DIY Painted Counter Tops

I’m still pinching myself over the basement kitchen transformation I shared earlier this week – I am so in love with the new look of the space! One of the things that made a huge difference in this renovation was updating the counter tops. Today I’m sharing the process I used to take these counter tops from a lackluster dated pattern to a clean, fresh marble look. The process seemed intimidating at first, but it was actually surprisingly easy to do!

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After installing the butcher block counter top for the island, I decided I wanted to keep that as an accent look and not continue butcher block all the way around the kitchen. I looked into replacing the counter tops with a faux marble laminate, but the estimate came back at around $1800-2000 and I was not about to spend that much on this renovation. I decided instead to proceed with the same simple, budget-friendly tool I had already used to update the tiles, walls, and cabinets: paint!

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The previous counters were brown and had a pressed leaf patterned look to them, which was not exactly the look I was going for here.

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I ordered this marble paint kit for just under $200 total with tax (and free shipping), and while that it not an insignificant amount of money, it is a heck of a lot cheaper than $2,000. I appreciated that the kit came with everything I needed to complete the project except for painter’s tape, which I already had.

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The first thing I needed to do was remove all existing caulk around the counter top and sink area and scrub the counter with an SOS pad. After wiping it down and taping off around the counter with painter’s tape, I was ready to paint. I used the included sponge brush to edge and the roller to cover the counter top with their white base primer. I applied a base coat, waited four hours, and applied a second coat.

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At this point, I realized that the counters were VERY white. The rest of the kitchen has a lot of warmer tones and the starkness of a cool, bright white counter top was just too much. I waited until morning to see how it looked fully dry and in natural light, and it was still a touch too bright. I had enough base primer for one more coat and I decided to veer from the kit’s instructions and try to tint and tone down the color a bit. I used baby food jars to try out different combinations of paint using the base primer, my wall paint, and the included gray paint for veining.

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I finally settled on a proportion of base primer + gray paint that felt right, crossed my fingers, and mixed up the combination in a larger scale with the rest of my base primer.

 

The change was very very subtle but just enough to take us from Colgate Toothpaste advertisement white to a slightly less shocking white hue. It was really hard to document the change on camera, but if you look closely in the corner where the counter top meets the backsplash, you can see a little bit of the original white that I missed when I put on the second coat. I was much happier with the slightly subdued new shade! I applied one full coat with the new color and made sure to touch up every area before letting it dry overnight.

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The next day I was ready to create the veins for a marble look. I put everything I needed on a paper plate so it would be easy to move along the counter top and not drip paint where I didn’t want it. For this step, I used the gray veining paint, small artist brush, spray bottle filled with water, angled brush, and a paper towel for blotting.

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I would highly recommend watching this video tutorial produced by Giani before attempting this step. It was so helpful to me to see exactly how veins are produced and the type of veins that look natural. The thought of drawing veins was intimidating to me, but it actually was quite easy. I just used the tiny brush to draw a slanted line, sprayed it with water to make the paint bleed, and then feathered the wet paint out to give it a lighter, blurred look. I used the paper towel to dab extra moisture and also soak up excess paint to achieve a faded look.

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I finished the major veins first, then drew on the edges and backsplash, and finished with “ghost” veins, which are smaller, more faded veins. I tried not to do too many, as I wanted a somewhat simple and clean look. If I ever started a line that I didn’t like, I could just spray more water on it, wipe it off, and try again! As long as the paint was wet, it was very easy to work with and fix. The kit also came with a white highlight paint to add texture by lightly dabbing on the paint with a sponge. I used this maybe in 3-4 places where the gray lines were a bit thicker, but I did not really utilize this optional step.

After letting all the veins dry four hours, it was time for the final step: epoxy. We first taped off every surface and appliance and attached the included plastic drop cloths to the bottom of the counter with painter’s tape to protect the cabinets and floors from any drips.

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Epoxy can be finicky and messy, so I would recommend this step happen when you have dedicated time to focus. While it can be done by one person, I would highly recommend doing it with two people. Justin and I worked together on this step after our kids went to bed and I was so thankful to be able to tag team! The instructions recommend setting aside four hours for this step but it only took us two hours working together.

The kit includes epoxy resin + activator in three small batches. This is because once the two are mixed together, you have about a 30 minute window to apply before it starts to set and harden. Smaller batches allow you to get good coverage with each section without rushing too much to try to cover the entire counter.

Justin mixed up the first batch of resin + applicator (it needs to be stirred continuously for exactly 3 minutes and 15 seconds before applying). He then poured it over about a 7 foot stretch of counter in a Z formation (the kit recommends a 6 foot run, but we needed to stretch it just a little to cover everything). He used the included brush to apply epoxy to the backsplash and edges and I used the roller to smooth it out over the counter top. Since brushing took longer than rolling, when I finished with the rolling, I would start mixing and stirring the next batch of epoxy while Justin finished brushing. By the time the epoxy was adequately stirred, he was finished with his section and we started on the next one. We continued this process over the whole counter, and we had to continuously go back over our work to check for drips, pools in the corners, and missed sections.

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Once we were totally satisfied with how it looked, we went to bed (it was past 11 pm). I needed to set an alarm to wake up in an hour to come down and remove the tape – you need to give it enough time for the epoxy to set but not fully harden before removing the tape. At that time, I also smoothed the drips along the bottom edge of the counter and went back to sleep. When we woke up, it was finished!

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The high gloss shine definitely took the look to the next level! The epoxy takes 48 hours to harden for light use and 7 days to fully cure. After about 40 hours (I got impatient haha), I went over the counter top edges and around the sink with a clear silicone caulk to finish it off.

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We did have some friends over for an outdoor, socially-distanced picnic two days later and we used the counters to set food on and they held up perfectly. It was fun to see people’s reactions – they couldn’t believe the counters were painted!

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The counter tops are far from perfect and there are a few areas where I wish I had done a vein a little differently, but overall I am so happy with how they turned out! Will anyone ever think this is real marble? Of course not. But it does look like a new laminate and I think it really upgraded the look of the counters without a high cost. Win!

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One thing I would do differently if I were to do this again is try to complete the epoxy step during the day. We did it at night after the kids went down because that’s when we both had the time to focus, but I wish we had asked my mom to come watch them during the day so we could do it with good, natural lighting. With only artificial light at night, there were a few places where we didn’t see a tiny missed spot with no epoxy or an imperfection like a small piece of lint that settled in the top and we didn’t pick out. These are very slight surface imperfections, but I think we would have caught them under natural light.

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Another benefit to doing it during the day is – you are awake to monitor the drying. I went to bed after taking off all the tape. At the time, I ran the brush over all the bottom edges again to make sure they were smooth and had no drips. Overnight, the epoxy continued to drip down a bit and it caused a bumpy, uneven look in some areas underneath the counter (in the picture below, look at the counter above the left corner of the dishwasher). We still hope to be able to sand these little bumps down for a smoother finish, but if I had done this during waking hours, I could have just lightly gone back over it with a brush every 30 minutes or so until it hardened to keep the edge nice and smooth.

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Overall, I’m really happy with the process and I’m thrilled with the outcome.  I found this to be a fairly easy DIY and I would definitely recommend this brand of paint kit for the job. They also have less expensive kits that give a granite look that I also think could look really nice in a space. If there’s a counter top in your house you just don’t like but you’re not ready to fully replace, painting is a perfect way to refresh a space without a ton of time or money. Go for it!

 

 

 

 

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I would HIGHLY recommend using a paint kit. I used this one but

One Room Challenge Week Seven: Final Details!

With just one week left in the One Room Challenge, we are down to just finishing up final details in the basement kitchen!

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One of the biggest changes this room has seen was the updated “island” (which if we’re being technicalis really a peninsula) with a butcher block counter top. Monday’s blog post was all about the process for installing and sealing the butcher block and I’m incredibly happy with how it turned out.

