We devoted last weekend to redoing our kitchen countertops using the Rustoleum Countertop Transformations kit. We started out with the white-ish laminate counters that were here when we moved in.
They were in pretty decent shape, but had some areas where someone seemed to have repeatedly dropped a knife point-down, or something like that, and some aged coffee? stains (or maybe burns?) that no amount of bleach would get rid of. And since I repainted the cabinets, the counters looked even worse in comparison.
We started by cleaning the countertops as much as possible. I bought some Mr. Clean Magic Erasers in preparation for this step, but then forgot to use them. I feel like it was probably the cleanest it ever has been anyway. You can also see here that we have replaced the hardware in the kitchen and that it really brings out the metal tile backsplash. We didn’t plan it that way, but it worked out nicely.
K removed the top piece of the cooktop so we could get right up to the edge of the part that is set into the counter. We also turned off the gas so the pilot lights wouldn’t be lit.
The first step in the kit is to sand the existing countertop using a diamond sanding tool. As you can see, we dutifully wore our dust masks and nitrile gloves.
Then after the sanding, we cleaned all the dust and then taped off the areas that we didn’t want to be countertop. We opted to include the backsplash piece behind the cooktop area, even though it was made of a different material than the countertop. It had some scars, but after reading loads of orbital sander reviews, we got properly equipped and it sanded down just fine. I also covered the cooktop in paper as well as taping it off. The last thing I wanted was little chips melting inside the stove later on.
I also taped off the sink drains so that no pieces would get in there, either. I doubt they’d do a lot of harm, but they probably wouldn’t be good for the garbage disposal.
Then to the part where there’s no turning back: the base coat. This stuff is super thick, though not quite as thick as tar. It went on smoothly and didn’t stink like I feared it would.
It was gross enough that we just scrapped all the tools we used with it, though – this whole thing went in the trash as you see it here, since I didn’t feel like it would be worth the water and time it would take to try to clean it. I also wasn’t hot about the idea of this stuff going down the drain.
Then we sprayed with wetting solution and put the chips on. The kit comes with a device that looks and acts like a handheld seed spreader, with which you apply the chips. It sprays them out pretty aggressively, which made it pretty easy to get a thick, thick coat of them all over. The kit came with way more chips than we needed, but it covers a larger area of counter than we have. You can see here how many chips go on the floor. We ran out of paper so we didn’t get to cover the entire floor area surrounding the cupboards, and though it worked out fine, I would have been more worried had we already put down the new kitchen floor.
This pic is sort of an inside joke for those who’ve watched the instructional DVD that comes with the kit – the kit informs you that if you have any areas on the edge that need more chips, to use a jazz-hands-y flicking motion to apply them. We didn’t really have any of those spots, but K reenacted that part of the steps just for good measure. Also in this pic you can see the new blue clock I got for above the oven. It coordinates with the blue rug in the Pergo room, and I think it looks good. K has reserved judgment (his comment: “it’s blue.”).
So we had a thick coating of chips all over the counters, and then we waited overnight (12-24 hours). This color is called Charcoal, btw, and the chips are several different colors: black, white, and a couple shades of grey.
The following morning, we ate breks and then got right back into it.
You can see that there was indeed a thick layer of chips all over everything. Thank goodness we wisely anticipated this and closed the vent in the kitchen before starting. I can’t imagine if it had blown chips all over the place.
Then we vacuumed! There were drifts of chips all over since we applied the requisite very thick coating, so I used the shop vac to get as many off as possible before we sanded. It filled our small shop vac a few times over. The instructions say that if you don’t have a shop vac, that you can use a brush and dustpan instead. That would certainly work, but it would take FOREVER. Seriously, if you want to do this and don’t own a shop vac, go buy a cheapie just for this. You won’t regret it. And take some tips from these home cleaning experts.
More sanding means more dust mask!
The instructions warn you that the sanding will make the countertop appear to be a lighter color than it will end up. True fact.
For the edges, you use a regular sanding block. You don’t have to sand very hard at all to get a smooth surface on the edges, so I did that part, while K used the diamond sanding tool for the main surface areas.
The diamond sanding tool did get some bits of chip-stuff stuck to it during the process, which the instructions warned could happen. The instructions say to just wipe it off, but it took a bit more effort than that to pry this stuff off. It would be nice if this kit came with two diamond sanding tools.
Then we wiped the dust off with damp cloths, revealing the smooth surface. There was a LOT of dust and this took quite a few passes before the counters were free of dust. Luckily we have a bunch of those white rags you can buy at the Despot. I would recommend having some of those highly, because even after repeated washings, some of the rags were still full of little particles of dust. After two rounds through the washing machine, I decided that it was okay to pitch those rags.
The instructions are clear that this level of smoothness is the same as it will be when it’s finished, and they give you a sample bit so you can feel to make sure your surface feels the same as the sample. The top coat is not a filler coat, so it’s important to get this part right.
Then we rolled on the final top coat. It went on pretty easily, too, and despite being a two-parter (like epoxy), it didn’t stink either! It actually smelled very mildly of bubble gum. Then we waited about 6 hours for it to mostly dry.
At this point you want it to be dry to the touch (not tacky) but you shouldn’t wait too long after it is dry to remove the tape. We also removed the plastic at this point – VERY CAREFULLY so none of the chips that were clinging to the plastic would jump up and stick to the counters.
As recommended, we used a putty knife to score the edge, and then carefully peeled the tape. Before this, we cleaned up as much of the residual chips as we could. I spent more time on my hands and knees shop vac-ing up chips than I anticipated. Some of that is likely due to my type A personality, but really, I didn’t want us tracking chips all over the house so I think it was worth it.
This pic isn’t really in focus, but you can see that we got a very neat edge next to the sink. We do need to caulk around the sink to be on the thorough side, but otherwise I think it looks great.
And that’s it! After 48 hours, we started using it for light use, meaning that we are only putting lightweight things down on it and haven’t yet re-installed the cooktop (which is heavier than 5 pounds, the threshold listed in the instructions). The kit recommends waiting 7 days before full use, so we’re waiting until then for heavy-duty stuff.
Still on the to-do list in here: finish painting the molding above the cabinets, lay the floor tile, put the drawers back in, and install the tip-out hinges and tray on the below-the-sink panel.
I’m very pleased with how this project turned out! I was skeptical at first, and after reading a lot of other bloggers’ accounts of how theirs went, I felt a little more confident, but it wasn’t until I saw ours done that I really felt like it was truly okay. It’s a little glossier than I’d probably choose, but the kit only comes in one level of sheen, so I decided to go with it. I think it looks way better than the white counters did, and it feels like a real upgrade. As a bonus, this counter now looks quite similar to the IKEA countertop we put on the new cabinets in the dining room, so it ties things together nicely.