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Monday, February 27, 2012

Our Experience with the Giani Granite Countertop Paint Kit—February 2012

For several months my wife and I discussed how we could give a makeover to our old laminate kitchen countertop. We don’t have a big countertop. The sink countertop is L-shaped, 8 feet in length, with the L part extending about 18 inches from the 2 foot wide main section. We also have a 2 foot by 2 foot desk section that matches the sink countertop. All told, we have 11.5 feet of standard 2 foot wide countertop.

We investigated our makeover options in the typical fashion. After being shocked by the megaprice of granite, and even the $600 cost of replacing the existing countertop with another laminate top, we investigated tiling the countertop. I even bought a tile saw. Before buying the tile, we ran across some information on countertop paint kits, and visited the Giani Granite website to learn more. Encouraged by the testimonials both on the Giani site and elsewhere on the web, we decided to try the kit. It appears that in the last few years Giani’s marketing strategy has been to give away kits to bloggers in return for writing up their experiences. We are not one of those bloggers. We bought the Giani Sicilian Sand kit on for $69.95 including shipping. Here is a “before” picture of our countertop:

Our countertop was in great shape structurally, but had many superficial scratches and stains.  The color also did not go with the laminate floor we put in a couple years ago.
There is a matching desk section that we use for the microwave oven.

After watching the instructional DVD and armed with the detailed Giani paint kit instructions, we started the project on Saturday morning, February 18. We were aiming to replace the sink with our countertop makeover, so I shut the power off to the disposal and spent a couple hours disconnecting the disposal, water lines, dishwasher and sink drain lines, and pulling up the chipped old 50 pound porcelain over cast iron sink. I found that the countertop cutout for the sink was too small for the Elkay Lustertone stainless sink we were planning to put in, so I had to spend some time enlarging the sink cutout. It was not easy because my jigsaw wouldn’t reach the back edge of the cutout due to the presence of the backsplash. After some effort I finally enlarged the sink cutout.

On Saturday afternoon my wife Jeanne and I scrubbed the countertop using SOS pads, and cut away the silicone caulking that had been used at the joint between the countertop and bottom edge of the backsplash, and where the backsplash and counter met the walls. While the silicone caulk cut away easily, it left a layer on every surface where it was cut away. We used razor scrapers, and even sandpaper, but we could not remove the silicone caulk residue from the Formica surfaces. Removal of all the residue is important because paint will not stick to the residue. Following the instructions in the Giani instructional DVD that came with the kit, we wiped the silicone caulk residue with isopropyl alcohol as instructed, but it did not remove the silicone residue. From reading on the web, wiping the silicone caulk with denatured alcohol only works if the caulk has not set up.
Frustrated with the several hours we spent trying to get the residue off, we decided to go ahead and roll the first coat black primer onto the cleaned countertop. After taping off all the edges and placing craft paper in front of the cabinets for protection, we rolled on the iron coat black primer. The primer went on well and completely covered the surfaces—except where the silicone caulk had been. Here is a picture of the areas where the primer did not adhere due to the silicone caulk residue:
Wherever there was silicone caulk residue, the primer did not adhere.  We skimmed over these areas with black, paintable acrylic caulk, then primed the caulk after it dried.  That approached worked well.
Sunday, February 19. After sleeping on the problem, we decided to see if we could cover over the silicone caulk residue with a paintable material. I went to our local Home Depot and got a tube of Dap Alex black colored paintable caulk, and on Sunday I put a very light skim of caulk over the areas where the primer didn’t adhere, blending it in with where the primer did adhere. After letting it dry 4 hours, I hand painted those areas with the little foam brush provided in the kit, and the primer adhered well. Due to the very light skim application, you really couldn’t see where I had applied the caulk. We let the caulk and primer dry overnight.

