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It’s safe to say most folks spent an outsized amount of time in their own kitchens last year, so if you’ve found your eyes drawn to your dingy laminate counters more often than usual, you’re likely not alone.
Maybe you’ve been putting off doing anything about them because you’re a renter, or you own but don’t have the budget right now to tear everything out and put in all new countertops. But thankfully, you have options that don’t involve a pricey renovation.
From contact paper to a faux marble paint job and beyond, there are plenty of DIY hacks out there that can help you transform your laminate kitchen counters from cheap to expensive-looking in a snap. Of course, if you’re a renter, it’s always a good idea to check in with your landlord before tackling any project that will significantly alter your space — but there are still rental-friendly ways to get the $$$ look on a budget.
Sometimes you don’t have to overthink it: A complete laminate counter upgrade can be as simple as a fresh coat of paint. But naturally, not any old can you find moldering under your sink is going to do the trick. For this project, you’re on the lookout for a specific product called countertop coating, which is available for under $50 on Amazon. It’s thicker and more durable than regular paint, which will quickly flake off if you try it on your counters, but also has a much stronger smell, notes Brittni Mehlhoff of Paper & Stitch Blog. So make sure your area is well ventilated before getting started, and maybe even consider wearing a respirator mask while you’re working.
As with any painting project, you’ll want to clean and sand your surface — look for a sanding sponge with a beveled edge for those hard-to-reach-corners, and then tape off any areas that aren’t getting painted. Aim for long, overlapping strokes, and expect to apply multiple coats, letting it dry completely in between each one. Once you’re happy with the opacity, let it dry for three days before using your counters at all. At that point, you can either leave it as is, or add a coat of polyurethane to defend against chipping.
Cover it with contact paper.
If you’re looking for the most temporary and renter-friendly of methods, contact paper is an excellent place to start. The material is decorative on one side — in patterns like granite, wood grain, or faux tiles — and adhesive on the other, and the application process is as simple as measuring, peeling, and sticking. (Although you can and should set yourself up for additional success by cleaning your countertops intensely beforehand and letting them dry fully before getting to work.)
Other useful tools for this process are a smoothing tool and pin for erasing bubbles, plus a utility knife for trimming, all of which will make your contact paper countertops more durable long-term. Blogger Anika of Anika’s DIY Life has resurfaced her countertops with contact paper in several rental units she’s lived in over the years and says she was initially worried about how long they’d last. But 10 months after installing it in her kids’ bathroom, she said it was still very well sealed, and looked identical to the day she’d stuck it down, even after multiple spills and wipe-downs with cleaning sprays.
This option can be a great solution for renters, since the paper is removable on move-out — but it’s still a good idea to run it by your landlord before installing.
Re-finish it with a faux-marble look.
Sure, those countertop coatings can be tinted to 16 different colors. But if you’re feeling really fancy, you don’t have to stop there — it’s not too much harder to replicate a surface like marble or granite on the cheap.
Just complete all the steps above for a fresh base layer, and then you have some options. If you’re feeling creative, you can take a page out of DIY blogger Sarah Powell’s book, and employ a sea sponge technique with various shades of gray acrylic paint under a layer of epoxy. The result looks almost identical to marble, and she says it was still holding up well two full years later.
If that process sounds like too much work, however, you can always break out a can of Marble Effect Spray ($9), like TikTok user Brittany did in her home, shown above. Hold it about a foot away from the surface you want marbleized, then depress the button to release a shockingly accurate looking webbing of fibers that perfectly mimic marble’s organic fracturing.
Skim coat it with concrete.
Finally, it’s possible to give your kitchen an industrial edge without pouring your own concrete countertops. Full disclosure: this project is both dusty and intensive, so make sure you set aside enough time before diving in.
You already know you’re starting with a deep clean and a good sanding, at which point it’s time to mix up your concrete. DIYer Libbie of A Life Unfolding — who’s refinished both kitchen counters and a bar top (pictured above) this way — recommends mixing up small batches so your concrete doesn’t dry out between steps.
Like Libbie, you’ll use a trowel to apply a thin but consistent layer of the concrete over every inch of your sanded laminate, and then let that dry. (Note that in the bar top pictured here, she applies concrete to a plywood base that’s placed on top of her existing counters to help give it a thicker, more substantial profile — but this is not necessary.) Repeat the process as many times as you need to get your desired thickness, sanding lightly between each thin coat.
Finish with three light coats of Acrylaq, and you’ve got yourself a brand new setup that’s likely to last you far longer than your original laminate ever could have.