Dear James: I have an old laminate kitchen countertop still in good shape. I want to refinish it myself so it looks like real granite. What options do I have? -- Sandra N.
Dear Sandra: There are several do-it-yourself refinishing kits you can buy to provide a durable, real-granite or stonelike appearance. They are available at most home center stores for between $150 and $200. Typical kits can cover about 40 to 50 square feet of counter area that is in good condition.
My own house is about 45 years old and had butcher block counters. There is one large, L-shaped one with the sink and three smaller ones by the range and refrigerator. They total about 55 square feet, so I needed two kits. I wanted a golden-toned granite look to compliment my kitchen cabinets.
I chose a SpreadStone countertop refinishing kit, which you can find at http://www.daichcoating.com, because of the color and the real stone particles in the surface. Making your old countertops look like real granite is a three-step process. Plan on this project taking a couple of days total. This gives each layer time to dry before preparing for the next step.
As with any of the refinishing kits, clean and sand the old laminate surface with 80-grit sandpaper. Don't worry if you can see scratches after sanding. The base layer is very thick, almost like icing, so it covers any scratches. This also works well on wood or concrete surfaces. When applying over tile, a bonding coat must be applied first.
If you have several countertops, start on a small one. There is a short learning curve, so learn on one that may be used to set a microwave oven. The kit includes a medium brush, miniroller and matching paint tray. Using the miniroller is recommended, except for space-restricted spots, where the brush is needed.
Stir the base coat, roll it on, and allow it to dry. A second coat is recommended but not needed if the first coat totally blocks the color of your old countertop. The base coat is just being used for color and as a primer, so its thickness does not affect the finished surface.
Next, apply a colored coat, which includes the tiny real stone particles. Roll this on fairly thickly. You will see and feel the tiny stone particles when dry. Put on another coat of the stone-filled coating, and even add a third coat if there is enough left in the can.
Once it is thoroughly dry, sand the surface with 120-grit sandpaper. Sand it in a circular pattern. This really makes all the natural stone colors stand out. If you have an orbital sander with a vacuum, the sanding takes less time. You will be sanding actual stone, so there will be a lot of fine dust. Wear a breathing mask or respirator.
You can sand it down as smooth as you like. While trying to get it too smooth, I accidentally (the learning curve) sanded all the way down to the base coat in a few spots and had to touch them up with more of the stone coating. This is where three layers of stone coating really helps; the layers provide more thickness for sanding smooth without going through it. My finish has a slight texture to it.
When you have it as smooth as you like, roll on a clear sealing coating. It is very thin, almost like water, so it does not get cloudy or puddle on the surface. This brings out the stone color even more. Apply a second thin coat, and wait a day to use the counter.
Another type of simulated granite countertop kit, Transformations, available at https://www.rustoleum.com, uses an adhesive base coat, special wetting agent, decorative chips and two-part finish coating. This kit includes a special sanding block, a stone particle shaker and a spreader. This is best done as a two-person project because you must work fast when applying the chips.
Roll on the adhesive coating evenly, and make sure it stays wet by spraying on wetting agent. Using the chips spreader, turn a crank handle, which throws a spray of chips out the front. Cover the surface evenly with chips. When dry, vacuum off loose chips and lightly sand the surface for evenness. Stir the two topcoat liquids together. You will have about four hours to use it before it sets up.
Another kit from https://www.gianigranite.com also used a base coat for the background color. Once this dark coat is dry, use sponges from the kit to dab colored chips in a liquid base and onto the surface. There are several colors, so you can determine the final pattern and appearance. Each counter will look slightly different. There is a practice test sheet included. Finish the surface with a clear topcoat.
When using any of these kits, it is wise to slightly round sharp edges with sandpaper. For better durability, I used a small brush to put a third sealer coat along the rounded edge where there will more contact and wear.
James Dulley writes "Here's How." To find out more about James Dulley and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.