8 Ways to Cover Kitchen or Bath Countertops

Old, unattractive kitchen or bathroom counters don't have to remain so. Many homeowners don't have the budget to entirely replace the countertops. One option is to cover up the countertops. Some of these methods are do-it-yourself, and all of them are much cheaper and far more green than landfilling your old countertops and entirely replacing them.

  • 01 of 08

    Tile Over the Old Countertop

    Ceramic tile counter

    Beth D. Yeaw/Getty Images

    Tile is great for covering all kinds of surfaces—walls, floors, and showers—and there's no reason why you can't use it to cover up your old countertop.

    Glazed ceramic and porcelain tile are the most stain- and heat-resistant, plus 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 on top of the old counters, provided they are flat and are stable enough to prevent the new tile from cracking. If your counters can accommodate a little extra thickness, it's best to start with a layer of 1/4-inch cement board 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 08

    Use a Countertop Refinishing Kit

    Stone countertop

     

    jodiejohnson / Getty Images

    Countertop refinishing kits are like paint on steroids. These kits 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 that will last for years.

  • 03 of 08

    Lay Laminate Over the Countertop

    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 08

    Install 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 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Skim Coat the Counter With Concrete

    Ardex fauxcrete kitchen counter

    Sarah Riedl

    Many homeowners 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. Approach this cover-up method with care and thought as it can prove to be more work than expected.

  • 06 of 08

    Cover With a 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.

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

    Countertop film is hardly a long-term solution, but it can be an effective quick cover-up.

  • 07 of 08

    Add a 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. This material 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 the plywood. A wood covering must be thoroughly sealed or oiled for stain- and moisture-resistance.

  • 08 of 08

    Spray Paint the Countertop

    Spray-painting your countertop is not only fast; it produces a smooth finish that brush- or roller-painting cannot match. Spray-painting works well for laminate countertops and other surfaces that can be scuffed down with sandpaper.

    Go with a matte finish spray paint since glossy paint shows scratches. Remove the sink and fixtures. If possible, move the entire countertop outside to avoid fumes and overspray in your home.

    Approach painting your countertop much like you would when you paint plastic. Lightly sand the surface with fine-grit sandpaper. Clean off the dust. Then, spray on at least three or four coats, allowing each coat to fully cure before going onto the next coat.