Concrete overlay on existing laminate counter / improving dull cabinets
August 23, 2011 6:16 PM   Subscribe

Please help me remodel my beige/offwhite plastic-looking kitchen ... on a shoestring!

So, the kitchen in the condo is beige. Crappy beige ceramic tile (I hate it, but it's not leaving any time soon.) Bottom-of-the-line 80s beige laminate cabinets with plastic-looking "wood" trim. And plain ol' beige laminate countertops. Pic here:

I've done a ton with color (on the non-pictured walls), artwork and accessories. Now I really want to update the countertops and cabinets. I love the look of concrete countertops, but the only way that will happen is if I can do an overlay/resurfacing. (Building forms and pouring an entirely new countertop or replacing with new laminate are not options.) It's easy to find instructions for NEW concrete counters, but resurfacing/overlaying is more vague. Pointers?

Also, I'd love to change something with the beige laminate cabinets, but am afraid that painting will look like crap.

I know it's asking a lot, but if anyone has pictures/suggestions/directions for either of these projects, it will be much appreciated. Thanks!
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Can you try painting the cabinets and adding cute handles/pulls? There are new paints/spraypaints that will adhere to laminate. Krylon has a couple - this crafter used Krylon Dual to paint on scrap laminate and it looks good at least online. Or you could try just painting all the wood parts on/around the cabinets.

If you want to try to upgrade your cabinets without replacing them, what about refacing? You might be able to get new doors for a good price.

I would try to add in some kind of backsplash too - that would make things more fun.
posted by radioamy at 6:35 PM on August 23, 2011

If you can afford it, replace the doors/drawer fronts. The laminate fake wood is probably textured, so painting them may not be an option unless you want them to look like painted fake wood laminate. If the surface is not textured, there are lots of good paint products around now - don't assume that you have to just paint them with ordinary paint.

I doubt that you can do an overlay of concrete on top of the existing benchtops, as the carcases are probably not strong enough to take the weight and, once you put sufficient thickness of concrete that it won't crack, the benchtop will be much higher (may or may not be a problem for you).
posted by dg at 7:11 PM on August 23, 2011

I'm not sure you can really do what you want to do here; can I make an alternate suggestion? Not all 80s kitchen stuff was bad. I would maintain the hell out of the existing kitchen -- sand and re-varnish the little bits of oak if that's what it takes to make it sparkle -- and then fill the kitchen with the better parts of 80s decor. Check old interior decorating sources for ideas here's a start. A bright yellow telephone, red and white giant-graph-paper wallpaper, and some funky Guzzini kitchen items, a dramatic 80s ceiling light, and you'd be well on your way to something much cooler than painted cabinets.
posted by kmennie at 7:17 PM on August 23, 2011

Rustoleum makes a cabinet refurb product, too.
posted by rhizome at 7:27 PM on August 23, 2011

I just saw a thing on apartment therapy about pouring concrete on top of old counter tops - right in place! So if the reason you don't want to pour concrete is something to do with not removing the old counters, this might be an option.

I painted old laminate cupboard doors in my kitchen, and I don't think it looks like crap. (Here are before and after pics). But they had been painted already, so I was actually painting over already crappy looking paint. So it was an improvement no matter what. It was also hard work, and if you can afford it, replacing the cupboard doors is the way to go.
posted by lollusc at 7:55 PM on August 23, 2011

Go through the house tours and before-and-after shots on Apartment Therapy. A ton of folks have fairly successful projects to update kitchens like this. For example, here's a before and after with concrete countertops. Just type in "Before After Kitchen" and read through a ton of the posts for some good ideas. You'll definitely find a few suggestions that you can use.
- green to white cabinets
- wood to white cabinets
- second wood to white cabinets
- third wood to white cabinets
- fourth wood to white cabinets (there are a million)
- 1990s kitchen updated
- best of kitchen renos in 2010
- 10 inspiring before and after kitchens
- wood countertops

