The EHT staff came across an interesting paint system at the National Hardware Show that offered a way to decorate an existing countertop surface to look like granite. The product is called Gianni and it includes a kit that covers approximately 35 square feet of countertop—that’s roughly 16 running feet of standard 24-inch wide countertops. The idea is to use a combination of black primer and mineral paints of various color tones to mimic the natural appearance of granite. It provides a simple and inexpensive way to redecorate an old Formica, laminate, Corian or wood countertop without having to cut and install new sheet laminate or invest in more costly new materials and/or labor.
The Gianni kit is available in two styles: Sicilian Sand and Bombay Black. To spruce up the old, white laminate countertop shown in this article, we used the Sicilian Sand style, which provides a rich combination of soft, neutral stone tones. Here’s how the project went …
As with any painting project, the first step is to thoroughly clean the work surface.
Clean & Prep
As with any painting project, the first step is to clean and prep the surface to be painted. Remove any obstructions from the countertop surface—I even pulled the sink. Use a quality household degreaser to scrub away dirt, grease and debris, and fill any deep cracks or nicks with wood patch or laminate repair filler. Allow the filler to dry and then sand flush with the countertop surface. Cut away any loose caulk from the sink or backsplash.
Next, mask off the countertop and backsplash with a quality painter’s tape. The bathroom walls had previously been painted with a special two-part reflective paint, which was expensive, difficult to use, and damages easily from painter’s tape. (I won’t be using that type of paint again). Still, after all the hassle of applying it to the wall, I didn’t want to damage the finish, so I used a prototype of Frog Tape’s new self-sealing masking tape specially formulated for delicate surfaces (www.frogtape.com). I nabbed a sample at the Hardware Show and, prototype or not, the stuff worked like a charm.
The Gianni paint system comes in a five-phase kit, including: IronCore primer; three different shades of mineral paint to be applied successively; and a glossy topcoat.
Pour a small amount of the IronCore primer labeled “Step 1” into a paint tray. Use a 2-inch foam brush to cut-in the primer around the corners and edges of the countertop and backsplash. Use narrow brush strokes to minimize marks. The Gianni kit includes two paint trays, the foam brush and a roller.
Next, use the roller to apply the primer over the surface of the countertop. Work in 3-foot sections, rolling a single direction with overlapping strokes. After completing each 3-foot section, roll back over the primer with long, straight rows to reduce air bubbles. Repeat this process in 3-foot sections across the rest of the countertop. Make sure to roll out any paint runs before they dry. When finished, thoroughly clean your roller and brush with warm water, because you will use them again to apply the glossy top coat. Allow the primer to dry for 6 hours.
Three Layers of Paint
The kit includes a sponge with a special texture to impart the granite-style finish when applying the mineral paint. Cut off approximately a 1-1/2 inch of the sponge to use on your backsplash. Use a 2- to 3-inch piece for your countertop. Before dipping into the paint, soak both pieces in water and wring them out; the remaining moisture will prevent the sponge from soaking up too much of the mineral paint. Start with the can of paint labeled “Step 2,” which is the Brown Feldspar color. To achieve the granite effect it is critical that the paints are applied in the order indicated on the packaging. The successive shades provide color depth for a more realistic and natural appearance.
Shake the paint can and pour a small amount onto a paper plate. Then, holding the flat, cut edge of the larger sponge in your hand, blot its un-cut, textured side in the mineral. Dab the sponge on a second paper plate to remove excess paint. To apply the paint, lightly stamp the coated side of the sponge onto your countertop using quick, up-and-down movements. Blot the sponge randomly over the countertop surface, but avoid making sideways swipes with the sponge. Swipes leave brush-type marks in the paint that do not look like natural granite. Stick to vertical, up-and-down stamping. Press firm enough so most of the sponge’s face makes contact with the countertop.
Occasionally, turn the sponge to stamp with a different part of the face to mix up the pattern. The Gianni kit includes a square of black construction paper as a sample surface to practice your application.
Work in 3-foot sections at a time. Be sure not to completely cover your black primer coat, leaving coin-sized black areas showing through the paint. Each mineral coat will reduce the amount of the black primer coat that shows. Repeat this stamping process with the Inca Gold (“Step 3”) and White Limestone (“Step 4”) minerals in one section before moving to the next one. This allows your minerals to mix while they’re still wet.
Along the edges and corners of the countertop and backsplash, I found it difficult to stamp on the paint without leaving the accidental brush stroke. It was easier to use a small, stiff artists’ brush to dab on the paint in narrow or confined areas. Again, repeat the three-layer mineral application process for the remaining sections of the countertop. Apply the paints sparingly and cautiously at first, stepping back frequently to appraise your handiwork. Keep in mind that it’s easy go back and add minerals to areas even when they’re dry, but it’s very difficult to remove the paint after it has been applied. Once all three coats have been applied, you can then add further depth with light accents and highlights.
Rinse out your sponges and use new paper plates for blotting the sponge as needed. Once you’re satisfied with the look of the mineral paint, allow it to dry for at least two hours. Then, lightly sand the countertop surface with a 320-grit or higher abrasive to remove any high spots or particles. Note: I used a Micro Zip Sander on the backsplash edges, which is designed with a narrow 1-inch wide sanding pad—perfect for detail work.
Apply the Topcoat
After the minerals have dried, lightly shake your container of Clear Topcoat (“Step 5”) and pour a small amount into a paint tray. Slowly and lightly roll on the topcoat in 3-foot sections. Then, roll back over what you just rolled, using long, overlapping rows, running the entire width or length of the countertop section. Allow the first topcoat to dry for 8 hours. Sand down any high spots with a very fine abrasive. Then apply the second and final layer of topcoat using the same process as the first. Avoid using more than two coats of topcoat or the glossy finish could become cloudy.
Once the final topcoat has completely dried, carefully score along the edge of the painter’s tape before removing to avoid damaging the Gianni surface.
With careful application, you can indeed use the Gianni kit to create a pattern very similar to natural granite. However, the fate of your success lies largely in the hands of the user, so if you have zero artistic vision, then you might have some difficulty achieving a convincing blend of color tones to mimic natural stone. That being said, I was pleased with the result of our experiment. I felt I had closely mimicked the granite appearance, and the topcoat gave the surface a nice luster. I will note that the paint will not smooth a textured countertop, and the final product looks most like true granite when applied to a smooth surface. However, by virtue of painting the laminate seams, the countertop will have a more continuous slab-like appearance than traditional laminate. And, when it comes to ease of use, you’re unlikely to find a simpler, more affordable way to completely redecorate a countertop surface. Learn more about the Gianni system at www.liquidstainlesssteel.com.