Phenolic Resin vs. Epoxy Resin Countertops

Selecting furniture for a lab does not just mean choosing the items that appeal most to your aesthetic sensibilities or those pieces that fit in your budget. The job of furnishing a lab requires you to pay close attention to every detail of your selections, and one of the most important details will always be work-surface material. 

Countertops can be made in a variety of ways and with a variety of materials, each with their own unique set of advantages and disadvantages. The specifics of your worksurface needs will depend heavily on the work being done in your facility, and it is important to consider all potential hazards when making your selections. 

Choosing the wrong surface material can result in damage, dangerous working conditions, and even injury, so it is always worth taking the extra time to educate yourself on the available options. 

At OnePointe Solutions, we work closely with our customers to help them determine which worksurface materials will be best suited for their needs. In this process, we encounter a lot of questions regarding the basic differences between particular materials in order to determine which is most appropriate for a given situation. 

Here, we have compiled all the information you need to know about two of the materials we offer: phenolic resin and epoxy resin. 

Phenolic and epoxy resin are two of our most popular material options and are also some of the most versatile. Although the two sound alike, phenolic and epoxy resins have distinct differences that could sway the decision as to which you should choose one way or the other. 

Here, we have compiled everything you need to know about both phenolic resin and epoxy resin so you can easily compare the two and determine which will be best for your project.

What is Phenolic Resin? 

Phenolic resin is a super-solid product manufactured by layering fibers (like layers of kraft paper) that have been saturated in resin. Once the layers have been stacked, phenolic resin countertops are cured using a heat-intensive process and high pressure that creates a solid finished product. 

The layering process prior to curing helps to give phenolic resin immense tensile strength, and being able to cut fibers or sheets of paper too size makes phenolic resin versatile and super customizable.

Key Properties of Phenolic Resin

Compared to epoxy resin, phenolic resin is a relatively new offering by many manufacturers, since epoxy was considered the old standby for decades. Phenolic resin is considered by many to be a more affordable alternative to epoxy resin, though it does not possess all of the epoxy’s strength, resistance, and durability. 

Nevertheless, phenolic resin has become a popular option in medium-duty applications and features a number of properties that make it the ideal choice for labs in a wide variety of industries. Some key properties of phenolic resin include: 

  • Non-porous surface
  • Resistance to fungal and bacterial growth
  • Easy to clean
  • Resistance to most common chemicals and solvents
  • Heat resistance up to 350 F
  • Water/moisture resistance
  • Lightweight
  • Inexpensive (as compared to similar materials) 

Cleaning Phenolic Resin

Among the many advantages of choosing phenolic resin for your lab countertops, how easy it is to clean this material is among the top. Lab designers are always looking for ways to make their spaces more efficient, so selecting a material that allows for fast and effective cleanup is a natural choice. 

Although phenolic resin is susceptible to scratching and dulling with continued use, with proper care and cleaning, your countertops can be kept shiny and new for years. 

Here are a few tips for successfully cleaning and caring for your phenolic resin countertops: 

  • Phenolic resin countertops should be cleaned daily using a simple non-abrasive cleaning agent and a soft cloth or chamois for buffing
  • Should a spill occur, wipe up any residue immediately using only soft, non-abrasive materials like a cloth or paper towel
  • Remove stubborn stains by applying a mixture of gentle detergent (dish soap) and water, then leave the mixture overnight. Wipe and buff with a gentle scouring pad the next day and carefully dry with a soft cloth or chamois
  • Remove caked-on residue with a blunt spatula, preferably made from wood or plastic
  • For minor scuffs and scratches (i.e. from dragging heavy objects across your countertops) use a soft cloth to buff the surface. Use soap and water for additional resurfacing
  • To restore shine after a surface has been buffed, add a small amount of finishing oil (like Murphy’s Oil) and buff with a chamois

Preventing Damage

Although phenolic resin is relatively easy to clean and care for, you should also be taking preventive measures to avoid needing to address problems in the first place. Phenolic resin is a fairly durable material, but there are still a few key things you can do to avoid creating damage or accidentally destroying the surface of your phenolic resin countertops. 

