DIY Countertop Refinishing with Epoxy: My Experience!

18 Replies

We were on a budget when we bought our foreclosure.  It had hideous old 80s style countertops.  You know, the old fake yellow wood stuff.  We spent a lot of time comparing all of the cheaper and creative options within our budget.  We did not like the pre-made countertops that are imitation stone.  We did not like the wood butcher block style for this home.  Concrete seemed like it would be difficult with the necessary framing.  Real stone was just too expensive.  

A friend of mine had recently refinished her floor with a copper color epoxy resin.  I had never seen anything like it.  It was stunningly beautiful.  I also discovered that you could apply epoxy resin on countertops, bathtubs, and shower inserts as well.  

After a LOT of research on epoxy for countertops, I decided we would try it.  I figured if it went bad, we would just take it out and do something different.  

My biggest concerns were:

  • Is it food safe?  It is if you buy the kind specifically for countertops that says "food safe".
  • Is it durable and long lasting?  It seems to be and they claim it is.
  • Does it scratch easy?  They said no, but I have to disagree.  It does scratch fairly easy from moving pans and appliances on the counter.  The surface is high gloss and scratches show up pretty well.  There are methods for removing the scratches, but I have not tried it yet.
  • Is it easy to apply?  They said yes, super easy.  I say... no... it is not.  It is very messy and somewhat stressful.
  • Will it look good?  Every picture or video I saw looked gorgeous.  My friend's epoxy floor looked awesome.  Reviews were all positive.  My own personal experience... it is absolutely beautiful!
  • Is it expensive?  Not really.  Very similar to the cost of replacing counters with those formica (fake stone) counters.  Our small kitchen cost about $300.  It varies depending on how many colors you choose and the size of your counters.

Here is what we experienced.  We ordered from CountertopEpoxy.com  My shipment arrived in a timely manner.  

The instructions on the website seemed to be thorough, but there were some issues with it.  There were also differences between the instructions on the bottles, vs the instructions on the website.  I had printed them out from the website and did not realize until after the project that the two were slightly different.  This caused problems during the project.

The instructions say to mix enough epoxy in your containers as needed for all colors being used.  It then said not to leave the epoxy in the containers for extended periods or the epoxy will heat and harden.  Ok, so that is kind of vague and open to interpretation, right?  We knew we had to hurry, so we rushed quickly through mixing the epoxy and colorant as the instructions said.  We then immediately went to apply the epoxy, but realized it had already started hardening and getting REALLY HOT in some of the containers.  Let me point out that we were moving really fast.  No time was wasted while mixing, so we were shocked that it was hardening already.

In our haste, we tried to apply the epoxy to the counters as quickly as possible.  During this, clumps started to form and ended up on the counters.  Some of our colors hardened so fast that we could not even use them.  So our initial plan for color and pattern styles went out the window and we were just winging it, trying to make the best of the situation. 

While we were frantically applying epoxy, it was dripping and getting all over the plastic sheets we put down.  Instructions say to cover the cabinets and floor to protect from drips and spills.  Let me tell you, that stuff is extremely sticky!!  It got on our shoes which stuck to the plastic... which we inadvertently got stuck to ourselves and nearly ripped off the cabinets.  It was a nightmare!

Part of the process is to use a mixture of isopropyl alcohol mixed with colored powder in a spray bottle.  You spray the mixture on the epoxy while wet to create patterns.  Part of the process is also to take a blow torch to the top of the counter to release air bubbles and marbelize the colors.  Well... in our haste, we sprayed the alcohol first and then used the torch.  Needless to say, the countertop was momentarily on fire!  Ha!  SCARY!  Thankfully, alcohol burns off quickly and no harm was done, other than the near heart attache we almost had.

There is supposed to be a method for not having runs down the countertop sides, but it did not work for us.  We had a lot of runs which my boyfriend hates, but I think it made it almost look textured and artistic.  You have to spend about an hour scarping runs off the bottom edge.  We still ended up with some anyway.  But we found that you can use a dremel sander bit to sand those down once it is completely dry.

When all was said and done, it actually looked pretty interesting.  Even with the lumps, it looked like some sort of unusual rock material.  I was actually impressed that after such a nightmare of an experience, it looked pretty cool.  The only bad thing was, it was not what we wanted or had intended.  The colors were all wrong and the lumps had to go.

But what do we do now?  We were so angry that we did as the instructions said, but it was a disaster.  So I called Countertop Epoxy and told them everything that happened.  The first guy I talked to told me that we never should have mixed all of our colors at once.  I said "Your instructions say to do exactly that."  He pointed out the part that says not to leave the mix sitting in a container for an extended period.  I told him we didn't, that their instructions should have been more specific, and it hardened right away.  It took a lot of debating the matter with that guy and Levi, but they finally agreed to send me replacement epoxy so we could try again.

The second time around, we mixed only one color at a time, did not use plastic sheets on the floor, and did the torching differently.  It went so much better the second time around and turned out amazing!

So, I would recommend this for those who are on a budget, but be prepared for a mess and make sure you know exactly what to do.  Practice on something else would be a good idea.

Counter before:

Counters on first epoxy attempt:

Counters on final epoxy attempt:

I do want to say thanks to Countertop Epoxy for sending us the second batch of epoxy to get it right.  Otherwise, I would have been out the $300 and I would not have been happy with the color patterns in the first round.  I hope they updated their instructions after that too.

Hahaha! It's good to know someone else has the same kinds of adventures with trying new things. :) Your countertop looks amazing! Very impressive, and I'm curious what the floor brand was your friends used and if you'll try doing your floor too? 

@Steven Payne  Thanks!  I would definitely do it again if it was appropriate for the neighborhood.  In other words, not in an upscale house.  It isn't that it looks low class.  But more that it is a cheap alternative and not something higher class would expect in an upscale home.  Also, it would not hold up to the high expectations of durability because it scratches so easy.  It truly is beautiful though!

Here are some more pictures of the process.  

Sanding:

It's funny, you can see a big difference between our first setup and second setup. Trial and error!

First setup:  Plastic everywhere and a table for the supplies.

Second setup, less plastic to get stuck to and no table!  Trust me, if you can avoid anything that you could get stuck to, do it!  I would be nervous working over good flooring.

Lumps in the first attempt:

By the way, if you do mess up the first attempt, it is salvageable.  You can pour a second coat right over the first one.  If you have lumps, you just sand them down first.  

Jessica Bolin looks Great! I saw your post on the cabinets the whole kitchen is a huge transformation.

Great thread - I have wondered how these kinds of things might turn out. About what I thought, but it was great to read your thread and your trial with this method. And your second attempt really looks fantastic. Can you apply a clearcoat or similar to keep the counter looking decent from scratches? What about a wax? 

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