Do you love the look of marble or stone countertops? I find it adds a tasteful touch in any kitchen. I knew that’s what I wanted in mine when we bought our new home only there was one problem; we didn’t have the budget for it. I learned how to resurface a laminate countertop with Epoxy resin to achieve that stone counter look I really desired.
When I want something bad enough I find a way, especially when it comes to budgeting. After settling for the standard laminate or Formica countertops we’ve had in our 2 prior homes I was determined to have my dream kitchen. Aside from a few updates, our first official home (as in one we owned and not rent/lease) was a perfect fit for our family. It had everything we needed: a large living area, separate bedrooms for the kids, a beautiful stone fireplace and closets galore.
Kitchen DIY Renovation on a Budget
The one drawback to our beautiful new home was the kitchen. This is typically a big factor most home buyers consider when purchasing a home. It was outdated and slightly on the small side, but it wasn’t a deal-breaker for us. It just needed my own touch on it. We had other projects that had to come first. A great cost-saver for us was simply painting the existing cabinets and changing out the hardware for a more modern look. This really lightened up the kitchen making it more inviting and made it appear larger. The next task was the counter. The backsplash was also the same laminate material and design of the counter so we changed that too! Check out my Peel and Stick Tile Backsplash Review for more budget-friendly ideas for your next DIY project.
Laminate is a very popular choice for counters because it’s inexpensive and functional. Overtime, however, they can become stained, discolored, or suffer damage from cuts and scratches in the surface. That being said, you can transform a laminate countertop into something beautiful without completely blowing your budget with some considerations.
Choosing Your Epoxy Resin
When I initially researched how to resurface a laminate countertop with epoxy I found there were several kits designed specifically for this task. This make it much easier to narrow down the choices for a first-time DIYer. There are epoxy refinishing kits for different purposes so be sure to get one that’s right for your project. If you’re refinishing a kitchen countertop where food is prepared you want to ensure a few things first before buying an epoxy coating such as:
- Heat Resistant: the last thing you want is a countertop you’ve spent a great deal of time and money on to become quickly ruined by a hot pan or small kitchen appliance.
- Food-safe: Not all resins are made alike and some consist of chemicals you don’t want food coming in contact with. Be sure to choose one that is non-toxic and food-grade quality.
- Low VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) – For the same reason stated above, you definitely want to invest your time and money in finding an epoxy resin that is low or has zero VOCs for your kitchen.
For my project I went with the kit from Countertop Epoxy because it’s eco-friendly, non-toxic, has great reviews, and included step by step instructions that were easy to follow. They have a lot of really helpful videos and tutorials for different patterns and designs you can do to achieve the look you want as well. I went with a build-your-own kit that came with 2 gallons of epoxy resin to cover the area I needed, a base coat color, an edge coat, and up to 3 metallic powders. The look I was going for was white marble so I had a white base color, pearl metallic powder and silver metallic powder.
Whether you go with a kit or purchase each product separately there are additional supplies you’re going to need. These include:
- Mixing Sticks (your local hardware store may provide these for free in the paint department if you ask)
- Graduated mixing containers
- Mixing cups (at least 4-6 cups)
- Nylon paint brushes
- Sponge roller
- Metal or plastic scraper
- Painter’s tape
- Disposable Nitrile gloves
- Propane torch
- 80-grit sandpaper
- TSP (trisodium phosphate) or heavy-duty degreaser
You may need other additional supplies as you go. For instance, I borrowed a handheld electric sander from my sister in law to sand down my counter surface. This made the process go a little quicker since I had so much area to cover. The propane torch will be used later to help eliminate bubbles that rise up after the epoxy has been poured and spread. There are other methods that can be used for this such as a blow dryer or heat gun if the thought of torching sounds intimidating. There is a drawback to these alternative methods, however. You have to get very close to the surface to reach the level of heat required to effectively remove the bubbles. This runs the chance of blowing the finish where it becomes uneven or blowing dust onto the wet coating.
I also used an air purifier to help remove dust or air particles during the pouring phase and while each coating dried. This isn’t necessary, but if you do have one as we did this is a suggestion. I had it positioned so the air blowing out from it was blowing into the living area away from the kitchen.
Preparing the Surface
Before you start you will need to measure and prepare the surface of your existing countertop. Find the square feet to factor how much coverage will be needed and determine the amount of product required for your surface coat and top coat. For instance, the recommended coverage to resurface a laminate countertop with epoxy is 20 square feet per gallon. Also keep in mind the amount of epoxy you will need to measure out for each coat if you want to add a clear topcoat. This isn’t really necessary as a single epoxy coat will do but adding that top clear coat will add hardness and enhance the scratch resistance.