Monday, February 20. We practiced applying the three color coats with the pieces of sea sponge using the black paper supplied in the kit. After getting the hang of it, we started applying the color coats. In the Sicilian Sand Kit, the three colors that go on after the primer are feldspar brown, Inca gold, and then finally limestone white. There were several lessons learned in this part of the job. First, we learned to work in small two foot sections so the wet paint layers blend into each other. Another key pointer is to use the paint sparingly on vertical back splash surfaces and countertop edges because it will run. We had trouble getting into the corners with the sponges, so we used the recommended half inch brush a lot in the corners to apply the three layers of paints. When we finished applying the paint layers to the countertops we weren’t quite happy with the way it looked, so we decided to let it dry and work on it again on Tuesday.

Tuesday, February, 21. We noticed several areas where the patterns didn’t look random enough. Using all four colors to “fix up” the areas we were concerned about, we finally arrived at good enough. A key was reapplying black splotches in the areas where we had put too many colors. We let our color paint layer dry overnight and here's what we got:

The primer and color coats have been painted on, awaiting the polyurethane top coats.
For us, painting inside corners was difficult with the smallest sponge section.  We did most of the corners with a half inch paintbrush, and used the sponge to give it some texture.

Close-up of the color coats before applying the polyurethane.

Wednesday, February 22. We lightly sanded the color coat with 600 grit sandpaper and wiped it  with a damp cloth. After letting the damp surface dry for an hour, we rolled on the first polyurethane coat following the instructions. A key in this step is keeping the roller wet so that you don’t hear the SSSS sound of a dry roller rolling over the surface.
Thursday, February 23. Jeanne lightly sanded the first polyurethane coat with 600 grit sandpaper, and rolled on the second layer of polyurethane. When this coat dried, she was not happy with one section where the roller had dried, so she wanted to reapply some polyurethane in that area.

Friday, February 24. In the a.m. Jeanne lightly sanded the repair area, wiped it down, waited for it to dry and reapplied the polyurethane in that area to her satisfaction. On Friday night when Ken returned from work he caulked the interior seams with Alex 230 Crystal Clear acrylic caulk, and the areas where the backsplash meets the wall with Alex 230 brilliant white acrylic caulk.

Saturday, February 25. The new sink was set in place using Loctite Polyseamseal Ultra and the Elkay sink clips. The water lines, disposer, dishwasher and sink drain lines were reattached and the job was completed.

Our impression: This kit exceeded our expectations. The renewed countertops, new sink and new faucet transformed the look of our kitchen. We think the countertops look fabulous, and hope that they will provide many years of service.  Here are the results:

The top polyurethane coats gave the countertop a highly glossy finish.

Sink area.

Desk area.
Our "after" picture of the countertop.
March 22, 2012 Update:  It has been about a month now since we applied the last coat of polyurethane to the countertop. The top has held up well to daily use, but we have observed something interesting on two occasions.  Once, we set a pineapple on the countertop overnight with the cut stem side down.   When we picked up the pineapple in the morning, there were small blisters in the finish where the stem was on contact with the countertop.   You could feel small bumps on the polyurethane in that area.  We wiped down the area with a damp cloth, and then had to go somewhere.  When we came back a few hours later, the blisters had disappeared and the top looked and felt as smooth as if nothing had happened.
On a second occasion, my son put a hot coffee cup down on the countertop and left it in place overnight.  In the morning, there small blisters in the shape of a ring where the cup bottom had been in contact with the top.  We again wiped down the top with water in that area, and within an hour the blister ring disappeared and the top looked as if nothing had taken place. 
Perhaps our top has not fully cured and hardened, but it has been interesting to see that both of these “injuries” were “healed” by wiping with a damp cloth.
February 21, 2013 Update:  It has now been about a year since we did our countertop makeover. I have been very happy with how the countertop has held up in daily kitchen use during the first year.  I think it took about 6 months to fully cure the polyurethane top coats.  I say that because as mentioned in the update above, for about the first six months we had to be careful about leaving long-standing water on the top or you could feel the little bumps in the area where the water had been.  We noticed that his happened especially when wet cups were left on the countertop overnight and the countertop surface was wet under the cup for a long time.  When the counter surface dried out, the bumps always went away and there was no permanent damage, but we took care to make sure the top was wiped dry after we figured out what was going on.
After about six months, we noticed that long-standing water exposure to the countertop was no longer a problem, and I think it is because the polyurethane coat had fully cured.  If the polyurethane is truly an automotive grade coating as Giani claims, it makes sense that it would take a while to fully cure at room temperature.  In a car manufacturing facility, after the clear coatings are applied the cars are usually baked in a high temperature oven to quickly cure the polyurethane.  At room temperature, I think the curing process takes a lot longer, and in our case about 6 months seemed to be the time it took to fully cure.  Cosmetically, the countertop still looks wonderful, and still shines like new.  I am very happy with the new life that the countertop paint gave to my old laminate kitchen countertop.