Do the same search on Design*Sponge
- second one here - notice the handles
- notice feature wall, backsplash, a few other details
- second one on this page - notice the handles, cabinets, window drape, wall color, etc.
- remove a few cabinets, paint the back a bright color, display monochromatic dishes
posted by barnone at 8:03 PM on August 23, 2011

- another with painted cabinets - notice the good lighting, calm backsplash, unified accessories (all polished metal or white or glass), and lack of clutter
- feature color and new pulls really help

And read a bunch of posts on how to paint laminate cabinets.
- apartment therapy x 2
- centsational girl

Key tips: mark where each cabinet goes (numbered on the back is fine), remove cabinets, remove hardware, wash everything with TSP, prime the suckers with GOOD primer -- Zissner Bins is good, then paint. Most people say you'll get better results with a small foam roller rather than a paintbrush. Install new hardware, including new hinges if possible.
posted by barnone at 8:12 PM on August 23, 2011

It is amazing how much improvement you can get from the right cabinet refacing and a coat of paint on the walls. Look into that.
posted by davejay at 10:04 PM on August 23, 2011

Taking a good look at your photo, here's what I'd do in your shoes:

#1: pull off the existing cabinet doors and hardware. Just let the shelves be open. A day or two of not staring at those awful doors would force me to see my kitchen with fresh eyes.

#2: after a few days, while considering my countertop and tile non-negotiable, I'd think: what are the ugliest things here? I suspect the answer would be "the large slab of wood on the sides of the floor-to-ceiling cabinet." Let's assume that is true.

#3: I would consider the cost-effectiveness of two options: Option one, reface the cabinets with finished-wood doors that match the existing cabinet type/grain. Nice inset shaker-style doors, like the first link below. Option two, repaint the cabinets themselves with white, and reface the cabinets with painted-white wood doors, probably the same shaker style. Either a cohesive finished wood treatment or a cohesive white wood treatment, depending on which one was less expensive and whether I liked the existing wood or not.

#4: spend money on good cabinet pulls, as a relatively small amount of money can get a person really charming ones.
posted by davejay at 10:12 PM on August 23, 2011

Um, here is the link I forgot to include.
posted by davejay at 10:13 PM on August 23, 2011

Thanks for all the suggestions so far! I know pulls would dress up the doors a lot, but since the "wood" trim is sort of a self-handle, was afraid pulls would look stupid. Have thought of just taking the doors off, but there'll be holes from where the hardware is. Hmmmm.

Anyway, thanks and keep them coming!
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 11:46 PM on August 23, 2011

If you painted the cabinets all white, handles wouldn't look that silly.

If you take the doors off, fill the holes with wood putty, sand, and paint the rest of the cupboard skeleton. Easy peasy.
posted by barnone at 12:41 AM on August 24, 2011

Good idea!

If concrete's impossible, I wonder if I could find a reasonably priced stainless steel counter overlay ... anything but this laminate.
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 2:42 PM on August 24, 2011

Definitely paint instead of reface, unless you can pull the old 'mica off easily. Wood doors and prefinished veneer will make the most difference in resale but is not a shoestring budget way. Some places around here can do a countertop reface with granite. Not sure how inexpensive it is though. Make sure your old cabinets are good and solid for cement tops
posted by Redhush at 5:30 PM on August 24, 2011

Granite is very expensive and is also somewhat brittle (if you chip the edge, it can't be repaired). Manufactured materials such as Caesar Stone are more durable and usually slightly cheaper, although still quite expensive.

If timber countertops would be an acceptable solution and your carpentry skills are up to the job, you could do a timber overlay fairly cheaply by using 12mm plywood with solid timber facing on the edges, then stain/varnish to taste. They wouldn't be the most durable surface in the world, but might be worth thinking about.

Stainless steel would be very expensive. Zinc coated steel might be an alternative if you want that 'industrial' look, although not as durable as stainless.
posted by dg at 5:57 PM on August 24, 2011

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