How to Refinish Countertop Formica

Formica is an inexpensive way to cover your countertops, but it can be hard to install and work with.

If you have a formica countertop, the color may no longer match the walls or it may be stained or outdated. Rather than tearing out the formica and replacing it, you can refinish the countertops.

Wash the countertops with detergent and water to clean any dirt or residue. Dry them with a towel and then wipe them down with denatured alcohol. The alcohol removes any oils or grease still on the formica.

Sand the formica countertops with 120 grit sandpaper. Keep the sandpaper smooth and flat while sanding so no low spots are created. Sand lightly until all of the formica is sanded. If any repairs are needed, now is the time to do them. Sand over the repaired areas. Wipe the counter once more with the alcohol after sanding to remove the dust.

Use masking tape and paper to keep walls, sinks and other furniture from being painted.

Apply an oil-based primer/sealer to the countertop. One coat should be enough to cover the old color and to allow the new paint to stick to the formica. Allow the primer to dry completely.

Apply two or three very thin coats of an oil-based paint. Use a short nap roller for a smooth finish on the formica countertop. Allow the paint to dry completely before touching it. Remove all of the masking tape and paper.

Things You Will Need

  • Detergent
  • Water
  • Denatured alcohol
  • Towel
  • Sand paper (120 grit)
  • Primer/sealer
  • Oil-based paint
  • Short-nap roller


  • Fill any holes or tears in the formica with a two-part wood filler after sanding with 120 grit paper. Sand over the repaired area again and then follow the next steps as normal. Open all windows and doors to keep the room well-ventilated. The fumes from paint are toxic and can be harmful if breathed in for long periods of time.


  • Never use the painted countertop as a cutting board. It will harm the paint and may contaminate food.

About the Author

Since 1997 Jenny Carver has served as editor and freelance writer for many offline and online publications including,, "Hoof Beat News," "Import Tuner" and others. Carver owns a custom automotive shop where she has been doing paint and body work, custom interior work and engine building for over 11 years.