Q & A's about painting formica

I love that I have had a ton of response to this, and that it has potentially inspired people to paint their counters!! I have received lots of questions, and thought it would be easier to just answer them here. Email me if you have any others. I am NOT claiming to be an expert, just someone who has already done it twice and learned from it. :) And as someone who has a lot of experience with different types of paint and surfaces.

How they will wear:
  • The counters in my studio I did back in May, so I am going on 4 months of hard use and abuse on them, without a scratch. Seriously, I use x-actos, scissors, hot glue guns, sewing needles and pins, paint, screwdrivers, hammers, and you name it. Had I thought they were not wearing well, I certainly would not have put them in my pantry.


  • A bunch of questions about kitchens, yes I would do a kitchen counter. And I love to cook. It will be a little tricky around the sink, faucet and any fixtures you have. But it is nothing that a little painters tape can't handle. I would also cover the sink and faucet with a trash bag or something to protect it from splatters or over spray. Just like formica you are not going to want to cut directly on it (use it like a cutting board) or put extremely hot things on it. I would sand the surface, before priming. Because it is the kitchen I would probably do the extra preventative measure of reapplying poly once year or so (just depending on wear and tear), this may not even be necessary. But it would probably be easier than trying to touch it up.


  • Yes, I have even thought about painting my bathroom counters (shield your eyes Josh....). I painted the surface surrounding my bathtub and it has held up great. As long as it is properly sealed it should be fine.

Cultured marble:

  • So yes, you can paint cultured marble.
  • It is amazingly inexpensive. There is no other solid surface, you could replace your counters with that will be this cheap. Not even plywood :) My pantry cost under $10 total (but I did have polyurethane already, had I not, it would have cost an extra $10 a quart). The studio cost less than $50, and the only reason it was that much was because of the stone spray).


  • I used a spray primer and spray paint for the base coat. You could easily use a brush or foam roller and apply both by hand. I like the spray paint because it is easy and gives a smooth uniform appearance without any brush marks, and there are not brushes to clean. Also, I am lazy and it dries fast. :) There are all types of paint out there for the base coat, they even have some by Rustoleum for counter tops I have seen on their website. I have tried pretty much every type of spray paint available, and I love the fusion for plastic. It looks and feels different. And it claims to bond to the plastic (formica). Whatever you decide to use, I would really recommend only using oil based paints here.


  • The secret to making it look good, and to be durable is the polyurethane. Use an oil based, brush on poly. The higher the gloss the harder it cures. I used high gloss and love the results. There are sites out there that claim you have to use a marine varnish or seal it with the same material they use in restaurant bars. But with those you have to use a butane torch to burn any bubbles out. Don't know about you, but I know I have no business playing with a welding torch :) After your base is completely dry apply the first coat of poly. I use a natural bristle, take and toss brush. (Natural bristles are for oil based, poly brushes are for water based) Also, another tip is to never shake your polyurethane, stir it. Shaking it will create bubbles that you will in turn put on your surface. Brush it on thick. Let it dry longer than the recommended time. Apply at least three coats total. Have your brush handy (between coats I wrap it in saran wrap), the edges will have drips, so check it after a few minutes and touch it up. Let them cure!!! Wait at least 3 days before you really start to give them normal wear. That means, not putting things on them. In the kitchen this may be hard. So it might be better to do it in sections.


  • Do yourself a favor and do all the prep work in the beginning. This will save you countless hours. Don't know how many times I have learned this one the hard way. Tape well. Cover every surface that could receive drips, or over spray with drop cloths, newspapers, trash bags, etc. If you choose to use spray paint, try and close off the room, to other rooms in your house, but have the windows open (and use a mask!!). This stuff gets everywhere. It is like a fine dust that settles in the far reaches of your house. It was amazing how far it went the first time I did this. After it has dried and cured, use a razor blade or box cutter and cut a straight edge on the edge of your tape, between the wall and your surface. You are just cutting the tape off, but this prevents any chance you may pull the paint off unevenly. It gives it a flawless, straight finished edge. For any surface that would potentially get wet I would go back and seal the edges (Like around a sink) with Liquid Nails Clear Seal. It is a weatherproof sealer.

It sounds like a lot of work, but for anyone who can spray paint, it is easy. Te results are well worth the effort. And the possibilities for finishes are endless. Please email me pictures if you decide to do this, I would love to see the finished product!!


Thanks for sharing the details of your project. I've seen painted counter tops before, but I've always been very skeptical, so it's nice to hear that it actually works from someone who's not trying to sell something! You are a girl after my own heart - painting anything that will hold still long enough. I am inspired. But, you forgot to include tips on how to get your hubby to let you paint your counters!
AnneYarbs79 said…
Sorry, this has nothing to do with your post but- Jas came home Friday. Saw the chest. Gave me the stink eye and said something along the lines of. "Is THIS going to happen every Friday?..." Whahahaha!- does he know us too well or what!
Deborah said…
Okay. You have inspired me. I so want to reproduce what you have done. I recently bought a condo (in June) and am at the final steps painting the walls and woodwork. I wanted to paint the dining room table and was going to paint it black. Now I see I need to meander through your older posts and find out if you have painted something else I have liked and I can try to reproduce what you have done. I probably won't be able to tackle the kitchen until November/December. When I do, I'll be sure to send you photos. Unfortunately I don't have a blog, so I won't be able to link anybody to your site. But you have truly inspired me. I'm such a sissy and don't usually try things outside my comfort zone. Question, though: You said to make sure we close off the kitchen area from the rest of the house because the fine dust settles everywhere in the house. Would we do that with some of the thick plastic at each doorway? So the dust also get all over the area in the breakfast nook that is in the same room with the kitchen cabinets (and the nasty white formica countertops) - what fun!
Mary Ely said…
I have been planning on doing this for some time now. I've bought all the supplies and now my stomach is in knots. I'm so nervous about it. I'm actually redoing my whole kitchen and am going to try and paint some appliances, too. I felt easier after reading your blog on this tonight. I know that other can and have done this and your results were beautiful. I was ecstatic when I saw that you did one of the counters in the stone spray paint, because I bought the same thing for my counters yesterday. To see that you had used the same products that I had chose and with your results has helped give me a big confident boost!
JAMIE said…
thank you for this!

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