How to Refinish Laminate Countertops

A black kitchen counter with a white backsplash and accessories.
  • 4-10 hours
  • Beginner
  • 125-300
What You'll Need
Countertop refinishing kit or paint
Measuring tape
Protective eyewear
Disposable gloves
Dust mask
Drop cloth
Plastic sheeting
Wood fill
Cleaner (like TSP)
Sandpaper 600 grit and 100 grit
Lint-free rags
Smooth painter’s tape (2” size)
Nap microfiber roller and frame
High density foam roller and frame
2 paint trays
2” synthetic paint brushes

If you want to update your kitchen for a fraction of the cost of a full remodel, you might want to consider refinishing surfaces instead of replacing them. Believe it or not, with a little bit of hard work and patience, you can refinish those dirty and dated laminate countertops. Following is a step-by-step guide on how to do it.

Measuring Your Countertop

Each countertop kit or gallon of paint, covers a certain amount of square feet. You’ll need to measure your countertop to ensure you purchase enough material.

1. Measure the length, as well as the width, of your countertop in inches. Don’t forget to measure the front edge of your countertop and any backsplash you might have as well.

2. Multiply the number of inches long by the number of inches wide to get the total square inches. Divide that number of square inches by 144 and your end result is total square feet.

3. You’ll need to do this process multiple times if you have more than one countertop.

Preparing Your Countertop

A pair of hands sanding a counter.

You’ll want to make sure that your countertop is in good condition before you start to refinish it. It should be free of cracks, chips, and dents. You’ll also want to start with a clean and de-glossed surface before refinishing.

1. Make sure you wear protective eyewear and gloves while prepping and refinishing your countertop. You may also want to lay down a drop cloth or plastic sheeting to protect your floors.

2. If you notice any areas needing repair, they can be filled with wood fill and sanded smooth with sandpaper.

3. After you’ve repaired your countertop, you should clean it thoroughly. You can use soap and water, or a stronger cleaner like Trisodium Phosphate, also called TSP.

4. Once you’ve ensured that you are working with a clean surface, the next step is to thoroughly sand your entire countertop (to de-gloss it) with the sanding tool included in your kit. Make sure you wear a dust mask for this step. Be careful when sanding around sinks and appliances. If you are not using a kit, you can de-gloss your countertop with a sanding block or 100-grit sandpaper. Just make sure that you are not leaving deep scratches in the countertop surface.

5. Vacuum all sanding dust and wipe down your countertop with a damp, lint-free cloth. If any dust remains after the countertop is dry, wipe it down again.

Refinishing Your Countertop

A white paint roller covered in white paint.

There are several steps to refinish your countertop to ensure a long-lasting and durable surface. Make sure to read the instructions in your kit thoroughly. The following instructions are assuming that you are using a kit, with brief instructions in the event you are not using a kit.

1. Tape off any areas that you do not want to get paint on with your painter’s tape.

2. Apply the adhesive base coat included in your kit. You’ll want to use your nap microfiber roller for this step. If you are not using a kit, you can prime your countertop with a good quality oil-based primer and let it dry for a minimum of four hours.

3. Make sure that you work quickly and maintain a wet edge on the entire surface.

4. Use a 2-inch synthetic brush for the front of the countertop, back edge, and backsplash.

5. If your kit comes with decorative chips (these give countertops a stone finish), you need to apply them before the adhesive base coat dries. Find natural break points in your countertop surface and work in smaller sections. You can also use the wetting agent that comes with your kit to extend drying times. If you are not using a kit, now is the time to apply a base coat of paint onto your counters. You can create a natural stone look by using a sponge and two to three shades of paint as subsequent layers.

6. Allow your countertop to dry overnight or for a minimum of 12 hours.

7. Once your countertop is dry, sand and smooth the decorative chip surface with the sanding tool included in your kit. You do not need to sand your countertop if you are not using decorative chips.

8. Vacuum any loose decorative chips and wipe the surface down with a damp, lint-free cloth. Allow your countertop to dry.

9. Apply the protective top coat provided with your kit. Be sure to follow the instructions that come with your kit as each one uses different materials. If you are not using a kit, apply at least two coats of acrylic polyurethane using a dense foam roller.

10. Allow 48 hours for the top coat to dry for light use. Wait a full week for your countertop to be fully cured and able to withstand heavy use.

While it might seem like a lot of time and work, you'll find that refinishing your laminate countertops yield beautiful results without spending a lot of money.