Want to know how to use epoxy resin? Our paint experts are here to help.
Use this step-by-step guide to help understand the uses and application of epoxy projects.
In this ProPaintCorner.com article, we cover:
- How to use epoxy
- Supplies needed for DIY epoxy jobs
- Professional tips for the best possible epoxy workmanship
So, before you do apply epoxy to your project, I recommend you read this quick guide for how to do it right.
What Do You Need To Know About Using Epoxy?
Applying epoxy is as simple or as complicated as you make it. For example, if you’re trying to glue together two popsicle sticks, epoxy will stick them together with a bond that outmatches any other adhesive.
There are many different applications for epoxy, so the explanation of how to use it varies greatly. Here are a few examples of uses for epoxy resin:
Epoxies play a huge role in making buildings last longer. Epoxy-painted floors, walls, and even fiberglass panels are used more commonly than ever in the construction industry.
When you damage the body panels on your car, the body shop typically makes a new panel or repairs the old one by using fiberglass and epoxy.
Many boats are also made from fiberglass laid up onto wood, and epoxy is used to quickly repair damaged boats to keep them floating.
Resins are typically used to coat the inside of bottles and bottle caps to prolong the life of bottled goods.
Arts and crafts/Jewelry
The amount of artistic projects one can potentially complete by using epoxy is limitless. Search something like 'art epoxy project' on Youtube, and you'll find hours and hours of different videos.
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Carbon fiber, fiberglass, and other epoxy products are used to lighten the weight of wings, propellers, fuselages, etc.
Countless sports equipment is made with the help of epoxy. Some examples would be:
- Hockey sticks
- Tennis rackets
- Golf clubs
As you can see, there are so many different ways to utilize epoxy in your project. The hard part is performing the work correctly--if you don't know how to properly work the epoxy, you'll likely end up either poor quality or a weak design.
Aside from all the different potential uses for epoxy, here are some other things to consider when working with anything epoxy:
Amount of drying time
Always consider drying time when gluing up a project. For example, if you're gluing up a hardwood table with a clear epoxy resin tabletop kit, you'll need to keep bystanders aware of the fact that the table can't be touched or have things placed on it for 24 hours.
Another example would be repairing mechanical/sporting goods equipment. If you're repairing a surfboard, you'll need to give the epoxy enough time to cure before putting it in the water. Always use recommended dry times provided by the resin manufacturer. Yes, epoxy is completely water-resistant, but not if it hasn't had a sufficient amount of time to dry.
Amount of epoxy
How much epoxy do you need for your project? The amount of resin you need depends completely on your specific project. Tabletop epoxy kits will typically tell you how many square feet they will cover, but just remember that more porous surfaces will absorb substantially larger amounts of epoxy than if the surface area is smooth and well-prepped.
Amount of hardener
When working with fiberglass and carbon fiber requires that you mix the correct ratio of resin into the mix. Always use a scale when measuring both parts of epoxy, and avoid using too or too little hardener.
What're The Supplies You’ll Need To Apply Epoxy?
This is a master list of all supplies you'll need when applying epoxy to all projects. You won't need all of these supplies if you're working on one specific project, but professional composites and epoxy technicians typically have all of these supplies in their toolbox to whip out when needed.
We'll start with a basic list of supplies for DIY projects, and finish with a professional set for tackling any job. Basic supplies needed are:
Your epoxy of choice
The epoxy you use depends on your project. It's also important to note that each of these epoxy products has its specific uses. Each style of two-part epoxy has its viscosity (thickness) and must be applied according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Here is a quick breakdown of the different types of epoxy for your future reference:
Polyester resin is a lightweight and versatile resin applied to fiberglass on projects like surfboards, boats, truck camper shells, etc.
This resin is typically used for use with a fiberglass mat where the liquid resin is poured onto the surface of the fiberglass fabric and evened out with either a paint roller or a plastic spreader tool.
Epoxy resin is an extremely durable adhesive used in many different applications, from carbon fiber to 3D casting.
Shop on Amazon for a wide variety of tabletop epoxy. Most tabletop epoxies are relatively inexpensive, and they come with a 1:1 mixing ratio which is different from more industrial epoxies that typically only require a small amount of hardener (something like a 1:50 ratio)
Casting resin is a resin designed to be poured into molds to create solid three-dimensional objects.
Epoxy adhesives work great for quickly gluing two things together.
Epoxy putty is generally used to repair holes in piping and other three-dimensional repairs.
Artresin is a brand of resin intended for creating art projects and other crafty designs. Shop for Artresin and other brands on Amazon for the best prices.
