painting formica countertops

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Doc, Dec 29, 2005.

  1. Doc

    Doc Well-Known Member Supporter

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    We have an apartment we want to spruce up and rent. It has very dark formica countertops that need painting. Is there a special process for painting formica? Any suggestions for paint and DIY?
     

  2. Richard6br

    Richard6br Well-Known Member

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    I know automotive paint sticks to it. I have a piece of old formica counter top in my garage. Automotive paint spills stick VERY well. To get a good looking job you should use a spray gun, no brushes. You shouldn't need a primer, just make sure it is clean and free from any grease or oil. Use a tack cloth to remove any dust just before you begin to spray. You realize that you will not be able to cut anything on the counter top after painting it. Cuts will show up in the paint. Actually you can go over top of the original counter top with new formica. I have done this a few times and it works very well. [If the original top is preformed roll front with a built in back splash this may not work].
     
  3. tobo6

    tobo6 Well-Known Member

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    I haven't found anything that will work with painting over formica. Our countertop in the bathroom is burnt orange (lovely huh? lol) It would look nice after I painted it, but as soon as I used a SOS pad to clean it showed ever scratch or actually peeled the paint off. With my husband being a mechanic it's impossible to softly clean the grease off, so I scraped all the paint off.

    I did get a new formica piece that is waiting to be glued onto the orange formica though...just haven't had time to do that yet.
     
  4. countrygrrrl

    countrygrrrl PITA

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    I paint my formica countertops and have had no problems with them, except that I keep changing my color schemes. I'm painting a detached one now, to be placed under my convection oven.

    The secret(s) is (are) patience, lots of layers, a coat or two of polyurethane and only painting when it's warm, either inside or out or both. I just use latex semi-glosses that I pick up on the discard rack at Lowes or lumber yards. I clean the surface well --- and I mean well --- and start painting.

    The piece I'm painting now has already gotten five coats and will get one or two more. Once it's painted and the paint is completely dry, I put a waterbased poly on --- be mindful that some waterbased polys will turn a bit yellow (Minwax is esp. bad about this), while others will turn a bit white (Pro Finisher, in particular). I keep two types of poly on hand because of this.

    Once you put the poly on, let it dry for a few days before using! Patience is a primary factor in how well it holds up --- if you just finish painting and immediately start splashing water on it and scratching on it, it won't hold up.

    I tried auto paint and even some Rustoleum that I got on sale, and was dissatisfied with the results. I've gotten better results with the latex semi-glosses. Besides, using a latex semi-gloss gives you great access to lots and lots and lots of colors! :D I'm getting ready to paint faux Mexican tile on my kitchen counters, and can do this because I'll be using discard semi-glosses in an insane array of colors.
     
  5. amelia

    amelia Well-Known Member

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    Doc, I can't imagine getting a nice looking result with paint, and going through the steps of trying sounds like a nightmare. . . Do you know how easy it is to install new formica right over the old? There's nothing to it. I'd be happy to describe how to do it if you're interested.
     
  6. Doc

    Doc Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Amelia,

    I just tried to send you a private message but your box is full. Anyway, if you read this, please send details on installing new formica over old -- if the cost/time isn't too prohibitive. Thanks very much for the alternative.
     
  7. spam4einstein

    spam4einstein Well-Known Member

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    I dont mean to insult anyone, but you need pretty low standards to be happy with the outcome. latex paint will take weeks to dry hard, and all but expensive epoxy paints will not hold up. You can get away with painting a formica backsplash though. You would be better off using contact paper. On the bright side, formica is a good base to glue tile or new formica right over. Tile is easy,,,really easy, just time consuming. If you are bright enough to drive you can tile! I spent 10 years as a property manager & contractor so Ive seen and done it all. My advice is DONT DO IT! It may look good for a few weeks before it looks like S*^t.
     
  8. spam4einstein

    spam4einstein Well-Known Member

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    Tile is simpler than formica. Cheep too! Formica can be purchased at home depot or similar. All you need to do is remove the sink. clean really well. Apply contact cement over the old countertop and back of new formica and glue the front edge pieces down first. than apply the large piece over the work surface. You will need a laminate trimmer to cut it flush with the counter edge. Im sorry, its just not true that installing new formica is easy. Once you have done it a few times its really quick and easy. But its really easy to mess up and there are tons of ways to do that as there is no room for mistakes. If you are still wanting to do formica over formica.....get a book on it and follow it carefully.

