You’re shopping for epoxy countertops after taking other types off your list for one reason or another, but you may have no clue that this tough, long-lasting material has been around for 85+ years.
Invented in Switzerland by Dr. Pierre Castan, U.S. researcher Dr. Sylvan Greenlee further improved the material by producing what is today the most widely commercialized resin.
Given the age and science associated with epoxy, homeowners are developing a real respect for this versatile material.
What are epoxy countertops?
In a nutshell, epoxy countertops aren’t so much a material as the finish that’s applied to a variety of surfaces that create a rock-hard finish capable of standing up to lots of abuse.
In fact, you can’t just order pre-made epoxy countertops in the same manner as picking out a slab of marble, granite or quartz.
An epoxy finish must be applied after the countertop is crafted of a widening range of base materials that include laminate, Formica, wood, concrete, metal, ceramic tile or the latest construction material being used by the cabinet industry.
How are epoxy countertops made?
Using an industrial machine designed to synthesize natural materials, epoxy is created by mixing liquid resin with a liquid hardener to produce a solid material that hardens so fast, contractors must apply it fast or they won’t get a smooth finish.
The process may require a specialist, because it’s messy to make and tricky to apply. Do the job right and depending upon the raw materials that went into the mix, the result is about 1/-8th of an inch of either a crystal-clear, glossy or textured countertop finish that promises years of durability.
How to make an epoxy countertop
- -Rigorously clean the countertop surface before you pour to avoid unevenness and bumps
- -Sand down blemishes and remove stains
- -Cover cabinets, flooring and other exposed surfaces with plastic sheeting
- -Some contractors recommend installing a “boundary” to prevent the mix from leaking outside the countertop area
- -The application process begins by pouring a thin, smooth layer of epoxy to seal the surface
- -Since epoxy is a self-leveling medium; it must be allowed to spread evenly across the entirety of the countertop.
- -Let the application cure for an hour. If bubbles pop up, a blow dryer should remove them
- -Pour a second layer of epoxy for a premium finish and allow the countertop to cure for another 24 hours.
What are your design options?
To say that epoxy is a versatile medium would be an understatement! Today’s interior designer can literally commission all types of patterns, color combinations and textures just as long as cost is no object.
For homeowners with a passion for collecting small, flat items like coins, these can be embedded in the epoxy as it is poured, or the contractor can create a unique mosaic by adding glass or ceramic chips to the pour for a one-of-a-kind countertop.
Restorative work on plain hardwood countertops can be done by adding a layer of epoxy to produce a protective, high-gloss shine.
It’s worth considering new, specialty finishes—-like marble, natural stone and granite. Even color matching is possible for homeowners seeking a specific hue to coordinate with walls or décor.
Unique colors can be mixed by adding resin tints to basic colors like red, green and white. Additionally, metallic colors like silver, gold and copper can be produced by mixing powders into the epoxy pour that achieve a finish that sparkles and shines.
Advantages of Epoxy Countertops
- -Epoxy is exceptionally durable and lasts for years; no re-application necessary
- -Epoxy rarely cracks and it’s almost impossible to destroy short of a natural disaster
- -No other material compares to epoxy when it comes to maintaining a high-gloss look
- -Pattern, color and design possibilities are endless
- -Keep that high-gloss finish with an occasional application of mineral oil
- -Since this is a single-pour process, your countertops will be seamless
- -Epoxy is non-toxic and safe. Toxic materials evaporate as soon as the medium hardens
- -This material repels mold and bacteria growth
- -Easy to clean, you can use most cleaning products on epoxy countertops.
Disadvantages of Epoxy Countertops
- -Epoxy is heat-resistant but not heatproof so you could damage the surface by leaving hot pots on a countertop
- -Application is messy, precise and best left to those who know what they’re doing
- -Manufacturers stress practice sessions before the “big pour” to get the application process nailed down
- -Even in skilled hands, air bubbles and bumps could pop up
- -Fail to protect surroundings and dripping during the pour stage could damage them
- -Allow extra time; epoxy application is labor-intensive and time-consuming
- -Epoxy is not a forgiving medium; you get no second chances once it’s poured
- -Fast clean-up after spills is critical; epoxy is prone to stains that could leave permanent marks.
Are epoxy countertops affordable?
While every homeowner may define the word “affordable” differently, you can assess your budget and figure out whether or not you can afford to spend between $3- and $8-per square foot.
Compared to pricier all-natural materials, epoxy is a bargain but only you can determine thickness, design and how you want the finished job to look.
The aforementioned per-foot cost is contingent upon the quality of the raw materials you use, thickness of the layer you seek and amount of surface area that’s to be covered.
If you’re not undertaking the project, add in the cost of labor which, depending upon your area of the country and labor availability, could run from $35 to $85 an hour.
In sum, you could spend as little as $25 per square foot or more than $100 per square foot if you stipulate an original design that requires expertise and pricey additives to produce a unique finish.
How to properly clean epoxy countertops
Having gone to all of the trouble of getting exactly the epoxy countertops you seek, it’s incumbent upon you to treat these sturdy surfaces with care so they continue to look gorgeous for years to come. Here’s your primer:
- –No abrasive cleaners or scouring pads, please—unless you want to dull those beautiful glossy, surfaces.
- -Skip the polishes and waxes unless a professional recommends a formulation.
- -Adopt this easy weekly ritual: put a little mineral oil on a rag and buff the surface.
- -Always wipe off extra mineral oil. Leave it on and your countertop could look cloudy.
- -You can try eradicating stains by applying baking soda paste (1-part water to 4-parts soda). Allow it to sit for 5 minutes and wipe it away with a clean cloth.
- -In extreme cases, paint thinner or acetone, applied in a circular motion, could get rid of a pesky stain.
- -Never use bleach–even if your countertop is white–or it could permanently ruin your beautiful epoxy surface.