Introduction: Say Goodbye to That Formica CounterTop!

Ok, I've been gone for a while. I'm glad to be back with this. I was tasked with upgrading this counter top to look as good as possible for the least amount possible, all said and done it came to maybe $150 but I think it was less. I think I have done a wonderful job and I think any of you can do it as good or better than I have. It's really a very simple process that can be used for any surface really. It takes a few tools, a little wood, and your creativity. I really hope you enjoy this Instructable as much as I enjoyed building this counter top. I will say, as easy as this is to do, I want to make it as easy as possible for you to read the instructable so, while there are many steps, each step is very simple and not a long read. Enjoy.

I do have to apologize for a lack of progress pictures. Normally I take as many as possible, but I was on a deadline, and really needed to get it done. I think, though, that the ones I have will illustrate my intentions.

Step 1: What You'll Need.

OK. you will need materials and tools. I'll start with the materials first, and then tell you what you will need to work them.

This process uses nothing more than High Grade 2x4's. Really! I know.... How can that be possible? We'll get to that.

You will also need wood glue, a couple spray cans of clear lacquer, stain if you want it, and maybe a few finish nails depending on what you do with this. The most Important material, the one that makes this a usable counter top is a product you can find at any big box home improvement store. It's an epoxy used for bar tops. Have you ever been to a bar, don't deny it, lol, with a super thick clear bar top that maybe has objects in it? Pennies, coasters? Whatever that bar put in there. This is the same material, Glaze Coat. Well, it's the version that is readily available to us.

The tools are a bit more extensive; so I will list them from most important, to tools you might need for use on any other use of this Instructable.

Tools:

Table saw: Sorry guys, it's really important

Miter Saw: Also very important

Tape Measure, Ruler, and Straight Edge

Clamps: also very important

Sander: dealers choice, with 60, 100,and 220 grit

Jig Saw: For cutting out the sink hole and any small alterations you might need to make

Heat gun or hair dryer. This is used to eliminate bubbles from the epoxy after you've poured it. The epoxy instructions also suggest this and inform you how. (it works, well)

caulking gun and Loctite's Power Grab, %100 clear silicon

wood glue, wax paper, sanding disks, pencil, finish nails, lacquer, steel wool, disposable brushes preferably 3", 2" painters tape.

Secondly important to the Glaze is an open space with floor protection (plastic, drop cloths, etc.), and work horses. I did this with the counters in place and, if I were to do it again, I would have removed them. Trust me, spend the time and effort to pull them and work on them while they are on work horses, or whatever you have to support them.

Step 2: Start Ripping.

Set your table saw to 5/16" and start cutting (2") strips of 2x4. By that, I mean 5/16"x2"x8'. I used about 8 for this project. I had to buy a few more than I thought, you might too, but no big deal.

Step 3: Remove the Sink and Countertops.

This is not negotiable. To do this right, the sink need to come out and the counters pulled from the cabinetry. Again, a mistake I made that you shouldn't have to. Remember to turn off the water to the sink before you disconnect it. You will also have to disconnect the wiring from the disposal.

Step 4: Get to Gluing.

With your counter top on the horses, lay down a cover layer of waxed paper. Lay down and glue together (side to side) enough strips to over cover your surface. Use clamps! The more clamps, the better. Repeat if more is needed.

Step 5: Making a Plan and Making Alterations.

Now you should basically have a board or boards of glued strips. It's time to measure and cut to the shapes you will need for your surface. I can't tell you how to do this as each surface is different, but I will say that 45 degree angles look awesome. Cut them slightly larger than the need to be, you'll trim them later. If you use your jigsaw to cut a 45, make sure to use your sander to make the cut edge clean, actually, do that anyway. That's something I learned after I glued it all together.

Step 6: Cut to Match.

OK. Lay your generally fitting pieces together with some wax paper under each (if any) joint.You can see in my pictures, the joints that were made for the counter top. Add glue to each edge, push them together and use your tape (generously) to hold them together.

Step 7: Stick 'em.... Down.

Now that all the major parts are built and connected, its time to secure them to the existing surface. Remove your piece from the surface and either use low grit sanding disks to rough up the surface; or as someone suggested for possibly more stability, cut a fitting piece of 1/4 plywood and glue your cutting board pieces to that. Use your Power Grab exactly like they tell you on the tube. Then, place your pieces in place, (lol, I couldn't think of a better way to say it; but you get my point) and push down evenly throughout the entire surface. Allow to dry.

Step 8: Trim the Fat.

Everything is secure now. Time to cut and sand off any deviations from the edges with your jigsaw and sander. Cut out the sink opening with your jigsaw. (again, so much easier with the sink removed), and sand down the surface until it's smooth and flat.

Step 9: Build Your Borders.

To use the glaze coat, you will need to have a 1/16" raised edge surrounding your surface. Measure the depth of your counter top including the new wood on top, and add 1/4". Rip your 2x4's to this measurement, and then rip them in half down the center of the 2" side. You should end up with 2 strips (per 2x4) that you will use as edges on the counter top. These will then need to be measured and cut to size for each edge. You can miter the corners or not, completely up to you. When you nail the borders up, it really helps to have your aluminum yardstick on the surface. It is 1/16" and will help you make sure your borders are both a deep enough and level boarder edge. I'm really sorry I don't have a picture to show you, but I only decided to post this after it was mostly done.

Step 10: Stain.

If you want to stain it, now is the time.

Step 11: Tips on Pouring the Epoxy.

OK.... Mixing and pouring this epoxy was the most stressful thing I think I have ever done, and I learned a lot. At first, I mixed a LOT less than I thought I would need. For each counter top you see, no less than a half gallon will do for a first coat. When you mix it, follow the instructions TO THE LETTER! Do Not, cheat this process in any way, AT ALL. The last thing you want is an epoxy coat that wont cure because you didn't mix it enough, or get the exact amount of resin to hardener. Do it the way they tell you to. I set my phone next to my mixing pot so that I knew how long I had mixed it.

As for pouring it, I made the mistake of pouring it all on the surface at one time, the first time I did it. It did not go well, lol. You will want to pour some, and spread it out with your disposable brush so that it fills in that area completely. Move down the surface and pour some more, repeat spreading. The reason for this is that, when mixed, the epoxy gets hot (temperature) in the mixing pot. If you pour it all out at the same time, it immediately starts to cool and set. By keeping it in the pot, it stays hot and spreadable. If you keep it hot, it will self level and give you a perfect, glass like surface.

You might, if you're like me, want to fix uneven spots while its still wet. DON'T TOUCH! :)

Step 12: Fixing Defects, You Will Have Some.

After pouring the first, and or second coat, you might have a few defects that you can't live with. Building up the the epoxy to the level of my border edges left me with several. Mix a little epoxy and fill in these defects. You will have to. When it has dried, sand it down smooth, first with the 60 grit, then the 100, and then the 220. Once every bit of it is smooth, apply a last coat. By this time you will have the hang of pouring and spreading it out, this last coat will come out better than you think. :)

Step 13: The Borders.

I didn't want the borders to be the same sheen as the counter tops. This is why I included clear lacquer in the materials list. If you want a slightly different sheen on them, tape around the inside edge of the boarders, and then tape down a plastic cover on top to protect the glaze from the lacquer. Put two or three coats of lacquer on the borders.

Step 14: Reconnect Your Countertops.

After 24 hours of dry time, you can reinstall the counters.

Step 15: Position and Set the Back Splash.

Putting together the back plashes is the same process as the counter tops. When all is ready, glue them to the walls, and silicone the the joints.

Step 16: Position and Set the Sink.

Securing the sink is as simple as putting a bead of silicone around the edges if the sink hole, and dropping it into place. Reconnect the plumbing, and disposal connections.

Step 17: Admire Yor Work!

This is not an easy process. I hope I have given you all the do's and don'ts for this to be a pleasant and productive project. Remember, if it doesn't go well, it is only glue holding it on; and it can be removed or redone. All said, this one only only cost about $150. Easy to think about a retry (if you need to) for that small amount of money, and well worth it.

Comments

author
jpeters125 (author)2017-09-04

The instructions didn't say, did you put the wood strips over the old counter top? Or remove the Formica then apply? Also, did you leave the wax paper under the counter, or remove it in one of the last steps?

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Attmos (author)jpeters1252017-09-05

Step 7. Yes, I used the existing counter top as a base, and secured this to it. Think of it as a cap on top of the existing counter. I did not leave the waxed paper, it was there only to prevent the glue from sticking to the original counter top. thank you, I'll mention removing the waxed paper before gluing down the boards to the counter top.

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chefspenser (author)2017-09-04

Nice job! Now a new sink, to.

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JamesD425 (author)chefspenser2017-09-05

Just needs a new faucet set, or even a set of aftermarket knobs. Nothing wrong here. Very clever project, especially if you're on a budget.

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Attmos (author)JamesD4252017-09-05

:) Thanks!

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Attmos (author)chefspenser2017-09-04

LOL, if only. She had me set the 40+ year old sink back in place. It has a plastic faucet, lol. Oh well. :) Thank you very much!

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chefspenser (author)Attmos2017-09-04

OMG! Is she that frugal?

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Attmos (author)chefspenser2017-09-04

Yep! :)

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jtechian (author)2017-08-31

Nice work! There is one big step that should be included I think would make this last longer. Add a 1/4" layer of plywood to the underside that will keep the strips stabilized and prevent any cracks that may appear over time. All in all this looks great!

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Attmos (author)jtechian2017-09-02

Actually, I think that would be a good idea.