    A landloard will charge you if you change anything. From his perspective a dark countertop my be a good thing. Formica last forever. Unless its a professional job, he likes the color, and is a nice guy you WILL be charged for new countertops if you change anything!

    A nice quality white contact paper will last for a while and look nice without messing anything up. You can spend several hours removing it when you move out and still not risk any security deposit or being sued!
     
  9. amelia

    amelia Well-Known Member

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    Doc,

    Here's generally how to do it. If you'd like more detail, you can pm me--in the meantime I'll work on cleaning out that mailbox!

    PREPARATION:

    (1) Draw a measured diagram of your surface to figure out how much plastic laminate ("formica") you'll need to buy. It generally comes in 4x8 or larger sheets if you're buying at Home Depot, but dedicated suppliers of p-lam have a large range of sizing options--not to mention an infinite variety of colors and patterns. Also, their stuff tends to be newer and therefore less brittle. The material will roll up loosely (plastic side toward the inside) for easy transporting home.

    (2) Cut p-lam pieces for not only the top of your counter, but also for each exposed edge. Size the pieces to extend approximately 1/4-inch over the edge of each surface. The protruding edge will later be cut off flush with a laminate trimmer or router.

    For cutting p-lam, you can use a sharp utility knife to score the material on the plastic side. Use a metal straight-edge and press hard. Then snap the material to break it along the scored line. Alternatively, you can use a table saw to make your cuts. A table saw works beautifully, but you'll need to do something to prevent the sheet you are cutting from sliding underneath the fence.

    If you can buy a large enough piece of p-lam to prevent you from having to make joints, so much the better. Joints are not difficult, but they tend to separate over time unless they are adequately compressed, and the technique for doing that can be a little tricky. Also, any edges to be joined should ideally be jointed so that they are perfectly flat.

    (3) Prepare the existing p-lam surface by roughing it up a bit with sandpaper and flattening any surface imperfections. Thoroughly wipe the surface clean of dust.

    APPLICATION:

    Do one piece at a time. (Important!)

    (1) Start with the edges, not the top of your counter. Take the strip that you have cut for one of the edges and lay it out on a flat surface, reverse side up. Use a chip brush to spread a thin coating of water-based contact cement on the back side of the strip. Prepare the countertop edge to which the strip will be adhered in the same manner. (You MUST prepare BOTH surfaces to be joined.)

    (2) Let the contact cement dry (really!) to the point of being just barely tacky--not sticky. A blow dryer can reduce the dry time to 5-15 minutes.

    (3) Now place the laminate strip against the countertop edge, making sure that all edges overlap. Use a laminate roller or the ROUNDED edge of a piece of wood to firmly press (in a rubbing-type fashion) the laminate piece against the surface to which it's being applied. (Warning: I'd advise using a helper to position the piece exactly, because you'll only get one try--once it sticks even a little, it's stuck for good! Also, be careful not to press too hard on the extending edges, which may break.)

    (4) Use a laminate trimmer (a mini-router) to trim off the overlapping excess on all four sides. (No need to wait for anything to dry--contact cement adheres on contact.) Use several passes if the overlap is more than 1/4 inch, since you'll get the cleanest, straightest cut if you're not removing a lot of material.

    A full-size router with a straight bit can also be used for trimming laminate, but I find that a router is more difficult to hold straight, which is extremely important.

    Warning: Now you see the reason for preparing only one surface at a time: The shavings created from trimming the edges of the laminate will adhere to any contact cement-prepared surface that remains exposed anywhere nearby. Even small shavings adhering to the undersurface of the p-lam will look like large bumps once it is applied.

    (5) With the first edging piece trimmed flush, proceed to the adjacent edges, in the same manner, trimming off the excess as each one is applied.

    (5) Once all of your edges are done and cut flush, apply the top piece in the same manner. This is tricky, because you've got only once chance to place the material correctly, and you'll have only about 1/4" of overlap to work with. Use helpers. Better yet, lay many chopstick-sized cauls or dowels (venetian blind slats also work well) across the countertop, lay the p-lam on that, and then pull the dowels out once the sheet is positioned correctly. As before, use a laminate roller or rounded-over piece of wood to firmly press down on each and every inch of the surface. As before, use a laminate trimmer to trim off the excess.

