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Sunday, January 05, 2014

Lifehack: Replace Your Countertops for Around $20.

I moved into the Woodwards Building when I moved back to Canada in late 2009.  The building was brand new, and I'm the only person who has ever lived in my suite.  I have to say - the construction is not holding up well.  Sliding pocket doors fall off their tracks regularly, the floors look horrible, several shelves in the fridge are broken, the baseboards need painting (my Pops is coming to my rescue on the painting front this month - hooray for bored retired fathers!), and the countertops - well.

The countertops are defective.  As a renter I haven't been privy to all the communications with regards to the countertops, but the story goes something like this:  the engineered marble countertops are defective in terms of the material itself - the marble wasn't "engineered" or sealed correctly.  So my high-gloss countertops quickly (like, within a month or two) turned to shit.  Even water stained them.  

My charming kitchen counter.
The strata filed a claim with New Home Warranty, who argued that it was not a defect in workmanship, but the material itself.  The developers argued otherwise.  So, the strata has been embroiled in countertop litigation for years, and my countertops have become more and more ugly.  At one point, the developers hired a company to come in to do "remediation," which meant sanding off the finish, and trying to get rid of the worst water stains.  Some of the stains were too ingrained in the marble to be removed, and the sanding off of the topcoat did nothing to protect against future stains.

The ugliness of the bathroom counter. 

I like to keep a tidy house.  I like nice things.  And my countertops are so bad that I found myself, in the dead of night a few nights ago, researching how much it would cost for me to replace the countertops myself.  Which is insane, because I rent.  And is further insane given how little investment the landlord has made into the upkeep of the suite to date.  I have found myself putting more and more "clutter" on the kitchen counters to cover up stains.  It was getting ridiculous.

So I needed a solution to the countertop problem that cleaned them up, didn't cost a lot, and wasn't irreversible since I am just a tenant.  What I came up with was: Macktack.  Sometimes called contact paper, I'm talking about heavy duty self-adhesive shelf liner.   I took to the internet, found that other people had done this to great success, and so off I went, countertop measurements in hand, to Home Depot.

I bought two rolls of "granite" look contact paper, at a cost of $8.97 each.  That was enough to cover my two large kitchen counters, and my bathroom vanity, which was also badly water stained.

Here's how I did it:

1.   I washed down my counters with soap, and dried them with a towel.

2.   Starting on the far end of my countertop, I started cutting out sheets of paper, leaving several inches of overlap.

3.  I peeled the backing off the backing paper a few inches at a time, and smoothed the paper down using a credit card (I switched at some point to a Starbucks card, I found the edges easier to use) as a kind of a squeegee.   Peeling off the paper only a few inches at a time allowed me to ensure the paper was going down smoothly, without air bubbles. 

4.  When it was time to lay another piece, I overlapped it with the previous sheet by about half an inch. When I hit sink or stove or other such obstacle, I used an Exacto knife to shape the paper. 

5.  When the entire thing was complete, I popped any remaining air bubbles using a pin.  

6.  I bought clear silicone caulk ($2.99) and caulked around the sinks in the kitchen and the bathroom (badly, but it's clear, so you can't tell just how badly), and around a few corners.  

Laying the paper.

Curriecat is dubious.  And cute.

Doesn't the bathroom look sooo much better?

Believe it or not, that's the "less cluttered" version of my kitchen.

I'm really happy with how these turned out.  They're not perfect, and I don't know how long they'll last - I may have to re-paper them at some point, and that's OK.  Because they're a heck of a lot cleaner looking than they were before, and I can put some of the "cover up the stains" clutter back in the cupboard.   I would use a speckled pattern like I did, because the pieces blend together well (harder to see the seams), and the business masks any imperfections.  Sure, it's not super-stylish, but it's a good, temporary solution to an everyday problem. 

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