Some epoxy doesn't come with the 'B' part or hardener. When purchased in larger quantities, the epoxy and hardener are purchased separately.
Sandpaper is a must-have when finishing DIY epoxy projects. When buying the correct sandpaper for the job, you'll want to consider what type of sander you'll be using (if you're using a sander).
Take into consideration whether or not your orbital sander has a velcro attachment--some electric sanders require a sanding pad with an adhesive.
Using a sanding sponge is a cheap and good way for sanding off flatter epoxy projects.
If you're running a business, you might hand out sanding sponges to your employees instead of an electric sander to help avoid over-sanding the epoxied surface.
Use a Dremel with a small sanding disc or sanding drum for sanding epoxy off of small projects.
Using a polisher with carnauba wax is an effective method for polishing epoxy projects after the fact.
Paint rollers are used to apply epoxy even on jobs that aren't epoxy paint. For example, when automotive professionals lay up fiberglass epoxy jobs, they use. a paint roller to smoothen out the panel while the epoxy is still wet.
Read Also: Top 5 Best Paint Rollers (2022 Review)
Sanding with power sanders is sometimes necessary when finishing epoxy projects. For example, if there is excess cured epoxy, sometimes a power sander is the only tool that will remove it from the surface.
For smoothing the surface, you might try a palm sander or orbital sander,
Buffing wheel/Electric buffer
You can buy an electric buffer for a relatively inexpensive cost either on Amazon or at your local automotive parts store. You might also try your local hardware store.
Polishing compounds like Meguiar's work great for polishing epoxies, and you can also purchase them at your local auto parts store or on Amazon.
Isopropyl Alcohol/Rubbing alcohol
Use rubbing alcohol to clean wet epoxy off of undesired surfaces.
Use a spray bottle to spray rubbing alcohol onto surfaces (and your hands) when cleaning up.
Wet epoxy can be easily cleaned with isopropyl alcohol, but once it's dry--well that's another story. You'll need to use a solvent like acetone (nail polish remover is acetone) to remove cured epoxy from some surfaces.
Using a heat gun or hairdryer is a great way to remove air bubbles before the epoxy dries. For example, professional table epoxy table builders typically use a heat gun to achieve a silky smooth finish.
You may want to use a gap filler or putty to fill in areas before applying epoxy over the top.
One example of using gap filler is during surfboard repair--if there is a large hole in the surfboard, the person repairing must fill in the gap with the suitable gap filler before applying another layer of fiberglass.
In many cases, you'll need a mixing cup to pour each part of the epoxy into once you're ready to go. The chemical reaction of both parts of the epoxy works best if the epoxy is mixed extremely thoroughly with paddle mixers.
If you aren't using an electric mixer, you'll need to use a stir stick to mix both parts of the epoxy. Using a paddle mixer on a drill is the most effective way to stir epoxy, but small applications can be stirred with a stick. If you are stirring by hand, make sure you mix the epoxy extremely well.
Using a paddle mixer attached to a drill is the best way to thoroughly mix the epoxy for the job.
Professionals typically use an electric mixer to properly mix the resin, and impregnator machines are used to infuse carbon fiber with the liquid resin during a layup process.
With an impregnator, you simply feed strips of fiberglass or carbon into a feed wheel, and the machine completely impregnates the material with epoxy.
Using a scale is necessary when working with epoxies in large quantities because each epoxy part must be mixed according to weight. No, it's not like baking cookies where you can put the milk in the pyrex cup and view it at eye level. When manufacturing products, professionals must carefully weigh the part A and part B liquids to ensure they achieve an exact mixing ratio.
For example, in some cases, if there is too much part A in the mixture, then the project will remain uncured for longer (sometimes permanently). In any case,
You might need some sealer or silicone when performing countertop epoxy jobs to seal the edge of the table to where it meets the wall.
Dyes and pigments are used in epoxy projects like tabletops and other woodworking/art DIY tasks.
If you're gluing two objects together with epoxy, the bond will be much stronger if clamps are used.
Using a respirator is vital when sanding epoxy that has already cured. You might also want to use a cotton mask when working with wet epoxies to avoid breathing in toxic vapors. Always work with epoxy in a well-ventilated area.
Read Also: What do we recommend for paint respirators?
Don't forget to use eye protection when working with harmful chemicals like epoxy. Not only do you need eye protection for the layup process, but you especially need to protect your vision when sanding epoxy as it can flake off in sharp pieces and cause severe eye damage.
Nitrile/Chemical resistant gloves
Don't let your hands come in contact with epoxy resins as these chemicals are harmful to your skin. If you do happen to come in contact with the epoxy, spray rubbing alcohol on a rag and wipe it off to completely remove it from your skin, then rinse with warm water and soap.
Note: Cured epoxy is technically harmless, but always wear long sleeves and a respirator when sanding because dust from epoxy is extremely harmful to your respiratory system.
Toothpicks are a great item to incorporate into crafty epoxy designs. For example, see the Youtube video below that gives a perfect example of how to make art out of resin:
Polyurethane foam makes for a good core material when laying up epoxy and polyester resins. By laying up carbon fiber or fiberglass onto polyurethane using resin to bind them together, you can make anything from surfboards to furniture.
You might also be interested to know that there are polyurethane resins used for high-strength automotive coatings, floorings, and manufacturing moldable thermosetting plastics.
We should also note that polyethylene foam is not the same as polyurethane foam. If you try to apply epoxy to a polyethylene foam (many foam insulations are made from polyethylene, the epoxy will eat through the foam causing it to melt and virtually disappear.
Composite materials like fiberglass and carbon fiber reinforced with resins have been around since about the 1940s but mostly for military use. Nowadays, carbon fiber and fiberglass have a much wider application for use.
How To Use Epoxy (5-Step Guide)
- Research your specific project
- Prep the surface accordingly
- Apply epoxy carefully according to the prescribed instructions
- Sand and wet sand your project
- Polish and wax
Step 1: Research your specific project
Using epoxy is simple if you research the project beforehand and have a general idea of the task you're trying to accomplish. On the other hand, if you go trying to glue epoxy onto
Step 2: Prep the surface accordingly
Surface prep is a number one priority before applying the epoxy. If the surface isn't properly sanded, or if the contours of what you're gluing aren't consistent with each other, the epoxy isn't going to hold up very strong.
We recommend treating it like you would any other glue job.
Step 3: Apply epoxy carefully according to the prescribed instructions
Be extremely careful about the whole epoxy application process. Even if you're simply gluing two pieces of plastic back together with JB Weld, the way you prep, mix, apply, and clamp/support the epoxy job will determine whether or not it's stuck for time and all eternity or if it will want to come unglued shortly after a small amount of pressure/testing.
Step 4: Sand and wet sand your project
Allow the epoxy to fully cure. Epoxy cure time varies based on the product, and it also depends on how much hardener (part B) you mix in with part A if you're working with epoxy in larger amounts.
If mixed correctly, and with a small amount of heat and pressure, some epoxies have the power to cure into a rock-hard substance in a matter of minutes.
Master epoxy/carbon fiber/fiberglass technicians always have a plethora of power sanding tools in their arsenal. For example, to start, a countertop maker might turn the countertop upside down, and grind all of the cured epoxies drips off with an abrasive sanding attachment on an angle grinder.
Aside from sanding the excess epoxy from your project, most professionals typically sand their epoxy jobs smoothly using low-grit sandpaper (80-120 grit) and slowly changing out for a higher grit until arriving at the wet sanding stage. You'll most likely want to start with a pneumatic or orbital sander and finish wet sanding, but there are some cases where you might want to use an angle grinder with an abrasive sanding disc or even a belt sander to remove excess epoxy (it can be extremely difficult to remove sometimes).
Step 5: Polish and Wax/Paint
The best epoxy jobs are finished off with a cosmetic touch. Our advice is to research how exactly to sand your project based on the specifics. Youtube and Google are your best friend on DIY projects.
The next step in finishing your epoxy project is polishing. Use your electric buffer tool or simply your hands and a polishing pad and some polishing compound to make the project shine.
If you're using an electric buffer, apply a small amount of polishing compound to the pad, and place it onto the surface of the epoxy before turning the machine on. Work the polish in circular motions, and then wipe off the excess with a microfiber towel.
If you're polishing with a hand applicator, simply pour a couple of drops of a polishing compound onto the pad, and wipe it onto the epoxy using a circular motion. Polishing by hand requires more elbow grease, but you can typically get good results.
After you've polished, you might want to add some carnauba wax to protect the surface from UV light. Wax is applied using the same technique as the polish.
We might also point out that you can paint your epoxy product. For example, if you're making a body panel for a custom car or a bumper for your Honda Civic, you'll want it to blend in with the rest of the car.
Other Valuable Resources on how to use epoxy
There is so much to know about epoxy resins, and it would take a lifetime of working different jobs in different industries to get the full picture.
So, a great place to start is deciding which area of use epoxy fits your style (or maybe you just like to glue things together).