Epoxy resin is an endlessly versatile, easy to work material that can also be highly durable and beautiful. One application for this wonder material is for countertops in your home. A coating of epoxy resin can make an old countertop look new or mimic the look of more expensive materials at a fraction of the cost.
If you’ve been thinking about a countertop upgrade, read on! With the instructions I provide for you here, you can do the job yourself and save a lot of money. Follow these steps and you’ll soon be enjoying beautiful new countertops.
Note: Once hardened, epoxy is very difficult to remove. Don’t use any tool or container to handle the liquid epoxy that you can’t afford to ruin.
Tools You Will Need to Make a DIY Epoxy Countertop
- 2 gallon (7.57 L) bucket (multiple)
- Orbital sander
- Paint brushes, preferably disposable
- Power drill
- 2 Paddle sander attachment for power drill
- Oscillating tool
- Paint roller preferably 6 inches (15.24 cm)
- Trim router or rotary tool
- Spray bottle
- Shop vacuum or air compressor (optional)
- Lint roller (optional)
- Heat gun (optional)
- Gloves. Preferably thick and waterproof (latex or rubber). Elbow length gloves would be a good idea.
- Safety glasses. In case of errant splashes or drops of epoxy. You should also always wear eye protection while operating power tools.
- Face mask. To protect against sanding dust.
- Ear protection. If you use an oscillating or rotary tool, you should wear earplugs or other ear protection.
- Waterproof apron (optional). Epoxy resin is both surprisingly fluid and difficult to clean off of clothes. You should protect any clothing you’re not comfortable with ruining.
Materials Required to Make a DIY Epoxy Countertop
- 2 pcs 6 inch (15.24 cm) paint roller sleeves
- 4 pcs 1 quart cups, preferably disposable
- Cardboard or heavy paper
- Epoxy resin and hardener
- Epoxy highlight and additives
- Epoxy primer/undercoat and hardener
- Epoxy or polyurethane topcoat/clear coat and hardener
- Isopropyl alcohol
- Bonding Primer (optional)
- Painters tape
- Plastic sheeting
- Sandpaper (60, 80, and 220 grit)
- Sealing putty or body filler
- Stir sticks
- Wiping cloths, preferably disposable
Before you apply epoxy to your countertop, you have to remove anything that you don’t want to be coating in epoxy. That includes the kitchen sink.
If the counter has a backsplash, removing it with an oscillating tool is a good idea. Achieving a seamless joint between an epoxy countertop and a backsplash is possible, but doing so requires additional skill and care.
Cover anything in the immediate area of the countertop with plastic sheeting, and secure the sheeting with painter’s tape. Protect anything you don’t want to be coated in epoxy.
Drop cloths aren’t ideal for this purpose. Epoxy is surprisingly fluid and can seem through most fabrics.
You should also tape along the edges of the countertop where it joins with the wall.
Epoxy resin requires surface imperfections like scratches to adhere to a surface. Use 60 grit sandpaper to roughen up the countertop. Remove any old coatings, particularly any areas where you see blistering or cracking. Make sure the surface is thoroughly scuffed.
Before applying the epoxy, you have to thoroughly clean the countertop to remove any dust and debris. Otherwise, the epoxy may not adhere correctly. Wiping down the countertop with isopropyl alcohol is an excellent final step in the cleaning.
Depending on the material of our countertop, it may require slightly different surface preparation. Instructions on how to prepare countertops of several materials can be found here.
Epoxy resin doesn’t cure properly in sharp corners. For best results, round off any corners or sharp edges. The best tool for this is a trim router, but a rotary tool can also do the job.
You should wear eye, ear, and airway protection while reshaping your countertop’s corners. Inhaling dust is never good for your lungs, and dust from materials like granite can contribute to severe lung disease.
Epoxy resin is surprisingly fluid and can leak through very narrow gaps and seams. If any are present, fill them in with sealant putty or body filler. Use a clear sealant if you intend to keep the epoxy clear.
If there are any dents, seams, and gaps on the countertop, you should fill them in. Once the putty has hardened, sand it until it’s level with the rest of the countertop.
Also, at this stage, it’s a good idea to clean the countertop again. Any dust should be removed with either a jet of air from a compressor or sucked up with a shop vacuum. You can also use a lint roller to be extra sure the countertop is dust-free.
For best results, it’s advisable to apply a coat of bonding primer to the countertop before applying the first layer of epoxy. Bonding primers are chemicals that partially dissolve the surface they’re applied to, allowing adhesives applied afterward to form a stronger bond.
Bonding primer is best applied with a paintbrush or a paint roller. You can’t reuse any tool used here to apply epoxy.
Many products sold as primers are sealants designed to help paint adhere to walls. Before you buy anything marketed as a “primer, ” be sure to check its specifications listed on its packaging.
