While laminate countertops were once a kitchen decorating trend, they often look dated and out of place in modern kitchens. For homeowners on a budget, however, taking out the countertops and replacing them entirely may not be an option. Fortunately, there are several ways to cover laminate countertops to give them a fresh, modern face lift. All of these options allow for a great amount of design flexibility so homeowners can customise the look of their countertops to fit their tastes and needs.
Painting is typically the easiest and most inexpensive way to cover laminate countertops. The most difficult step in the process is removing the glossy finish from the laminate, which will not allow paint to adhere to the counter. Sanding the surface with sandpaper works well but may require significant time and effort. After the laminate is sanded, wash the surface with trisodium phosphate (TSP), which is a strong detergent powder mixed with water that helps remove grease, grime and gloss from the countertop to prepare it for painting. Rinse the laminate afterward, and allow the surface to dry completely.
A special paint is required to cover laminate countertops. Water-based, two-part epoxy paint generally works best. Once the two components are mixed, however, you only have four hours to apply the paint before the mixture begins to thicken. Apply several thin coats instead of one heavy coat for a smoother finish. Using a high density foam roller usually offers the best application. The paint typically dries within an hour, and you can place items on it within two hours. The surface will fully cure in four days.
For homeowners who prefer a more dramatic change in their kitchen, covering laminate countertops with tile is a good option. Ceramic and porcelain tile both give an old laminate counter a fresh, modern look and provide a durable surface as well. As with painting, sand the laminate's glossy finish with sandpaper so the tile adhesive can grab hold of the surface. A latex-modified mortar typically works best as an adhesive with laminate; spread it across the counter with a trowel. After the mortar has dried, rake it with a trowel as in a traditional tile installation project.
Bullnose tile, which is curved, is typically used around the edge of counter and is applied first. Apply extra mortar to these tiles to ensure that they are secure. Place the other tiles on the flat countertop surface, and use a mallet to tap them into place so they are strongly adhered to the surface. Apply grout using a float, a tool that is often used in grouting because it can apply the grout and wipe away excess. Clean the rest of the grout from the surface with a damp rag or sponge, and your new countertop is ready for use.
Some home improvement companies make granite coverings for laminate countertops that present a modern look and are less expensive than true granite. The coverings are made from a blend of granite and polymer resin that is formed into a large, thin slab. When installed over laminate countertops, the covering looks like genuine granite. While it can provide an elegant look to a dated kitchen, these granite coverings require professional installation and are a more expensive option than painting or tiling the laminate yourself. They are highly durable, however, and come in a wide range of colours, so you should easily find a style that fits your design scheme.