This post is all about the dos and don’ts of doing your own resin table top.
All right, the fourth chapter of my dining set redo saga is the epoxy resin finish of the tabletop. Honestly, this was my favorite part of the whole redo. It was a brand-new technique to me, and I learned a lot through the process. Hopefully, I can help you avoid some of my pitfalls of the DIY resin table top so that you can achieve the look that you’re going for with epoxy!
Base Coat of Paint
First, the entire table was primed with Zinsser Bulls Eye Primer.
As a background for the resin, I painted the top of the table a deep red color that I pulled from the fabric, as I did with the cream for the chairs. Red is a tough color to paint, and it required a few coats before I was satisfied with the saturation of the color. I used a small roller to apply the paint in thin, even coats.
I let the paint dry for about a week, until it was no longer tacky. It is essential that you allow the paint to dry completely before applying resin to something because any moisture can affect the way the resin cures and you could end up with a sticky mess.
Protect Areas not to be Epoxied
To prep for the resin application process, I covered the dowels and holes for the leaf with aluminum tape. I draped the tape over the dowels, not wrapping them completely, so that it would be easy to remove after the resin was applied. I covered the rails that the leaf sits on with plastic trash bags to protect them from the resin and keep them in working order.
I then created a skirt with plastic sheeting around the lower half of the table by affixing it to the underside of the tabletop with painter’s tape. The entire table was sitting on a canvas drop cloth.
Work Space Safety Considerations
We were also working in a well-ventilated space, which is very important when you’re using chemical substances with fumes like this. We worked in front of the open sliding glass door with a box fan facing the outside, pulling the fumes from the table outside.
HUGE “What Not to Do” when Prepping for your Resin Table Top
I wanted the table to be poured in a contiguous manner so that it looked like it belonged together because I will be using the leaf most, if not all, of the time. So I decided to separate the pieces and leave a gap between them to prevent the resin from sealing them together. This would also allow me to treat the table like one piece as I worked on it rather than pouring the two ends of the table and the leaf separately.
Here’s where I will note one giant oversight that I made, which I was lucky didn’t have disastrous consequences. One important thing to note about resin is that it’s self-leveling, meaning it will drip off the sides and level itself out. I prepared for this on the outside of the table by creating the skirt, but I forgot about the fact that the resin would also drip down between the table parts. This led to two large puddles of resin on my floor and resin on the base of the table.
I was unaware of these puddles until 3 days later when I removed the plastic skirt. Totally horrifying! Luckily, the canvas made it possible to pull the epoxy up off of the linoleum, and the floor was no worse for the wear. Please don’t make the same mistake I did because you may not fair as well. Just remember that the epoxy will drip off ALL the sides, not just the outer edges.
Prepping the Surface
Now. back to the process at hand, epoxy. It’s important to be sure that the surface that you’re applying the epoxy to is clean and free from any dust or lint because that will be stuck in your table forever. I used a microfiber towel and wiped the table down really well. It is also incredibly important to be sure that the surface that you’re pouring the resin onto is level. If it’s not, you can get missed spots where the resin ran downhill and your surface will not be evenly coated.
Next, I got all of my supplies together. It’s important to have everything you need at the ready because this is a time sensitive process. My supplies are pictured above: two-part epoxy, stir sticks, Popsicle sticks, plastic measuring containers, color additives (paint in my case), gloves, and a heat gun. You’ll also need a timer to time the mixing of the resin.
These are just the supplies that I chose to use, but some variation is possible. You can use a blowtorch in lieu of a heat gun, and there are other things that you can use to add color to resin, such as mica powders.
I used Pro Marine Table Top Epoxy, which is a two-part epoxy system. Whenever you use epoxy, it is very important to read all of the instructions for that specific brand and follow them very carefully. Any error in measuring or mixing the epoxy can result in adverse results in curing.
How much epoxy?
Now, because I was using the epoxy on a non-porous surface, I only did one flood coat. It should be noted, though, that if you are applying the epoxy to a porous surface, you’ll want to apply a thin seal coat before your flood coat to ensure a smooth finish overall. Additionally, you can apply more than one flood coat to increase the thickness of your tabletop and to achieve different effects with it.
When purchasing your epoxy, you’ll want to consult the instructions for that particular brand of epoxy to figure out just how much you’ll need because you don’t want to run out in the middle of a project.
For my table, I purchased 2 gallons and had more than enough. Likely, I could have gotten away with 1 gallon, but I wanted to be sure I would have enough, and I have other projects that I wanted to do with epoxy anyway.
