September 9, 2014

How To: Faux Granite Countertops

One project that I knew I wanted to complete in the new house was something I had seen on Pinterest. Amid my DIY endeavors, I stumbled upon this pin in the "Home Decor" section. The post is written by the very lovely Ashleigh over at Live Gorgeously

I really love the look of granite and really hate the price tag. In our attempt to be frugal in home improvements, I started reviewing how to go about accomplishing this grand feat. As it turns out, it's actually quite simple! In total, the project cost me less than $150, much as Ashleigh said it would. And would you look at her countertops? GORGEOUS.


I'm giving you the long version with steps and commentary because I want to cover all the bases. I would hate for your to not LOVE your counter tops as much as I love mine. I hope you're comfy. Here's whatcha need:

What You Need

  • Envirotex Lite (We got it for a steal from Craft Warehouse - $65 for a gallon! But I still had to pick up two 32oz packages from Hobby Lobby - with 40% off coupons - 4oz covers about 1 sqft of counter. Total cost: $107.) You can also buy it in bulk from Amazon
  • Foam craft sponges (large ones)
  • 3" Rollers and handle
  • Small paint trays
  • Paper plates
  • Base coat/color
  • Acrylic craft paints in your accent color choices
  • Natural sponge
  • Newspaper
  • Painters tape
  • Plastic tarps
  • Oil base primer
  • Fine glitter
  • Mineral spirits
  • Paintable caulk
  • Sandpaper
  • At least two plastic buckets (with measuring abilities, like this.)
  • Three days that you can stand to be counter-less
  • A babysitter for your cats
My primer of choice, acrylic paints, "oops" rack items and natural sponge pieces.

What You Do

1. Clear the counters of debris. 
  • Remove the coffee pot and the decorate flowers. They're going to look a whole lot better on your fancy new counters.
2. Wipe down and degrease.
  • Some people recommend buying a degreaser. In this case I just used Dawn dish soap and washed the counters down with warm water. But mine weren't in that bad of shape to begin with (and I use that degreaser for basically everything else  - it works great and on basically everything!). 
3. Lightly scuff with sand paper, prep with caulk and wipe down again.
  • If needed, use caulk/foam/etc. to fill the gaps between the wall and the counters (we had a small one) and also any imperfections/dips. Obviously you want flat counter tops. *Note: if you don't paint the caulk, it will be visible. I'm installing a backsplash sometime in the near future, so I was not worried about this. If you are, pay particular attention to blending this area into your counters.
  • If you have no holes or gaps to fill, sanding isn't necessary if you use an oil based primer like I did (this one). Still, as someone with a history of not taking the time to properly prep my projects, this was not one I was willing to take short cuts on.
4. Tape off your walls and tarp or newspaper over nearby items to catch drips.
  • And anything else you don't want to get paint or varnish on such as electronics, the floor, the cabinets, etc.
5. Remove the sink. 

He's so handy! I highly recommend you get one just like him. 

  • This step is something I have heard mixed reviews about. While researching for this particular project, I noticed that some people use a regular varnish to top coat, like a polycrylic coating such as this one by Minwax. So this step is up to you. Because my kitchen counters are a super high traffic area, I opted for the Envirotex epoxy instead. This required me to remove the sink. But we'll get to that.
This one got comfy in the next room on his own.
6. Secure your cats.
  • Mine were banished to their rooms for several hours or so while I did the next steps two steps and then several days while we let the epoxy cure.
7. Prime and let dry.
  • I used the oil base primer for two reasons: 1) because I wanted to make sure the paint stuck and 2) because the internet told me to. Rather than run the risk of the paint not sticking, I sucked up my fear of oil paint and went for it. I'm a sloppy painter and I tend to get it everywhere. If you've ever worked with oil paint, you know that it's much harder to clean than latex paint and requires the use of mineral spirits (which I didn't buy because I'm cheap). Trust me when I say I went about this step VERY carefully.
8. Lay down your base coat and let dry.
  • I used the same color as my walls to ensure that they would compliment each other and hey - why not? The color I chose for my main living area walls (kitchen, living room and hallways) is called Revere Pewter and it's made by Benjamin Moore. It is the perfect greige if I ever did see one. I love it.
9. Add accent colors using the natural sponge.
  • I chose black, brown and a metallic dark silver. I also threw in a lighter color that I had acquired off the "Oops" rack at Lowe's. It was a yellow gold and when added with brown, made a nice addition. For a more "realistic" looking faux-stone, you're going to want to have a few options. Add the colors in layers, one color at a time. Layer colors in various patterns until you achieve the desired result.

  • I did this for each color and 
    repeated the pattern as necessary.


