Replacing countertops isn’t a whole lot of fun. First, it’s expensive: A new granite countertop can cost as much as $100 per square foot. Then, factor in removing the old countertops without damaging the cabinets, and the stakes are even higher.
Finally, the disruption a big kitchen reno can cause is typically a massive headache. But, there’s good news: You can avoid the expense and inconvenience and still achieve a new look—if you know how to paint laminate countertops.
Can You Paint Laminate Counters?
Laminate counters are absolutely a candidate for a paint-based makeover.
Most homeowners believe they have two choices: rip out their counters and start fresh or live with what they have. But there’s a third option that’s often best. They can learn how to paint their laminate countertops to achieve an entirely new and improved look. All it takes is a bit of research, some prep work, and the right tools and materials.
How To Paint Laminate Countertops
Painting laminate kitchen countertops is well within the capabilities of a DIY-savvy homeowner. This section will cover everything you need to know for a new laminate countertop look.
Tools and materials
You’ll need several items, but most are fairly affordable, and you may even have a few on hand already:
- Contact cement
- Medium-grit sandpaper
- Sanding block
- Palm sander (optional)
- Small paint roller and roller covers
- Paint tray, fitted with liner, plus extra liners
- Mineral spirits
- Painter’s tape
- 1 gallon latex-based primer
- 1 gallon latex-based paint
- 1 gallon topcoat sealer
Step 1: Prepare the surface
Laminate countertops are smooth from the factory, so they aren’t a great surface for priming or painting—at least initially.
- Give the primer and paint something to grab onto by scratching the countertop’s surface with medium-grit sandpaper (220 is usually sufficient). A palm sander is optional and will speed up the process, but you’ll need the sanding block for the corners and backsplash. The goal is not to sand through the laminate but just to scratch it up.
- Once sufficiently scratched, use a rag and some mineral spirits to clean the dust from the surface. Be sure to check for any areas you might’ve missed and give them a quick scuffing as well.
- Also, take note of sections of laminate separating from the particle board underneath and repair them with some contact cement.
Step 2: Apply painter’s tape
- Once the mineral spirits have dried, move on to taping along the countertop’s edges. Be sure to tape anything directly adjacent to the counter, such as the sink, cabinets, refrigerator, stove, and wall.
Steps 3: Prime the laminate countertops
With everything taped, you can begin priming the counter.
- Start by pouring some primer into the paint tray, then, with a back-and-forth motion, use the roller to apply it to the laminate counter. Be sure to overlap each previous pass by a few inches to ensure you’re maintaining a wet edge.
- When you get to the inside corners and the edges, be sure to switch to the paintbrush. It’s best to brush the primer onto the counter while the rolled primer is still wet, as it will dry with a more consistent, flat texture.
- Always allow the primer to dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Step 4: Prepare for paint
While the primer is drying, you can start preparing for paint.
- Pour any remaining primer back into the can, discard the tray liner, and place a new liner in the tray.
- Throw out the roller cover and clean the paintbrush with soap and water (mineral spirits also work well).
Step 5: Paint the laminate countertops
You can start painting the countertops as soon as the primer is completely dry.
- Mix and pour some paint into the paint tray and use a fresh paint roller cover to apply it to the laminate countertop.
- Be sure to overlap each stroke to ensure you’re maintaining a wet edge. Again, switch to the brush when you reach inside corners, the sink, the backsplash, or other hard-to-reach areas.
- Most laminate counters will require a second coat, so repeat the process once the first coat dries.
- After the second coat, clean the paintbrush and replace the tray liner and roller cover.
Step 6: Apply the topcoat
The final step in painting laminate kitchen countertops is to protect the painted surface with a water-based topcoat, also known as a clear coat. This layer will protect the paint from water and other sources of damage.
- Applying the topcoat is very similar to the priming and painting process. The only difference is that the clear coat can be difficult to see, so take your time.
- Be sure to overlap each roller stroke to ensure a wet edge, and use the brush to cover the corners, edges, and other areas. A second coat is highly recommended, but luckily, latex-based topcoats dry quickly.
And, with that final layer of topcoat dry, you’ve given a fresh new look to an old laminate countertop. The painted surface is durable, but not quite as resistant to water and scratches as the laminate, so be sure to wipe up spills quickly and avoid scratching the paint as much as possible.