Resurfacing old countertops can save you money

Resurfacing Countertops on a Budget

by Shari Smith

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Would you love the look of a brand new kitchen, but don't have a lot of cash? Are your countertops badly in need of a makeover, but you dread the thought of three weeks of messy and costly construction? The solution is to resurface your counters instead of ripping out and replacing them.

Resurfacing is catching on in all the HGTV circles. The process is featured on the show "Extreme Home Makeovers." It just makes sense to reuse what you have, cutting down on cost, resources, and time. It also keeps unnecessary debris out of the landfill.

First, let's compare the costs of resurfacing versus traditional countertop replacement. At the lowest end, laminate, in a limited number of colors and patterns, runs about $45 a square foot installed. You are required to demo your old counters, or it is an additional cost. The process takes about three weeks.

Another alternative is quartz countertops, which is similar to granite but not as expensive. That will run about $60 a square foot. The ever-popular granite starts at $80 a square foot, with specialty colors running as high as $129 a square foot. An additional problem with granite is the weight. Your cabinet base and the floor must be reinforced, which leads to longer construction times and costs.

A fourth option, and the most expensive, is marble. Most contractors do not recommend using marble for countertops, because it is very high maintenance. Like granite or other natural stones, it must be sealed every year and is susceptible to chips, stains, and cracks. It is also very expensive, running about $200 a square foot or more.

Resurfacing a counter runs $40 a square foot. The entire process takes two and a half days. You can choose whatever look, style, or color you wish. Granites and natural stones are popular, as is solid color or patterned. Whether you are matching the color of your china or bringing in the look of limestone, you can get exactly the look you want.

Another thing to consider is the resale value of your remodeling project. You can usually recoup the cost of a kitchen makeover if you don't go overboard.

"Putting in marble or even granite countertops can be counter-productive. You could price yourself too high for your neighborhood," said LuJean Thomas of SK Realty in North Dakota. "Also, if your design is too specific, it may not appeal to a broad number of buyers."

I chose a local company and wanted the look of white marble. I found several examples on the Internet, as well as pieces of real marble to copy. Al Tanous, of Custom Home Surface Design, created a sample for me. "Resurfacing is for anyone who wants the look of high-end granite or marble, but doesn't want the expense or hassle. It's the perfect solution for updating a kitchen to resell or just improve the livability of the room. Plus, your downtime is only two and a half days, versus two to three weeks."

Once you decide on resurfacing, the contractor tapes off the countertops and protects the floor and walls. He also removes the sink. The process begins with four thin coats of concrete. The first two coats must dry completely in between. At this time, you might be worried that the counters look terrible, like a sidewalk job gone horribly awry.

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The next day, the base color is applied. In my case, it was white. Then any patterns or designs are added in all the various colors. Al said that the most colors he's used in a job were seven, but you could have as many as you wanted. I added my input of the exact look I wanted and Al incorporated them into the design.

Once they dried, he applied a very thick layer of epoxy, similar to polyurethane. Once all the epoxy was in place, it required 12 hours of drying time. The hardest part was reminding people not to touch the surface or let our cats jump up onto it.

The counters went from rough, bumpy concrete to polished silk. The epoxy gave a smooth, shiny surface that mimics polished marble. You can also get a matte finish or semi-gloss if you prefer.

Once the epoxy dried completely, Al replaced the sink and cleaned up the kitchen. He transformed my kitchen in two and a half days. I am quite pleased with the result and amazed at how closely the finished product resembles real white marble.

Granicrete is as durable as concrete and needs no special maintenance. It cleans up with water and mild dish soap and will not stain or chip. If the surface gets dull or scratched, a tiny amount of liquid wax can be applied to restore the shine.

If you are considering a kitchen makeover, I highly recommend resurfacing the existing counters. You will save time and money and get the look you want but never thought you could afford. You will also help save the environment by reusing instead of replacing. Take your kitchen from bland to grand by resurfacing your countertops.

Reviewed April 2017

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