How to Paint Your Countertops

Removing painter's tape from freshly painted countertops.
  • 20 hours
  • Advanced
  • 500
What You'll Need
Countertop transformation kit
Sandpaper—fine grit
Sanding sponge
Roller and pan
Masking tape

Do you dream of sparkling new countertops but know that your tight budget won't allow for a large kitchen transformation? Granite and other high-end options are lovely, but if you have a lot of counter space the cost can really add up.

If you're simply looking for a facelift in your kitchen and you don't want to spend a lot of time or money, consider painting your counters. When done right, a painted countertop may be all that is needed for you to have a newfound appreciation for your kitchen. This low budget project that will free up money for other household improvements.

Just like anything else, there is a right and wrong way to paint countertops. Applying paint to kitchen counters incorrectly can be a heartbreaking mistake. While you won’t notice any problems at first, very soon you’ll find that the paint and state of your countertop won’t hold up.

Keep in mind that adding paint to your countertop is likely your way of avoiding a costly full scale remodel, but the only way to course-correct once you’ve gone down the wrong path is just that: you’ll have to completely re-do your counters.

The following steps will tell you the right way to go about painting counters.

Step 1 - Prepare the Surface

Before you even think about putting on a coat of something, make sure you take off the coats of whatever else is already there. This means to remove all the grease and grime. If there are places where your countertop is damaged, fill them with wood filler and sand using 600-grit sandpaper.

Sanding is even more important for laminate or wood surfaces. In these cases, it is important to sand the entire surface well before beginning the project and not just the damaged areas.

As with all sanding, wipe away the dust and debris from the process before continuing.

Step 2 – Taping and Covering

Cover the backsplash, cabinets, and floor. Use tape to protect any area that won’t ultimately be painted. If it will help ease the job moving forward and provide better access, you may even want to remove the sink.

Step 3 - Primer

You will want to cover the countertop with a primer using a paint roller. The choice of primer will be critical at this point, as some different types are now available that will bond any specific finish to practically any type of surface or surface finishes. The paint roller is the go-to tool for this project. Unlike walls which have surfaces that are subtly different in places and capable of absorbing brushed on paint to make it appear natural, a countertop will likely show individual brushstrokes in its finished product. The same goes for applying the actual paint. Rollers should be favored over brushes for counter work.

Apply at least two coats of primer and allow it to dry completely. For counters especially this is an important step. For some paint projects like walls, you can get away without a coat of primer.

Step 4 - Choose the Right Paint

You can use flat latex paint or even stone-textured paint--there are a number of color options available. You can also choose to purchase a kit specialized for work on countertops such as Rust-Oleum Countertop Transformations or Giani granite countertop paint.

These four options are your best options. Even if you have another variety of paint laying around as leftovers from another paint project, it’s worth it to spend on the more appropriate paints than to save by using one that is not good for the job.

Step 5 - Paint and Finish

Coating Twice—Apply two coats of the paint for best results and allow the surface to dry completely between coats--overnight is recommended. You can speed up the process by turning on your ceiling fan and keeping the room well-ventilated.

Applying a Topcoat—Once the paint is dry, apply two coats of polyurethane. If you opted for a countertop painting kit, the polyurethane equivalent will be called the topcoat.

Sanding—After the topcoat has dried, sand gently with a moist sanding sponge until smooth. Allow the now-moistened countertop to dry.

Repeating the process—Reapply the polyurethane and sand two more times. To be clear, this means that the total number of topcoats applied will be six, broken up over three application phases. Each phase will be punctuated by a round of sanding. This step is very important for the longevity of the finish.

Tip: After the process is complete, use a trivet or a similarly raised platform when setting hot items on your countertop.