  1. Awesome! Looks fantastic, Ken!

  2. This is just brilliant! Now it looks like a genuine granite countertop. Kudos to you and your wife for doing such a good job! By the way, how long did it take for the paint to dry?

    - Robbie Marinero

  3. Thank you for the updates. This is exactly what I wanted to read before purchasing this product.

  4. I purchased this also. However. I didn't have good results. It stayed beautiful for about a year and a half. Now I have a mess on my hands. It is peeling off. I used the suggested cleaner too and it's a mess I'm going to have to clean up. I am a high use kitchen person. Maybe if I didn't use it do much it would have stayed nicer.

    1. Yeah, I've had mine for about 8 months and it started to peel. I was very careful to follow the instructions... :( But I didn't use their cleaner. I used water and sometimes antibacterial windex. Maybe that was too strong for it? I did like how it looked; too bad you can't clean it without ruining it.

  5. And Rustoleum has an amazing cabinet/cupboard transformation kit that we paired with the Giani countertop kit for a cheap kitchen upgrade. They have different colors:

  6. Thanks for the info! I think we will give it a try.

  7. I acquired this moreover. Be that as it may. I didn't have great results. It stayed delightful for around 18 months. Presently I have a wreck staring me in the face. It is peeling off. I utilized the proposed cleaner as well and it's a wreck I must tidy up. I am a high utilize kitchen individual. Perhaps in the event that I didn't utilize it do much it would have stayed more pleasant. Lynnwood Granite Installation

  8. I just bought this product in the white diamond. and i bought the rustoleum one for the bathroom. so i will have to c which one is better.

  9. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.. they are really interesting.. I would like to swervey more from you.
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  10. I really loved reading your thoughts, obviously you know what are you talking about! Your site is so easy to use too, I’ve bookmark it in my folder
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  11. My Gianni granite / paint lasted for about 3 years looking great; now it needs to be redone. NEXT TIME wipe down your counters with LIQUID SANDPAPER to take down the sheen on your laminate; also Goo Gone or any of the xylene products (Goof Off) will take the silicone caulk out. Air out well, though! Try to make your pattern vary more so it doesn't look like a faux-cheetah pattern! Granite is inconsistent and has movement; that's what makes it beautiful. Don't be afraid to experiment and then go over it again to take the colors in the direction you want. I love Gianni and am getting ready to redo my counters again in preparation to sell the house. Why do granite?

  12. I did the Rustoleum counters (and cabinets) about 3 years ago. My counters have some scratches and the product has come off where there are seams and along the edges of the counter. I saved some of the chips that were used and I am going to try to patch it and cover everything in a new poly. My cupboards have had to be patched every year. I saved my leftover paint and top coat. Used the last of it this year. It had wear and tear near the handles on the cupboards. Both of the projects were still a BIG improvement over my 70's kitchen.
    Beth, thank you for the tip of the LIQUID SANDPAPER. I actually hurt my elbow (tendonitis) with all the sanding I did with my project.

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  15. Best review on this product that I've read. The updates were wonderful. Thank you!

  16. Your Post is very useful, I am truly happy to post my note on this blog . It helped me with ocean of awareness so I really consider you will do much better in the future.
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  17. Great information. How well did the counters hold up over the years?

  18. Thank you for this info. Well written - great comments.

  19. Are your countertops still holding up?