Now it’s time to mix your first batch of epoxy. Mixing instructions and calculations to determine the right amount of epoxy for the area you intend to cover should be included in its packaging or available on the manufacturer’s website. Mix the ingredients in a 2-gallon (7.57 L) bucket.
Epoxy resin is considerably thicker than water, and the parts and any additives must be thoroughly mixed. It’s advisable to use a paddle mixer attachment on a power drill to mix the epoxy.
If you’re using a pigment, mix it in at this stage. The more pigment you use, the darker the color will be.
If you’re using more than one color, mix them in separate containers.
If you’re using any other additives in your first coat, mix them in as well.
Epoxy resin generally begins to harden within 20 to 30 minutes of mixing the reagents. However, this can vary depending on the brand and the inclusion of any additives and pigments. Once the hardening reaction starts, it’ll harden surprisingly fast.
If you applied a bonding primer (optional), using a gloved hand, lightly touch the surface. If it feels tacky but doesn’t leave any primer on the glove, it’s time to apply your first coat of epoxy.
Here are the steps to apply the first layer of epoxy:
- Pour the epoxy mixture from the mixing bucket in a uniform zigzag pattern over the countertop.
- Working from the center out to the edges, use a paint roller to distribute the epoxy across the countertop. Don’t forget to coat the corners and vertical edges of your countertop.
- Once the epoxy hardens, any bubbles will be trapped. So be sure to deal with them now. Bubbles can be burst with the application of heat from a heat gun or a propane torch or by spraying a fine mist of isopropyl alcohol.
- If any dust or debris gets caught in the epoxy, you can pick it out with a toothpick.
Before the first coat of epoxy starts to harden, you have to clean up the edges of the countertop. If not done, the corners will be unevenly covered.
To clean up the edges, make a thin line of epoxy along the top of the edges, and distribute it with a paint roller.
If you wish to add highlights to your epoxy countertop, now is the time. Follow the application instructions from the manufacturer. They may be applied using a paintbrush or mixed into isopropyl alcohol and sprayed on the countertop.
Epoxy highlights don’t offer the physical properties of the epoxy resin but do alter its appearance.
Epoxy highlights are essentially a special type of paint that can add exciting color and patterns to your epoxy countertop.
13. Allow the First Layer to Cure
The first coat of epoxy will start to harden between 20 and 30 minutes after the parts are mixed. Once it does, leave it alone. You can accelerate the hardening by heating the countertop with a heat gun (optional).
Depending on the brand, it’ll take 24 to 48 hours for the first coat to cure.
When the first coat is no longer sticky or tacky but hard to the touch, it’s fully cured, and you can apply the second coat.
Apply the second coat in the same way you applied the first. Allow 24 to 48 hours between each coat.
Your goal is to make an even covering of epoxy about ⅛ inch (3.18 mm) thick all over the countertop. Many brands of epoxy resin are formulated to be self-leveling, which makes this easier.
Before the last coat of epoxy has completely cured, it’s time to sand it smooth. Use 80 grit sandpaper to sand down any drips or other imperfections, so the top surface of the epoxy is even. Professional epoxy installers refer to this step as “fairing.”
Once you have sanded down any drips and other imperfections, use 220 grit sandpaper to sand the top surface of the epoxy smooth.
When you are done sanding, clean the dust off of the countertop thoroughly with a soft cloth.
The last step in making a DIY epoxy countertop is applying a topcoat. There are many different types to choose from. Their application is generally the same as the epoxy resin.
Some pigments are intended to be mixed into the topcoat rather than the epoxy. Be sure to check the instructions for the pigment you choose.
An epoxy countertop can last longer than almost any other part of your house. Here are some care tips to keep it looking its best as long as possible:
- Avoid abrasive or powder-based cleaners.
- If you have chosen a high gloss finish, use streak-free cleaners.
- To avoid staining, clean off spills as quickly as possible.
- If spills aren’t detected until after stains have already set in, they can be removed with a mix of four parts baking soda and one part water. Use the paste and spread it over the stained area. Leave it for five minutes, then wipe it clean.
- If the stain remains, it can be removed by rubbing vinegar or acetone-based nail polish remover on the stained area.
Epoxy is a family of cured polymers in the epoxide chemical family. Epoxy resins, also called “polyepoxides,” are a class of reactive polymers often used as adhesives, coatings, and other applications of thermosetting polymers. Thermosetting polymers are materials that irreversibly harden from an initially soft or liquid state.
In layperson’s terms, epoxy resins are a mixture of a liquid resin and a liquid hardener. The two liquids are mixed and undergo a chemical reaction that hardens the mixture. The chemical reaction produces heat as a byproduct. The resulting material is tough, durable, and can’t melt.
Although epoxy resin isn’t an obvious material to make a countertop, it offers significant advantages over conventional materials.
Once cured, epoxy resin has a naturally high gloss shiny appearance. If no additives or pigments are added, cured epoxy looks as if it’s still liquid. When it’s applied to another material such as wood or carbon fiber, the effect is beautiful.
