Our laminate countertop looked fine, but the protective coating was pretty much gone. Coffee, tea, wine, juice, sauces, and egg yolk caused stubborn stains that required almost daily scrubbing. So when we decided to update the kitchen, it seemed like installing a new countertop was a no-brainer. “Think of the annual savings in Soft-Scrub,” said my wife.
But that was before we priced a new countertop—$1,400. For that much, we could buy a new refrigerator and dishwasher! Plus, I’d heard horror stories about countertop removal sometimes damaging the base cabinets beneath the counter (not to mention the tile backsplash, a feature of our kitchen we were determined to preserve).
So instead of replacing it, I decided to try my hand at re-coating the plastic laminate. Several experiments on scrap material later, I settled upon a non-yellowing, clear acrylic. A small eight-ounce can of Polycrylic by Minwax ($6) was enough to make my 30 square feet of countertop appear new again. Here’s how I did it:
1. Using a very fine 320-grit abrasive, sand the entire countertop and wipe it clean. Be sure that you’ve removed all stains and sanding dust.
2. Apply a thin coat of the protective finish to the countertop using a lint-free, soft cotton rag. Cover only one two-foot section at a time, because the finish dries quickly. Immediately after application, smooth application marks with long parallel strokes using the finish-dampened rag.
3. Move on to the next section. Minimize lapping as much as possible.
4. Allow two hours of drying before re-coating again (using the same technique described above). The second coat will help eliminate any lap marks.
Minwax Polycrylic is available in several sheens. I chose clear satin; the application marks are less visible than with semi- or high-gloss.
It has been six months since my first application of the acrylic protective finish, and there have been no problems with peeling or discoloration. Best of all, spills wipe up easily with a sponge—without leaving any stains behind.
For more on refinishing laminate countertops and kitchen remodeling, consider: