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My basement work bench which will double as a relading bench is surfaced with 1" high density fiberboard...you know, the stuff that you really, really have to struggle with to get in the back of your pickup at Home Depot because it's freaking dense as steel practically.

Anyway I'm thinking this was not the best choice for the top of a bench. Sure it looks cool, but every once in a while it will get damp from whatever being done on it and that stuff is NOT resistant to water.

I'm thinking about painting it with an epoxy or a "Machine and Deck Enamel" as the local paint store calls it. Is this a good or a bad idea?
 

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Put a sacrificial top layer - say a piece of 1/4 - on it.

Put a sacrificial top layer - say a piece of 1/4 - on it.

Rather than building a perfect bench top put a sacrificial layer on top to deal with all the possible solvents, bullet casting burns and what have you then replace the sacrificial top from time to time.
 

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No matter what, if anything, you put on the top of the bench, some sort of finish is not a bad idea. I used Varathane polyurethane, which seals the surface well, but isn't resistant to some solvents that have been spilled on it.

Epoxy paint will probably work well. Acetone might be bad for it, but otherwise it should be pretty tough.
 

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There are different types of HDF and MDF out there. The better stuff is somewhat, to even highly, moisture resistant. The cheap stuff will swell up and become worthless at the slightest hint of moisture. It all depends on the base "glue" used to hold it all together and how it will react with any liquid it may come into contact with. Whatever paint/sealer you use, always test on a small scrap first.

If it's in your basement, you may even want to consider painting/sealing the entire piece of HDF (top, bottom, and all sides) - that's typically what "they" recommend when using it in any kind of higher than normal moisture area, like a bathroom.

If you just sealed the top, the HDF/MDF could absorb moisture from the air through the unpainted/unsealed sides and/or bottom and eventually swell/fail.

If you're really hard on the work surface, you could put an overlay on it - vinyl tile squares, scrap of linoleum, piece of lauan plywood, or whatever - in any areas you want to minimize damage to the actual structural bench top.
 

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Do paint it with something. If it gets marked up, just sand it off and paint it again. The first time you have a solvent spill on the raw top will be a few seconds past your last opportunity to paint it and have it adhere. Don't wait. If you're worried about solvent resistance of the finish, try a test piece. I know it sounds like a pain, but it might be worth it. In my experience (I own a cabinet shop), regular old oil based polyurethane varnish will be the most chemical resistant finish you can find in a one-part product. There are more sophisticated finishes out there, but they are costly and difficult to apply.

Coating both sides is not a bad idea, but the edges are even more important. If you have the patience, do both.
 

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You might check a cabinet shop and see if they have a top that was cut to the wrong size or has some error. I have mine covered in butcher block and it looks great and is very easy to clean up.
 

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I glued down masonite on mine with PL2000 construction adhesive and then urethaned the whole thing, so far, working excellent!


John
 

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on my main bench

It's carpeted, using a commercial-grade low-pile choice.
Over that I lay a 'Bench Mat', like the kind with logos on them (or that you buy from Midway or Brownells).
 

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One of my work benches I put about 10 HEAVY coats of polyurethane on it and the other I painted with rustoleum paint. Either works good.
If you go the poly route pour it on and just smoothe it out with a brush. You want it thick.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
One of my work benches I put about 10 HEAVY coats of polyurethane on it and the other I painted with rustoleum paint. Either works good.
If you go the poly route pour it on and just smoothe it out with a brush. You want it thick.
10 coats? Heck with that much it could double as a "safe direction". :biglaugh:
 

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10 coats? Heck with that much it could double as a "safe direction". :biglaugh:
LOL it about is.

When I was building it everytime I went to the basement I would pour more poly on it. I would figure I was done with it but if I was down there again for a few minutes I would pour on another layer. There is way more on there than I first planned but I am glad its there now.
 

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I go with the polyurethane guys. I put a coat of sanding sealer before putting the 3 or 4 coats of poly on my workbenches. Coat all sides including the sides and undersides. I have had many different fluids spilled on them and the coats are still good. I always wiped up the spill fairly quickly, but not immediately, if you know what I mean.:)
 

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Find someone who did a Pergo floor and offer to pick up his scraps. Piece them together on your benchtop, trim out he edges with molding of your liking and you have a faux handlaid hard wood surface. I have done a couple of benchtops this way - looks great and durable.
 

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Yes, seal it up. Moisture kills that stuff.

I prefer buying a piece of pre-formed kitchen countertop. They have that nice backsplash that prevents small parts from rolling off the back of the bench. And that formica seems impervious to most chemicals.

If cash is short, find someone replacing their kitchen counters due to remodel. Often you can get the old counter intact and while it might be worn/stained, still works fine for a workbench.

Big Al
 

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Clark's advice seems to make the most sense to me.
 

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I glued down masonite on mine with PL2000 construction adhesive and then urethaned the whole thing, so far, working excellent!


John
+1 except I didn't urethane mine and used Liquid Nails - masonite will hold up to spills and stuff as long as you don't let it sit overnight.
 

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I have some experience with this stuff, use water based poly sand lightly and apply 5 coats to be sure to sand between coats, water based poly sets up faster and has very little smell it does raise the grain a little and it needs to be sanded, it will feel like you screwed upon the first coat, but just sand it smooth, and apply the next coat, and it will not raise so badly on the remaining coats, and will give a nice smooth finish thats almost lasts forever!
I use a plastic grey cutting guide you can get from sewing centers, those babies can stand a lot of abuse, and come in a lot of sizes and can be cut to fit. If your scared to go in a sewing center have your wife pick one up, I do!:biglaugh::biglaugh:
 
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