Easy to Clean and Care For
Once fully cured, epoxy resin forms a hard and nonporous surface. Therefore it doesn’t allow microorganisms to gain a foothold or most liquids to seep in. Epoxy is also chemically stable and can be cleaned with any food safe household cleaner.
Also provided it isn’t subjected to unreasonable abuse, an epoxy countertop can maintain its glossy liquid appearance for decades.
Epoxy resin is incredibly hard. If used as an adhesive, it’ll usually be much stronger than the materials it binds together. When used as a glaze, as it is in this DIY project, epoxy is essentially a coat of armor. It’s harder than most types of wood, plastics, laminate, and other synthetic materials. An epoxy countertop will probably last longer than anything else in your house.
Epoxy countertops are also very resistant to scratching. Chance impacts knives and other tableware shouldn’t leave marks.
You may also like to find out: What Makes a Kitchen Countertop Durable?
While curing epoxy resin releases some potentially harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Though depending on the brand you use, the smell may be rather enjoyable.
Once epoxy resin is fully cured, it’s food-safe and non-toxic. You could eat a meal right off your new countertop without any adverse side effects.
As a thermosetting polymer, cured epoxy is very resistant to heat and practically impossible to melt. So there’s no problem with setting a hot pan on an epoxy countertop. Some commercially available brands of epoxy offer heat resistance up to 425°F (218.33°C).
Like all materials, epoxy does have its limits. Prolonged exposure to high heat will discolor epoxy or the material it’s applied to, and it can be flammable under the right conditions. Those conditions aren’t likely to exist in your house unless it’s already on fire.
In its base form, epoxy resin is a clear liquid that can be molded to any shape, much like a housecat. Epoxy applied to a countertop can be colored, used to cover up and protect elaborate paintings, or you can have your old countertop surface carved like scrimshaw and use the epoxy to form a new level work surface. The only limit is your creativity and skill level.
Whether or not you decide to entomb some artwork under a layer of epoxy, the final surface will be seamless. There’ll be no visible cracks or joints, giving epoxy countertops a distinct advantage over more expensive materials like granite or marble.
A seamless countertop not only looks better but also lacks deep nooks and crannies where microorganisms could colonize and be out of the reach of surface cleaning.
Applying a layer of epoxy resin to an existing countertop is considerably less expensive than installing new countertops, especially trendy materials like granite or marble. On average, epoxy resin costs between $3 and $7 per square foot of coverage area, or between $30 and $60 per gallon, depending on the brand. The total cost per square foot will be around $45.
Granite countertops can cost over $200 per square foot and require skilled labor to produce and install.
While epoxy resin is an excellent material for countertops, it does have some disadvantages you should be aware of before beginning this project.
Dark liquids can leave stains on epoxy countertops, so any spills should be cleaned up promptly.
Epoxy additives are available that will make your epoxy countertop more resistant to stains.
Making epoxy countertops is not a quick project. Depending on the brand and the additives used, epoxy resin can take between 20 and 30 minutes to set into a hardened state and as long as two weeks to completely cure.
For best results, you should wait between 4 and 24 hours between coats of epoxy resin after the previous layer has taken on a tacky texture.
Epoxy countertops aren’t a project for DIY novices. There are several stages of the process where it’s easy to make mistakes, these are:
- The resin, hardener, and additives must be mixed in fairly precise ratios to achieve the hardest possible final surface. And if an insufficient hardener is used, the resin may not harden at all. Fortunately, most commercially available brands of epoxy resin include precise mixing instructions in the packaging. Some are even sold with precisely calibrated pumps that dispense consistent amounts of either component.
- If you’re using pigment or highlight additives, it’s recommended that you experiment on a small scale to learn the correct amount to use.
- Epoxy resin must be applied in thin, even coats. If layers are too thick, they’ll harden unevenly and can trap bubbles. But if layers are too thin, reaching your desired epoxy thickness will take extra time. Experimentation is advised to learn the correct balance.
- Determining the right amount of epoxy resin to mix for each coat may require a bit of math.
For a material that ends up harder than most plastics, woods, and laminate, epoxy resin is surprisingly fluid in its liquid state. If you’re not careful, it’ll get everywhere. Any clothing or carpet it comes in contact with will probably be ruined.
Difficult to Remove
Once fully cured, epoxy resin is nearly impossible to remove. In all likelihood, the epoxy will be stronger than the material you apply it to. So if you change your mind about having epoxy countertops in your home, you’ll have to install new countertops.
The chemical reaction that cures epoxy resin produces a considerable amount of heat. It can distort or melt through thin plastic containers, cause mild skin burns, and even cause paper and some fabrics to discolor. In rare instances, it can even present a fire hazard.
When working with epoxy resin, you must wear thick gloves and safety goggles. A waterproof apron is also a good idea.
And so concludes this step-by-step guide to making DIY epoxy countertops. We hope you’re satisfied with the results.