It’s true what they say about fixer uppers…you always spend more money than you plan to. With that in mind, it’s important to identify things you can salvage–ways to cut corners in terms of cash, but not in terms of visual appeal.

When we began renovating our own unit at Livingston last summer, we listed and then prioritized the ways we wanted to improve our home. Remodeling the entire kitchen was on the list, but to save money, we decided to salvage the existing cupboards and countertops for now. And they weren’t pretty. But it took little more than some time, energy, paint, and cheap materials to completely revitalize the kitchen look.

Here’s a before and almost-after (obviously still undergoing remodeling), to give you an idea of how drastic the simple changes can be:


So when it came time to assess renovation goals in our upstairs rental unit, and as the list grew longer and longer (and more costly), we quickly decided to salvage the cupboards and countertops there, too.

Note: Decide what’s worth saving if you’re doing it yourself (or if you’re paying a contractor). The bathroom vanity in our rental unit was in need of structural help in addition to aesthetic help, so we decided that was worth swapping with something brand new. Not asking for extra headaches over here!

When our rental unit became vacant (for the first time since we’ve owned the house–we inherited tenants when we bought the home), the kitchen looked like this:

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We had the cupboards cleaned (oh my were they greasy!) and painted by our pro painting team. They turned out great!

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Looks like the painting job is over, right?

Don’t let that countertop fool you…

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DIY time. This is where I come in.

Voila! New life!

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(Here’s that early before picture again for the sake of comparison.)

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I’ll walk you through the simple steps to upgrade your countertops–if by “upgrade” we mean improving the existing counters on the cheap.

Countertop Paint How-To

Things you’ll need:

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Rust-oleum countertop paint is truly the perfect cheap and simple fix (about $25 for the quart of paint, which should be plenty), and I couldn’t recommend it enough! The paint can shows “color options”, but you aren’t actually limited to those options thanks to the awesome technology at your local home improvement store. This time I did select the light gray from the color list. When the paint is dried, it forms a hard, smooth surface. It’s perfectly washable. (And if anything attacks your countertop, you can apply touch-ups!)

The Simple Steps

STEP 1: Wipe down the counters. Don’t worry too much about stains since they’ll be covered anyway, but be sure to get rid of any debris or caked on materials you can. I recommend using a de-greaser or other similar cleaning product.

STEP 2: Tape the perimeter of the countertops. Take your time with this. I personally think it’s the worst part of the project, but perhaps the most important. It’s smooth sailing after this step, so don’t skimp on doing a good job! (Helpful hint: Make sure that the foam brush you’re using will not meet the wall above the tape line. I cut it close with choosing not to double up the tape along most of the perimeter, but I don’t recommend that for a first-time attempt.)



Be sure to tape around the sink very carefully. I used my fingernail to ensure the bottom of the tape tucked tightly around the sink, then I folded the tape down overtop the sink. (I forgot to take a picture of the taped sink pre-painting, but I think you can still tell what I mean in this photo.)


STEP 3: Shake + stir the paint. Shake the sealed paint can for a bit. Make sure there isn’t any debris on the lid that will fall into the paint can upon opening. Open the can and use a stir stick to make sure the paint is mixed well.

STEP 4: Paint the first coat in a THIN layer. This paint is quite thick (and so sticky), but it thins out very nicely with the foam roller. Thin out the paint to the point where you do not see distinct lines or layers, but make sure to get more paint if the foam roller starts to get dry and sticky. Throughout this step, use a foam brush along edges and in any places the roller can’t reach. Go back and forth between the little foam brush and the roller to be sure the paint is evenly spread. (Warning: Globs will stay globs. I promise it’s really not difficult to do this well, you just want to concentrate on a small area at a time!)

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STEP 5: Let the first coat of paint dry for at least at hour. If you’re ready to paint another coat but the countertop is still wet or sticky, wait, wait, wait. You’ll mess with the smooth texture if you dive in too soon. (Can you tell I’ve learned some things the hard way? Ha!)

STEP 6: Once the first coat is dry, paint a second coat. Depending on the color of your original countertops and the paint color you chose, you may need to do a third coat. With this gray over off-white, I only needed two coats before touching up any patchy areas (after additional dry time).

STEP 7: After the countertops are completely dry, remove the tape. Take this nice and slow. (I guess that’s the theme here.) You’ll want to be careful not to quickly rip a piece of tape that is buried into the dry paint. To help with nice, clean lines, I recommend pulling the tape up at an angle away from the paint. That probably sounds like nonsense, so hopefully these pictures help:


Last but not least…

Step back and marvel at how simple that significant transformation was!

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Happy renovating!

-Shay Gabriel

5 replies on “7 simple steps to transforming your countertops

  1. Wow wow wow it looks like a completely different place!! I would have had no idea how to do the countertops like that, but they look amazing without the price of completely replacing them. The light colors really just make the unit look so happy and bright!!! I would love to live here! (: you two are doing such a good job with your renovations and I’m sure your new tenants will love it ❤

    1. Thanks, girl! It’s been quite the venture, but we’re happy with how things are progressing! Can’t wait for things to wrap up completely–hopefully this weekend. Woohoo!

    1. Thanks, Debbie! I’m glad enjoy the progress I’ve shared 😄 It’s funny you mention Joanna Gaines…I just published a post today about what it is I admire about the Gaines family. (And also about our experience visiting Magnolia this month!)

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