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As I stated in Monday’s post, even though I had hoped to also address the rest of the counter tops during this challenge, they are going to stay for now. I felt like I was trying to rush into a decision just for the sake of the ORC timeline, but choosing something I love is more important than finishing within this pre-determined window. I’m waiting on an estimate to come back for an inexpensive laminate or my other option is to paint them, but in the meantime, Justin and I both agree that with all other aspects of the kitchen improved, we don’t mind the old counter tops nearly as much (but they’re still going eventually ha!)

Another thing that got me really excited this week was the arrival of our bar stools.

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I searched and searched and searched for something that worked in this space and met all our many requirements. Justin didn’t want a back but I did, so we compromised on finding ones with a lower back. I wanted clean, simple lines with just a touch of detail: modern, yet classic. Not too bulky so we could fit three across comfortably. Oh yeah . . . and we did not want to spend $200-300+ per stool (this part was actually the hardest requirement – bar stools are so expensive!) Finally I found these and they are perfect!

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I love the thin metal frame and the simple line detail. They complement the space just right and they are pretty comfortable too! And now that we don’t have that strange extra counter running along the wall, we can fit three across instead of two which makes it more functional for entertaining. Remember when it looked like this?

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I’m so glad those days are done. 😉

Justin has been working on a lot of other little details throughout the space too. This week he finished swapping out all the old beige light switches and outlets for white ones (such a little thing, such a huge difference) and last night he was able to swap out our old sink faucet for this gorgeous matte black one.

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I also went around yesterday and touched up the painted tiles. These tiles have held up really well so far against normal foot traffic, but there were two areas that have sustained damage. The area in front of the island got nicked when we were moving the base cabinet and needed a small touch up, and then the area in front of the stove got really destroyed by the drywall guys when they moved out the stove.

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This was super frustrating because I was able to carefully move the stove back into place by myself with no damage to the floor so I feel like to men should’ve been able to do it too. Sigh.

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I ordered a set of small brushes and went around last night touching up each area and it is back to looking great!

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There are only a few items left on our to-do list in this kitchen, and most of them can be summed up in this picture:

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Just a few pieces of trim and baseboards, some touch up paint and caulk, and we’re adding a dish soap dispenser where the small spigot used to be. I also have a few pieces of artwork and decor I want to arrange and then we’ll be done with this renovation. I can hardly believe it – we are so very close!

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Next week, the ORC challenge will end and final rooms will be revealed from June 25-July 5. I will actually be on vacation with my family next week, so I will have a big final reveal post when I come back from vacation. In the meantime, you can check out other room reveals on the ORC Blog!

DIY Butcher Block Countertops

Over the weekend, Justin and I teamed up to finish a big project in the basement kitchen: our new butcher block counter top!

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And because I’m a sucker for a good before-and-after, here’s a refresher on what this looked like before we started:

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My parents took LJ for the weekend so we had lots of time to work on this project. If you caught my Week Four Renovation Update, you know that actually removing the old counters was pretty easy but we then realized the cabinets were not installed square to the wall. That would have been okay, except the pre-made counter top we bought was not quite long enough to reach one corner of the cabinet since it was angled further away from the wall. This meant we were going to have to move the old cabinets closer to the wall.

To provide more counter space, the previous owners had used a panel in front of the cabinet to make the base seem larger. We wanted to keep as much counter space as possible, so we decided to only move the cabinet enough for the counter to reach the end with a little overhang. Once we finally got the cabinet off and out of the way, Justin used an angle grinder to cut away about 1/2 inch of tile on the floor. He also sealed up the cracks that were in the concrete underneath using a silicone caulk.

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The previous owners had screwed a board directly into the concrete and then screwed the cabinet to that board to keep things super sturdy. Instead of drilling into the concrete, Justin used epoxy through the drill holes to fasten the board back to the concrete.

