High Heels and Training Wheels: DIY Counters: Laminate to Marble for Only $25

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4.22.2015

DIY Counters: Laminate to Marble for Only $25


Howdy ladies and gentlemen! Even though I'm quite positive there are no "gentlemen" reading this blog. Including my husband. (passive aggressive much?) But I digress. ;) Anyway, today is about the beginning of our kitchen reno on a budget and how it's totally possible to revamp your space with virtually no money in the bank. Starting with....

DIY faux marble countertops

My faux marble counter tops! Boom! "Lindsey, what are you doing? You have a fashion blog." Yeah but this monkey can do a couple of tricks so roll with it.

I wish I could post this picture without the context that they're "faux" to see what people honestly think about them. I feel like if you know they aren't real, the opinion is no longer objective. I don't want your pity compliments, I want the truth! (You can't handle the truth!) However, whether they're wholly convincing or not is actually irrelevant to me because they're still such a far cry better than their original state. Which brings us to what they used to look like...

DIY faux marble countertops

Vom! Now I know that you've seen these counters before. Every single person, at some point in their life, has either had these exact countertops, or knows someone who has had them. I've personally been so fortunate as to have a version of these twice in my life. #blessed

While these gross counters are hideous and I can't stand them, we have lived with them for about a year now. Why? Our house was built in 1940 (celebrating her 75th birthday this year! Mazle!) so a lot of other things required our immediate attention and unsightly counter tops were pushed down low on the totem pole of priorities. (Lost all of the 'before' pictures in the laptop crash of '14 so no one will ever know how much we've done...I'm still crying about it)

DIY faux marble countertops

DIY faux marble countertops

Recently I got around to painting and resurfacing our cabinets but they turned out to be less than I expected. I've been wanting a "tuxedo" kitchen and was so excited about painting it, but after finishing, I was pretty underwhelmed with the results. Was it my paint job? Was it the colors? I realized the countertops were the culprit and I couldn't put them off any longer, they were finally up to bat. Replacing the counters absolutely wasn't in the budget for us though. What to do, what to do....well my gorgeous friend Pinterest put forth the idea of painting them!

Most painted countertop pins I found led me to this Giani granite kit thing. And while the kit gave some undeniably beautiful and realistic results, that sucker is $70 and was more than I was willing to spend. Yes, it's way less than what real granite and marble would cost, but still too much for me. I mean, $70? It's just paint! The problem with that was it was all I could find! "Pinterest, stop trying to make Giani happen. It's not going to happen!" How did I do it then? A little ingenuity and creativity!


To start, you obviously need the right materials. I already had most of mine. In fact, I had everything aside from the poly to seal them so my grand total was $25 for both of my counters. Chances are if you're a DIYer, you have most of them too, but even if you didn't, you could still keep this project under $50 easily. Still cheaper than Giani!

DIY faux marble countertops

Total cost: $25
Time to complete: 3 weeks (including A LOT of procrastination and drying time)
Difficulty: easy
  • white primer- I used Kilz oil based (messy, messy stuff!)
  • foam roller- high density like this one
  • black acrylic paint (additional shades of gray optional)
  • rubbing alcohol (optional)
  • wood filler- I used this kind
  • rough grit sandpaper- an electric sander would be even better
  • fine grit sandpaper- I prefer the sanding block, I use this one for everything
  • painter's tape- nothing fancy, cheap stuff will do
  • "veining" tools- pictured above
  • polyurethane/epoxy- I used this kind
  • putty knife or foam brushes- get inexpensive like these because you will have to throw them away
(none of those are affiliate links, just trying to help a brutha out by steering you in the right direction)


First, before any painting, I needed to start by prepping the countertops. For me, that was by filling all of the nicks and scrapes that had accumulated over the years. If your counters aren't damaged  (whoo hoo!) you could cut out even more of the needed materials just by skipping this step.

DIY faux marble countertops

DIY faux marble countertops

I used a plain ol wood filler to do this. If I weren't painting over it and using poly, I might have used something stronger, but for these purposes it's fine.