Mixing and Applying
I didn’t want just a solid color tabletop, so I tinted the resin a few different colors using paint. If you want to color your resin, be sure not to add any more than 10% paint by volume to your resin. As we talked about before, too much moisture can affect the curing of your resin. I used the red from the tabletop, the cream from the chairs, bronze, white, and burnt umber for the colors of my tabletop.
Once my resin was all mixed up, I spread on an even coat of the red resin as my base. I then applied smaller amounts of the other colors in different swirling motions to create a pattern that I liked. To get a softer look, I used my hairdryer to feather out the edges of the lighter paints, leaving the darker colors sharper to look like veins found in stone. As I worked, my husband used the heat gun to remove the air bubbles from the resin.
Finishing a DIY Resin Table Top
For finishing, as the resin was drying, I went around with a popsicle stick scraping the drips off the underside of the table and along the edges between the leaf and the end pieces. Once the table was completely dry to the touch after 24 hours, I used the heat gun with a flat metal attachment to scrape off any drips that were left and to clean up the edges between the leaf and the end pieces. Then, I removed all of the tape and plastic.
Luckily, I was able to remove the resin on the base of the table on account of the primer. I lightly sanded the base again and reprimed it. The base of the table will eventually receive the same finishing as the chairs.
This DIY resin table top is not perfect, but as a first-time epoxy project, and a very large one at that, I’m very pleased. There’s some parts on the very ends of the table, the most rounded parts of the tabletop, where the epoxy didn’t adhere evenly, and I’m not sure why. And I had some different effects that I wanted to get that I was unable to because I was nervous about letting the epoxy get warm and about adding more paint to achieve the color saturation I was looking for.
A few things I learned from my DIY Resin Table Top:
Keep in mind what may be in the air if you’re working where the wind can affect your piece.
Case in point: There was a bush in my yard shedding fluffy seeds (think dandelions times a billion) at the exact time we were working on the tabletop…with the door open. I think you all know where I’m going here. So, at the very least, have a pair of tweezers handy to pull out anything that may make its way into your resin table top.
Pay attention to the temperature of your work space as well as the resin itself.
For proper curing, you’ll need to follow the instructions of your specific resin with regard to the temperature of your work space. Also, resin flows better when it’s warm, so it’s helpful to allow the reaction between the epoxy and hardener to proceed a bit after mixing. This will heat the resin up and make it easier to spread and manipulate. You just want to be careful to not let it get too hot because if left to its own devices the epoxy will continue to heat and could burn someone or something or start a fire.
Watch your cords.
This one is pretty self-explanatory, but it’s easier said than done sometimes. It’s best to not drag your cords and tools through your working epoxy or the epoxy that has dripped down. I really only mention it because it’s not something that I thought about until I had already drug my cord through it.
Get a Heat Gun for the Bubbles
The blow torch was more difficult to use and, frankly, a bit scary. Although easier to use, you still need to exercise caution with the heat gun because it gets VERY hot. This seems obvious, but having not used one much before, I wasn’t aware of just how hot it really got. I found it helpful to have an area with a hot pad set up to lay it down on when not in use.
Work in small batches of epoxy.
The greater the amount of epoxy in a container, the faster the reaction happens, the faster it heats up, and the faster you need to work with it. Also, this stuff is thicker than I anticipated, and it is much easier to mix and pour smaller amounts.
Get some help.
Most things I manage on my own, but, for this resin table top, it was nice to have help. I was able to work with the epoxy while my husband mixed additional batches, which was great because of the time sensitive nature of the epoxy. He was also great about going through with the heat gun and removing the air bubbles as I worked, which is a really important step for a nice, smooth finish. Most of the time, I’m a fan of involving the kids in what I’m doing, but this was not one of those times, so I had my sister come over and watch the kids while we worked on this.
Keep the rubbing alcohol handy.
This is how you will get any uncured epoxy off of your hands, feet, floor, etc.
Don’t use painter’s tape for anything that you actually want to get the epoxy off of.
Use the aluminum tape; the epoxy doesn’t bind to the aluminum tape, and it will actually come off, not so much with the painter’s tape. I know this because there is still painter’s tape covered in epoxy on the underside of my table.
Go Forth and Resin!
Overall, I am very pleased with the overall finish of the resin table top; it is so satisfyingly shiny! And I have received a good number of compliments on the table from family and friends, which is good enough for me! Although I didn’t achieve my goal of finishing the entire set for Christmas, I did have this part done, and we all sat around it as a family, just like I wanted!
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