Dear Debbie: I have a vanilla melamine (laminate) countertop in the bathroom that was custom-made. Removing it would be costly, as it would entail removing ceramic tile as well. I would like to paint it, but am concerned it won't look professional. Any help would be appreciated. - Lynn
Dear Lynn: Even if your bathroom counter is in good shape, the color or pattern may no longer appeal to you. However, it is an expensive proposition to replace it, and you can work miracles with paint at a fraction of the cost. On an episode of one of my television shows, we featured a young bachelor who had moved into an older home. Among other challenges, the small bathroom was seriously not his style. The countertop was pale-yellow marble laminate; an old-fashioned gold metallic wallpaper covered the walls; and the cabinets were plain white. This dated look soon disappeared, with a fresh, masculine color palette. We chose sensuous peaty brown for the cabinets, and replaced the wallpaper with a pinky-taupe shade that complements the cabinets. White mirror frames and white ribbed towels brighten the room.
Refinishing the countertop with mustard-yellow paint was an important part of the transformation. You can paint over laminate as long as you apply a high-quality primer that gives the shiny surface grip for the paint to adhere to. If you are using acrylic (water-based) paint, clean the counter with a heavy-duty cleanser such as TSP, then sand lightly and wipe clean. Apply a high-adhesion primer and allow to dry and cure overnight. To avoid brush marks, apply the primer and two base coats of paint with a low-pile roller or a sponge brush. Brush in one direction, and don’t overload your roller or brush. Allow the paint to dry between coats. Seal with two or three coats of varnish in the sheen of your choice. The higher the sheen, the more durable the finish — an important factor for a busy counter beside a sink. Water-based paints and sealers will feel dry to the touch in about four hours, but allow the counter to harden or cure for a minimum of four or five days before you use it.
There are paints designed specifically to cover laminate surfaces. Melamine paint is one that works well, but is not readily available in the U.S. I just discovered a new laminate coverup paint system that comes in a kit; it’s called Giani Granite Paint Kits for Countertops, and it is specifically designed to produce the look of expensive granite. There’s a range of popular granite shades: Sicilian Sand, Chocolate Brown, Bombay Black, Roma Red and so on. The process is simple, and the kits come complete with primer, basecoat, mineral colors, urethane topcoat and the tools you require to apply the paint technique. Check out their website at www. gianigranite.com. You’ll find stainless-steel paint on the site as well. To access a store locator near you for both the Giani Granite Paints and the Stainless Steel Paint, visit www.liquidstainlesssteel.com/stores.html.
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Dear Debbie: Our living room has a solid-walnut- paneled wall that was installed when we built the house in 1962. Needless to say, it’s outdated and difficult for living-room arrangements. I’d like to paint it to match the other walls. Would this look OK? We are buying a flat-screen TV and console to put against that wall. – Mary
Dear Mary: You don’t say whether the paneling is flat or has a raised pattern, but either way you can paint the wood to lighten up your room. Sand and prime to prepare the wood surface for paint. If you have raised panels, it will remain a focal wall, which is fine. Because it is going to be the TV wall, you could also paint it a few shades darker than the other walls.
Debbie Travis’ House to Home column is produced by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. You can follow Debbie on Twitter at www.twitter.com/debbie_travis. Please e-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.