Next clear off the entire counter and move appliances. The first step in preparing the countertop to be refinished is creating a smooth surface to apply your coating on. This will require sanding down the surface area of the counter including the edges to remove the sheen from the laminate and create a surface the primer will adhere to. This might require removing the stove and refrigerator to clear the area if you can. If there are any chips, nicks or deep scratches in the surface of your counter use a spackle product to fill in and smooth it out. Allow to dry per the manufacturer’s recommendation before continuing to the next step – sanding. Be sure it’s completely smooth and there is no excess spackle.
Before sanding down my countertop I cleaned it really well with a heavy-duty degreaser – Trisodium phosphate. This comes in a powder you purchase from a hardware or home improvement store. You typically mix 1 teaspoon with 1 gallon of warm water. You will need gloves when mixing. You could also use a similar product such as 409 if your countertops aren’t excessively grimy – ours had been sitting untouched in a home that hadn’t been lived in for a couple of years so dust and grime had built up. Wipe down your countertop and along the edges and allow to dry before sanding. Once you are finished sanding clean and wipe down the surface again to remove any dust prior to painting.
Prepare Working Area to Resurface a Laminate Countertop with Epoxy
Once you’ve decided on a product/kit to resurface a laminate countertop with epoxy resin the next step is preparing the area you will be working in. A rookie mistake many DIYers make when it comes to preparing and pouring epoxy resin is not acclimating the room to an appropriate temperature. Epoxy resins need to be at or between 70 and 75-degrees Fahrenheit during the mixing and pouring process in order to cure effectively.
For best results it’s advised to let the product acclimate to the appropriate room temperature for a few hours or overnight. Depending on the climate you live in and the season you should adjust your thermostat temp accordingly (towards the higher temperature range during cooler seasons and towards the lower range in hotter climates). You want to maintain this temperature in the ambient air for at least the first 24 hours during the curing period.
The next step is masking off your work area – cabinets, floors and backsplash. When you pour the epoxy coating it will run off the edges of the countertop and drip continuously as it sets until fully cured. This means you will need to carefully mask all of the surrounding area including the cabinets and floors with plastic and drop cloths to protect from runoff. Be sure to have more than enough and masking tape (I used painter’s tape so it wouldn’t take off any of the paint on our freshly refinished cabinets but masking tape is fine) to adhere drop cloths to the cabinets and appliances. Start from the very top of the cabinet just underneath the edge of countertop. Allow it to drape to the floor then mask off a generous area of the floor along the toe kicks of your cabinets. Be sure to mask off the backsplash where it meets the counter as well.
You should also mask off the sink if you didn’t remove it. If it’s a brand new home or you’re planning on replacing it as part of your kitchen renovation project this would be the ideal time to remove the sink. This was not the case for us so I just masked it off really well creating a tight seal with masking tape around the edges.
After you have sanded and cleaned your countertop the next step will consist of your base or primer color. The kit I purchased came with an edge coat to create a primer specifically around the edge of the counter in a neutral color. This is because the initial epoxy coating will run thinner on the sides and the existing color of your laminate may show through the base color. Once I was done sanding and cleaning the surface, I painted along just the edge of the counter using the paint that came with the kit and a small nylon brush.
It’s critical to follow these next steps carefully and accordingly with your kit because they aren’t all the same. You don’t want to mess this up or skip steps because it can hinder the end-result of your counter. The first step will be your base coat or primer color. This will be followed by torching then adding your accent color then once that dries you will add a top clear coat of Epoxy.
Mixing the Epoxy Resin
**Epoxy comes in two separate parts – a hardener and a resin and these two must be kept separate until you are ready to use them. Be sure to use clean mixing containers and clean mixing sticks for the process. Once you combine the two into your epoxy resin you will need a separate clean container such as a large graduated bucket to pour it into because the longer the mixture is contained in a small container it will quickly start to heat up and become really thick and difficult to spread!
Measure out the hardener and resin to a 1:1 ratio each in separate measuring containers. This MUST be accurate and carefully measured out. I used disposable measuring containers purchased from our local hardware store. Remember when I mentioned to keep in mind how much epoxy would be needed per square feet for each coat – this is where you will need to use that math. Measure out the equivalent amount you need of epoxy for your first coat- the base coat. The remainder will be used for your final top clear coat.
