Surely I must be the last person on Earth to execute some kind of DIY countertop makeover. In our last house we did have laminate, but it was newer and “granite” style. Overall it served us well, holding up great over the 10 years we were there.

When we moved to our 1970 ranch in March, the countertops were also pretty unoffensive. But, there was a super weird seam (maybe a section was patched?) and some stains, as well as just a generally boring off-white tone. We have the same style in the hall bathroom- I think the builder just matched the cabinets and counters in both spots (why not?)

Not one to go right for the sledgehammer, I decided to toss around the idea of covering them somehow. Concrete overlay became super trendy a few years ago, but I don’t have a lot of hours to dedicate to that task (much less the patience to keep both toddler and animal limbs out of wet product).

I turned to my beloved Pinterest, which offered some inspiration. I saw that people were covering theirs with high quality contact paper, and it definitely looked pretty good. Plus, I found out that the manufacturers of these super durable types of contact paper started making extra wide sheets specifically for counters. I guess that’s one bonus to being super late to the party, so HUZZAH! Based on great reviews and my vision for the space, I decided to try this marble paper on Amazon.

The easiest place for me to start was the “coffee bar” area of countertop, since it was straight and had no holes (like a sink). But, I pretty much did the whole kitchen and bathroom within the week. The photos will be from different areas, but the method is the same (sorry for the cell phone pictures). Fair warning: do not attempt this project if you are easily frustrated, a perfectionist, or have limited time. Ok, all those things apply to me. I made it through and have a few tips for you to make it just a wee bit easier. I think the results are worth it, especially for the price.

Here’s what you need:

  • Contact paper
  • Scissors
  • Measuring tape
  • Razor blade
  • Smoothing tool (I used the side of a silicone spatula and a credit card, but there are real tools for this)
  • Hair dryer
  • Straight pin
  • Windex
  • Caulk

First step – abandon all expectation that this will be perfect. There’s literally no way to get it completely smooth and in one piece. There will be seams. There will be bubbles. It was hard to photograph as I was doing it (because…giant sticker), but the method itself is pretty straightforward.

If you want to get straight to the point, here’s what I did in simple steps:

  1. Clean your countertops well, and measure a piece of contact paper to cover the area.
  2. Dampen working area with Windex.
  3. Starting with the corner at the edge of the countertop, peel the backing off and apply the contact paper slowly, smoothing out bubbles as you go.
  4. Leave the front edge hanging until the end, then tuck it under with the help of a hair dryer.
  5. Trim edges with a razor blade. Cover edges where needed with a separate piece.
  6. Caulk seams, especially where the paper meets the wall or backsplash and around sinks, stoves, or other openings.
  7. Use a straight pin to prick any stubborn bubbles and smooth them out.
  8. Remember that no one will notice the small mistakes or seams.
  9. Be creative with your countertop props to cover areas you don’t love.

If you like wordy detail, read on.

Once you’ve properly adjusted your expectations, it’s time to get started! Measure your space and make sure you have enough to cover the whole area either entirely, or in large sections with planned seams. Give yourself some buffer. I found it easy to just roll mine out over the space and cut a few inches over the edge.

If you have a lip on the back of your countertop, you may choose to cover it separately from the countertop itself. Some older countertops have very square pieces on the back that were installed separately. Mine is rounded and just an extension of the top itself – there’s no seam. I chose to do it all together since I had enough width to cover the combined area. This also made things a bit more complicated, but I think in the end it was the right call.

Once you have your piece cut, clean your counters thoroughly. Make sure to remove any stuck on debris, as it will impair your ability to get a smooth finish.

Start at one edge/corner, and spray about a foot of the counter with some windex lightly. I’m not sure why this works, I just know that it does. I first heard about doing this when I applied clear contact paper to my bathroom windows many many years ago for a frosted effect. It helps you manipulate the paper without it grabbing ahold of the surface too quickly.

Essentially this DIY is a matter of peeling paper backing slowly and applying the contact paper to the damp surface bit by bit. Use your smoothing tool to push out air bubbles as you go. If it starts to get wonky, you can peel it back and try again. Really it’s just something you have to feel out as you chug along. The Windex will give you some wiggle room, and when it dries, your contact paper will regain its full stickiness. If the edge of the contact paper is too wet to grab the surface, just wait a few minutes for it to dry a bit and push it down again. I had this trouble mostly along the top of the countertop “backsplash,” but after it dried it was secure.

The easiest place to start of course is any section that doesn’t have any cutouts, but most kitchens will have a sink (duh!) that needs to be worked around. Since we have laminate in the kitchen, we already had angled seams in the “U” shaped kitchen counter which meant three pieces. I did the right section first, since it didn’t involve any cutouts. It did involve me patching one of the edges, since the foldover only looked really clean on the waterfall edge. You can see the angled area I patched on the bottom right in the picture below. I trimmed the large sheet fairly close to the edge, but stuck about 1/2″ down, making slits where needed to fold pieces flat. It’s sort of like wrapping a present. Then, I cut a long rectangular patch and overlapped it so there was no “open” seam.

Up close, you can tell there is some 3d action from covering up the folded and scrunched up edges, but it’s super subtle and the marble print really hides things.

I then moved on to the left side, which had a cut out for the stovetop since we have a drop in style. It went pretty well, and it gave me the confidence to tackle the final section with the sink.

The windex really helped here, and I was able to manipulate both pieces while cutting around the fixtures. Where the sections meet, I maintained a diagonal seam just like the laminate. I did overlap the edges to make sure I had good coverage.

In the case of my bathroom, I had the goal of using all one piece and cutting around the sink. But, things just got a bit too wild by the time I got to the sink, and I decided to make a seam that went basically down the center of the sink. Shit happens. It still looks great, and most people wouldn’t even notice.

To finish the front edge, you can wrap the contact paper around and stick it to the underside if you have a large enough lip. Use the hair dryer to heat it lightly (lightly! You can melt it!), and give it a bit of a stretch as you’re wrapping.

Once you put everything back on your counters, I promise you won’t notice the small mistakes. The overall effect is pretty great!

 

 

Would you attempt this makeover? Or have you? Let me know how it went for you!

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