January 19, 2019

An Epoxy Nightmare

A nightmare, literally. I have had several dreams that I am stressing out over the stupid epoxy. The last I wrote regarding the epoxy countertop that I made, I had finished with the first coat and it looked great! I was very happy with it. I just had to wait to get a second gallon of it because the first gallon wasn't enough.

Apparently, the story wasn't over and I'd spoken (much) too soon!

I ordered the epoxy last week, and in the meantime, I worked on getting everything else done so that all we have left is the flooring (and a couple of other things that can wait). The island counter has been a bit stressful (in a fun, learning experience kind of way), but it's finally done and ready to attach to the island.

I shared photos of the island countertop after we'd put the first gallon of epoxy on it. When I ordered the first gallon, I had measured the counter out very well and ordered one gallon based on a square footage chart on the manufacturer's website. Because we changed our plans from using nickels to using the vintage-looking cards, we didn't have enough epoxy (the nickels would have taken up more space). But since the first gallon went smoothly, I simply ordered another and waited to finish it off.

When the second gallon got here three days later, I followed the instructions for adding another layer of epoxy. I sanded the previous layer, wiped it with acetone, and prepared to mix the epoxy. I cleaned the bathroom really well so that there weren't any pet hairs or fibers floating around (we're keeping the island counter in the bathroom with a space heater because the air temp must be 75+ for 72 hours while curing).

I mixed up the epoxy just like I had before, and I poured it on. A lot of it wound up on the floor, because it flows over the sides to self-level to 1/8 inch (thankfully, I'd laid out plastic to catch the excess epoxy). However, I must have started heavy handed when pouring one side, because I ran out by the time I got to the other end of the counter.

This epoxy self-levels to 1/8 of an inch, no matter what you do to it. You cannot spread it around--it's VERY odd when you're applying it. It kind of looks like you're trying to mix oil and water at a depth of 1/8 inch. The texture is kind of like warm honey. It's super slippery on plastic (or other epoxy) but like superglue to anything else (including skin).

Once the epoxy is mixed, you only have about 20 minutes to remove any air bubbles by skimming a blow torch across the surface--wait any longer, and the epoxy will already be curing. I was panicked about not having enough epoxy to spread to the other side, so I started scooping up the epoxy from the plastic on the floor with my hands and drizzling it in the gaps on the countertop. Meanwhile, the plastic I was walking on became SO SLIPPERY (imagine a Slip 'n Slide with oil all over it) and I was trying to maneuver in the cramped bathroom, picking up epoxy and drizzling it on the countertop.

Because of the space heater, my face was pouring sweat and I was trying to keep any sweat from dripping onto the epoxy. My hands and feet were completely coated in epoxy, so anything I touched was going to get epoxy on it. I grabbed an old towel to wipe my hands enough to use the torch to pop bubbles.

I COULDN'T GET THE TORCH TO STAY LIT.

I was going through matches by the handful, lighting and relighting the blow torch. I was able to light it long enough to pop a few bubbles at a time, so I just repeated that as much as I could. When I was satisfied, I grabbed the towel and as I was maneuvering out of the bathroom, I dropped the towel onto the epoxy.

Lint was embedded into the epoxy all over one end of the counter, and I knew it was hopeless. I took out as much of it as I could, but still, I had to order a third gallon of epoxy. My dad and Jerry kept telling me it looked okay, but I was super disappointed and upset that I screwed it up so badly.

The third gallon of epoxy arrived four days ago, and again, I prepped the counter. I spent a lot of time sanding down the previous layer so that I could remove the little pieces of lint that had gotten stuck on it. I managed to sand it down really well, and I prepared the bathroom to avoid all the issues that had happened before.

I put the counter onto a bench, so that the counter was up higher (easier to work with). I got several rags--some wet, some dry--for whatever I may end up needing. I laid down a huge sheet of plastic underneath the counter and taped it to the floor. I had the epoxy buckets and stirs ready to go. Timer on my phone ready. A spare bottle of fuel for the blow torch (I later discovered that the previous one didn't have enough to stay lit, so this time there were two).

I even put on a Bondiband to keep sweat from falling off my face and onto the table, hahaha.

I felt completely ready. Jerry was on standby with the blow torch while I poured the epoxy. I was careful to pour it more evenly and slowly so that I wouldn't run out. Well, turns out I did run out. I didn't realize just how difficult the self-leveling epoxy would be to work with.

Again, I started scooping from the plastic and drizzling it into the bare spots. Thankfully, I managed to scoop enough and the whole table was covered with the final coat. I was so relieved! Then I called Jerry in there with the blow torch.

IT WOULDN'T LIGHT.

He switched out the fuel canister, and still... nothing. He started panicking and called my dad for another canister (my parents live less than a mile away), and my dad started looking for other canisters in his garage. He called our next door neighbor for one--no luck. While he was trying to find a solution, I knew I had pretty much zero time left until the epoxy would start curing beyond repair.

So, I lit a match and held it over some bubbles on the surface, and they popped. For the next 10 minutes or so, I slid all over the place on the slippery plastic, maneuvering in the tight space, lighting match after match after match, popping as many bubbles as I could. I was shocked that it was actually working.