Once measured out, pour the hardener to your mixing bucket first, making sure to scrape the edges and bottom to get all of the contents. Next, do the same with the resin adding it the hardener and stir thoroughly for 3 minutes. You want to stir carefully making sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the container as you mix to effectively combine all of both parts of your epoxy. Don’t stir too quickly or vigorously to minimize creating bubbles.
The Pouring Phase
As soon as you’ve finished mixing the two parts pour the epoxy into a second clean container. Now is the time to add your base color to the epoxy mixture. I added my pearl metallic powder to the white base color as well for this process. If you desire a consistent sparkle throughout your color rather than marbling or an accent color this would be the step where you can add it right to your base color.
Stir thoroughly, scraping the sides and the bottom to fully incorporate the color evenly for 3 minutes. Once it’s completely combined pour out the entire contents of the bucket onto the counter distributing it evenly across the center of the surface. You don’t want to leave any mixture in the bucket as you go along because it WILL start to harden much faster than having it poured out across your counter surface.
Use your foam roller to evenly distribute and spread out the epoxy base coat mixture you’ve poured out all the way to the edges. The product will drip off but it will even out to a smooth finish so do not stop short at the edges of your counter. You will come back later to take care of the drips. Use a nylon brush to paint and spread around tight areas such as around the sink if you masked this off.
Torching the Surface
This is the fun part in a scary kind of way. After you’ve spread out the first coat of your epoxy it’s time to torch the surface. This will release any air bubbles that may have formed and help even out the surface. It will also help create a marbling effect. Be sure to use a propane torch and opt for one that can perform well while inverted. Be sure there are no flammable substances or solvents nearby!
This process can be a little intimidating so I highly suggest watching a few videos on torching an epoxy counter to give you a better sense of confidence on how to do this right. You want to use even, overlapping strokes with the torch. Be careful not to get too close to the surface or the edges and use constant motion so as not to concentrate on one spot for too long. When you’ve finished look over the surface with a reflective light to inspect areas that were not covered or where bubbles have formed.
Creating Veins for a Marbleized Look
If you are going for the marble or stone look for your countertop this is the step where you’ll create those veins and accent colors. You will need your metallic powders, 91% Isopropyl Alcohol and a spray bottle (one for each accent color if using more than one). Add 1-2 quarts of alcohol to your spray bottle and add in your metallic powder. Fasten the spray nozzle on and shake to mix well. For veins and swirls adjust the nozzle setting to a fine stream. Spray across your counter surface from a distance with a broad spray setting for a granular effect. You can use a clean mixing stick to drag across the surface for swirls or defined veins. If you are using different metallic colors you can layer each one atop of the other or spray alongside each other.
When using glitter this is not recommended for the spray bottle because it will clog the nozzle. Add glitters into a small mixture of epoxy (equal parts hardener to resin) in a clean container and mix well until fully incorporated. Use a clean paint stick to dip into the glitter epoxy mixture and drizzle or swirl it around on the surface to create your accents. I used a small nylon brush to swiftly brush along some of the marbled lines I made for a blended/blurry look. One thing I loved about choosing to resurface a laminate countertop with epoxy over simply replacing it is the freedom to be as creative as you want for the desired look you’re going for. Allow the colors settle for a few minutes to see how they blend to get an idea of the finished look will come out.
After you’ve made your accents into your countertop you can allow it to cure. Take a putty knife or paint stick to go along the edges of your counter to remove the paint drips. Repeat this step again 2-3 hours into curing going along all of the edges to remove drips. Allow your counter to cure for 24 hours before applying a top coat. If you have more drips after it’s cured to hardness you can sand them down.
For the clear top coat repeat the process of mixing equal parts of your epoxy hardener to the resin and stir thoroughly for 3 minutes until mixed well. Be sure to scrape the edges and the bottom of your container to mix thoroughly. Pour out all of the contents distributing evenly across your entire counter. Use a wide spreader or foam roller to spread the clear coat evenly across your counter and along the edges for a smooth finish. Repeat the torch process carefully to remove any air bubbles. Once you have finished applying your top coat go along the edges again to remove drips. Repeat this step after 2-3 hours into curing.
A Few Final Notes
When you resurface a laminate countertop with epoxy resin it will take approximately 24 hours to cure to a usable hardness. You can then sand down any drips that formed after the last cleanup and remove all masking. Wait at least 48 hours after curing before using your countertop and longer before placing heavy objects such as appliances.
Although the epoxy resin I went with was heat resistant, I’d still advise using caution with direct heat from hot appliances. This especially goes for light colored resins such as mine where I didn’t want to take a chance of discoloration occurring. Use hot plates or something protective underneath your appliance before use.