With mesmerizing posts all over Instagram and Pinterest, I recently started getting more into using epoxy while woodworking. Once of the first things I noticed was the absurd price of epoxy tables. At first this seemed odd, but if you’re like me and looked into making your own, you realize how quickly it can add up.
How much does it actually cost to make your own epoxy river table? Well, depending on the size of the table, it can run you anywhere from $50 all the way to $2000. Most coffee or end tables will cost within the $50-$200 range, a desk will be roughly $200-$500, while most dining tables are going to be $500+.
Obviously, this is a huge range of financial cost, and money is only part of it. Before building your own you want to run through all the factors in order to know if building is right for you.
The Total Cost and Fluctuating Variable
First, you want to ask yourself a LOT of questions, then I will try to tackle those to the best of my ability below. You should be able to walk away from this article with a fairly accurate price of what your river table will cost. First, is this is a dining room table, coffee table, end table? How much epoxy do you need? (if you don’t know, don’t worry, we can figure that out down the article) Do you have a local wood supplier? What tools do you have? Finally, how much time do you have?
Cost of the Wood
The most noticeable (and hardest to find) piece of this puzzle, is the cost of the wood. If you have a supplier, and already know what type of wood you are going to pick, awesome! You will realize that this cost is going to run about $30-$90 for a coffee table-sized board. For a larger dining-sized slab of wood, I would set aside at least $150, but unless you have a local hookup or want a nice type of wood, expect to pay up to $1000 for a good, solid board.
Cost of the Epoxy
This may come as a shock if you haven’t already done your research, but epoxy is very likely to be your largest, at least second largest, expense when making a river table. Although there is some cheaper epoxy available, you are looking to spend at least $50-$80 for a 1 Gallon (3.8L) of epoxy. Once you calculate how much epoxy you need, this could quickly add up to several hundred dollars. The coloring for the epoxy can be bought very affordably and is almost a negligible factor (don’t pay more than $20 for a good amount). Check out my recommended epoxy here.
Cost of the Tools
Honestly, this is an area that is going to be super fluctuating. Maybe you already have a lot of it, or maybe you don’t own any tools. If you own about 0 tools, you might be looking at spending $200 for the essentials in order to make it happen. If you have some spare plywood, two-by-four’s, a circular saw, a drill, and a sander, you might be okay with just purchasing some tape or HDPE that it won’t stick to for the mold. This could make it as affordable as $20.
Cost of Your Time
This is going to depend a little bit – but overall you need to recognize that epoxy resin is not a quick task. Many of the larger table makers will allow 7 days just to let the table cure. If you are doing this at home, chances are you are going to need close to a day just to prep the space and wood (assuming you already have the right tools). My first river project (a tiny end table) took roughly 3 hours to prep and then all day and night to pour because I didn’t know how to pick out an epoxy. So, plan for a week once you have everything, but know that only about 3-10 hours will actually be working on either end of letting it cure.
Cost Impact of a Botched Project?
Before you begin, I hope you made it to this article. Know that your first project will never be your best. Before you purchase a couple 8ft boards and 30L of epoxy, consider doing a much smaller project first to practice. As I mentioned, my first project was a tiny (10″) end table. Why? Because I knew I wanted to make dining tables and desks, but wanted to see all the variables ahead of time. With limited in-depth resources out there for first-time river tables, but unlimited mesmerizing videos, do your due diligence in order to make sure you don’t wast several hundred (or thousand) dollars.
Basically, try doing a small (but worthwhile) project first, and then move on to the larger stuff. I promise you won’t regret having the experience, it is a minimal cost, and it makes for a nice Christmas gift.
Cost Impact of my Location
Don’t forget to think about cost of your location. Someone in Pennsylvania or Minnesota (or especially Canada) may decrease the cost of your wood. Wood is easier to find outside of large cities but in a largely wooded area.
If you are living somewhere like California or Florida, it is most likely going to be hard and more expensive to get a local person for your wood slabs. In this case turn to the internet and look at retailers on Ebay and Etsy. This could open up a lot more options. Another option is to rent a truck (or make a friend with one!) and take a day trip to an area where you can find cheaper slabs. Of course, this is only worth it if you are able to save enough to make it worth the gas and time.
What Happens if I Can’t Afford It?
Don’t start a project until you know you can afford all the necessary parts. There would be nothing more annoying than purchasing a wood slab and realizing you don’t have enough for the epoxy. Do all your research, know what you want, and then make all the purchases at once.
On the flip side of this – maybe you don’t need to do this on a quick time crunch. If you have time, I would suggest slowly acquiring tools first – these are the easiest and cheapest part and you can find a lot of what you need on clearance or used online. Once you have enough tools, you can buy a nice slab of wood when you find one. Measure and cut the slab before even getting the epoxy, once it’s in the mold and ready to pour you’ll be able to figure out the amount of epoxy needed VERY close to the exact amount. This could actually save you money on the epoxy big time instead of estimating ahead of time.
Finally – consider doing a smaller project. Sure, you want that dining room table that people gawk over, but having a nice coffee table is just as elegant and can be made much more cost effectively. You may even be able to upsell it and use the earnings to get a dining table made.
Is it Ever Worth Buying a Pre-Made River Table?
Absolutely!! There are some incredibly talented woodworkers out there who specialize in epoxy tables. If you want a custom piece, or don’t have the space to DIY, why not pay professionals? They will almost always be able to create something that is superior to a garage or basement table, and in a timelier manner. Maybe you need a conference table for your office? Going through a professional company could actually be affordable considering they are able to buy wood and epoxy in bulk – making large amounts like that cheaper for them.
Definitely consider looking at a few professional workers – they can at least cause you to have a massive inspiration. In short, there isn’t a right way of doing this, but depending on your goals, money, time, creative ability, and tons of other things, there is going to be a best way for your personal project. For more information on buying a table pre-made – check out my post here.