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RayJ36 (author)Attmos2017-09-04

I bet ,after the rebounds of what you have done (in your own time ) It makes you think way bother, they have the Basic idea. Can they not figer a little bit out for themselves. If Not ,easy, don't try to do it.

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Attmos (author)RayJ362017-09-04

Are you responding to a certain comment?

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Attmos (author)Attmos2017-09-04

Instructions and helping people to recreate or create, is the whole purpose of this website. I am always happy to answer questions and accept constructive criticism, see my faults and help others to not make them. I'm not sure what your point is.

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Attmos (author)jtechian2017-08-31

It is completely secured to the existing countertop, I will, now that you mention it, add that the countertop needs to be ruffed up by some low grit sandpaper so that the glue will adhere solidly. Thank you. :)

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Attmos (author)Attmos2017-08-31

I guess time will tell how well I did my job. :)

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pbriggs8 (author)2017-08-31

The strips do not look like they are 5/16" wide. Can you post a closeup photo showing the 5/16" strips?

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Attmos made it! (author)pbriggs82017-09-02

Here is a photo for you, and I added it to my Instructable, thank you. :)

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pbriggs8 (author)Attmos2017-09-02

Thanks for posting the photo. I would be concerned that a 5/16" thick countertop would not be sturdy enough and might be subject to flexing, splitting, or cracking. I've never tried the glaze coat finish, though, and maybe that provides extra protection for the long term. Your finished project looks great!

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Attmos (author)pbriggs82017-09-02

5/16" Secured to the existing countertop.

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davidd6 (author)Attmos2017-09-03

You could be clearer in your instruc on this. I had the same Q.

Also how much time it took you since that is potentially the most expensive part?

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Attmos (author)Attmos2017-09-02

With the epoxy on top.

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Attmos (author)pbriggs82017-09-02

And, :), thank you.

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gwengler (author)pbriggs82017-08-31

He wasn't too clear about that. He removed 5/16" strips from each side of the 2x4 to get nice flat edges for gluing up side to side. A 2x4 from the lumberyard has somewhat rounded corners on each edge so they need to be removed to get a flat glued up panel.

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JacobK85 (author)gwengler2017-09-01

I've never understood why they round the corners on this kind of lumber. Anyone know the reason?

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Attmos (author)JacobK852017-09-02

When framing houses, you handle a lot of lumber in a day. These days they sand the lumber on all four sides and round the corners. As EricR177 says, for the framers, for convenience of use. You can still buy rough sawn wood if you choose, and I agree again with Eric, the rough sawn is better.

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EricR177 (author)JacobK852017-09-01

Because it's construction lumber where laborers have to unload truck loads (and Fast) so its easier to handle. Actual nice wood working lumber is square and sharp.

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Attmos (author)EricR1772017-09-02

Agreed.

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BobH160 (author)JacobK852017-09-01

It is because it is CLS the rounded edges are better for tolerances.

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Attmos (author)gwengler2017-09-02

Gwengler, you're right I wasn't very descriptive, I think I have made it more clear in the Instructable now. Actually, I cut about 8 (5/16"x2"x8') out of each 2x4. You can see the photo I included above, or in the Instructable. :)

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Attmos (author)gwengler2017-08-31

I'll work on that expinlation.

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Attmos (author)Attmos2017-08-31

I used the rounded pieces for another part of the houses remodel.

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gberl001 (author)pbriggs82017-08-31

They aren't 5/6" wide, they are 1.5" wide and 5/16" thick. He cut 5/16" thick pieces lengthwise from the 2" (nominal) sides of the 2x4 which is actually 1.5". He said he was able to make about 8 from each board which sounds about right with a 1/8" blade when you calculate out the cuts along 3.5" of actual width.

In the first picture you can see more clearly that he basically made furring strips from a 2x4 and laid them flat on the existing counter top and glued them edge to edge to make a 5/16" thick layer of wood.

You could arguably rotate the 2x4 and make 5/16" cuts of 3.5" panels but the main point is, he cut strips 5/16" thick and created a 5/16" thick panel by gluing them together edge to edge.

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Attmos (author)gberl0012017-08-31

Well said! Thank You. :)

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Attmos (author)pbriggs82017-08-31

I can and will. :)

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pbesong (author)2017-08-31

I used this epoxy to refinish a dining room table for my father-in-law. It came out great, even though I'd never done it before. I have to echo your warning to follow the directions to a tee. When I poured it, I poured it in an ever increasing spiral and let the ridges flow together and used a disposable brush to make sure it covered evenly. It was more like encouraging it to flow in certain areas than it was brushing. I would also add that you really need to make sure the surface is completely level before pouring so it covers evenly. Then make sure you get the drips that will form as it runs off the edges. My father-in-law and his wife were ecstatic with the results. I just breathed a sigh of relief that I didn't muff their dining room table! :-)

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Attmos (author)pbesong2017-08-31

Nice, I like that table top, and it looks good. Thanks, I will add that the surface needs to be leveled. Surprised I didn't think of that because that was one of my problems trying to do it while they were still installed. I will mention the drips as well, although I had flat edges that I could sand again. I appreciate your advice!