DIY faux marble countertops

I chose a wood filler that specifically said "paintable and sandable" and "resists shrinking". Don't know if it would really matter but I wanted to play it safe. 

DIY faux marble countertops

DIY faux marble countertops

DIY faux marble countertops
This is why you use a cutting board people!
I just used a putty knife to spread the filler over all the holes and nicks. After they were all filled, I used my fine grit sandpaper to level the filler out.

DIY faux marble countertops

I also gave the entire counter a rough sanding to get rid of the glossy finish so the primer would have something to grip onto. If you have an electric sander (don't ask me why I didn't use mine; brain lapse) that'd be great for this to save your arms and time. After sanding, I made sure to wipe away any sanding dust and gave it a good clean with a degreaser. I didn't want any debris or oils on the counter to prevent the primer from getting a good grip.

I mean, if you're using an oil based primer like I was, that stuff means BUSINESS, so you may be able to get around the sanding and skip that step entirely. But since I was already saving on materials I figured I should probably make up for it in effort. Ya know, even things out in the universe.

DIY faux marble countertops

Next, I taped off the sink and appliances. I didn't bother taping off the wall because the backsplash is my next project and any "boo boos" would all be covered eventually. It's not like that fake brick paneling is precious to me anyway. Another mark of the times. You can definitely tell what era they were in the last time this house was updated!

DIY faux marble countertops

Now to begin priming. I just skipped the middle man and poured directly onto the counters. I definitely recommend using a high-density foam roller for this job. If you use a roller with a thick nap, you're going to get a texture. We're trying to imitate marble so we don't want any texture here.

 I ended up doing 3 coats to completely cover the design underneath. If you don't have a pattern to worry about covering, I would still recommend at least 2 coats. I'm going to be sealing it and protecting it with the poly in the end, but I just wouldn't want to tempt fate by being stingy with the paint. Just my 2 cents. 

After it was completely primed and dry, I added one thin coat of semi-gloss white just because it was truer to color than the primer, and I already had it. Not necessary, just me adding extra unnecessary work for myself.

DIY faux marble countertops

To further rid the counters of any texture, I used a fine grit sanding block in between my coats of primer and once after my coat of paint. It doesn't really do anything in terms of how well the primer/paint adheres, but it does affect the finished look. I didn't want to see any brush marks or roller texture in my end result. You don't even really have to do this step either, I was just feeling especially thorough that day I guess.


via
Now comes the creative, "fun" portion. I recommend finding a picture of real marble to use as reference. I used the 2 images of Calcutta marble above because I liked the veining and coloring in these particular slabs. They're actually faux too, but I really loved the look of them. If you could get your hands on a sample piece of real marble, that'd be even better.

DIY faux marble countertops

The tools you use to get your veining is up to you. I've seen people use a large array of various tools for the job so the possibilities are endless. I chose to use a feather, a toothbrush, an old makeup brush, a small paint brush, and some foam makeup sponges just because they're what I already had on hand. But I definitely recommend using a feather for your veining, if you can. I was lucky because my daughter has a huge feather collection and she was willing to sacrifice one for me; they can be any ol' feather you find outside like that or you can purchase some from a craft store.

If you're unsure of which tools to choose, I would recommend trying this out on a piece of poster board or cardboard to get a feel for it before moving to the counter. I didn't do any practice first, but it would have been helpful to get a better idea of how I wanted it to look and might have saved me some time!

DIY faux marble countertops

The colors you choose to use are up to you. You could buy several colors of gray if you felt like it. I just chose a black acrylic and mixed it with varying amounts of white to make 3 different shades. It's up to you. Whatever paint you choose to use, you want to add water to it. You do not want full opacity, you want it diluted and really runny. The runnier it is, the easier it is to work with. To achieve this, I mixed 1 part paint to 3 parts water. The consistency will be closer to water than paint, but it's much easier to work with and get good results for what we're trying to achieve.

