How Countertop Refinishing Works

Kitchen countertop remodel

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Countertop refinishing is a way for you to preserve your current countertop by surfacing them with liquid bonding agents.

Countertop refinishing is an eco-friendly method of sprucing up your kitchen for a much lower cost than countertop replacement. It can be done on a do-it-yourself basis or through professional technicians.

Countertop refinishing cost savings are excellent, often dramatically cheaper than replacement. You can expect to cut the cost of countertop replacement by 50-percent.

How Countertops Are Refinished

Specially formulated bonding agents and finishes mean this is not mere paint. Countertop refinishing companies use proprietary bonding agents.

One of the oldest, Miracle Method, has the MM-4 bonding agent that helps to create a chemical bond between the old and new surfaces, and other companies have their versions. Competitor Permaglaze, too, supplies its franchisees with surfacing materials unique to that company.

  1. Countertop is thoroughly is cleaned to remove all grease, dirt, and food stains.
  2. Nicks, gouges, and deep scratches are filled.
  3. Countertop is left to dry. The scratch filler must cure fully before it is covered up with the surfacing material.
  4. Countertop is sanded to roughen it. Roughening helps the surfacing material stick better.
  5. Bonding agent is applied.
  6. Surfacing material is applied, usually a base coat and color flecks.
  7. A urethane acrylic topcoat is applied for protection.
  8. The surface must cure for two or three days before it can be used.

Since the fumes are noxious, counters are surfaced with the door closed and strong fans sucking the odors outside.

Do-It-Yourself Countertop Refinishing

With special kits, you can refinish your countertops. As one example, Countertop Transformations from Rustoleum is an all-inclusive kit that allows you to resurface about 50 square feet of your countertop.

This kit consists of a base coat, wetting agent, decorative chips, and a protective top layer. It's quite an involved process that takes a number of hours to complete. But the reward is that this type of refinishing system produces more durable and longer-lasting results than mere paint.


It can take up to six weeks to have new countertops installed, dependent on the availability of materials. Countertops also need to be fabricated. Once materials are received, the actual replacement process only takes a day or two.

Countertop refinishing generally has a shorter timeline since refinishers do not have to wait for base materials.


Most refinished countertops will last between five and seven years.

Special care must be taken to preserve refinished counters, such as religiously using cutting boards and hot pads, avoiding abrasive cleaners, and mopping up acidic liquids as soon as they hit the surface.

Tile Grout Surfacing

When refinishing tile countertops, the grout is covered over by the new finish. The result is a homogeneous surface (imagine solid surface, like Corian), yet one that retains that distinctive, tile-grid imprint. So, the feature you may have hated the most about your tile counter remains. One consolation is that the surfacing agents smooth it over a bit, making subsequent cleanings easier.

Color Matching Available

Just like house painters, counter refinishers do a good job of matching existing colors, if that's something you want. You may decide to go a different route and switch colors.

Generally, you will be presented with a set list of colors rather than being able to choose any color from the color wheel.

Base Countertop Materials That Can Be Refinished

Refinishing doesn't work for all materials in all conditions. It tends to be a good match for laminate, tile, solid surfaces, and stone, as long as they are in structurally sound condition.

Good For Refinishing
  • Laminate surfaces such as Formica

  • Ceramic and porcelain tile

  • Solid surfaces such as Corian

  • Manufactured stone

  • Natural stone

Poor For Refinishing
  • Butcher block wood

  • Reclaimed wood

  • Stainless steel

  • Zinc

  • Epoxy

Better For the Environment

No longer is it assumed that all countertops must be landfilled. For years, homeowners tore out serviceable though unattractive countertops to replace them with newer, more stylish materials.

Laminates would be replaced by granite slabs; granite would be replaced with solid surface and quartz counter. For functional reasons, but just as often in the name of style, these counters would be sent to the trash heap and replaced.

The new school of thought is to preserve materials. Often, the core of the kitchen countertop is still good. It's just the top surface that has become yellowed or scratched over time or simply outdated. There is no need to toss out most of the materials just to gain a new top surface.