Lots of people have laminate counters when they'd rather have natural stone. Real stone is expensive, but with the availability of primers that stick to laminate surfaces, painting a faux stone finish is now a feasible low-cost option. I decided to go this route for my kitchen counter and chose to try for a granite look because it seemed to require the least artistic ability to achieve. (My counter was in bad shape and needed repairs prior to painting. I painted on wood surfaces, but the same techniques can be used on laminate.)
Primer: I used Glidden Gripper. Straight from the can, this stuff is as thick as glue and dries in about three seconds. Mixing in some Floetrol paint conditioner makes it much easier to roll on. The Gripper worked very well on my wood surfaces. It is supposed to work on laminates also, but I haven't tried it.
Paint: I suggest using a base coat color plus at least four accent colors for the most realistic granite-like result. A metallic accent color will help replicate the glint seen in real granite. I used Behr latex paint in Pewter Mug (cool grey), Porpoise (warmer grey) and Beluga (black), Ceramcoat acrylic paint in Bamboo (beige), and FolkArt acrylic paint in Metallic Silver. The latex and acrylic paints worked equally well.
Sea Sponge: These are available at craft stores.
Clear Coat: I used EnviroTex Lite, a pour-on gloss finish. I have mixed feelings about the result, which I'll explain later in this post. Polyurethane would be another option.
You'll also need appropriate application tools (rollers, brushes, etc.), paper plates or cardboard for your paint palette, and paper towels. I recommend having a granite sample or photo on hand for reference. I used a free granite sample that I picked up from the home improvement store.
Begin by priming and then painting on the base coat. I used Pewter Mug (the same grey as on my walls) mixed with Beluga (black) to darken it.
Allow the base coat to dry completely, then sponge on the accent colors.
- Wet the sponge to soften it, then squeeze all the water out.
- Squirt or pour out a little of the accent color onto a paper plate or cardboard.
- Dip the sponge into the accent color, then dab it on paper towels to remove any excess paint.
- Sponge the paint onto the counter with light pressure.
Step 2: Sponge on the next accent color. Think it looks sort of silly.
Step 3: Sponge on another color. Think it looks obvious that it's sponged-on paint. Fear that this faux painting thing might be the worst idea you've ever had. Debate whether to continue.
Step 4: Forge ahead with sponging on another color. Begin to have a tiny glimmer of hope that this project won't be a disaster.
Step 5: Sponge on another color. Feel more confident that the counter might actually resemble stone in the end.
Step 6 and beyond: Continue to sponge on your accent colors until you are satisfied with the result.
My result was more or less what I was trying for -- a slightly darker version of the granite sample:
Allow the paint to dry, then apply the clear coat. Choose one with a gloss finish to better replicate the shine of polished granite. I used EnviroTex, a pour-on coating which produces a thick, glossy finish. If you decide to use EnviroTex, be aware that it drips all over the place, is extremely sticky when wet, and does not clean up easily. Edge the counter with painters tape, cover the cabinets, floor and every other exposed surface with plastic dropcloths, wear gloves, and use a disposable mixing bowl and stirrer.
Masking tape applied to the underside of the counter will form a little ledge to catch drips. Be sure to remove all tape before the EnviroTex dries.
EnviroTex coats a relatively small area, so I needed four boxes to cover my counter. The first two batches went on beautifully, and I was very impressed with the super glossy finish, which looked almost like glass. But inexplicably, the second two batches, which I mixed in exactly the same manner as the first two, were full of bubbles. I tried the remedies recommended in the instructions (except for a propane torch, which I don't have and would be reluctant to use even if I did) to no avail. This was quite disappointing. Having had such mixed results with a fairly expensive product, I can't really say whether I'd recommend EnviroTex or not. When it's bubble-free, it looks fantastic. But it's frustrating to end up with a bubbly surface, even though the bubbles are only visible from certain angles. If I ever do another faux granite project, I'll probably give polyurethane a try.
With the clear coat added, the faux granite counter is complete! The EnviroTex is so glossy, you can see reflections in it.
Because I know the counter is painted wood, it's hard for me to judge if it really looks like granite or not... either way, it's an improvement.
Tips and Lessons Learned:
- When sponging on the accent colors, rotate the sponge and/or change the angle of your wrist to better simulate the random patterns of granite.
- When sponging, use light pressure at a measured pace. Sort of a dab... dab... dab..., not a DABDABDAB. Don't play VNV Nation or Imperative Reaction if you're likely to sponge in time with the music. ;)
- Latex and acrylic paints dry extremely fast, so you can work your way around the counter with one color and then immediately start again with another color. I rinsed my sponge between colors, but I'm not sure that's really necessary.
Total cost of this project was about $82. I paid $18 each for four boxes of EnviroTex, $5 for sea sponges, and about $5 for supplies (roller covers, dropcloth and mixing bowl). I had the primer and paints on hand. (Purchasing new primer and latex paint (one quart each) would add another $25 or so. Acrylic paints for accent colors are $1-2 each. Polyurethane would be a less expensive clear coat choice at about $12-15 for a quart.)