How to Paint a Countertop for an Affordable and Unique DIY

Kristin Luna
Written by Kristin Luna
Updated November 12, 2021
Modern modular kitchen interior
Paul Maguire - stock.adobe.com

Elbow grease and hyper attention to cleanliness are the keys to any successful countertop paint job

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Painting a countertop is a quick way to overhaul the look of your kitchen or bathroom without investing in a full-on room renovation. Like all paint jobs, you’ll want to keep dust and dirt from interacting with the wet paint—and for counters, in particular, it’s critical to properly prepare the surface, as well as follow a few extra cleaning steps before applying any color.

What to Know Before You Paint Your Countertops

Before you decide if painting your countertops is something you can do for yourself, there are a few things you need to consider.  Do you want a solid color or multiple colors that can simulate granite countertops? If you’re painting your kitchen countertops, do you have an alternative place to prepare food?

You’ll also want to evaluate how difficult the project is, which will help you decide if you hire a local painting contractor or do the project yourself.

Difficulty: 3 out of 5

Time: one weekend

Tools and Materials Needed:

  • Household cleaner

  • Orbital sander

  • Sandpaper

  • Tack cloth

  • Rags

  • Rolling pan

  • Mini paint roller frame

  • Mini paint roller

  • Brush

  • Vacuum

  • Tarp

  • Paint

  • Organic respirator

1. Clean

Before sanding your countertops, remove the years of accumulated dirt and grime from the surface. Use a good grease-cutting cleaning fluid and be extra diligent about corners and cracks. Once you’ve cleaned your countertops, let them dry thoroughly before moving on.

2. Sand

For large, flat surfaces like countertops, you’ll want to use an orbital sander with 100- to 150-grit for the first pass, then 220-grit for the final polishing. You’re not trying to remove the old laminate, but rather create a surface with enough “tooth” for the primer to adhere. Once sanded, vacuum and clean the counters so no dust or debris remain.

3. Prime

Person applying an oil-based primer
KnoB - stock.adobe.com

The most important step in all paint jobs is the first coat. The rest of the project depends on a solid foundation of primer, so after you’ve sanded and cleaned the surface, apply an oil-based primer liberally and evenly with a brush or a roller.

You’ll want to wear a respirator and open up windows during this step, as the fumes from oil primer are hazardous. Once the primer is dry, go back over the primed counters by hand with 220-grit sanding, creating as smooth a surface as possible.

4. Paint

Applying white primer paint on wood
Ingo Bartussek - stock.adobe.com

If you’re going for a solid color on the counters, you’ll likely need two coats. After you’ve removed any trace of sanding dust with the vacuum and tack cloths, carefully and evenly spread the paint with a foam roller and follow recommended dry times between coats until you’re satisfied with the work.

If you’re attempting a faux finish, you’ll likely want to lay down one base coat as the main color, let that dry, then come back with a sponge, plastic bag, fancy brush, or another tool to create the desired stone look.

5. Seal With Epoxy

Sealing in the finish coat will ensure your countertops don’t scratch easily and also will make them waterproof. These products come in two parts that, when mixed, create a spreadable liquid that hardens into a tough shell. Ventilation and glovers are important during this step due to the toxicity of the ingredients.

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