Thursday, November 3, 2016

Faux Granite Counter-Top

My home was built in 1984.  By the time we moved in, May 2009 - not much had changed.  One of the first things on my list slated for change was the kitchen:

We couldn't afford a $30,000 kitchen renovation, so we decided to do the best we could with what we had (see my post: "Low Budget Kitchen Renovation").  I made the simple changes first: painted the cabinets, added some glass doors, an over-the-range microwave and some crown moulding.  That made a big difference and turned the kitchen into something that I could live with - but the counters always remained an eye-sore.

Besides the burn-marks and chips, 80's beige alligator skin was just not my thing.  Especially after I painted the kitchen walls grey, the counter-tops really stood out.  I knew that they would have to go, and in their place I wanted granite - but granite doesn't come cheap.  The estimate to replace our kitchen counter: $3000-$4000!

Because I refuse to go into debt for non-essentials in our home, we decided to save up.  The only problem is that in an older home, there always seems to be something essential that needs to be replaced or repaired.  First it was the furnace and hot-water tank, then the main-floor bathtub.  Next came the roof, carpet, and now the windows.

I realized that I wasn't going to get real granite counters any time soon, and I decided that for now anything would be better than what I had!  This left me open to try something slightly experimental . . .

If you find yourself in a similar position - this could be the solution for you too!


- 60-80 grit sandpaper
- Painter's tape
- Drop-cloths
- Paint brush
- Drill with mixing attachment
- Dry-wall trowel (large and small)
- Electric palm sander
- Pail & cups (disposable)
- Stir stick

- Rust-Oleum "Stone Effects" Step 1: Primer
- Rust-Oleum "Stone Effects" Step 2: Stone Coat (I used "Silver Beach")
- Circa 1895 Nu-Lustre 55 clear epoxy kit (large)


STEP 1:  Prep the counter-top

Remove any old caulking around the counter to reveal clean edges (I intend to install a tile back-splash on the walls above my counters, so I wasn't too careful about this, but you may want to be):

Move appliances away from counter edges.  I would also highly recommend removing your sink.

I was kind of intimidated to do this as I have 0 experience with plumbing, but I found enough internet resources to guide me (see links below), and it really wasn't too bad!  If I can do it, you can do it!

Using heavy-grit sandpaper and an electric palm sander, sand all edges and surfaces of the counter-tops (you don't need to sand anything off or down, just enough to rough things up).  Clean up any dust, grease, grime, etc.

Use painter's tape to mask off all the edges of the counter-tops.  Use plastic sheeting to protect cabinets and appliances, and drop cloths to protect your floor.

STEP 2: Prime

Follow the product instructions and paint on Rust-Oleum Stone Effects Primer coat.  It is basically like normal latex paint, but mixed with tiny granules that lead to the creation of a gritty surface.  I bought the smaller container, and had enough to do 2 coats on my counter-tops.

STEP 3: Apply Stone Coat

Follow the product instructions and mix the stone coat mixture using an electric drill and mixing attachment.

It's a bit sloppy, so I found it best to spoon it along the surface and then use my dry-wall trowels to spread it out, coating the counter-top surface (use a smaller trowel for edges and small surfaces and the bigger trowel for larger surfaces).

I found it best to start with the section along the wall, and then work my way out to the outside edges. I found this part to be a lot like spreading dry-wall mud.  You have to kind of press and scrape with your trowel to spread it.  I would recommend taking your time to get the edges and surfaces as smooth as possible.  You can sand it after it dries, but the product is kind of like tiny plastic beads in glue - and if you've ever tried to sand plastic, you'll know it doesn't sand all that well, so taking the time to get it as smooth as possible at this stage will pay off later.

Edges can be a little tricky.  I found it best to get it on there are smooth as I could, and then leave it for about an hour until it got tacky.  Then, for the flat edges I used the flat side of my trowel and applied firm pressure to the edge and surface of the corner - kind of pressing/molding the product to make a sharp edge.  The rounded edges were more tricky.  I did the best I could to begin with, waited for the product to get a little tacky, and then used my small trowel to lightly go over the rounded edges at a bit of angle, and mold the product to the curve as smoothly as I possibly could.

After you are satisfied with your first coat, the product instructions suggest waiting 4 hours before re-coating, but I would wait longer.  If there are any spots that aren't dry, parts of the first coat will lift off when you go to apply the 2nd coat, so I would wait 6-8 hours before applying the 2nd coat if not longer (I waited 24 hours).

You can go over your first coat once it is dry by hand with a piece of heavy-grit sand-paper to lightly take down any obvious bumps or ridges you missed with your trowel (you don't want to go too crazy though, because you don't want to accidentally remove to much of the product!):

Follow the exact same procedure for the 2nd coat once the first coat is totally dry,  Like dry-wall mud, you want to focus on filling holes and sanding peaks.  I found that one 3.78 L pail was enough to do 1 coat on my counters, so I needed 2 pails to complete my project.