  • When sponging colors, I recommend changing the direction and shape of the sponge as you go. This gives it a less uniform and more "naturally occurring" look. 
10. Sprinkle the glitter.
  • This is an idea that I borrowed from Ashleigh because I too am a sparkle fanatic. You can put as much as you like, keeping in mind that once you put on the clear coat, everything gets super shiny. (Make sure you do this after the paint is dry to prevent the glitter from standing up.)
11. Mix and pour Envirotex Lite.


The epoxy comes in two parts - resin and hardener.

  •  So here's the thing: this stuff is serious and it is awesome, but follow the directions exactly as they are listed and make sure you have enough to completely cover your counter tops. It's self leveling and and will settle evenly, but move it around with a foam brush to make sure it reaches all areas of the counter (get down to eye level to make sure that you didn't miss anything). For the first 30-60 minutes, make sure to go around the edges smoothing out drips. Also, keep checking for air bubbles. Little bubbles may form and are easily removed by using a lighter or small blow touch and carefully running it just over the surface to heat them up. You can also breathe on them. This works surprisingly well.


  • Popping bubbles.
  • And this is the reason that we Matt removed the sink: if it ever needed to be replaced we would have to break the counter top. This stuff dries hard as rock and I see no easy way to take the sink out if it were sealed in. 
12. Wait three days.
  • The counters will be "dry" after 8 hours, but it takes a total of 72 hours for them to fully cure (at 70 degrees Fahrenheit) - less time if you heat up the house. You're going to want to poke them, to put stuff on them, maybe to rub your face across their shiny surface, and your cats are certainly going to want to jump on them and leave cute little paw prints, but you're not going to let that happen. No sir, no way.

What I Learned

  • I have 44 sqft of counters which requires a lot of epoxy. It helps to have a second person to stir the mixture while you pour and cover the counters. You're going to need a sidekick.
  • Watch for bubbles for a while after you think you need to. After an hour of blowing out bubbles I thought we would be all set but in the morning I found a bubble I missed. It's barely visible, but you can feel it when you run a hand over the surface. It's going to make me nutty.
  • After you're positive it is no longer dripping, remove the tape/paper/plastic while the epoxy is still semi liquid. I didn't do this and spent several hours with a razor blade trying to get it off. 
  • Wear gloves. This stuff is VERY difficult to get off your hands (and other stuff - like door knobs! Not that I would know. I didn't do that. Nope, not me.) if it starts to dry. Have some acetone near by.
Otherwise, the process is pretty easy going and not as terrifying as I anticipated. And look! Beautiful "new" counters at 1/10th the price of real granite. Here's a before and after:



Fake granite counter tops


How to granite counter tops
Look how shiny! Oooh, ahh. 
Ta da! Tell me what you think! 


XOXO

12 comments:

  1. Thank you! Your project gave me the confidence to go for it! I was definitely nervous (especially about the mess) but it wasn't all that bad. :)

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  2. My absolute pleasure! Thanks for stopping by! :)

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  4. Wow, great job! Thanks for such detailed info. I have been pondering doing this myself but am afraid that long term it won't hold up. Two years later, how are things looking for you?
    Thanks!
    Nicole

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    1. Hi Nicole! They have held up really, really well. Of all my projects, this one is still my proudest. I haven't had any chips or issues. It's never lost its hard shell. I've experimented with a few different cleaning products to see what gets the best results and, for the most part, warm water and elbow grease seems to be the very best. The only issue I've had is a bit of food coloring got on the counter (looks like a cap mark) and I haven't been able to get it off. The resin seemed to have absorbed it. If I make any progress, I'll have to post an update! Good luck!

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    2. Thank you so much for the update! You've given me the courage to go forth :) Sounds like the epoxy you used has made all the difference and I'll probably use the same one. Thanks again!
      Nicole

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    3. My pleasure! And you should share a picture when they're finished! I'd love to see how they come out! :)

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    4. I was reading the Live Gorgeously blog you linked to at the beginning of this post and she referenced the General Splendor blog and that blogger mentioned that she used a magic eraser to buff out a stain - she also used the Envirotex epoxy. Did you try that?
      Nicole

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  5. I am ready to try this on my bathroom counter top. I have two torches to pop the bubbles and the horizontal doesn't scare me...but the vertical terrifies me.how to you handle backspash and front edges? Also. how to you stop the resin from going down where the sink hole is?

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    Replies
    1. Such a great question! For the backsplash area, I tape off the wall/tile (whatever you have in the back) and use the foam sponge to "scoop" the envirotex on top the backsplash area and then let the resin run over the edge onto the horizontal surfaces. Because it's all self-leveling, as long as you cover it well (and make sure you coat the edges well if they are square), the "extra" will run over and level into the horizontal surfaces (does that makes sense?). As for dripping into the sink - I have always used a garbage bag or piece of plastic (from the painting section) and tape/tact it to the under side of the sink. Usually this works sufficiently though I have had drips, which I sand off with my orbital sander.

      I think you'll be very happy with the results! My vote is just to go for it! :) Good luck!

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