renovating my dream kitchen in my long-term home, I would probably go with replacing the countertops as the end result will be more durable in the long run.
Comment below and tell me if you would consider painting your countertops or if you have any questions about our experience!
Read more about renovating a mobile home below
Read more about living in a small home below
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