Give all surfaces and edges one last sand to take down any peaks and smooth any ridges.  Clean up all loose particles.

STEP 4: Epoxy coat

This in my opinion is the trickiest part.

In preparation for this step I would highly recommend trying to do your best to create as much of a dust-free environment as possible.  I spent an entire day just cleaning obvious and hidden sources of dust (light fixtures, on top of cabinets, inside of cupboards, out of registers and air vents, etc.)  The problem with dust is that it will settle in the epoxy as it dries and ruin the finish.  It was a lot of work, but in my case, it needed to be done anyway and it was worth it in the end!

* This step gets messy!  Make sure appliances and cabinets are well protected with plastic sheeting.  I would also recommend laying plastic sheeting or garbage bags underneath your drop cloths on the floor as excess product will soak through even heavy drop cloths.

Rust-Oleum does make an epoxy product for counter-tops; however, I was concerned that I was going to have to buy more than 1 kit to get enough product, which gets a little pricey.

I went to local paint shop Ferguson Paint and Design to speak with an expert about an alternative option.  They introduced me to Circa 1895 Nu Lustre 55 clear epoxy.  This is pretty much the same product, but I was able to get much more, for much less.

Read the instructions carefully before you get started, and follow them closely when you are ready to start.

Essentially, you mix together equal parts of resin and hardener:

Once mixed, use an old cup or scoop to pour the liquid onto your counter-top (anything you use with the epoxy will be ruined, so use things that you won't be sad to loose!).  Like the stone coat, I started with the edge along the wall, and then worked my way out to the outer-edge of the counter.

Once the mixture is poured onto the counter-top, use something with a flat, straight edge (I just used my mixing stick) to spread it all over every surface and edge.  Be careful to spread it, but not scrape it.  You want it to be as thick and even as possible.  You have about 20-30 minutes of working time before the product begins to set, so you'll want to work fairly quickly.  The product will continue to spread and self-level on flat surfaces, so you don't have to be too fussy with it, you just have to make sure everything is covered.

Once you have everything covered, you will want to be on the look-out for small air-bubbles that rise to the surface.  These will need to be broken, or they will set into the epoxy, ruining your finish.  You can blow on them gently, or I used a tooth-pick to prick them.  It can be difficult to see the bubbles!  I would suggest working in full light, and getting down to look at the surface from eye-level.

You will also want to be on guard for drips that form on the bottom edge of the counter.  You can use a paint-brush or cloth to wipe these off, or a flat stick to scrape them off as the product sets.

After my first coat of epoxy dried, I did notice a couple areas where I had spread the epoxy too thin, or where I had missed air bubbles:

I really wasn't happy with how that turned out, so I decided to give these sections a light sand, and then applied a 2nd coat of epoxy over top of the whole works and was much happier with the final result (a 2nd coat may not be necessary if you can get it right the first time!).

In 24 hours it will be dry to the touch, but I would suggest leaving it alone to cure for a couple of days (I waited 72 hours).  Generally speaking, the longer you can wait, the better.

After everything has dried, you may notice a couple drips on the bottom edge that you missed.  These can be easily sanded smooth.

STEP 5: Replace your sink & appliances

STEP 6: Wax

Following the product instructions, apply a coat of marble/granite wax to protect your new counter-top from scratches (you can also use a paste car wax if you can't find true marble/granite wax).  I babied my new counters for the first little bit, subjecting them only to light use for about the first week.  After that, I would recommend using cutting boards and hot-pads to protect your counter-top finish, but really, it's impressively durable!

STEP 7: Enjoy your new counter-tops!

It was a bit of a process, and it was pain to loose my kitchen for about a week total, but all in all I'm pretty happy with the final results!  Because I'm fussy, I would have preferred the colour to be just a little less grey and a little bit more like salt & pepper - but really, I'm very impressed with the Rust-Oleum Stone Effects product.  The final result definitely isn't real granite, but it is certainly better than what we had before, and for under $300 (it would have been $200 if I didn't do a 2nd coat of epoxy), it's a pretty good alternative that looks granite-ish.

The flat surfaces look really good!  Vertical surfaces don't get quite as smooth because the epoxy can't self-level on vertical surfaces - so especially in certain light you can see a bit of a ripple, but all in all I'm still quite impressed with the final results!  And for a tenth of the cost ($300 vs $3000), I really can't complain!




- Rust-Oleum Stone Effects Primer (946ml)                                                     $16.99
- Rust-Oleum Stone Effects Stone Coat (3.78 L x 2 @ $39.99 each)              $79.98
- Circa 1895 Nu Lustre 55 clear epoxy kit (1 gallon)                                        $89.99
 TOTAL                                                                                                             $186.96

(Extra coat of epoxy: + $89.99 = $276.95)

*Stay tuned to see the final kitchen make-over!*


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