Now we have our tools and our paint sorted, onto the technique.....except there isn't one. This project is a very right brain project. If you are a left brainer who loves symmetry, this might be more difficult for you. But the real key to getting a realistic look is layers. Say it with me, layers. As long as you keep layering, it will turn out alright whatever your skills may be. Applying the colors on top of each other over and over and over (and over) again, is what's going to get you that realistic look. Think about it, granite and marble are so beautiful because there is so much depth and dimension. Also, natural stone is completely unique and perfectly imperfect. There is no pattern, there is no repetition, it's just random and natural. So should your painting be.

With that said, there are still some tips you can use to get particular results with each one of your tools. A loose guide is to start with your biggest tool and work your way down to the smallest and to start with your lightest color and work your way up to the darkest. BUT you don't have to stick to that exclusively, you can play around with the different tools in whatever way that feels natural to you. It also helps to sometimes step away and come back. If it feels like you're working too hard or it's just not looking right, sometimes walking away and coming back with a fresh perspective can help. I had to do that at least 5 different times and one of those times was spanned over 3 days. It drive my husband nuts not to be able to use the kitchen during that time, but you gotta do what ya gotta do, man. If you're not happy with it, don't give up. Just take a break and come back to it later.

DIY faux marble countertops

So to begin, I started by adding some "shading" as my base. I took my lightest color of gray and glopped it on (technical term) in large irregular lines, going diagonally. You don't want to see any defined brush strokes so I used a wavy stippling motion. I also found I got the best results by working in small increments. I want to feather this out before it has a chance to dry so I did small areas and alternated between this step and the next step; back and forth, back and forth.

DIY faux marble countertops

 Next, I used my sponge to feather it out as much as I could and soak up the access by using a stippling motion again. I just really wanted this to look kind of like a shadow; a base to add some dimension, so I didn't want any real definition or lines in this step. You need to follow the brush immediately with the sponge so the paint doesn't dry before you can blend it out. Diluting your paint with water will help with this though, by giving you a little more time to play around with.

DIY faux marble countertops

 If there are parts you don't like or you think are too dark, sponge some white back on top of it. I did a thin layer of white over all of the shadowing anyway, just to add some more depth, but I used an even heavier hand in places I thought were too dark.

DIY faux marble countertops

After adding my white, I used the sponge again to further blend it and get rid of any brush strokes. You can always add more gray too. I just started in one place and worked my way outward, switching between the 2 colors and switching between the tools.

DIY faux marble countertops

DIY faux marble countertops

This is what it looks like after these first steps. It's a nice soft base to add the veining on top of. I had to really enhance the contrast and shadows in order to show the definition in these pictures so it's not near this dark in person, but it's got a lot of dimension and color variations. The "marbling" effect (for lack of a better word) comes from heavily diluting the paint. It keeps it wet and thin and allows you to work with it more and makes blending easier.

DIY faux marble countertops

 Once I was happy with my shading, I began the veining. I wanted my veining to vary in size so to start, I used a thin paint brush. I dipped this in my medium shade and began dragging and pushing the brush. I then went back in the opposite direction and allowed the "veins" to meet in places. To get a realistic look you might have to push, pull, shake, drag, whatever with that brush. These lines should be jagged and harsh; not too pronounced like a lightning bolt or anything but not loose like a shoe string either. It's kind of a fine line (pun intended) but you can always go over this as many times as you need. I even used my dry fan brush here and there to get a softer effect in places.

DIY faux marble countertops

 Next I dry brushed back over with another thin layer of white. Then I went behind it with my sponge to kind of sop it up. I didn't put any pressure on the sponge, I just kind of let the weight of the sponge tap the surface. I did this to add another layer of depth. Like I said, layers are key!

DIY faux marble countertops

Next was to do the intricate veining. If you notice in the pictures of marble I used there are a ton of thin veins running all throughout. I used a feather for this. With a brush, it's really easy to get too controlled and heavy with your strokes, but the feather helps to keep it light and to get those really intricate lines. I used my darkest color and did this much like I did with the brush, just thinner and lighter handed. These lines are very thin and wispy and imitate the "cracks" of real marble.