  • Do not use sharp objects to cut, smash, crush, or otherwise manipulate samples/items on the bare surface of the counter
  • Avoid all abrasive cleaning tools to prevent scratching, pitting, and dulling of the surface. Abrasives to avoid include but are not limited to: steel wool, baking soda, bleach solutions, oven cleaners, etc.
  • Do not apply finishes waxes or finishing products that contain wax 
  • Do not expose phenolic resin to extremely high temperatures or open flame, and avoid placing hot items directly onto the surface wherever possible. Similarly, extremely cold items like liquid nitrogen may cause damage to the surface of your countertops

Advantages of Phenolic Resin

To review, here are the basic advantages of phenolic resin:

  • Non-porous, nonabsorbent surface (ideal for use around sinks, in wet labs, etc)
  • Easy to customize/modify
  • Easy to clean
  • Tolerant of moderate-high temperatures up to 350 F
  • Lightweight and easy to move
  • Less expensive than similar/comparable options

Disadvantages of Phenolic Resin

To review, here are the basic disadvantages of phenolic resin: 

  • Not tolerant of open flame or thermic shock
  • Moderate corrosion resistance but may not be suitable for use near caustic chemicals
  • Can be susceptible to scratching
  • Cannot be exposed to UV rays or direct sunlight for extended periods

Applications of Phenolic Resin Countertops

Phenolic resin is an excellent option in labs and facilities that require a high degree of water and corrosion resistance without the intensive durability of epoxy resin. Phenolic resin is budget-friendly, versatile, and inexpensive to customize and ship, making it ideal for many smaller operations. 

In general, phenolic resin countertops are ideal in medium to moderately heavy-duty applications. Common applications of phenolic resin include: 

  • Classrooms and educational settings
  • Industrial processing 
  • R&D labs
  • Medical and dental facilities (i.e. pharmaceutical labs, dental manufacturing plants, etc.)
  • Radiology labs
  • Cannabis and food testing

What is Epoxy Resin? 

Epoxy resin is made from a mixture of materials and fillers. In addition to the resin component of epoxy resin, fillers like silica, metal, and glass may be added for additional strength.

Epoxy resin countertops are cast in thin layers one by one, and the thermoset process used to cure each layer preps the material for enhanced heat resistance. Fillers can be added according to the needs of individual customers, and since epoxy resin countertops are poured and cured layer by layer, they can be made virtually any size or thickness. 

Key Properties of Epoxy Resin

Epoxy resin is one of the most durable worksurface materials available and has long been considered a point of reference for material resistance and tensile strength, since epoxy resin is highly resistant to heat, corrosive chemicals, scratching, moisture, and so forth. Because of its incredible durability, epoxy resin has commonly been used in heavy-duty applications, for example in industrial facilities and high-traffic healthcare facilities. 

Some of the key properties of epoxy resin include: 

  • Non-porous surface
  • Resistance to fungal and bacterial growth
  • Easy to clean
  • Resistant to most corrosive and common chemicals and solvents
  • Highly tolerant of continued high-heat exposure including open flames and temperatures above 350 F
  • Water/moisture resistance
  • Scratch and scuff resistance
  • Tolerant of heavy impact

Cleaning Epoxy Resin

Like phenolic resin, epoxy resin is super easy to clean, making it ideal in environments where daily cleanings are required. Epoxy resin is not only fast and easy to clean, but also easy to maintain, and will remain looking practically new for years with only minimal effort on the part of lab staff. 

