I was very indecisive on what type of countertop I wanted to put into the top apartment of a duplex I just bought. There is about 40 square feet of countertop area on which I decided to try an epoxy topping with no prior experience. Other considerations included tile, cement or formica. I am a chemist and at home very much a DIYer, and also a bit of a cheapskate. I did a lot of research and watched many videos on epoxy floors and countertops, most of them were from installers or distributers wanting you to buy their exceptionally expensive products. I was not able to find any step-by-step instructions for the design I wanted so I decided to make my first instructable on what I did. I am not going to repeat the basic instructions you can find all over the internet, rather relay my experiences, customization and mistakes. I wanted to keep it robust yet as low cost as possible and ended up buying the parts separately rather than in a kit. Originally I wanted to mix in aluminum or copper flake with the epoxy and make a metallic top... the wife reminded me it would look stupid in a 160 year old home with a vintage look. Instead I decided to go with an artificial stone coating with a clear epoxy cover. At least now I have experience with this method and since I live in the other half I wont have to stare at my minor mistakes every time I prepare dinner.
Casement and bases used from Construction Junction: $450
2 sheets of MDF: $60
Misc. screws, sealants, mixer, tubs and joint compound: ~$50
2gal Granite Grip: $90
4gal Epoxy: $165
Kitchen Base Total : $510
Countertop Coverage Total: $310
Step 1: Prep Work
I do not have any pictures of the MDF countertop construction unfortunately but I believe it was pretty standard, I have also heard you can easily do this over an existing countertop.
Ideally there will be a perfectly even 1/8" coat of epoxy over everything when I am finished so I decided to round off the corners as best I could with silicone and then use the thick rock-like paint to smooth it out. It is also nice for cleanup that there will be no corners or seams for bacteria to grow.
I used joint compound over the flat wood seams and screw holes in the MDF just like you would for drywall and a variety of silicone and acrylic sealants for the corners and joint to the wall.
Protip: always double check the length of your screws including the countersink hole, lest you should have to use a grinder to fix a mistake.
Step 2: Painting
The paint I chose has a rough feel similar to concrete and it appears to be very durable. It is meant to cover porches outdoors so I assumed it would work well enough. It is mainly a clear binder with a heavy amount of colored flakes. It was very thick and it is important to follow the instructions when applying. If you put too much pressure on the roller it will force the color flakes down and push all the binder out. It is also not meant to be put on vertical surfaces and requires some persuasion with the brush.
Use it like most other paints, brush in corners, vertical surfaces and small areas, then pour onto large areas and roll it out. I used two full coats and went around for touch ups at least three times afterwards. There was an option to tint the binder, I think that would have made the coverage a little better. I used about 1.5gal total.
Step 3: Epoxy
There are many resources for working with generic epoxy chemicals, I'd recommend reading the instructions from bestbartopepoxy.com before anything else. It is somewhat intimidating to know you only get one shot and about 15 minutes to work with it. It is very important to mix exact proportions and mix thoroughly. Follow the instructions. Prepare for a mess. Spend the extra few dollars to get the nice measuring cups and a mixing bit.
I only applied the seal coat to the corners, edges and vertical wall. I should have put it all over. I believe this accounts for a few small defects where the epoxy seemed to have a wetting issue to the surface. Also, if you keep it in a container as you are applying it with a brush it will heat up and cure even faster.
Pour the flood coat on the high areas first then down onto the large flat areas, pour out the whole container before using a squeegee or something similar to smooth it over the edge and evenly throughout. the self leveling will become apparent. It took a little over two gallons to do the entire 40 square feet with a partial seal coat and one flood coat. I'd like to try out a second coat but I think I will just wait until a renter ruins it with a hot pan or by using it as a cutting board.
While I expected the flood coat to run over the edges some, it also pushed down the barrier I had set up around the sink hole, this was not a big deal but I did not have anything to catch it so I now will be covering up the bottom of the cabinet below the sink and need to sand off the epoxy from a few of the drain fittings.
Step 4: Finishing
I used a shower squeegee to lightly spread around the epoxy, it was not difficult even though my countertop was not perfectly level. Once the epoxy has settled and has relaxed for a few minutes, torch the surface lightly to pop bubbles. It is a strange thing to do at first as I didn't want to accidentally burn the surface. Just keep the torch moving and do it like all the YouTube videos show. As for the drips on the edge, you can scrape them off once it gets a little stiff or sand them off once it completely hardens, I ended up doing a little of both.
Once it has begun to thicken DO NOT TOUCH IT. it will get stringy and cause ugly spots if you try to adjust anything once it has started to harden. Just leave it alone and deal with it once it has cured.
Overall I am very happy with the look. I don't think the pictures do it justice to show how glassy smooth most of the surface is and how strong it feels. Comments are welcome, and I'd really like to see if anyone else has photos of their own epoxy creations.