DIY faux marble countertops

 Last but not least, I went back over all of it with a very thin coat of white one last time. This was more like white washing than painting; very diluted and very thin. Before that was dry, I dipped my toothbrush into plain ol' rubbing alcohol and ran my thumb over the bristles to flick specks over top. You want to be careful when doing this, don't load it up too much because you want flicked specks not big drips. 

And although seemingly small, this step made a huge, huge, huge difference. But this only works if you've been diluting your paint with water. On the white areas I had painted with just the plain, semi-gloss paint, this had no effect; it only works on paint that has been mixed with water. It basically reactivates the water/paint and the specks help the colors sort of melt together and tends to sort of leave "voided" space where the specks hit. If that makes any sense. It just adds another imperfect, natural element to make your work look a touch more realistic. Any veining that looked too controlled or too much like brush strokes was instantly made more natural and realistic.

DIY faux marble countertops

DIY faux marble countertops

DIY faux marble countertops
try to ignore the sponge, the camera absolutely refused  to focus without it
After everything was dry I used my fine grit sand paper very lightly just to make sure there weren't any heavy specks or anything from all the building and stippling.

DIY faux marble countertops

Now the painting is done, time to seal that puppy. You need this to seal your work, obviously, but this is really the cherry on top. This is what takes your work from "sponge painting circa 1991" to "marble"

You need to mix and apply this by following the instructions on the can/box/bottle. Depending on the type and brand, instructions can vary. The instructions on this product were very specific about how you do everything, so you will want to follow these closely. I would recommend looking up reviews before choosing which sealer to buy. You want to get one that is going to go on clear and isn't going to yellow over time. This Parks Super Glaze works amazing, and if you're looking for a high gloss finish, I'd definitely recommend it.

DIY faux marble countertops

Before applying the poly, I made sure to seal off the rest of the kitchen in its entirety. This stuff is sticky and messy and will permanently adhere to anything it touches. The product starts the curing process as soon as it hits the container you mix it in so if you get it on anything, it will be there for life. I made sure to tape off the cabinets and cover the floor to protect them.


I used foam sponges to spread the poly over the counter. It's self-leveling, but you still need to move it around and make sure the entire counter is covered. That's including the lip over the edge, so this is going to have to run over the side. Every so often you have to scrape the drips so the edge will be smooth.

This dries to the touch in about 8 hours or so but it doesn't fully cure until it's set for a full 72 hours. That means keeping your kids (and husband) off for 3 days. I only did one of our counters at a time so we could still use the kitchen through the curing, I just really didn't think we could sacrifice all of our counters at once and trying to do so would  just tempt fate and someone would end up spilling Koolaid or leaving a big handprint or something. So I still have the other side of the kitchen to do. But after it's cured it's completely sturdy and ready to rock and roll!

DIY faux marble countertops

DIY faux marble countertops


DIY faux marble countertops

DIY faux marble countertops

DIY faux marble countertops

DIY faux marble countertops

DIY faux marble countertops

DIY faux marble countertops

DIY faux marble countertops

DIY faux marble countertops

The pictures really just don't do them justice! The epoxy gives this thick, glass-like appearance that really makes them look much more authentic. And no, you aren't crazy, the things sitting on the counter changed. I ended up moving things around before I got through taking all of the pictures.

The upkeep of the counter is not really any different than any other counter surface. Obviously don't set hot pans directly on it, always use a cutting board, wipe it down with a mild soap and sponge and all that. Like I said before, whether it's entirely convincing as marble or not is really irrelevant to me because it is still such an improvement from the yellow 70s laminate. (Can I get an Amen?) And it made this drastic difference for a mere $25! Twenty-five dollars! Long story short, I love them! I love them so much, I'm going to try to give our appliances the stainless steel treatment and to paint our laminate floors! Not marble, but something even better...

via

Stay tuned for that! Until next time, shoot me any questions you might have in the comments!

UPDATE: I found this fabulous post at Batchelors Way where she painted the counters in her laundry room in a faux marble finish. I so wish I had come across her post before doing this project! She did things a little differently which gave a somewhat different look, and (smartly) added glitter to get the authentic look of mineral deposits. Such a cool idea! I definitely recommend checking her out, her counters turned out beautifully!

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