Wednesday, April 29, 2015

In the mood to paint my ugly laminate bathroom!

We live in a 1980s builder house.  I grew up in this house, and Brian and I rent it from my parents, which is pretty cool.  One of the cool things is that my mom did some renovating over the years.  She tore out the crappy beige carpet and put down terracotta tile.  Then she tore out the (new) (purple!) carpet (that my dad picked out!) in the bedrooms and we put down laminate floors.  She also replaced the 1980s laminate kitchen cabinets for solid wood.

One of the less cool things about my house?  The bathrooms.

Yep.  That's almond laminate, a biscuit colored sink, and a giant builder mirror.

Ultimately, my plan is to completely re-do both bathrooms from the floor to the ceiling.  But you know?  That's kind of expensive.  Even if you use Ikea.  So what's a gal to do in the meantime?  That's right: paint.

I did a lot of research on painting laminate.  There are cabinet and countertop kits specifically designed for painting laminate, but you know the secret?  They're all oil-based.  Oil based paint is the only paint strong enough to stick to laminate and not peel off.

A few years ago, I read this post on Little Green Notebook (I told you, Jenny is my spirit animal), where she painted laminate cabinets (that looked almost identical to mine).  Here's Jenny's before:

And after:

Not too shabby, right?  She used the oil-based rustoleum paint that she's always raving about in glossy black.  She cleaned the cabinets thoroughly, but she didn't sand them.  Her reasoning is "Why bother?  Just get it done."  I am 100% in favor of that reasoning.  

So, after cleaning the cabinets, I did my first coat of oil based paint in Gloss Smoke Gray.  


Look how glossy they are!

Painting with oil-based paint, as opposed to latex, is different.  Obviously, oil based paint isn't water based, so you have to use paint thinner, denatured alcohol, or acetone, to break it down.  I've done some pretty extensive research, or at least I've tried to, but there just doesn't seem to be that much information out there.  I assume that's because oil-based paints are usually used by professionals, and it's considered a little old fashioned.  Jenny's posts have been most helpful in my journey towards painting with oil based paints.  Check out Jenny's posts with her tips (1, 2).

The main thing with oil based paints is that you can't go back over your strokes to make them more smooth because you'll just mess them up.  Oil based paints are sort of self-leveling, so if you apply it evenly, it should settle in and dry smooth.  Jenny likens it to nail polish, where you just sort of place the polish on the nail and it levels itself out as it dries.  (Incidentally, Jenny's lessons on painting with oil-based paint have helped me in painting my nails.  Who knew?)  I don't love having to work with paint thinner, but I bought "green" paint thinner (not sure if that's a thing or if it's just easing my liberal guilt), and I keep my paint brush in the freezer wrapped in press-and-seal when I'm in the middle of a painting job.

After the first coat, I had a few drip marks, so I sanded before applying a second coat.  The first coat had good coverage, but it definitely needed a second coat.

The second coat gave great coverage.

So, at that point, the cabinets looked great - but what to do with that almond laminate countertop?  I had various ideas, including covering it with marble contact paper, painting it faux marble, and covering it with concrete.  I also thought about doing some kind of tinted epoxy resin project like this.  But, by the time I actually had time to address it, we were one week out from having a dinner party, and that shit had to get done!  So, after reading this and this, I finally settled on a faux soapstone look.  Although both of those projects used chalkboard paint, because chalkboard paint is latex, and because I was painting laminate, I decided to try to mimic the look with the oil-based rustoleum in flat black.  

It didn't go so well. 


You can't really tell from the pictures, but it just looked... flat.  It looked like exactly what it was: laminate that had been painted flat black.  There was none of the dimension that was present in the faux soapstone tutorials I had looked at.  In fact, it was so bad, that I needed a beer.

(Precious beer, soothe my pain.  Also, you should totally check out Cigar City Brewing - awesome local brewery in Tampa!  Represent!)

So, I decided to add a coat of chalkboard paint.  I did some research on chalk paint, chalkboard paint and furniture waxes, and decided to wing it.  Winging it is kind of my style.

(Not taping is also my style, which has been reaffirmed by the fact that I effing taped off this time all to no end!  Look at the sink rim!  Look at where the backsplash meets the wall!  This is what I get for taping off! )


Ugh, tape.  You are the worst.

So!  After doing a coat of the chalkboard paint (remember, latex can go over oil based paint but not vice versa!), I did a few coats of wax.  Apparently I didn't get any photos of that, but I got the wax from Home Depot and I just followed the directions.  And.... I ended up with this!

That brilliant blob of light in the corner is a lamp, by the way.  I like how glowy the countertop is now.  That's the wax, folks.  The wax didn't turn out exactly like I'd hoped, but it turned out well.  Like I said, I followed the directions on the can, but it took a couple hours (as opposed to 20 minutes) for the wax to "dry."  I think it was probably because the chalkboard paint had only been on for about 36 hours and hadn't had enough time to fully cure?  Or maybe it was humidity?  I do live in Florida... 

Here's another shot.  I love how reflective the cabinets are, and how the counter has a sheen, but it also has depth.

Oh, and that rug is from my ebay rug binge.  I got it for $80, and I think it's totally worth it.  It's antique and 100% wool.  It ties in the gray of the cabinets, the black of the counter, and the pale apricot of the tile floors.  I'm smitten.

I was planning to put hardware on the cabinets and drawers, but I think I've decided against it.  I ordered the brass beehive knob from Martha's Home Depot line and a brass bin pull, but it just made the whole thing look kind of fussy.  I like how sleek this is.  

So, that about wraps up my adventures in painting laminate.  All in all, it was a great project.  It is a lot of bang for my buck.  And speaking of bucks, here's my cost breakdown:

Smoke Gloss Gray paint:         $9
Flat Black paint:                       $9
Chalkboard Paint:                    $10
Wax:                                         $5
Tape:                                        already had 
Paint thinner:                           already had
Paint Brushes:                         already had

So, for less than $35, my bathroom looks completely different.  Score!

Let's do another before and after, shall we?




Isn't that better?


  1. Ooooooh!!! I love this!!! (Popped over from LGN, lured by your link.) How has it held up the last few months? Any regrets?


    1. It's held up really well! The glossy gray is still as glossy and sleek as ever. I'm not super happy with the countertop, so I may do the feather finish concrete that Jenny does so well.

    2. It's held up really well! The glossy gray is still as glossy and sleek as ever. I'm not super happy with the countertop, so I may do the feather finish concrete that Jenny does so well.