  • Epoxy resin countertops should be cleaned daily using mild soap/detergent and water applied with a soft cloth. Other gentle cleansers like a 50% vinegar/water solution can also be used. 
  • Should a spill occur, wipe up any residue immediately using only soft, non-abrasive materials like a cloth or paper towel
  • Remove stubborn and caked-on stains/residue by soaking them overnight in a solution of soap and water or other gentle cleaning materials
  • Stains and residue that do not come off with an overnight soak in soap and water may require a small amount of acetone or buffing with a light-duty sponge or Scotchbrite pad (soaked, never dry)
  • For minor scuffs and scratches (i.e. from dragging heavy objects across your countertops) use a soft cloth to buff the surface. Use soap and water for additional resurfacing
  • To restore shine after a surface has been buffed, add a small amount of finishing oil (like Murphy’s Oil) and buff with a chamois

Preventing Damage

Although epoxy resin is extremely durable and considered one of the most impact, corrosion, and moisture resistant surface materials available, it is still possible to cause damage if you are not paying attention. While many of the measures we recommend for avoiding causing damage to your epoxy resin countertops are relatively intuitive, it is important to have a full understanding of the appropriate ways to treat your furniture for improved longevity. 

  • Avoid using sharp objects and tools directly on the countertop (i.e. for food prep, protect the countertops using a cutting board) 
  • Avoid all abrasive cleaning tools to prevent scratching, pitting, and dulling of the surface. Abrasives to avoid include but are not limited to: steel wool, baking soda, bleach solutions, oven cleaners, etc.
  • Do not apply finishes waxes or finishing products that contain wax 
  • Do not use rubbing alcohol on or around epoxy resin surfaces
  • Keep UV ray exposure to a minimum

Advantages of Epoxy Resin

To review, here are the basic advantages of epoxy resin:

  • Non-porous, nonabsorbent surface (ideal for use around sinks, in wet labs, etc)
  • Easy to customize
  • Advanced chemical resistance, including to corrosive/caustic chemicals like: 
    • Acetic acid
    • Isopropyl alcohol
    • Aluminum sulfate
    • Ammonia
    • Carbon tetrachloride
    • Copper nitrate
    • Jet fuel
    • Kerosene
    • Sulfuric acid
  • High-scratch resistance
  • Easy to clean
  • Tolerant of high-heat and open flame
  • Extreme durability and low cost of care

Disadvantages of Epoxy Resin

To review, here are the basic disadvantages of epoxy resin: 

  • Extremely heavy and therefore expensive to ship/move
  • Installation may require more experience/technique
  • Cannot be exposed to UV rays or direct sunlight for extended periods

Applications of Epoxy Resin Countertops

Epoxy resin is able to withstand high impact, temperatures, moisture/humidity levels, and more, making it ideal for heavy-duty applications of all kinds. Epoxy resin countertops are appropriate in all the applications listed above for phenolic resin, and in applications requiring an increased resistance to heat, corrosion, impact, etc. 

Some more common applications of epoxy resin countertops include: 

  • Industrial food processing/manufacturing
  • Chemical processing/refinery labs
  • Clinics and medical facilities
  • Veterinary labs/clinics

Comparing Phenolic and Epoxy Resin

Because phenolic and epoxy resins are, at first glance, fairly similar, many of our clients are unsure which material will be best for their specific needs. Despite being quite similar, each of these surface materials have unique properties that make them better suited for certain tasks, and understanding how they stack up can help you to make the best choice for your facility. 

Here are just some of the factors you should consider when choosing countertop materials for your lab, and how both phenolic and epoxy resins measure up to each of these areas. 

Bacterial Resistance

Both phenolic and epoxy resins are non-porous, helping to aid in their bacterial and fungal resistance. Porous surfaces have small grooves, peaks, and valleys that trap and collect bacteria and germs that may then begin to grow. 

Because porous surfaces are uneven, it can be difficult to efficiently clean them, resulting in residual bacterial buildup and the potential for cross-contamination of samples. Both phenolic resin and epoxy resin are highly resistant to bacterial growth and super easy to clean, so both can be equally good options in cleanrooms, pharmaceuticals, and other facilities requiring careful sanitation. 

