Get that Expensive Marble Look On a Budget
Countertops can be expensive, so let’s use epoxy! Read all my best tips and tricks for creating a marble epoxy countertop in this post.
I had my doubts when I first head of using expoxy for a counter top and I started doubting it even more when I heard ” faux marble”.
Here’s the thing, I dont want to show you DIYs that look cheap. Sure lots of bloggers show you things that look good in photos but what about in person?
I dont want to do a project just because. I want it to be a real solution to my design problems, so I did my research. Lots of faux marble projects tend to look faux in person and I was determined to avoid that.
I headed to YouTube to learn about all the techniques that would get me that realistic look. I grabbed my favorites and combined them for this project and it turned out AMAZING!
This epoxy project is just one of many in this laundry room makeover. This room was lacking organization and the visual clutter stressed me out!
We needed a place to set keys and mail. This countertop will be perfect for that.
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- MDF cut to size
- Scrap wood for trough
- Plastic sheeting
- Heat gun
- Paint stir stick (at least 3)
- Total Boat TableTop Epoxy (Part A and B)
- Mixing bucket (I used 4)
- Powder pigment colors
- White liquid pigment
- Spray bottle
- Isopropyl alcohol
- Apron (to protect your clothes)
- Latex gloves (to keep epoxy off your hands, youll need a lot)
- Chip brushes
- Angle grinder – diamond tip blade and grinding pad
- Eye protection
- Ear protection
- $70 Epoxy
- $20 Plywood/MDF
- $35 Pigments
- $10 Latex gloves
- $8 Isopropyl Alcohol
- $2 Spray bottle
- $5 Paint sticks
- $4 Chip brushes
- $13 Drop cloth
Grand total: $123
Step-by-Step Marble Epoxy Countertops
First, cut a piece of MDF to size and prime it. There are many ways to do this. I just used a regular primer but Total Boat also has an epoxy pour that they recommend for porous surfaces, like wood.
I learned at the end that I should have made sure any primer or paint was opaque on my visible edges. If you look closely, you can still seed the brown of the mdf shining through my countertop. Definitely get these edges super covered before that first epoxy coat.
Any imperfection at the base, can cause problems as you go.
Make sure it is the exact size because you don’t want the added work of having to cut it down after the piece has full epoxy. I didnt double check my size and had to go back at cut after-the-fact.
Next, create a trough/curb using scrap wood and a piece of plastic sheeting.
This allows the epoxy to drip off the edge, but not onto the floor, creating a bowl to capture it all.
Make sure the wood underneath and the table you are using are level. This will help you ensure that the epoxy spreads out evenly. Whatever the board is propped up on, make sure its highter than your curb, unlike mine above.
Lastly, add clear packing tape to the underside edges of the board. I learned this trick afterthe fact and had to grind the drips down. Using tape saves on cleanup. (see more tips at the end)
It’s always a good idea to do a tester piece and manipulate it as you go. Just a simple 12×12 board is a great starting point just to play around and learn how the epoxy works.
2. Base Color Flood Pour
Pour a 1:1 ratio of Part A and Part B of the Total Boat Epoxy.
It’s extremely important that you mix thoroughly. I recommend mixing slowly and scraping the sides and bottom for 3.5 minutes, then transfering to another mixing bucket and mixing a little more.
Once the two parts of epoxy are mixed, add your white pigment, this will be a flood pour.
This basically means that the epoxy will spread thin across the whole surface of the MDF board.
You can do this using your paint stir stick to evenly distribute the mixture over the entire board.
Use a heatgun or blow torch over the whole board. Hold it about 6-8″ over the board and in sweeping motions. You should see tons of tiny bubbles coming to the surface.
If you hold the gun in one place too long, you can ruin the epoxy so be sure to keep moving.
Let this coat dry for approximately 3 hours before the next pour.
3. Dirty Pour
This is one of the techniques I leard from YouTube. To get a dirty pour, you take your selected pigment colors and mix the next round of epoxy, separately. I used a pearlescent white, a pure white, and an aluminum silver.
