You may be wondering what happened to the rigging project but fear not, all of the parts have been ordered and are estimated to be here within a month.  This means I have a period to continue on my crazy interior warpath of improvement which couldn’t have come at a better time since Fall has finally arrived and here in Louisiana we are having rare consistent temperatures in the 70’s with low humidity.  Perfect painting weather.

During these lovely temperatures and pause in the rigging project I have been trying to squeeze as many interior projects as feasible in my free time.  I mean ANY free time which has included most lunch breaks, evenings after work and weekends for the past month or so.  I know this weather won’t hang around long so I try to keep busy.  One of the projects to tackle (or experiment with) is painting Formica countertops.  Ours are blue straight from 1974 when the boat was built.
Formica blue countertop
This blue hurts my eyes and has to go.  In the beginning I didn’t know anything about Formica and how or even if you could paint over it.  In fact my first thoughts were to replace the counters all together with new Formica but Tate and I spoke this over and we decided we really didn’t want to get into replacing the areas with new Formica for a few reasons; cost(around $200), inexperience with cutting the sheets to size and the general look of the Formica.  We have many detailed counters with drop boards and sinks and really didn’t want to create a bigger mess.  He then introduced the idea of painting the Formica with a speciality countertop paint that he had seen at Home Depot.

Wow, you mean you can paint this stuff? Awesome, yeah paint sounds great.  I’m no professional painter but I consider myself fairly good.  In the past I have painted countless rooms in houses and apartments by myself including an entire 2000 sq foot condo (2 bedrooms, 2 baths, a kitchen, a dining room and all the trim) with a different color for each room.   I also painted an intricate set of French Double doors at Tate’s old house, and dabbled in Epoxy and exterior paint on the boat.  Surely a little paint on Formica would be a breeze. To me it’s always a breeze in the planning phase.  Like jumping off a cliff with no way to return I took this idea and ran with it.

We looked at Giani Granite Paint which mostly has excellent reviews and decided to give it a whirl.   I watched every video and read every review I could find.  I have been thinking about this project for a few months and during that time came to the conclusion that I didn’t want that “Granite look” but instead just wanted a solid color.  For me Granite has WAY too much pattern to be on a boat.  The last thing boats need is more pattern.  There is pattern EVERYWHERE.  All your stuff, tools, provisions and clothes create all the texture I think I’ll need.  Nah just a nice solid color will do.

Feeling somehow that the Giani paint was specially made for countertops with some kind of voodoo I was afraid to venture out into other paints.  Surprisingly solid information on painting Formica countertops was difficult for me to find or severely outdated where everyone advocates oil based products.  In fact I couldn’t find a single article about painting Formica on a boat where UV and water play a role.  For this reason I will break this topic up into 2 Parts, hoping I can help someone else like me in the future.

Let me cut to the chase in case I’m boring you with detail.  I wouldn’t recommend Giani Granite Paint if you are going to use a roller for application to achieve a solid color look.  True to its name and application the Giani Granite Paint is just that…a paint used to mimic Granite!  It’s made to sponge on in up and down motions and dries exactly how it looks when you apply it.

This isn’t a knock again the paint itself, in fact for a Faux Granite look this paint is awesome.  It dried hard and kept its shape but for a solid color with a smooth look this isn’t the answer.  I do wish Giani would have informed me how stiff and difficult to spread their paint was when I called to speak with them about their product.  I told them I was planning on using a solid color with a roller and they simply told me to wait longer for it dry.  Sigh.  I know I know, sometimes I have to think for myself.

After speaking with the Giani folks and reading online best I can tell is the entire Giani line is water based.  First you apply a black primer, then the ACRYLIC LATEX paint (mixed with fine granite minerals I think), then top coat with their water-based polyurethane.  That’s it.  No more mystery here.  I followed all instructions to the T.  Thank goodness it’s Latex Paint since this will make it easier to fix using my new plan which I’ve detailed way below.

