Hardwood flooring makes a gorgeous feature in any home, and while it doesn’t need quite as much maintenance as carpet, it does need touching up every once in a while. One of the best ways to do this is to apply a protective surface layer.
Epoxy is used in many industries to provide a durable outer shell. It’s used to coat surfboards so they don’t disintegrate as soon as they get dinged.
It’s the ingredient in floor paint that enables it to withstand such heavy traffic without chipping or fading. It seems like the perfect substance to use on your hardwood floors, but should you?
Yes and no. Epoxy can indeed be used to give your boards a protective surface layer. It’s often used to seal wooden furniture, protecting it from moisture, and it can do the exact same thing for your lovely hardwood floors, but it’s not a perfect solution.
Epoxy won’t damage the wood, but there are a few ways it can go wrong. For instance, wood has a moisture content that grows and shrinks according to the temperature.
When this moisture is trapped, it tries to force its way out and can cause blistering in the epoxy. Another thing to be mindful of is that wood expands and contracts, slowly loosening the epoxy bond until there’s a chance it may crack underfoot.
What Kind of Epoxy Should I Use on Wood?
There are literally tons of epoxy products available at the minute for all kinds of different applications, so if you’ve decided that an epoxy coating is the best course of action, you’re going to need a product designed specifically for use on wooden surfaces.
Assuming you like the look of your wood, you need a translucent epoxy resin. Many epoxy resins are pigmented for use as paint, so make sure you pick up a clear one from the store.
Next, you’ll need to consider the advised pour depth. Deep pour epoxy is designed to fill large gaps and if it’s poured too thinly, say, for coating, it won’t cure properly, so for wood, a shallow pour depth is best.
The next important thing to consider is the speed at which an epoxy sets and cures. Slow-set epoxies tend to cure stronger than fast-acting resins. They also allow more air to pass out from the core object before drying which can reduce the chance of blistering.
Slow epoxy needs warm temperatures to cure. Fast-setting epoxy is often used in colder environments as it doesn’t require high temperatures for its bonds to fully form.
Finally, you’ll need to think about viscosity and PSI strength. For coating wood, epoxy with a low viscosity is required, and the stronger it gets, the better.
Check out a couple of our favorite epoxies for wood below:
Is Epoxy Flooring Flexible?
Despite sharing things in common with polyurethane, a very flexible and springy substance, Epoxy is more of a tensile, hard substance when fully cured. Even if you choose a weaker PSI epoxy, it doesn’t mean it will have more flex; it simply won’t have the tensile strength of higher PSI resins.
This inability to roll with the punches and effectively breath with the surface is what causes cracks in epoxy. That’s not to say it’s always going to crack.
We’re sure there’s probably some Florida retiree out there who epoxied their deck once a few decades ago and after god knows how many hurricanes, there isn’t a scratch on it.
When epoxy does finally crack or chip, it never stops just there. The dam has burst so to speak. The cracks will inch their way across the room, and the chip will become a crater.
What a lot of people don’t realize is that epoxy is a temporary fix. Instead of flexing under pressure, it meets that pressure head-on and eventually wears down. As soon as it has been compromised, it will need resealing.
Can You Put Epoxy on Plywood Floor?
While there are plenty of high-quality epoxies available that are designed for use on plywood exclusively, it’s not a great idea to try and laminate plywood flooring.
Hardwood isn’t exactly prime for the job either, but it’s theoretically tensile enough to work somewhat harmoniously with an epoxy coating.
Plywood does a fair bit of dancing as it reacts to changing temperatures, more so than hardwoods. All this movement combined with its weaker construction proves a little too much for epoxy resins to cope with.
They might hold in there a little while, but it won’t be long before the cracks start to show and your floor starts peeling away.
That said, there are methods of producing incredibly dense and tensile plywood, and some of these high-quality materials probably can be coated with the right epoxy to some effect, but if you’re unsure of the strength of your plywood flooring, it’s not worth trying.
You’re better off layering a more appropriate substrate such as ceramic or Formica over your plywood flooring and coating that with epoxy instead.