I mixed 3 different epoxy cups with 3 different colors to start this process and stirred for 3.5 minutes each.
Once each is thoroughly stirred in their own mixing cup, pour the colored epoxys into the same cup. Using a stir stick, lightly swirl them together in one mixing cup. You still want to see the distinct colors so try not to mix too much.
This creates the “dirty pour.”
Next, pour this mixture over the MDF board. The first part of the pour came out a little more gray and finished white due to the way I stirred it.
I did one pass across with the mostly gray color and then the bottom of the mixing cup was mostly white, so I poured that back over the gray as I emptied the mixing cup.
Smooth out this layer with a paint stick like you did for the first coat to make sure you get full coverage, paying attention to the sides.
This gives you some beautiful natural swirls of color to mimic stone.
Use the heat gun to pop bubbles accross the whole board.
Let dry completely for at least 12 hours.
Note: You want this to fully cure for 24-48 hours if this is your final layer.
Also, if you need to sand anything down to fix anything, you would need to wait 24 hours as well.
In order to get a super realistic look, I need to create depth. This dirty pour is the base of that depth so I will keep going.
This step is technically optional if you like the way your board looks at this phase, but the veining will give the look of natural stone fractures.
We will start by adding another clear coat to the top. I did this the next morning to give the last phase time to cure.
My previous pours had white in them so this clear will be a great way to add pigment in other ways.
Use a heat gun to help pop trapped air bubbles in every step (Do NOT skip this step)
For the spray technique, mix pigment powders with isopropyl alcohol in a spray bottle. I’m not sure the ratio of powder to alcohol, I just did trial and error till it was as dark or as light as I wanted.
Lightly spray multiple colors in the direction you want the veining to go. I recommend studying examples of stone that you want to emulate. For example, I added a very tiny amount of gold/bronze pigment to add a little bit of warmth to my veining because natural marble contains small amount of iron deposits.
Lightly spritz it across the board. I definitely did too much at first. I had multiple different colors and came back over the dark spray with lighter spray to help break it up. I recommend starting dark so othat you can see the layers of pigment for more depth.
Use your heat gun and stick or chip brush to manipulate the pattern. Typically a light tapping motion helps to break up the pigment. Try not to leave your heat gun in one area for too long, use sweeping movements to avoid burning the epoxy.
If you don’t like how dark some spots are, you can add white and finesse it with the heat gun.
Once that coat gets tacky, mix together white epoxy and start creating veins with a stick. Tackiness can happen quickly so feel free to continue right into the veins.
To create veins, thoroughly mix some epoxy with white pigment and use your stick to create a thin vein. I usually have success if the liquid is flowing from the stick and I move in one direction. If you start to return midway, you run the risk of your vein looking like a “U” or “V”. Try to avoid this because this looks less natural.
If it does happen (because it did multiple times for me), use the stick or brush in a chopping motion to break it up and look less sharp.
Continue to use your heat gun and stick to make them look more natural and fluid.
I ended up making most of my veins white with only a few gray ones. The white veins simulate calcium deposits and fractures found in natural marble.
Also my counter was starting to look more gray and the white helped to lighten and break it up.
I added to the layering by making a couple veins, then applying a light colored spray. After a couple minutes, I’d add another vein to make it look 3 dimensional and layered.
As you work, be sure to add coloration and veining to any edges that will be visible. When the epoxy is runny, it wont stick to the sides. Its easiest to get the sides more covered when the epoxy is still tacky.
Mine turned out to be not as subtle as I originally thought, but it turned out very realistic which is even better!
Let dry completely, 6 hours is ideal.
5. Apply Final Clear Flood Coat
Mix your last clear coat of epoxy and cover the entire board with your final clear coat as we have done in the other steps. Make sure you mix a little extra. You want this layer to flow freely with only a little bit of guidance.