But first let’s watch the progression of this train wreck:

At first I thought getting the table out from under ALL that stuff was going to be the most frustrating part.  I call this “Boat Jenga”.  Any of you who have ever refitted a boat while it’s full of stuff knows exactly what I’m talking about.
Boat jenga
Yay finally Blue Formica you are at your end.  Time to clean all the teak and surfaces with 75% laundry detergent/25% Bleach with a stiff brush.  This actually worked amazing at cleaning and brightening the Teak.
Blue formica
Next I sanded the bottom with 120 grit sand paper in preparation for later painting, probably with Bilgekote and then I sanded the formica using a 220 grit.
Underside of table
Time to tape.  Awesome I’m great at taping!  Next I applied the Black Primer using a roller and let dry for 16 hours.  No more blue, looking good!
Painting Formica Countertops Giani Granite Paint black primer
I could not wait to get home at lunch to apply the 1st coat of paint in the solid color “White Limestone“.  I used a roller instead of a sponge to apply and quicker worked through half of the 6 oz can they provided.

Wait a minute, this doesn’t roll on very nice.  I can’t seem to cover all of the black or make it look smooth.  The edges really turned out bad as the roller couldn’t reach them, so instead I used a foam brush and sponged them in.  Hmmm I suppose it looks alright.  I’m sure the 2nd coat will cover all the black and make the color uniform!
Painting Formica Countertops Giani Granite Paint 1st coat
I’m not sure about this texture though.
Painting Formica Countertops Giani Granite Paint closeup
Finally time for the 2nd coat!  After 8 hours of drying time I applied the second coat using the same roller and foam brush method.  It started to look as good as the first until I pretty much ran out of paint and was left with the surface not fully covered and uneven with color.

What does one do in this moment of panic with the thought of $10 shipping for a $8 can of paint do? Push harder with the roller of course and try to spread out what is remaining. BIG MISTAKE, the paint had started to dry and came up with the roller. This is the dried end result of all my hard work. I put my paint roller down and poured a Vodka Tonic.
Painting Formica Countertops Giani Granite Paint 2nd coat
Oh my, look at that mess.  So Frustrating!  I really don’t even believe I could have achieved my desired result with all the paint in the world.  A drink later with midnight quickly approach I tried my best to sleep it off hoping a good idea would come to me the next day.

That day was today and a good idea did come to me. I did what any intelligent person would do, I Asked Sherwin Williams by calling the product number on their website.

I spoke with a lady for about an hour who was VERY knowledgable about different kinds of paint and had actually painted over Formica with a great result lasting over 5 years until she moved. I know this post is getting long but I’d thought I’d share the advice she gave me since it will be a few weeks until I post the results in Part 2.  Since the table already has a primer and Latex paint applied I will start with step 3.  The rest of the boat will need all steps.

  1. Sand Formica with 80 grit sand paper
  2. Clean with TSP and wash throughly
  3. Apply SW Zero VOC Multi Purpose Latex Primer 1 or 2 coats with 1 hour dry times each
  4. Paint any color SW All Surface Enamel Latex Paint in Satin sheen 1-3 coats letting dry 6 hours in between each coat then 2 weeks to cure before top coat
  5. Sand painted surface with 220 grit and wipe down with 100% Mineral Spirits
  6. After stirring for 3 minutes apply SW Spar Urethane Water based in Satin sheen with lambs wool pad moving in same direction across the wood.  3 coats total sanding with 220 grit paper then wiping with 100% Mineral Spirits after a dry time of 6 hours. Do Not Sand 3rd and final topcoat.

And that’s it!  She said you can basically use any kind of latex paint you want as long as you are good with the Spar Urethane on top.  The topcoat is water and UV resistant and durable.  It won’t yellow in the sun like she suspects the Giani topcoat will.

Mystery solved, I hope.  I don’t remember her named but she answered my million detailed questions without fail and even asked for our website so if you are reading this, thanks Sherwin Williams lady you are awesome.

The countertops are so small I imagine we’ll only need a quart of each, now onto the Sherwin Williams store to spend my monthly ration of fun money.  No makeup or beauty products for me this month, only paint lol. That’s ok though, I’ll be so happy for the sacrifice when we have achieved our budget goal and sail away.

Anyone else out there have any advice?