I can’t believe I painted the countertop

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010 | Condo

First, the obligatory “I’m bad at posting” line. Now…

I’m posting to finally share my first major diy project! Back in April, Zach and I moved from our 11th floor apartment to a 4th floor condo! Condo=freedom to paint. After living my entire life with white walls, I was thrilled for the new power I would have. This turned out to be somewhat ironic, which you’ll understand at the end of this post. Now, although the condo was constructed fairly recently (1992), it was constructed rather cheaply and uninspired in parts. For example: the bathroom. The wall lining the bathtub is actually the same material lining the elevator. The floors are all laminate, as are the countertops. Oh, and white plastic handles are everywhere. I had the same type on my dresser when I was 10. So, the bathroom felt like a good place to start.

Since we’re both busy, and the purchase of a condo is no small thing, I looked for changes I could make which could have the most impact for the least amount of money. I figured painting the walls would be easy enough. But how was I to deal with the “wood” laminate cabinets and pink, speckled countertop? As always, the internet came through. I discovered that laminate CAN be painted, and cheaply at that. I wasn’t that impressed with the commercial products, like Rustoleum, but then I found Kristi’s blog. Using acrylic paints, she was able to transform her kitchen countertop into granite. Once I saw that, I was sold. Of course, I had to sell Zach on it. That part wasn’t too hard…I kept reassuring him that if it looked bad, we could just paint over it with a solid color, or even replace it at Home Depot for not too much money since it’s a stand alone thing. And he agreed! He’s such a nice, trusting boyfriend.

So, without further ado, here is my tale of craziness. If you’d like to see it in movie form, check out my video!

What I used:

  • One can of primer (Kilz water based)
  • Four bottles of acrylic paints (one white, one light grey, one medium grey, one darker grey) note: get an extra of each to be safe. I really cut it close.
  • One can of sealer (Polycrylic water based, clear gloss)
  • Painter’s tape (I used that delicate kind)
  • Sand paper
  • Paint brush/roller
  • Dabby things, like a sponge or paper towels
  • Cardboard to put paint on

First, the obligatory before shots:

See?! White plastic handles! Also, note the outlet that was installed the wrong direction. I have to use my hairdryer in the office.

Pink and beige, absolutely gorgeous.

Yar, here be the speckled laminate.

First off, I cleaned and sanded the counter. The sanding is very important in order to ensure that the primer will stick. Then I used painter’s tape all around it. I’m not sure why I was so thorough considering the walls and cabinets were going to get painted later. Next, I rolled on the first coat of primer. It looked bad and freaked me out. I don’t think I told Zach that. After letting it dry (overnight I think?) I rolled on a second coat. Significantly better. At that point, Zach came over (we were still living at the old apartment) and he noted that maybe we should just keep it white. I told him no, pretending to have confidence that it would turn out great. Yeah, that’s right Zach, I thought it was going to turn out hideously. Thanks for believing in my fake confidence! He’s nice like that.

It’s white! So much better than before. Can’t stop now though! Otherwise I’d be out $4 for the acrylic paints!

Although I thought painting it with primer was scary, I had no idea how many butterflies I’d have as I started dabbing acrylics on this thing. I suddenly had a moment of panic and remembered that I’m actually horrible when it comes to art. Really, really bad. Flute is no problem. Drawing? I’ve got issues.

Cow/Snoopy/Pig drawing. I take it back, I’m an awesome drawer because I can make one thing have many meanings. Like the Mona Lisa! Is Cowpig smiling, or not? What’s Cowpig’s secret?

I initially dabbed using a cheap sponge that I found in the art store. I didn’t like that every dab looked the same, so I switched to a scrunched up paper towel. I think I used about 100 of those towel balls.

Dabby dabby!

I dabbed some white on first, on top of the primer. Then I realized that was silly since the primer was white, so I went on to the light grey, followed up with the medium grey. I didn’t wait for it to entirely dry because it made a nice swirly effect. I kept dabbing various colors until it looked more natural and less kindergarten like. I wonder how many times I’ve used the word “dab” so far in this post. I really can’t think of another word. Oh yeah, I dabbed on some dark grey. Since it was so dark, I dabbed the paper towel on the medium grey and then the dark so it would create a nicer effect. Dab dab dab.

And some more dabs…

I was starting to feel like that old painter who was on pbs. Only, without the trees and the lakes. But it was really starting to look like something!


At this point, I called Zach in to check it out. He pointed out a few places that needed to be changed, but overall he liked it! I finished it up with some grout lines to simulate the slabs of marble coming together. For this, I used the medium grey and a steady hand to paint it across. Finally, I used the sealer. I read somewhere that oil based sealers can cause it to become yellowed/discolored, so I went with water based. Initially I applied it with a roller, but I got paranoid that the lovely marble effect below would be ruined, so I dabbed the sealant on too. If I were to do this again, I’d make sure the “grout lines” were done with a paintbrush. I didn’t do them as well as I should have, so now I’m seeing the slightest bit of cracking (Just there though, and really not noticeable. I just stare at this counter for hours a day, noting all of its features). I believe I applied five coats, waiting a day between each one. I think I waited a day…it’s been a few months so I can’t quite remember. I do recall having houseguests soon after and making it clear to everyone involved that nothing was to be left on the counter and no water was to be near it for a week. The houseguests accepted my crazy and the counter remains pristine. Here’s a shot of the finished “marble,” close up:

I think it looks pretty good.

So, are you ready for the beautiful after shots? As I mentioned, there were also walls and cabinets that needed to be taken care of. The walls were easy. Well, they were after I abandoned the blue and went for white. See the irony I mentioned before? I told myself I’d never have white walls as an adult, and then the first chance I have to paint, I pick white. Oh well. As for the cabinets, they turned out pretty well too. I used the same primer that I used for the countertops and just rolled it on, after sanding and cleaning of course. I think I put two coats of the primer on, followed by a couple coats of white, latex paint. I replaced those ugly plastic handles with metal, replaced the toilet seat (yeah, it needed to be done), and got a tissue box holder from Value Village. I think it looks might perty now:

Zach got me the flowers. Isn’t he nice?

So clean!

I’m really pleased with how this all came out. As I may have mentioned, it has been several months now and they still look great. The grand total was well under $100. No regrets. Except not sealing the grout line better. Whatever, I can fix that later. Next up…the office that we’re turning into a dining room! DUN DUN DUNNNNNNNN…