7 Options for Covering Kitchen Countertops

Old, ugly, beat-up kitchen counters don't have to be a fact of life. But what if you don't have the budget for new countertops, or you don't want to go through the work and mess of replacement? You simply cover them up! There are several ways to do this, and most are surprisingly DIY-friendly, not to mention much cheaper than all-new counters.

  • 01 of 07

    Tile

    Ceramic tile counter

    Beth D. Yeaw/Getty Images

    Tile is great for covering all kinds of surfaces—walls, floors, showers, etc.—and there's no reason why you can't use it cover your old countertop. Glazed ceramic and porcelain tile are the most stain- and heat-resistant, and they come in a vast range of sizes, shapes, and colors. Natural stone tile also works for this application, but the stone must be sealed periodically to protect against stains.

    Tile can be installed directly over old counters, provided they are flat and are stiff enough to prevent the tile installation from cracking. If you can accommodate a little extra thickness, it's best to start with a layer of 1/4-inch cementboard glued to the countertop, and lay the tile over that.

    Tile is extremely durable and generally easy to clean, but the grout joints are prone to staining and collecting grime. To minimize stains and deep-set crud, be sure to seal the grout as soon as possible after installing the tile, and reapply the sealer every few years, as recommended by the manufacturer.

  • 02 of 07

    Countertop Refinishing Kits

    Stone countertop

     

    jodiejohnson / Getty Images

    Countertop refinishing kits are like paint on steroids. They include an epoxy-like paint and decorative stone chips to create the look of natural stone. Most kits are designed for making over old laminate counter surfaces.

    Refinishing kits come with everything you need (except for a few tools and basic supplies) to completely cover a standard-size countertop, including the front edge and, if desired, a 4-inch backsplash. The overall process is straightforward and non-technical, but it involves some hard work, messy sanding, and careful attention to detail. Follow the manufacturer's instructions to the letter for best results.

  • 03 of 07

    Plastic Laminate

    Laminate counter

     

    edel-fotografie / Getty Images

    If you have old laminate (Formica, Wilsonart, etc.) countertops that have square edges, you can cover them with a layer of new laminate, which is sold in sheets up to 5 feet wide and 12 feet long. If your countertops have a raised and rounded edge, often called a waterfall edge, you can't cover them with new laminate because it's impossible to get the new material to conform to the edge contours.

    A laminate re-covering process is similar to fabricating new custom laminate countertops. You cut the sheets a little bit oversize and glue them down with contact cement. Then you trim the edges flush to the old counter with a router or laminate trimmer. The result is essentially a brand new countertop. Best of all, the new layer adds less than 1/8 inch of thickness.

  • 04 of 07

    Modular Granite

    Granite

     

    KatarzynaBialasiewicz / Getty Images

    Modular granite, sometimes called granite or stone overlay, is a system of small, thin slabs of stone designed for covering old countertops. Instead of standard 12-inch-square stone tiles—and their numerous grout joints—modular pieces cover the entire front-to-back distance (counter edge to backsplash) of the countertop. They are about 16 to 18 inches wide, which means fewer joints between pieces, compared to tile. For those problematic inside and outside corners, there are special pieces made just for these sections, as well as optional edge pieces.

    The cost of materials for a modular granite makeover may not be significantly cheaper than a solid granite slab, but you can save a lot of money by tackling the installation yourself.

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Concrete Skim Coat

    Ardex fauxcrete kitchen counter

    Sarah Riedl

    Lots of people love the look of concrete slab countertops but aren't up for the highly labor-intensive installation of a cast-in-place slab. But you can get the same look and feel of solid concrete by coating your old countertop with thin coats of cement-based floor leveler or flooring underlayment.

    After roughing up the old counter surface with sandpaper to ensure proper adhesion, you apply multiple thin coats of cement leveler, using a trowel or a drywall knife. The final coat of cement needs a food-grade sealer (and wax, if desired) for a shiny finish that cleans easily and resists stains. A faux-concrete cover isn't exceptionally durable and may be prone to scratches and stains. But it's an easy, inexpensive option for those who love the concrete look.

  • 06 of 07

    Countertop Film

    Luna Pearl Instant Granite countertop film

    Instant Granite

    Countertop film is a thicker, tougher version of contact paper or shelf paper. It's more like a cross between vinyl flooring and shelf paper, and it has a self-adhesive backing for sticking directly to the old counter surface.

    Installation of countertop film is, not surprisingly, a bit fussy, but it's no more complicated than applying contact paper. You lay out the film, trim it to rough size, align it the the countertop's edges, then stick it down incrementally, using a squeegee tool to work out the air bubbles as you go.

  • 07 of 07

    Wood Overlay

    If you've always wanted butcher block or are drawn to the beauty of a real wood countertop, now's your chance to have it. You can cover your old counters with wide planks of solid hardwood or even hardwood or bamboo plywood. Solid hardwood is more durable and repairable than plywood (with its very thin top veneer layer), but plywood comes in larger pieces and is less expensive. Bamboo plywood offers the best of both worlds; it has a thicker top layer than plywood (for durability and repairs), and it comes in 4-by-8-foot sheets, just like regular plywood.

    This is a very custom makeover that requires some basic woodworking skills and tools. In short, you cut the main surface pieces to fit and glue them to the old counter (perhaps with screws driven up from below the old counter). Then you add a front edge made from the same material, or use a solid hardwood edge to cap the layered edges of plywood. A wood covering must be thoroughly sealed or oiled for stain- and moisture-resistance.