Painting over a Formica countertop isn't the way to go

Q Is it possible to paint over a Formica kitchen counter?

D.Z., Milwaukee, Wis.

A Painting over a plastic laminate (P-lam), like Formica, is difficult and not likely to yield the results worth the hassle, says Howard Clark, a licensed construction supervisor in Hopkinton, Mass.

The glazed surface of the P-lam resists holding paint the way it does spaghetti sauce. But assuming that you're desperate for a new look, durability is low on your list of concerns, and you're willing to brave some powerful odors, try this:

With a razor, trim off and otherwise minimize all exposed caulking around your sink, faucet, and backsplash, and then thoroughly, with an electric pad sander, sand the entire surface to be painted with fine (220 grit) sandpaper. Clean the surface well and wipe it down with a de-glossing bonding agent such as Well Bond. Carefully mask surfaces you do not wish to have the paint touch. Finally, apply a coat of epoxy-type paint with a foam roller.

Working with epoxy paint is tricky. Mr. Clark recommends that you first try spreading it on a piece of masonite, to get the feel of it.

Epoxy paint and Well Bond require lots of ventilation, and dust and other airborne particles can blemish your work as it dries.

Epoxy paint is the toughest paint (other paints won't last a week in this application), but the coating will be very thin. It will show scratches, even the marks from scrubbing. Most important, hot pots and pans will leave marks.

For the counter in a guest bathroom, painting may be worth it, but not for the kitchen. Completely replacing counters is no more difficult to get right, and the added durability warrants the expense.

Readers: Pose your questions and we'll seek out experts on home repairs, gardens, food, and family legal issues. Send queries to the Homefront Editor, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115 or e-mail

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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