Chemical Resistance

Phenolic resin is resistant to many common cleaners and chemicals, but may not be able to withstand the same exposure to highly corrosive chemicals as epoxy resin. If your facility handles a large volume of caustic chemicals, epoxy resin is the way to go, but phenolic resin will make a fine replacement for most moderate applications. 

Cost

Epoxy resin is heavy and extremely dense, making it fairly expensive to ship and install. Despite a high initial cost, epoxy resin can last for decades with only minimal care and costs less over its lifetime to maintain. 

Phenolic resin is lightweight and easier to ship, making it more cost-effective to purchase initially. Depending on the nature of the work being done in your facility, each of these options could end up saving you money in the end. 

For heavy-duty applications, epoxy resin will be the most affordable option, since it will not require replacing or repair nearly as quickly as phenolic. For moderate-duty applications, phenolic resin is the most affordable choice and can also last for decades in the proper environment. 

Heat Resistance

If heat is your concern, there is only one way to go, and that is with epoxy resin. Phenolic resin can handle moderate temperatures under 350 F, but beyond this point, the surface can begin to warp, pit, and burn. 

Epoxy resin can withstand extreme temperatures and even open flame without displaying any signs of distress or damage, making epoxy the ideal choice for high-heat applications. 

Impact Resistance

Both phenolic resin and epoxy resin possess immense tensile strength, but when it comes to impact resistance, it is hard to beat epoxy resin. The thermoset process used to cure epoxy resin helps to give the material its signature super-hard finish, helping to give it a reputation for immense strength and impact resistance. 

In heavy-duty applications like manufacturing and commercial testing, epoxy resin is able to hold up against continued stress and strain without breaking, cracking, splitting, splintering, warping, or showing other signs of distress. 

Material Weight

The question of material weight comes into play during the shipping and installation process. Heavier materials cost more to ship and can be more costly to install, thorough they are often stronger and last longer than their lighter counterparts. Epoxy resin is extremely heavy and dense and does in fact cost more to ship that phenolic resin. 

If you need a heavy-duty countertop with incredible impact, corrosion, heat, and moisture resistance and do not mind paying a little extra, epoxy resin is the way to go. If you are looking for a more affordable option, or simply do not need the intense strength of epoxy, phenolic resin is the more affordable, equally awesome option. 

Moisture Resistance

Both phenolic and epoxy resins are commonly used in high-moisture applications, for example as countertops around sinks or in food processing facilities. The nonporous surface of both of these materials helps to prevent water and moisture from sinking into the surface and causing warping or splintering, and both materials are well up to the task of keeping damaging moisture droplets at bay. 

Lab Countertops and Workbenches

Choosing your worksurface materials is not the only choice you will make while designing your lab, but it is one of the most important ones. Choosing the right materials means helping lab personnel to work safely and efficiently, and can also help to keep your facility running smoothly and without mishap. 

Beyond choosing the right countertops, you will need to choose the appropriate types of workbenches, counters, and lab tables for your facility, which is where OnePointe Solutions comes in. 

Our team has personally had a hand in the design of countless lab furniture solutions, and have worked closely with our clients over the years to develop innovative answers to some of the industry’s most pressing problems. Key to our success as one of the premier providers of lab furniture and equipment is our commitment to personalization, and we work with each and every client to determine their exact needs and preferences. 

Custom Design

When you contact OnePointe Solutions for your lab design needs, our team will make a personal visit to your facility in order to fully understand the scope of your project. Together with your team, our designers will create a unique solution that perfectly fits your space complete with custom 3D renderings (which we offer free of charge) and a comprehensive quote detailing how we would proceed with your project. 

As you work with our team to design your ideal solution, you will be able to choose from tons of workbench, table, and counter configurations. We can build counters to fit in virtually any space, and can even add custom add-on accessories for additional storage, comfort, or convenience.

Need Epoxy or Phenolic Resin Countertops for Your Lab?

Call us today at (866) 222-7494 to get speak to one of our sales representatives to get started.

Questions? Concerns? Want to start today? Get in touch. 866.612.7312

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