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This worked really well and provided a very sturdy place to attach the base cabinet. Once it was dry, we set the cabinet back on top and Justin screwed the cabinet into the board from the side of the cabinet.

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Since the cabinet didn’t actually touch the wall, we also created a small frame to connect the cabinet to the wall and provide sturdiness on the other side.

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Justin used a circular saw to cut a thin plywood panel for the front of the cabinet and attached it to the cabinets using small brad nails.

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Then it was time to finally place the counter top! We bought this one from Menard’s – we wanted the widest one because we plan to have stools for seating and treat it like an island. This was the perfect size! Justin first pre-drilled holes into the cabinet itself to make it a little easier to attach once it was on.

We set it on top and got it exactly where we wanted it, then Justin screwed the counter top directly in to the cabinet. While he did that, I painted the front panel the same color as the rest of the cabinets – HGTV Home by Sherwin Williams Rock Bottom in Satin.

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Once the counter top was on and the panel was painted, Justin got to work adding the baseboards and quarter round and I worked on sealing the counter. I wanted a really natural looking finish and decided against staining the wood first. To seal the counters, I chose a simple method with a tung oil finish. This is actually a product we’ve had for several years and since buying it, the brand has moved to Miniwax.

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After wiping down the counter with tack cloth, I used a clean cloth to apply the tung oil and rubbed it in using a circular motion. I let the first coat dry overnight, then ‘sanded’ it using super fine steel wool. I used the tack cloth to pick up all the steel wool shavings, and then repeated the process two more times. After three coats total, the counters have a gorgeous finish!

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There are a lot of different methods out there for sealing butcher block counter tops and I’m sure there are better ways to increase durability. This is not our main kitchen so these counters will not be subject to the daily grind of 3 meals a day and will instead get used when we have larger gatherings or host visitors. Because of this, I wasn’t super concerned with getting the absolute best and most durable option for sealing. I anticipate a few nicks and scratches over the years but 1) I actually like the character that brings and 2) if it doesn’t look good, the beauty of butcher block is we can sand them down and refinish them later! In our first house after getting married, our kitchen didn’t have much counter space so Justin made me a wooden island and this is the sealing process we used – it held up well through lots of baking adventures and food prep so I’m feeling confident that it will work for this counter too but again, if not, we can sand it down and try something else later.

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As for the rest of the counters, they have been one big question mark this whole project. I’m really trying to keep this renovation budget-friendly, so stone is out of the question. I’ve been debating painting the existing counters, replacing with another budget-friendly laminate, or continuing the butcher block look. Even though I’m doing this kitchen for the One Room Challenge and that ends in less than 2 weeks, I didn’t want to rush this decision. I like a good mood board or Pinterest inspiration, but I always prefer to just be in a space and get a true feel for what I want. I almost always regret making a decision  and buying something too early in the process, so I like to make decision as the space comes together. This makes for a slower, but more intentional renovation.

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I wanted to wait until the butcher block counter was installed to get a feel for what I wanted for the other counters. Once this butcher block was in place, I immediately knew I did not want to continue the butcher block with the rest. I love it as a kind of accent “island!” This leaves painting or replacing with another laminate. Because of COVID-19, everything is delayed. The paint kit I want takes at least 2 weeks to arrive and the laminate estimate is taking a couple weeks to come back (and then would take 4-5 weeks to be fabricated and ready). I found myself initially wanting to rush the process and make a decision for the sake of the ORC timeline, but honestly, that’s not the most important thing right now. I want to love the final result and if that means waiting a little longer to get it right, so be it. So for now, I’m going to wait for the laminate estimate and continue to just spend time in the space and hone my vision for it.

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I still need to run a line of clear silicone caulk around the edge of the counter by the wall, which I plan to do during nap time today, and then it will be 100% finished. After that I’ll probably spend the rest of nap time just staring at it – haha! Seriously though, it’s just so beautiful and I love when my vision for a space comes together just like I imagined! ❤