Use the heatgun again for popping bubbles.
I encorage you to get close to your countertop and look at it from all angles using the light to help you see surface imperfections.
Let completely dry for 24-48 hours.
This final clear coat is necessary for all food surfaces. The clear coat epoxy is food safe but when you add pigments, its no longer safe for the kitchen.
I also recommend it to help avoid obvious chipping.
6. Clean Up
I learned a couple things with this project. Most of what I learn is through mistakes.
Double check the measurements before you start. I had forgotten to cut my length down so I had to return after the epoxy was done to cut it down a couple inches.
This made me nervous because I didnt want to ruin all the work I had just done. I think you can use a standard table saw or circular saw blade BUT I was extra careful.
I used painters tape where I wanted to cut and clamped everything down. I used a diamond tipped blade on my angle grinder to make sure I didnt ruin my other blades.
Turn it upside down. To protect the pretty surface, I advise doing this on a towel.
Grab an angle grinder with a grinder piece (versus a cutting piece) and be careful.
The angle grinder will be the best tool because the drips will be very hard.
It’s important that you have eye and ear protection, but more importantly you need a mask because epoxy powder dust is not something you should every breath in.
Once completely dry, I needed to remove drips from the back of the MDF board. I encorage you to check on your drying epoxy and clean drips as you go but if you do let the drips dry, like I did, we can fix that.
I used the grinding attachment on my angle grinder to grind off all the hard epoxy drips. This step can be avoided by using clear packing tape on the underside of the edges. Learn from my mistakes and make it easier on yourself!
Now we have an easy and out of the ways space to charge phones, toss mail, and set keys. The lack of visual clutter and realistic marble countertop really make this space usable and beautiful!
Install your finished product!
I screwed mine in from below for easy removal if necessary but you can use liquid nails as well.
Tips & Tricks
- Factor in a lot of dry time to your workflow.
- To avoid drips, apply clear packing tape to the underside of your edges. This will allow you to peel up the tape and remove the drips without any angle grinder. Maybe try this on the edges you dont wany epoxy on (against a wall)
- You want as many layers as you can to create a more dynamic stone look.
- An easier way to do the faux stone look is to paint your faux veining on the base board with a clear epoxy on top. I didn’t want to do that because it doesn’t have as much depth. Natural stone is more 3 dimensional and dynamic, so stick with my process for the best/realistic look.
- It gets easier to clean epoxy after it dries because it peels right off the plastic drop cloth
- Be sure to cut the correct width and length before starting. Otherwise you will have to use a diamond tipped blade, tape the whole surface you’ll be cutting and clamp guide boards… while wearing your mask, gloves, and ear protection.
- For an even more realistic stone finish, LIGHTLY sand your top flood coat for a matte finish. Use isopropyl alcohol and a microfiber cloth to clear away any dust and voila!
Granite can be $40-$60/sqft. Quartz can be $50-$65/sq ft for standard quality. I spent $123 to complete this project for 4 sq ft and ended up with half of my supplies leftover that I can use for future projects.
Yes! You can epoxy over most surfaces. I watch a million YouTube videos. You can do it over old laminate counters, cut your own counter out of wood or MDF, or epoxy over concrete, too.
Absolutely! I recommend testing all these instructions on a 12″x12″ wood or MDF board before tackling a big project but this is definitely a project you can DIY. If you are trying to do a whole kitchen, I recommend getting a second or third pair of hands. Epoxy dry times can be short and you would need to move quickly to cover such a large space.
Very durable! They are water and scratch resistant, which is great for a kitchen. The 2 things to look out for are chipping and sun damage. If your counter gets a lot of sun, it will be prone to yellowing. My kitchen is fairly dark, with one window so epoxy is not a problem. For chipping, this is less common but easy to fix. Typically its just the clear top coat on the very edge that may chip, so its not super noticeable. Fixing these are easy but I havent had any chipping yet. If mine ever chips, Ill create a post about how to fix it and link it here.