    That's really all there is to it. I'd strongly recommend doing a test piece before embarking on the real thing: Take an 8x10 piece of plywood and apply p-lam to all six sides. Having done that, you'll be a pro.

    Good luck!

    Amelia
     
  10. BrianD

    BrianD New Member

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    Doc'
    I would like to add something to Amelia's post if I may. After the contact adhesive is dry(tacky) , you can also use newspaper to keep the new laminate and older top seperate while you are positioning the laminate. When the new laminate is in position,start slipping the newspaper out and roll to press the new laminate to the old. A mill finished "Plasti-cut" file can be used to finish the edges instead of a laminate router if you don't have access to one or don't want to buy one. Edge banding can also be bought instead of cutting a piece off of a sheet of laminate. They are generally 2" wide by 12' long and cost about $4.00. I hope this helps.
    Brian
     
  11. Doc

    Doc Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Thanks, Amelia, very much for the step by step directions. Is there a way to print messages off this forum? If not, I'll write it all down and take it with me -- I may need to write you back if I hit a snag (will probably start this project next weekend). Wish me luck!

    Thanks also, Brian, for the newspaper tip.
     
  12. kmaproperties

    kmaproperties Well-Known Member

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    I painted my counters 4 years ago and they are still in good shape.

    sand and clean with a tac cloth. paint with a foam roller, using a product like gripper primer or XIM at sherwin williams. then paint with any water based topcoat.
    DO NOT SAND THE PAINT, then use 3 coats of water based poly. sand in between poly coats.

    IF YOU GET SCRATCHES OVER TIME YOU CAN LIGHTLY SAND AND PUT ON A COAT OF POLY.
     
  13. Ruby

    Ruby Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Wouldn't it be easier and just about as cheap to install a preformed counter top. I've done that my self a couple of times. Some time you can find them that has a small scratch or small chip and get them at a much reduced price.
     
  14. amelia

    amelia Well-Known Member

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    Doc,

    A couple of additional points came to mind:

    (1) A laminate trimmer comes equipped with a bearing that rides along the surface perpendicular to the one you're cutting. It keeps your cut nice and straight. Router bits do not necessaily come with bearings. A bearing is a pretty essential thing; otherwise you'll end up with a crazy-wavy cut and lots of gouges.

    (2) The good side of p-lam scratches pretty easily. For that reason, I'd make sure the bearing of my laminate trimmer or router bit spins freely so that it won't drag across the plastic surface. If not, lube it up. Another trick which I learned was to rub a little votive candle on the p-lam surface along the intended path of the bearing to keep it from scratching.

    (3) Before concluding that your cut is not clean, wipe the cut edge with a little mineral spirits to dissolve the contact cement boogers. It will look much nicer.

    (4) After cutting off the excess with a laminate trimmer, the cut edges will be quite sharp, and the corners will be "kid killers." Take a fine file and, using a few VERY LIGHT little sweeps, take the sharp edges off at a 45-degree angle. Be careful: It's very easy to take off too much material or to tilt the file too far and "scalp" the plastic, exposing the ugly gray or brown backing. You'd be amazed how micro-thin that superficial layer of plastic is!

    (5) I intended, but forgot, to recommend that you use two coats of contact cement (the second coat applied after the first one is dry). This is generally needed because the paper backing of the plastic laminate tends to soak up the first coat, leaving an inadequate residue for good adhesion.

    (6) I don't know if you've used laminate trimmers or routers before, so if you know this already, forgive me-- Both tools are meant to go in one direction only--so that the bit is drawn into the material against the direction of bit rotation. On an outside edge, this means moving the tool in a clockwise direction. Attempting to go in the wrong direction can cause the tool to jump right out of your hands.

    Another good tip is to avoid starting the cut at a corner since the tool will wobble until the bearing finds its path. Laminate trimmers can actually round corners without stopping. Doing that will oftentimes give you a nicer result than if you stop and start at every corner.


    Feel free to pm me with any questions. I'm not much good when it comes to the difference between straw and hay, but this much I can contribute!

    Amelia