And when I was done, it looked like glass. It was nearly perfect!


I laid a towel on my bedroom floor to step on, and then I closed the bathroom door and left the counter alone. I didn't want to risk opening the door and letting in pet hair, fibers, lint, dust, whatever.

Meanwhile, I was a MESS. I had epoxy all over my arms and legs, hands and feet. According to the instructions, you simply use acetone to remove it. I quickly learned that acetone doesn't work well.

I spent about an hour rubbing at it with acetone (I'm sure I was more flammable than the blow torch at that point, haha). I still wasn't able to get it all off, and everything was sticking to me. There was a very funny moment when I tried to hand Jerry something, and it stuck to my hand. We both laughed about it because it was just like that scene in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation when Clark gets tree sap all over everything.


Like I mentioned before, I think that an awesome idea for a home improvement TV show would be to simply film amateurs who DIY their home improvements (without intervention from an expert). I really wish I had the whole epoxy mess on video, because it would be hilarious to watch now that I know it turned out okay.

The next morning, I didn't hear the hum of the space heater. I went into the bathroom, and it had TURNED OFF overnight. It's crucial to maintain a temp of 75+ F for 72 hours, or else the epoxy will turn opaque with thousands of minuscule bubbles. I turned the heater back on and hoped for the best. After all I did to make the countertop, I would have been horrified for it to be ruined beyond repair simply because the heater turned off.

Several hours later, it shut off again. (We really need to quit borrowing things from my dad! haha) We brought in a propane heater, but I was nervous to use it (even though it's meant for indoor use). I turned that on just for a while to let the electric heater "rest". That seemed to have done the trick, because the electric heater didn't shut off again after that.

Last night, we hit the 72 hour mark. And thankfully, the countertop looks good!





I feel like I was well prepared to do this project, but I didn't anticipate not having enough epoxy (seriously, the company needs to change that chart!), the blow torch not working, and the space heater turning off. Let me say, if you ever do a project with epoxy, 1) Choose a different brand of epoxy, one that is not self-leveling; and 2) Prepare for the worst case scenario and have a ton of back-up items on hand.

So, it was an epoxy nightmare but I actually look back on it and don't feel bad about it. It was a learning experience and it makes for an entertaining story ;)

In other news, Jerry and I were able to order the flooring this month! We'd hoped to have gotten it a few months ago, but we had several unexpected expenses and then Christmas, so we had to put it off until now.

This project is entirely Jerry's. He installed our bathroom floor (vinyl planks) and he did a great job. So, I promised him I won't say a single word about how he chooses to do things, even if I would do them differently ;)  I am going to trust that he will figure everything out and hopefully we will have a new floor next week. This is our renovation's biggest expense by far, so I am really nervous about it. Jerry is nervous, too, but only because he doesn't want me to get upset if he messes something up.

Me? Upset? It's like he doesn't even know me. ;)

It made me laugh, because after the island countertop fiasco (my doing) I have no right to get mad, no matter what happens with this flooring. (I really am confident that he's going to do a great job, though.)

Anyway, I did run a couple of times this week, like promised (tomorrow is the end of the first week of the Base Building plan). Still no alcohol. And I worked on another project while I was waiting for the epoxy to cure. But this post is so long already... I'll save it for another day (tomorrow, hopefully).


11 comments:

  1. My hubby is a fan of Stone Coat Epoxy. We haven't done a project yet but their videos are awesome and very helpful. Your countertop looks awesome! I hope you truly enjoy your kitchen when you're all done. You should be proud!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! I've not heard of Stone Coat Epoxy, but I am going to check it out now. Good luck on your project!

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    2. I have used it many times, it can be messy. You need latex gloves, make sure things are level! I have done some of their projects with great success.

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  2. So you went with the epoxy idea because you didn’t want to pay the shipping fee for more laminate. I imagine at this point the laminate would have been less expensive after all?

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    Replies
    1. That is correct! hahaha

      Thankfully, I am much happier with this than I would have been with the laminate, so it worked out well. :)

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  3. There used to be a show on either HGTV or DIY network called "Renovation Realities," and they showed people doing DIY renovations to their house, just like a reality show. Each episode was a different person/couple. My husband and I used to watch it all the time.

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  4. Wow, what a trial! Good for you for getting it to work in the end. I can't wait to see the counter installed in your kitchen! It looks like a nice big space for working on! I love that in a kitchen. :)

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  5. You continue to inspire me girl, with your journey and your DIY skills!

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  6. Back in my college days we made study lap desks for our sorority little sisters and would coat the tops with epoxy. We would blow through straws to remove the bubbles :)
    I remember it being so stressful! I was literally cringing while reading your post remembering those days!

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  7. The process sounds truly awful. I would have lost it any number of times, and maybe even given up. It's great you stuck with it, though - realize that not everyone would have! You're made of some tough stuff. :)
    The finished counter looks so amazing, you really created something fabulous. Hope you enjoy it for many happy, healthy years to come.

    ReplyDelete

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