Follow expert Brian Santos' instructions for painting countertops. Read more in his new book, "Painting Secrets."
Although you might be tempted, don't paint kitchen countertops. Ordinary paint isn't a food-safe finish, and it won't stand up to the heat, moisture, and abrasions that kitchen countertops are subjected to daily.
On the other hand, if you have a little-used guest bathroom with a dated surface, you can update it quickly and easily with paint, and light use shouldn't damage the finish if you do it properly.
1. Begin by sanding the surface with fine-grade sandpaper to lightly scuff away the gloss, not sand away the color. Wipe clean. Next, lightly roll on a coat of primer for nonporous surfaces, such as Kilz. When it is dry, roll on a base coat of latex paint. Use a roller to avoid brush strokes in your finish.
2. When the latex paint is dry, apply three to five coats of clear-drying latex polyurethane, making sure each coat dries before adding the next one. You can use spar varnish for even greater durability, if you don't mind the yellowing effect this coating will have on the paint underneath.
3. For melamine shelving and cabinets, lightly sand the surface, but take care not to damage the melamine surface. Wash with a TSP solution. When dry, roll on a thin coat of primer for nonporous surfaces, such as Kilz. Finish by rolling on two coats of latex paint.
4. Don't attempt to paint over scratched or water-damaged melamine -- those surfaces should be replaced.