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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!