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 epoxy material.
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 and Durability
- -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. So, with labor included, installation cost can be in the range of $100 per square foot or more.
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.
Are epoxy countertops durable?
There are many aspects about epoxy that would be considered durable, especially if fabrication is done correctly. Epoxy surfaces are long-lasting and non-porous so they offer moisture resistance protections.
Marketed as a heat-resistant material, epoxy surfaces are not infallible, thus placing hot pots and pans directly on surfaces could cause damage.
Heat isn’t the only culprit that can ruin epoxy countertops. Spills that are allowed to sit for long periods of time may cause permanent stains that impact durability for the life of the surfaces.
According to experts, fast clean-ups, common sense and heat absorption pads for hot vessels add years to epoxy countertops.
Are epoxy countertops cheaper than granite?
The answer to this question is a rousing yes. Due to the laborious process of extricating granite from the earth, even the priciest epoxy products are likely to cost less than these naturally-occurring mineral slabs that must be quarried, cut and transported to wholesalers and retailers.
Epoxy, on the other hand, is a man-made material fabricated of resins and hardeners. The priciest epoxy countertop options begin at around $45 per square foot while the cheapest granite products may start at $45 per square foot but are more likely to run upwards of $225 per square foot.
Do epoxy countertops scratch easily?
Unfortunately, the answer is yes. There’s no avoiding scratches over time, especially if the epoxy countertops are located in a kitchen.
Unlike quarried stone, epoxy countertops are low on the Mohs scale, a test that measures the hardness of a variety of materials, making them more vulnerable to scratches.
Surprisingly, stainless steel utensils are considered by experts to be the primary reason epoxy countertops sustain damage, thus using cutting boards to prepare foods are likely to extend the life of surfaces.
You can repair minor scratches using an epoxy glue repair kit. Deep scratches may require sanding. Either way, rehabbing epoxy can shorten the life of countertops, so it’s best to avoid scratches in the first place.
Can you resurface laminate countertops with epoxy?
You can, say experts writing for FSGate.com. If your laminate countertops are so stained, discolored or damaged that your only alternative is to install new surfaces, this is good news.
The process of preparing laminate surfaces and doing the job require a little time if you seek the best results. The resurfacing process begins by sanding down the finish with 80-grit sandpaper and washing countertops down with a mix of trisodium phosphate (TSP) and water to remove residue.
Carefully follow instructions posted on the FSGate website (https://homeguides.sfgate.com/overlay-countertops-29382.html) or follow instructions on the label of the epoxy product you choose to do the job.
Do you have to seal epoxy countertops?
If you’d like to enjoy your epoxy countertops for years, sealing them is an essential step to take. Purchase a product that is formulated specifically for sealing epoxy countertops, ventilate the room in which you will undertake this task and wear protective gear.
Pour a ribbon of the product onto countertop surfaces, making sure it doesn’t drip on the floor. Use a 10ml squeegee to smooth on a uniform coating until the entire surface has been sealed and allow to dry per the sealant product’s instruction.
The 5 biggest mistakes people make when they undertake DIY epoxy countertop jobs
Mistake 1: Preparing the epoxy mix when room temperature is under 70-degrees. Cold rooms result in countertops that don’t cure properly. Experts recommend maintaining a room’s temperature at 70-degrees or above for between 48- and 60-hours before you pour, and for 24 hours afterward for the best cure.
Mistake 2: Rushing through the mixing process when you combine the raw materials. Spend at least 3 minutes per batch mixing everything up with the help of a paint stick (no drill paddles, please). Cut the mixing process down and you risk resin clumps that won’t cure, no matter long the countertops are left to dry.
Mistake 3: Failing to pay attention to your ingredient ratio. If the kit instructions tell you to mix 1 part resin to 1 part hardener, follow that instruction to the letter.
Mistake 4: Not buying enough raw material up front. Nothing is worse than getting half way through any job and realizing you haven’t bought enough product. Estimate 1 gallon of epoxy product per 20-feet of surface for a countertop depth that’s 1/8-inch thick.
Mistake 5: Skimping on surface prep time. No matter what surface you’re covering with epoxy – e.g., tile, laminate, granite, concrete – prepare the area properly by grouting, sealing scars, mars, damage and other imperfections before you start pouring.
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