How Do You Apply Epoxy to Wood Floors?
Before you even think about picking up a brush or a roller, you need to mix the epoxy resin with the hardener. When these substances mingle in your stirring bucket, they’ll develop a cloudy, almost milky appearance.
You have to mix them for normally around five minutes before clarity returns, but always check the instructions on the containers beforehand to make sure you’re doing everything correctly.
Now’s the time to pick your equipment. You can use a large traditional bristle brush if you like, but they can make it difficult to achieve an even finish. Moreover, bristles may come loose during lamination, and it might be too late to remove them when you finally notice.
For a small room, we’d suggest opting for a large foam brush as these facilitate a much smoother and even application. If you’ve got some serious ground to cover, why not use a large foam roller instead?
Start at the far corner by pouring out some epoxy straight from the bucket, then use the brush or roller to spread the resin equally across the flooring. Continue, working backward towards the threshold. When the first coat is dry, sand it, hoover it, then repeat the process.
Will Epoxy Stick to Wood?
Some epoxy resin will stick to wood and some won’t. All-in-one DIY epoxy kits are becoming quite common these days, but it’s a good idea to avoid these. The included epoxy tends to be of fairly poor quality and often fails to adhere to a wooden surface.
Even high-quality epoxy resins that seem to have a decent hold on a wooden surface probably haven’t adhered as they’re supposed to, which will lead to shifting, wearing, and peeling.
The thinner the resin you use, the more chance it has of penetrating pores and keying into the surface, but it probably still won’t be enough if you want it to last.
Epoxy glue, on the other hand, can be a very effective tool for woodworking. Generous application in the joints of a wooden structure should hold fast for a really long time, and as it can be sanded and drilled when fully cured, it doesn’t inhibit further tinkering.
Don’t give up hope on epoxy resins for coating just yet, though, as there are a few steps you can take to boost the bond that epoxy forms on your wooden surface.
How Do You Prepare Wood for Epoxy?
The number one reason an epoxy coating won’t go as planned is poor surface preparation, so it’s essential that you do everything you can to encourage the bonding process.
As mentioned above, thin epoxy is great at filling in the pores on a wooden surface to find a good hold, but most wooden items don’t have all that many blemishes. To combat this perfectionism, you need to manually create more footholds for the epoxy to burrow into.
You can do this by giving the surface a once over with some fine sandpaper. Don’t use anything too abrasive as it will damage the wood. All you’re trying to do is create a bit of light texturing and wear any slippery glossy finishes.
If your surface is naturally oily wood like ipe or teak, you can strip the fine oily outer layer using acetone and cloths or paper towels.
Once you’ve sanded your surface, it’s time to clean it up. Removing all residual debris and contaminants is essential as they can cause blisters and reticulation.
Now you’re almost ready to apply your first coat, but before you do, you need to ensure that the epoxy is round-about the same temperature as the wood to prevent out-gassing. A mutual temperature of 18°C is normally the sweet spot.
How Do You Seal Wood Before Epoxy?
As wood is a porous material, it needs to be sealed before you apply epoxy, otherwise, the wood will absorb part of the epoxy before it cures. This is especially pertinent if you’re using epoxy paint, as it will visibly bleed into the wood, ruining your crisp lines.
To seal your wood in preparation for a clear coat, you’ll need to brush on a layer of sanding sealer. This substance doesn’t change the appearance of the wood, nor does it bleed into it. Once it’s dried, give it a light sanding, then you’re clear to apply your first epoxy coat.
Here’s one of our favorite affordable sanding sealers:
If you’re applying epoxy paints to a wooden surface, you can use a standard epoxy primer. Epoxy primer is the perfect substance to enhance the chemical bond between your epoxy and the wood.
Epoxy primers for wood are normally acrylic latex concoctions, but you can also use a polyurethane layer to increase adhesion.
Epoxy primer should be applied as evenly as possible with foam brushes or rollers and will normally take a minimum of three hours to dry. Now, at long last, you can begin applying your first coat of epoxy.
Check out our favorite epoxy primer here: