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.
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.