NEED IDEAS-cheap way to update countertops

Hi all, Our house is old and dated looking. I am looking for ways to brighten up the inside. I can paint and paper but don't really want to try major reno jobs.
My kitchen couinters are in good shape but just dull and blah looking. any ideas? Can I paint them? What sort of paint would be best? Any other finishes I could put ontop of the arborite thats there? There is a back spalsh all the way around as well and I would do it to match or contrast....any thoughts? I need something really as durable as possible as we are a busy little household.
Thanks friends.
Mummy

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

Mummy, if you're up to the challenge, you could try putting tile on top of your countertops for a totally new look. It's not hard and it can be done in stages. But it is messy, and you have to buy/rent a tile cutter for all the cutouts and corners. You can pick up a 12" for less than $20, which will cut the typical 4" or 6" countertop tile. And you might need help re-seating your sink (aluminum sinks are lightweight enough for one person to do; enamel sinks really need two people to handle them.)

Other than that, I don't know - I can't think of anything else that would adhere well enough (I don't think you can paint them, but I coudl be wrong!) Let us know what you decide!!!

are tiles pretty tough after? i also wondered about cleaning them? does the grout get all icky? i like the idea of doing tiles for the bck splash but not so sure i like the idea of keeping the tiles germ free etc....does anyone have tiled counters who can offer sage advise here? vols do you have them yourself?
thanks

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

Mummy, I have them in our bathroom now (white with white grout). And I had 12" granite tile countertops in our last kitchen (yes, they were very very nice and I miss them terribly ;)

Yes, tile is very durable. They can crack, but it's rare if they're installed securely to begin with. A couple pointers:

1. Use a non-sanded grout with a latex additive. It's easier to clean in high-traffic areas like baths and kitchens.

2. Go with a natural-color, stone type tile and matching grout - gray or beige/taupe would be good neutral choices. Make sure the tile has a glazed surface - don't use unglazed tile on countertops. After they're installed and the grout cures, you can (and should) use a grout sealant (very inexpensive for a couple tubes) which puts down a thin, latex kind of seal over the grout, and makes it very easy to keep them clean (and feel like they're REALLY clean.) This step is especially important if you go with a lighter colored grout.

I am curious to know if anyone has ideas for actually painting a countertop. I can't imagine what you could use, but someone here may have a good idea for you that would be less involved than tiling your countertops.

THANKS

Newnan, GA(Zone 8a)

Mummy, I took the cheap way out. I painted mine. I used the same paint I'd used on the wall, and with a faux marble finish and 6 coats of poly, they look wonderful. I have cheap counters to begin with, and it was a flat piece of laminate on top and one on the front side. Having had 4 kids, some of that front piece had been knicked pretty bad. I took joint compound and filled those places in first, sanded and went to work. Didn't cost me anything cause I'd already bought the paint for the walls and the poly was leftover.

Newnan, GA(Zone 8a)

oh, and this is in my bathroom, and I've washed it good to see what was going to happen. I just painted around the sink, but made sure I sealed it well up next to the sink with the poly. Looks wonderful, my grown kids were really impressed!

tig goody this is the kind of easy and cheap plan i wanted...i think i shall try this and maybe dothe backsplash in tiles later...thanks both of you.
amanda

Newnan, GA(Zone 8a)

I FORGOT ONE IMPORTANT THING
Use Kilz on the counter first. I used oilbased. I think that might be a very important key. If you have plenty of paint and elbow grease, you can try it without it, but then it's a lot of poly to take off if it messes up later. I truly love mine, I am doing the kitchen counters as soon as I decide on the new color.

Newark, OH(Zone 5a)

Here's what I did and everyone asked if I got new counter tops installed. I bought a green marble contact paper. It's the easiest thing to do. You cut it in sections to fit and just stick it on. Get an exacto knife to cut along the edges of the sink and edge of counter to get it really close. Buy a bit extra, that way, if you in the long run you find that a section may become worn, you just take that section off and apply a new one. I have always done this for all of my counters and people can't believe it's contact paper. I did the bathroom counters in a white/black marble. Looks great, is cheap, and there's no mess :)

what happens when you sit a hot pan on top of the contact paper? Does it not stick to the bottom of the hot pan?

Newark, OH(Zone 5a)

you know, I haven't had a problem with that yet. I have set a hot pan on it before but I do try to put a pad under the pan most of the time :o)

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