In the early years of my career in the countertop fabrication business, I sold a large number of plastic laminate countertops. When I went into business for myself 17 years ago, I started out specializing in repairing and modifying solid surface countertops. My thinking at that time was that the potential for repairing plastic laminate countertops was limited, and I wanted to focus totally on my new specialty. Eventually, though, I developed an interest in new business opportunities.
As the years went by, I gradually added more products to the range of countertops my company services. Our first expansion was to begin repairing quartz countertops. Then we added butcher block, granite, marble as well as many other natural stones, in addition to concrete and recycled glass countertops to our product mix.
Occasionally, we would be asked to repair a plastic laminate countertop, but in most cases, we declined. My perception was that the repair options were limited and the countertops themselves were relatively inexpensive. As a result, most customers would choose to live with minor damage, or they would complete a do-it-yourself repair, or replace the countertops with new ones. None of these options involved hiring a professional repair service.
I’m now in the process of re-evaluating that opinion. In a recession, it seems unwise to ignore any reasonable business opportunity, and consumers will often consider repairing a product they may have replaced when times were better. If you Google the phrase “recession shoe repair,” you will find dozens of articles about shoe repair shops all across the country that are swamped with business in the form of hundreds of pairs of old shoes stacked up waiting to be fixed. Shoe repair is a perfect example of a countercyclical business – one that improves when the overall economy is poor. Perhaps repairing plastic laminate countertops is a similar market niche.
Accordingly, here’s some information about a variety of products and services that allow plastic laminate countertops to be repaired and refinished.
Since 1956, Kampel Enterprises has been manufacturing its Seam-Fil product. This product is intended to fill seams, nicks and chips in plastic laminate surfaces. Available in one ounce squeeze tubes in 20 standard colors, the product can be blended by the user, or Kampel will custom mix the product for an exact color match to a specific laminate. After it cures, the result is a very durable repair. Visit KampelEnt.com for more information, or contact one of their 700 distributors, or order online at AmericanTechnologyInc.com.
Burns from hot pots are a common form of damage to plastic laminate countertops, and this type of damage is usually too extensive to be repaired inconspicuously. Vance Industries in another company that has been offering a repair solution for decades. The Vance Built-In Surface Saver is a tempered glass cutting board with a stainless steel frame. The product is designed to be permanently installed as an insert into the countertop, centered over the damaged area. The product is available in two sizes measuring either 12"x15" or 16"x20", and a variety of colors of both the glass cutting boards and the steel frames. Visit VanceInd.com for more information.
I’ve been frequently asked if it is practical to paint plastic laminate countertops in order to change the color or cover damaged areas. Over the years, I’ve seen some paint jobs that have held up poorly, and ended up looking worse than the original countertop. I’ve rarely seen a repainted countertop that looked really good. Consequently, I’ve tended to recommend against the idea of repainting countertops in the past.
I’m rethinking that opinion. Just because many people have failed to do a good job doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. The key to success is selecting the right products that will bond securely to the laminate, and result in an attractive, durable, sanitary surface.
One well-known company, Miracle Method, has been successful in refinishing plastic laminate countertops. Miracle Method originated in 1979 as a franchise operation specializing in refinishing items like bathtubs and porcelain sinks. With over 120 locations and an emphasis on quality and customer service, the company may be the best choice nationally for professional refinishing of plastic laminate countertops. Enter your zip code at MiracleMethod.com for a referral to a franchise near you.
Michaela Harbert has perfected her own successful four-step technique for refinishing plastic laminate countertops, and now provides this service professionally in the Cleveland, OH area. She calls her process Countertop Transfauxmations, and she has produced and sells a DVD and manual that explains the entire process. The process involves faux finishing and is completed with hand tools such as rollers and sponges as opposed to spray guns. With proper preparation, her method can cover areas that have moderate burn damage as well as chips, nicks and gouges. I’ve ordered the DVD, which is available at ByYouLLC.com, and will report on the results in a future column.
Thomas’ Kitchen Art is a division of Eagle Specialty Products, a company based in St. Louis that supplies ingredients for manufacturers of paints, coatings, inks, caulks, adhesives and metal working fluids. Thomas’ Kitchen Art has introduced two products that can be used for refinishing plastic laminate countertops. One is called Liquid Stainless Steel, which is a unique paint composed of microscopic particles of stainless steel in a clear, automotive grade acrylic resin. Marketed primarily for appliance refinishing, it can also be used to simulate a stainless steel countertop. Visit LiquidStainlessSteel.com for complete information.
The company’s second product is Giani Granite Paint for Countertops. This product is a complete kit with all of the ingredients needed to create a faux granite finish on a plastic laminate countertop. Included is a black primer, three complementary colors of mineral paints that are applied in a specific order to produce a granite effect, and a clear protective top coat. The company says that the system is based on automotive grade polymers like those used to manufacture car bumpers, and that the surface is exceptionally durable after two weeks of curing, although the refinished countertops can handle light-duty usage after just 48 hours. Kits in six basic colors are available, but the final look can be customized by varying the proportions of the mineral paints, or by adding other colors of acrylic paints. Visit GianiGranite.com for complete information.
These products and services offer the promise that plastic laminate countertops that are moderately damaged or worn, or that no longer match the color scheme of the kitchen or bath, can be refurbished for many additional years of service.