Peel and stick countertops seem like an easy, affordable way to upgrade your decor—but are they worth it?

By Wendy Rose Gould
December 18, 2019

Whether homeowner or renter, it makes sense to want to create a space that’s aesthetically you. That said, home improvement projects can be costly, and it’s rarely an option when you don’t own the space. If you’ve been toying with the idea of redoing the countertops in a bathroom, laundry room, or even your kitchen, you might have come across something called peel and stick countertops in your research. Before diving into this seemingly quick fix, here's everything you need to know about peel and stick countertops, including which applications they’re best for, and when you should avoid them altogether.

What Are Peel and Stick Countertops?

Peel and stick countertops are exactly what they sound like: a wallpaper-like material with a sticky backing that you adhere directly over your existing countertops. They come in a variety of colors and styles, including faux marble, granite, gold, soapstone, and concrete.

“Most peel and stick countertops consist of a PVC vinyl base, onto which an image or pattern is printed. The manufacturing process is similar to that of vinyl flooring, though the quality and durability isn’t as good in comparison,” says Dan DiClerico, a home expert for HomeAdvisor. “With flooring, there’s a category called luxury vinyl tile, or LVT, which can be very attractive and hard-wearing. You don’t see that same differentiation with peel and stick countertops, probably because there aren’t as many major manufacturers in the space.”

When Peel and Stick Countertops Make Sense

“As the name suggests, peel and stick countertops are more of a Band-Aid solution than a permanent fix,” says DiClerico.

That said, he notes there are some situations where peel and stick does make sense. For instance, they’re a temporary and low-cost option for old or beat-up countertops and can work well as an interim coverup while you’re saving for the real deal. They can also be sufficient in secondary parts of the home, such as your basement or a spare bathroom.

Kathryn Faull, a textile expert and CEO of Maresca Textiles, agrees and says they’re also a great solution for renters who can’t exactly rip out existing countertops. “While I’m not always a fan of quick fixes, I have lived in so many rentals with outdated, builder-grade countertops and never thought changing them was an option,” she says. “Peel and stick countertops can be an inexpensive and temporary way to make a space feel less like a rental and better aligned with your personal style. They can also be removed quickly when it’s time to move out.”

Peel and Stick Countertop Application and Removal

Should you choose this route, know that there’s variation in peel and stick countertop quality. DiClerico says it’s best to use the thickest material you can find—veneers at least four millimeters thick—so the product can hold up to scratching and better conceal bumps and imperfections on your existing countertops.

In terms of application, the process is fairly easy but does take some patience. DiClerico recommends ordering extra material in case of mistakes and to have a squeegee on hand to push out air bubbles once the peel and stick countertop is in place. For removal, he says to apply heat from a hair dryer at one corner to melt the adhesive, then slowly pull the counter up, heating and melting as you go.

To give you an idea of quality and longevity, most warranties max out at about five years. However, if the countertops are in a high-traffic space you’ll likely see signs of wear much sooner than that, even with higher quality product.

When You Should Avoid Peel and Stick Countertops

“In general, peel and stick countertops are best for secondary, low-traffic parts of your home, where their inferior appearance and performance will be less of an issue,” DiClerico advises. “For example, I would never recommend putting the material on a kitchen island countertop or your primary bathroom in a busy home.”

If your end game is simply to stick within a budget while planning and building your dream kitchen or bathroom, both Faull and DiClerico agree there are many cost-saving strategies worth pursuing first. A great contractor or interior designer can help you navigate that world, and there’s also plenty of literature online.

The bottom line is that peel and stick countertops can serve as a low-cost, temporary “lipstick makeover” in spaces that you either don’t own, don’t use often, or can’t afford to rehab just yet. In all other cases, you’re likely better off spending more on something that will stand up to time and traffic. 

RELATED: Can’t Paint Your Home? Try These 5 Paint-Free Alternatives Instead

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