Something had to be done. So I finally bit the bullet and tiled the countertop and painted the cabinet. And after:
Here's what I did and a few helpful hints that I learned along the way (keep in mind that I am no home improvement expert):
**My first bit of advice would be to take your time with all steps of this project. I tend to get impatient and try to rush things (for example, painting a second coat before the first one is totally dry) and this is usually where I get myself into trouble. So be patient.**
For the countertop:
1. Remove your sink (my husband did this step for me).
2. I decided to apply my tile directly over my laminate countertop. There's conflicting advice about this online but I decided to go for it. So I used a coarse grain sandpaper and sanded down the entire laminate countertop. Wipe down well to get off all of the dust.
3. Select your tiles. I got a bunch of different tiles from my Habitat for Humanity Building Supply Store - they sell used building and home improvement supplies - and they were really cheap at 5 - 50 cents a piece. I think all of my tiles cost less than $5.
4. Break your tiles. This is kind of fun! I covered them with an old towel (to prevent sharp shards of tile from flying off and piercing my eyes) and took a hammer to them.
5. Apply tile adhesive to your countertop. I used the pre-mixed stuff they recommended at Lowe's. Work in a small area at a time. Then it's kind of like putting a puzzle together to place your broken bits of tile. Let your adhesive dry completely before moving on to the next step.
6. Grout. Apply with a trowel, let dry as package indicates and wipe excess off of tiles. Again, let dry completely before moving on to the next step - I waited about 3 days.
7. Seal your grout with grout sealer. I was very liberal with the grout sealer - especially since this is in a kids' bathroom (I'm having nightmares about neon blue toothpaste being ground into my oh so carefully applies grout lines)
For the cabinet:
1. Remove doors and hardware. I painted these out in my garage so I could lay them flat.
2. Clean entire cabinet with TSP or TSP Substitute - this is a heavy duty cleaner that will remove all of the grease, grime, and gunk from your cabinet surfaces - definitely wear rubber gloves for this step.
3. Tape off surfaces where you don't want paint. I invested in the expensive blue painters tape for this project. Usually I just use cheap masking tape but I wanted to make sure I had good, clean lines.
4. Prime with a high quality primer (I did 2 coats). I have used Zinsser BIN Primer before and it works well. It's kind of a pain to use and clean up but it will stick to just about anything. For this project, the guy at Lowe's talked me into trying the Valspar Primer. It was definitely easier to work with and it cleans up with soap and water which is nice - durability yet to be determined.
I would also buy one of these little rollers with the pads designed for Doors and Cabinets. They're cheap and it will give you a nice smooth surface without brush lines. Although I still used a brush to get in the grooves, nooks, and crannies.
5. Paint with a high quality semi-gloss or gloss paint - I did 2 coats here too. I used Valspar's High Gloss Enamel in Quail's Egg (I think I may have picked it because I liked the name).
And that's all there is to it. Re-attach doors and hardware and enjoy your brand new cabinet and countertop! (I'm a bit terrified to actually use this bathroom now!)