Countertop Covers From Tile to Skim Concrete

For homeowners who are content to cover up rather than replace their counters, there are options. Read on to learn about each option, and the possible pitfalls of each. 

  • 01 of 07


    Ceramic tile counter

    Beth D. Yeaw/Getty Images

    The classic countertop covering—tile—reigns supreme.

    For decades, tile has been used to cover up old counters or as a primary surface. Because there are literally hundreds of thousands of types of tile available, you've got an equal number of counter options. 

    Because tile is born in fire, it can really take the heat, barely flinching when 500+ degree pans are set on it. Horizontal tile counter is ridiculously easy to install, way easier than slippy-slidey vertical backsplash tile.

    What Could Go Wrong?

    It's not perfect, by any means. Tile seams collect gunk, and that gunk must be mechanically removed (i.e., scrubbing with a tiny brush vs. a simple spray-on/wipe-off solution). 

    One thing that helps: if you have older tile, bathtub refinishing companies like Miracle Method can refinish your tile. The refinishing compound forms a continuous surface, bridging seams, making them easier to clean later on.

  • 02 of 07

    Countertop Stone Refinishing Kits

    Giani countertop paints

    Photo from Giani

    Countertop "stone" paint is what countertop film, below, wants to be when it grows up.  It's paint but paint on steroids.  The whole bit about it being "stone" isn't a complete marketing sham, either.  

    True countertop refinishing compounds, along the lines of Giani and Rustoleum's Countertop Transformations, really do possess mineral content.  They look amazingly realistic.  They roll over edges.  They are very hard.

    What Could Go Wrong?

    How about incredibly short working times?  Because this isn't a paint, you don't apply it in one or two separate coats.  Countertop Transformations is 4 separate layers spread out over a 5 hour, 20-minute workday, not including prep time.  

    One step has such a tight working time that you need a second set of hands just to work the stop-watch.  Not for the faint of heart.  Or for those with small budgets—Rustoleum kits cost over $200, while Giani kits are a more reasonable $80.

  • 03 of 07

    Laminate Sheets

    Over a century ago, two Westinghouse engineers reasoned that you could make counters out of anything—even water sponges like particle board—as long as you adequately covered it with a perfectly water-resistant material.  Thus, the product Formica ("for" + "mica") was born.  

    Laminate sheets are the granddaddy of counter coverings.  For all the bad press it gets, it's surprisingly sturdy, durable, and realistic-looking.  When the solid surface industry began to rest on its laurels, the laminate industry was quietly developing high-definition panels that had low repeating pattern frequency, scratch-free wear layers, and smooth edging.

    What Could Go Wrong?

    You don't know how to work with laminate.  It's a tricky material that must be fabricated with a router.  But the big sticking point for most homeowners is the inability to DIY the rolled edges—and rolled edges are now a laminate counter standard.  

    As a homeowner, your only option is to nail on the aluminum edging.  And then to courageously declare to your visitors that this is a "Vintage early Sixties diner-style Formica metal-band counter," even though you'd kill to have a nice rolled edge counter.

  • 04 of 07

    Modular Granite

    Modular granite slab


    Slab granite is too big for the homeowner to handle or fabricate.  Little 12" x 12" tile introduces way too many seams on your counter.  Imagine something halfway between the two.

    That's the idea behind modular granite:  big "tiles" that cover the entire front-to-back distance (counter edge to backsplash), no seams.  Width-wise, each slab-tile is between 16" and 18".  For those problematic inside and outside corners, there are special pieces made just for these sections, as well as edges.

    What Could Go Wrong?

    Cost.  When you start shipping super-heavy items like an engineered stone (vs. practically anything else on this list), costs rise exponentially.  Then there's the material itself:  a 10' x 10' kitchen will cost over $1,000.  

    Then the final problem:  a small number of modular granite manufacturers, of which 90% seem like they don't care about selling modular granite.  In a world of lackadaisical companies that have broken, outdated websites, Lazy Granite is the stand-out company, the only one that seems to have any ambition.  It is the only company I would consider buying from.

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Skim Concrete

    Ardex fauxcrete kitchen counter

    Photo from Sarah Riedl

    No, not the concrete slab countertops that are trendy now. Concrete poured onto your existing counter and skimmed.

    Minneapolis DIYer Sarah Riedel and husband Chris did just that. With Ardex, she skimmed a particleboard base to create faux concrete counters (even though Sarah had to build a new base, you can use your existing counters). 

    The results were beautiful. At first.

    What Could Go Wrong?

    Sarah reports that no more than 4 months after the build, the counters were already developing deep gouges. She also says that others who did what she did report staining and water absorption.

    Still, for $150 in materials, Sarah thinks it's a net gain over her old, ugly countertops.

  • 06 of 07

    Countertop Film

    Luna Pearl Instant Granite countertop film

    Photo from Instant Granite

    Con-Tact Paper for countertops?  Why not?

    Like my dream Kickstarter, it does roll out—dry.  No mortar, no grout, no water, no rubber floats, no haze cleaning.  

    From a visual perspective, it does fine.  Countertop film looks as much like granite as any of these other faux stone offerings.  Witness this Luna Pearl Countertop Film from Instant Granite and tell me that it doesn't look like engineered granite.  It's cheap, running about $100 for a 10' x 10' kitchen.  It even rolls over the edges.

    It's what you dreamed of.  Except...

    What Could Go Wrong?

    While countertop film does have satisfied customers, many others report that it's difficult to install without wrinkling or bubbling.  But durability seems to be its biggest problem.  You can't cut on it.  Anything remotely hot should not be placed on it.

  • 07 of 07

    Poured Epoxy Resin

    Epoxy resin countertop

    Photo from Countertop Epoxy

    Build a frame around the counter.  Pour in the epoxy resin.  Wait a couple of days.  Brand-new glossy countertops.

    Sounds fun and simple, doesn't it?  While epoxy resin counters are a real thing—bars and restaurants have used them for years—they may not be the best counter cover option for homeowners new to the art of epoxy resin molding.  Which describes 99.98% of us.

    What Could Go Wrong?

    How about super-complicated instructions that involve a propane torch, multiple putty knives, gloves, temperatures no less than 55 degrees but no more than 70 degrees, an extremely narrow window of working time, and...

    Need more?  Epoxy resin counter coverings are best left in the hands of professionals, not mere mortals.