It really is nerve racking isn't it, lol. After I poured it, I had to leave for the day so I didn't obsess about it and ruin it by messing with it.

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pbesong (author)Attmos2017-08-31

Oh and I used a plastic scraper, not a disposable brush. You just want to coax it to where you want it to flow. After it's all on, I took a heat gun (you can also use a propane torch) to go over the surface (not too close) and it will dissolve any bubbles that will invariable rise to the top of the finish. You'll do that right after you're done flowing the epoxy on. Nice job on the counter too. You did a great job!

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Attmos (author)pbesong2017-09-02

During each coat I put down, I used a different spreader. I like the brush because it allows more flexibility, more uses with a brush. It allowed me to brush the drips on the sides, into a smooth coat. But, as a painter, I'm just used to and very good at using a brush to manipulate the product I'm using. I will include a plastic putty knife in the description. :)

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pbesong (author)Attmos2017-09-02

yeah you can see my plastic putty knife on the floor in the last pic. i did use a brush underneath to try and get the drips, but they eventually reformed anyway. had to sand them off afterwards. again, super job on the countertops!

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Attmos (author)pbesong2017-09-02

LOL I still had to sand some off too. Thanks.

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Attmos (author)pbesong2017-09-02

And, Thank you! I appreciate that.

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pbesong (author)pbesong2017-08-31

For some reason the final photo didn't upload, but here it is! :-D

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Attmos (author)pbesong2017-08-31

Ah, lol, I was wondering. That is incredible! Wow. Really, excellent job. I have no doubt that they love it.

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charlessenf-gm (author)2017-08-31

Since a Counter-top is usually 1.5" inches thick, why not simply build the thing out of 2 x 4's? (Well 1.5" x 3.25" after milling square. Need a Planer!). Or slice each 2 by into three strips and orient them in the glue up to help remove/counter any twist or curves. Do the glue up in two 1-foot widths first, then glue these two sections together to get the final 24" needed. Cut a rabbit / groove along the wall side of the countertop and a mating tongue int the backsplash and glue these together to create a water-tight joint! Create a template for the sink cut out and use it with your router to create the opening.

Your finished product looks great. If I can get the wife off the Granite counter and tiled backsplash idea, I may post my version next!

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Attmos (author)charlessenf-gm2017-08-31

That sounds like a great plan! Unfortunately, I don't have all of those tools, yet :), and by buying that many 2x4's, the price would go up and no joke, this lady wanted to spend as little money as possible.

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charlessenf-gm (author)Attmos2017-08-31

", this lady wanted to spend as little money as possible."

Oh, I thought you were building it for yourself!

If cost was an issue, I would think FORMICA (<$2/ft) would be the cheapest way to go. And, far less labor!

Just recover the original counter!

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Attmos (author)charlessenf-gm2017-09-02

No, :) I was hired to do several other upgrades to the house. The owner said she couldn't find replacement counters and, as you said, I recommended a new layer of Formica. She told me she really hated Formica, couldn't afford Corian, let alone granite; she said she liked butcher block but that is really expensive too. She asked me to try to come up with something inexpensive but durable and good looking. This is what I gave her. :)

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NoQuartyr (author)2017-08-31

Two questions. One, why didn't you use a joiner to attach the pieces? I would think over time being wood it's going to expand and contract. Two, could you use a heat gun to heat the wood surface to assist the flow of the epoxy? It does look nice though and I, at least, appreciate anyone who puts their projects on this site. Good job!

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Attmos (author)NoQuartyr2017-09-02

Ok, a heat gun is needed, but only to alleviate bubbles in the finish. You could heat the surface, but that would expand the wood. When the wood cooled, it would shrink, causing wrinkles in the finish (theoretically). If you only pour what you can spread, the epoxy will stay hot in your container until you pour it. I didn't use a joiner because I don't have one. :) I'll be buying a few more tools when I get paid for this remodel.

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ChrisW455 (author)2017-08-31

I'm in Canada, do we sell that power grab here? Also I'm a little confused about the cuts. Do I set the height or width 5/16"???
I was reading this to my husband after he has made me an amazing island butcher block top for our kitchen remodel. He cut much smaller pieces. I don't think I could have completed a counter top his way but the way you've explain things, I think I can make a few counter tops for my studio. He's quite anxious to see my attempt
Thank you for the very though instructions.
Chrissy and Mike

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Bio: Me? I just love building this, fixing that, and on the rare occasion creating stuff. I really enjoy repurposing the things I find and collect ... More »
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