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The Best Under-$100 Ways to Totally Transform Old Countertops

It's much easier than you think.

September 23, 2019
Photo by Mark Weinberg

Countertops can truly make or break a kitchen—even the most beautiful room can be dragged down by dreary linoleum. On the flip side, a Carrara marble countertop will immediately add character, and a note of luxury, to your cooking space. But replacing countertops isn’t always an option, because a) it can cost an arm and a leg and b) if you’re a renter, you often can’t touch them, no matter how unsightly.

Luckily for all of us, the internet’s DIY whizzes have come up with several solutions to this all-too-common dilemma—none of which involve actually breaking down or rebuilding any counters. So, if you want to bring old, outdated countertops into the present, here are five (far simpler) solutions that will cost you, wait for it...less than $100.


Break Out the Paint

I know what you’re thinking: “There’s no way that could work.” But I assure you, it does!

Numerous DIYers have painted their kitchen counters and are absolutely smitten with the results. It’s a quick, easy way to update linoleum countertops, and the entire project will cost you well under $100. All you need is sandpaper, painting supplies, a paint of choice, and a sealer.

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Top Comment:
“I'm afraid your ignorance is showing, Kaem1018. From the 1930's thru 1950's, linoleum was commonly used as a countertop covering, usually bordered with a metal edging to hold it in place. Think about it, what would be more durable than flooring linoleum?”
— June L.
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Don’t believe me? Check out this tutorial from Naptime Decorator. She used gray chalk paint to transform her old countertops, and she swears there has only been minimal chipping after a full year of use. The secret is to use a heavy-duty polyurethane finish and be generous with your application.


Refinish a Butcher Block

My style is a bit more rustic, so I love a good butcher block countertop. One of the major benefits of these wooden surfaces is that you can strip them down and refinish the wood to give your kitchen a whole new vibe. This will also let you remove any scratches, dings, or marks that may have accumulated over the years.

Want to see just how easy it is to refinish butcher block? The bloggers at Chris Loves Julia redid their countertop using sanding paper and Waterlox wood finish, which costs $35 per quart. All you have to do is sand away the old finish, then paint on a few coats of Waterlox (or a stain of your choice). Just like that, you have a surface that looks brand new.


Create a Faux-Concrete Finish

Pouring concrete countertops is no easy feat—but what if you could fake it? DIYers A Beautiful Mess have figured out a way to apply a concrete coating onto existing counters, giving you the look of a real slab at a fraction of the cost.

Seriously, a 10-pound bag of feather-finish cement is $36, and a food-safe concrete sealer is $30. Even with additional supplies like sandpaper and trowels, your total spend should still be under $100. Compare this to the cost of new concrete counters—which range from $65 to $135 per square foot—and it’s really a no-brainer!


Go to Town with a Refinishing Kit

If you don’t feel like buying a string of DIY supplies, you can get everything you need in one countertop refinishing kit. One of the most popular options is the Giani Granite Countertop Paint Kit, which comes in a variety of colors and patterns, and costs just $80!

The kit includes everything you need to complete a three-step paint process on top of old laminate, cultured marble, or ceramic tile countertops; the paint will even cover up scuffs, burns, and scratches. The finished result? Beautiful counters with the look of natural stone.

If you want to take it a step further, there are the Rust-Oleum Countertop Transformation Kits. They’re a little more expensive, but include color chips that replicate the appearance of natural stone for a truly realistic look.


Bring on the Stick-On Marble Prints—Yes, Really!

As a renter with an unwilling landlord (sound familiar?), your best option is probably a stick-on solution. It sounds crazy, I know, but people swear that water-resistant vinyl film is the perfect temporary option to cover up ugly counters.

This material is incredibly affordable and easy to install thanks to its self-adhesive backing, and there are a ton of beautiful patterns—such as faux marble in a range of colors—that will instantly upgrade your kitchen (or bathroom). If you want to make the surface more permanent, just go over it with polyurethane as a sealant. You’re welcome.


Got other ideas to bring old countertops to life? Share them in the comments below!

This post contains products that are independently selected by our editors, and Food52 may earn an affiliate commission.

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  • Smaug
    Smaug
  • Kaem1018
    Kaem1018
  • June Lake
    June Lake
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5 Comments

Smaug September 24, 2019
Without going into the advisability any of this stuff, if you decide to sand a countertop you need to be extremely careful to sand it evenly. It's very hard to sand a large flat surface without creating low spots, which are basically unfixable and will be a problem forever. Floor finishers use huge sanders and lots of experience to do this. Also, sanding off a finish is not going to be easy. Belt sanders will be fastest, but a strong, preferably 6" random orbit sander that can be attached to a shop vacuum for dust collection is your best bet. S
A cabinet scraper can make the process much easier, but they're difficult to use properly.
 
Kaem1018 September 24, 2019
Linoleum on your countertop? SMH, do you mean Formica? "Linoleum, also called lino, is a floor covering made from materials such as solidified linseed oil, pine rosin, ground cork dust, wood flour, and mineral fillers such as calcium carbonate, most commonly on a burlap or canvas backing. Pigments are often added to the materials to create the desired colour finish." Wikipedia
 
Kaem1018 September 24, 2019
Linoleum on your countertop? Do you mean Formica? When you have an error in the opening paragraph you have completely lost your audience!
 
June L. September 24, 2019
I'm afraid your ignorance is showing, Kaem1018. From the 1930's thru 1950's, linoleum was commonly used as a countertop covering, usually bordered with a metal edging to hold it in place. Think about it, what would be more durable than flooring linoleum?
 
Smaug September 25, 2019
Actually, people are still installing linoleum countertops; a version called "marmoleum" is particularly popular. You don't see it a lot, though.