Tuesday, May 3, 2011

DIY Countertop & Cabinet Re-do

Remember my little bathroom re-do from a few weeks ago? (If not you can see it here and here) Well, I loved how it turned out . . . except . . . it didn't feel done. Every time I walked into the bathroom all I could see was the ugly green laminate countertop and plain-jane wood cabinets that I have never liked:

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.

tiles in place

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!)


  1. What a transformation! I love it!! I want to do something like that... but I think I'll stick to just painting the cabinets and not doing the counter top... we have only one bathroom and waiting 3 days for the grout to dry is out of the question :(
    But at least now I can add "paint bathroom cabinets" to my to-do list :)
    And I'm totally in love with the handles! I love anything "nature"

  2. WOW! It looks great! I love the tiled look, it's a wonderful alternative to new, expensive countertop. I want to know where you go thrifting, because those drawer pulls are perfect!

  3. That is amazing! And it looks easy enough for me to do in my house. I might have to give it a try. Thanks for the step-by-step instructions.

  4. I'd pay some serious bucks for this piece. LOVE the hardware!

  5. I love your counter/cabinet redo. Looks great and low cost - just my type of home remodeling!

  6. I did counter tops in both bathrooms and working on wall in master bath now. Fun...............

    You did a great job of it. Looks really nice. If you have sealed your project with some thing like TileLab do not be at all afraid to use it.

    Our first bath counter I did almost two years ago in white grout and it is just fine.

    I commented on your Flicker picture. I am Canary Cottage and you can see part of the counter back splash I am working on now. Cabinets next . in mirror. EEEkkkk My DH will freak out. Hehehehe

  7. You are so brave! I love it when a project involves working out some aggression ... I need to break me some tile! Great job! jules

  8. this turned out so great!! For so cheap too!! I'm super impressed. you go girl!!

    Thanks for linking up to Your Whims Wednesday :)

  9. I just found your blog looking for a pj pants tutorial. I love so much of what you have on here. I especially LOVE this post. We have old laminate countertops and were looking for an inexpensive way to update them. I enjoy tiling so this looks like fun. THANKS!!!!

  10. Your vanity looks just fantastic! Great tutorial too and I linked it to my countertiops post today, well done!

  11. Sorry, I ment countertops (doncha just hate it when that happens.....)

  12. Hi, I popped over from Attic24 and love this bathroom re-do! You really did a fabulous job with the counter top! I'm looking to start a new mosaic project, and this has given me a shot of inspiration (although mine will be a birdhouse!)

    Again, great job on all!

    Blessings, Donna

  13. You are really talented...I loved the Mosaic tile countertop

  14. Michelle in N. CalOctober 10, 2011 at 6:39 PM

    Hi! Found you on Better After with your kitchen transformation and it's such an inspiration as I have the same exact "before" and want the same exact "after" ;-) The link above to the rollers you used isn't showing anything. Would you mind sharing with me the roller you found worked best to not get too many brush strokes (my biggest fear!) Thanks so much!

  15. Ok - I think I fixed the link to the rollers. If not, here it is at Lowes -


  16. I am so into this... now that it has been a couple of years, is it holding up okay?

    1. It is actually holding up beautifully. Even in a kids' bathroom. I'm probably about due to re-seal the grout but I have had no issues with it at all.

  17. I can by answer or this counter but mine has held up really well. It has been over two years on mine. I used stains glass mirror and tiles. You can email me at shades_of_Idaho@shades_of_idaho@yahoo.com I can send a link to picture. On my kindle and not sure how to do it from here. Chris

  18. ARGH Hating auto correct.That should be: I can not answer on this counter.

  19. That looks nice and I love the cost. I might have to try!

  20. I'm bookmarking your page. Its impossible to find with search, I finally refound it by switching to images. I'm also sharing your website and pictures on my blog if you don't mind. http://thenewdaybringshope.blogspot.com/ if you do just let me know and I will take it down.