How to Change the Color of an Arborite Counter

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Tired of the old, out-of-style color of your kitchen or bathroom Arborite counters, but just can't afford to buy new ones? Fortunately, there's still hope for you-you can give your home brand new-looking counters with some planning, preparation and hard work-for a surprisingly small amount of money (less than $100). Here's how you can change the color and upgrade the appearance of your Arborite counters.

Things You'll Need

  • Fine steel wool or sandpaper (both 120 grit and 220 grit)
  • Detergent
  • Denatured alcohol
  • Oil-based primer
  • Melamine paint
  • Polyurethane or Marine varnish
  • Painters tape
  • Short nap paint rollers, brush
  • Paint tray
  • Understand that Arborite is just one brand name for a plastic laminate material commonly used for counter tops. Similar products are Formica, Nevermar and Wilson Art and all can be painted with Melamine paint.

  • Clear everything off your counter, then wash it with detergent and warm water. Be sure to get into the crevices around the edge of the sink and where the counter meets the wall.

  • Dry the counter, then clean it with denatured alcohol to be sure you have removed any traces of grease that might be left on the surface.

  • Roughen the entire countertop surface using either your 120-grit sandpaper or steel wool. Press lightly; you just want to rough up the surface to provide a "tooth" for the primer. After sanding, use a damp cloth or tack cloth to remove the sanding dust.

  • Use your painters tape and carefully tape around the walls and edge of the sink so no primer or paint will get on them. Be sure to press the tape edges down firmly so that nothing will seep under the tape.

  • Prime the entire surface using your oil-based primer. Start by "cutting in" around the edges with a brush, then fill in the the entire surface using a short nap roller.

  • Allow the primer to dry, then using your 220-grit sandpaper, give the surface another light sanding. Now once again, remove all the sanding dust with a tack cloth or damp cloth.

  • Give your counter its first coat of Melamine paint, using the same process, first cutting in along the edges, then filling in with a roller. It's best to give the counter a number of coats of paint-at least two or three (sanding in between with your 220-grit sandpaper), rather than trying to apply only one thick coat.

  • After the final coat of Melamine paint has dried, lightly sand it and wipe it to get rid of any dust before applying the first coat of marine varnish. You want to follow the same process as with the paint: apply the varnish, allow it to dry, sand it lightly, then apply the next coat.

  • Apply three coats of marine varnish to be sure your new surface is protected.

  • Wait a couple of days before using your newly recolored counters to be sure the marine varnish has dried and will be able to protect your new paint.

Tips & Warnings

  • Changing the color of plastic laminate counters is an easy project, but it is time consuming. You need to allow the coats of primer, paint and varnish to dry thoroughly before applying the next coat.
  • The marine varnish surface is durable, but it won't be as strong as the original surface. Always use a cutting board on your new counter and never set hot pots or pans directly on the surface.

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