Rust-Oleum’s new Countertop Transformations coating system (available at home centers and some hardware stores) is a simple way to transform worn or damaged laminate countertops into a new countertop surface. The product is available in five colors ranging from light to very dark (for this project we chose Charcoal).
The big pluses of this system are it’s not smelly or difficult, you don’t have to remove your countertops (!), the instructions are clear, and the kit comes with everything you need (except basic painting tools), plus it includes a very detailed DVD. This product can be applied to any laminate or hardwood countertop in reasonable condition. Burns and scratches are fine, but fill deep dents and chips before you use it.
After using this product, we can report that it’s surprisingly easy to apply. In terms of durability, the manufacturer compares it to laminate. We can’t speak to its longterm durability, but when we tried to scratch the newly resurfaced countertop with car keys, it was surprisingly tough—no marks at all. And you can reapply the system to renew the surface later if you want.
Sand and clean
Photo 1: Rough up the surface
Degloss the countertop with the diamond-embedded sanding pad in the kit so the base coat will stick to it. You’ll know it’s deglossed when there are tiny scratches everywhere.Photo: Courtesy of The Family Handyman
The first step is to completely degloss the laminate surface using the sanding tools included in the kit (Photo 1). You can save on sanding time by using an orbital sander with 60- or 80-grit sandpaper on the flat areas (but you’ll add cleaning time vacuuming up the dust). Use a light touch so you don’t sand through any areas or create uneven surfaces. Vacuum up the dust and wipe all surfaces with a damp cloth until they’re completely dust-free. Use painter’s tape and plastic to mask off base cabinets, the sink, appliances, the walls above the backsplash and the floor. Cover the sink drains so nothing falls into them.
Apply the base coat
Photo 2: Apply the base coat
This coat is the background color and a sticky bed for the chips. One person brushes it on the backsplash; the other rolls on the rest. Work fast; you have 20 minutes to complete this and the next step.Photo: Courtesy of The Family Handyman
This step is time-sensitive, so before you apply the base coat, have the decorative chips in the dispenser and ready to go. Once you’ve applied the base coat, you’ll have a 20-minute window to apply the decorative chips before it dries. If you have a long countertop or several countertop areas, work in pairs (Photo 2) and complete one section (including the chip application) before moving on to the next.
Apply the base coat thickly using a brush on the backsplash and a microfiber roller (not included in the kit) on the flat surface and front edge. You really need to lay it on thickly and evenly, and maintain a wet edge on the entire surface for the best result. The kit includes a wetting agent you can spray on to keep the base coat moist and ready for the decorative chips.
Apply the decorative chips
Photo 3: Heap on the chips
The multicolored chips hide brush marks and give the countertop a textured, speckled appearance. Move quickly to cover every bit of base coat before it dries.Photo: Courtesy of The Family Handyman
Moving quickly, use the dispenser to broadcast the decorative chips so they completely cover the backsplash, flat area and front edges of the counter. Don’t skimp. The kit comes with a ton of chips, so use more than you need to cover every bit of the base coat. We found that it works best to get down on your knees and zing the chips hard by hand against the front edge for the best coverage (Photo 3). Inspect for any uncovered base coat, apply more chips and let dry undisturbed for a minimum of 12 hours, but no more than 24.
Sand and smooth
Photo 4: Sand the chips smooth
Sand hard on the flat surfaces but lightly along the front edge to avoid sanding completely through the chips and base coat. The goal is a smooth, lightly textured surface.Photo: Courtesy of The Family Handyman
After the base coat is dry, vacuum up the loose chips. Then use the chip scraper to knock down the rough chip edges. Use a light touch so you don’t gouge the surface at the corners and edges. Vacuum again.
Sand the rough chip surfaces smooth to prepare them for the topcoat. The kit includes a sample of how smooth the countertop should be. The challenge is to sand it smooth without sanding through the chips. Use the sanding block and a lighter touch on the backsplash and front edges since these areas are likely to have fewer chips on the surface (Photo 4). The sanding process will appear to lighten the chip surface, but the topcoat will darken it again. Make a very light last pass with 120-grit sandpaper for extra smoothness.
Vacuum and wipe clean with a damp cloth until all the sanding dust has been removed.
Apply the topcoat
Photo 5: Apply the clear topcoat
Vacuum up every speck of sanding dust. Then brush a thick, even layer of topcoat on the backsplash and roll out the rest. Reroll a final pass in one direction and let it dry undisturbed for 48 hours.Photo: Courtesy of The Family Handyman
The clear topcoat is a two-part formula that you mix and then apply to the countertop. Once you’ve mixed the formula, you must use it within four hours.
Just as you did with the base coat, use a paintbrush to apply a thick layer of topcoat to the backsplash and back few inches of the countertop. Use a 6-in. high-density roller (not included) to roll a thick, even layer of the topcoat onto the flat counter area and the front edge (Photo 5). Once every surface is covered, go back and roll a final pass of the topcoat in one direction to avoid lap and brush marks. Let dry to the touch (four to six hours) and remove the tape and plastic. The countertop will be ready for light use in 48 hours and completely cured within a week.
Required Tools for this Project
Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.
- Dust mask
- Orbital sander
- Painters tape
- Putty knife
- Safety glasses
- Shop vacuum
Required Materials for this Project
Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.
- 120 grit sandpaper
- Coating system (Rust-Oleum's Countertop Transformations system)
- Plastic drop cloth