Epoxy Indoors?

My friend just gave me a word of caution about epoxy and it stinking up my place.  I was planning on working on a kayak in my basement this winter, but now I'm a little bit concerned.

 Would it be ok to do epoxy work in my basement?  What precautions should I take?  I can easily vent out the basement windows.

 -- jaydillyo 


12 replies:

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RE: Epoxy Indoors?

Jaydillyo,

If you can vent the windows well, you should be ok.  But, I'd wear a chemical respirator when working with larger quantities (like glassing the hull / deck)..., the fumes in my garage got to me when working up close for extended periods (took almost 3 hours to glass the hull).  You might get a hint of the fumes up in the house, depending on your insulation/build but a good fan in front of a basement window should exhaust most of the smell.

My 2¢, FWIW.  YMMV;

Good luck,

Larry

RE: Epoxy Indoors?

The epoxies we use for boatbuilding have very low volatility. That is, they don't give off a lot of fumes. The MAS epoxies produce very little odor. You should use a respirator when applying them anyway, just to be on the safe side. My shop is a basement garage. I found the only epoxy that smells at all bad is the five-minute kind, and even that does not smell up the house. -Wes

RE: Epoxy Indoors?

It's not the stink, it's the health hazards.Even though they don't give off the styrene stink of polyester resins, epoxy resins and hardeners still outgas a fair bit. Especially the hardeners. Personally, I can tell the difference between epoxy brands by their odors.

The gases can cause respiratory irritation, sinus headaches and eye irritation in some people (I'm one of them). Long term exposure can set up an allergic reaction. And the jury is still out on the bisphenols.

If I was using it in a closed area like a basement, I would definitiely use the fans and respirator that the guys are talking about. I use a respirator in a 2-car garage with the door wide open.

You'll also get low levels of fumes up in the house. Depending on the ventilation up there, they might accumulate enough to bother a sensitive person. So be on the lookout for unexplained headaches and hay fever like symptoms in the family.

Laszlo

 

RE: Epoxy Indoors?

Thanks for the responses.  I think I have a plan now.  I'm going to do my best to seal the work area in the basement so the fumes don't get to the other parts of the house.  I'll also be ventilating out the windows with fans.  On top of that I'll be wearing a respirator.  Hopefully this will take care of things.

 How long does the epoxy continue to outgas?  Does it stop after the epoxy has cured?

 -- jaydillyo 

RE: Epoxy Indoors?

Yes. After a full cure all the components have crosslinked and there's no gas. To be absolutely sure, wash the epoxy down with water and a scotchbrite to get rid of any blush, too. Once the blush is gone and the epoxy fully cured, it's inert.

Again, the degree of reaction will vary from individual to individual. If you're senitive and sensitized, the respiratory and allergic reactions can be hell. If you're not, then you;ll never notice anything. The problem is, you only find out after the fact which type of person you are. I know that I'm on the sensitive end of the scale, but with the proper precautions I've been using epoxy for most of a decade with no real problems. So don't be afraid, just prepared, and enjoy building your boat.

Laszlo

 

RE: Epoxy Indoors?

One more question.  I was talking to someone at Home Depot about ventilation.  They brought up the explosive properties of epoxy fumes.  This is the first that I have heard of this.  How much of a concern is this?  I'll be using MAS epoxy that comes with the kit.  This concerns me because I have both my furnace and gas hot water heater in the basement as well.

As far as ventilation, I'm thinking that I don't have enough in my basement.  I only have 2 glass block windows with the small vents in them.  I'm beginning to think I might be better off working in my garage and using work lamps to provide some heat so the epoxy cures.

This is the problem with living up in areas that have a real winter.  This is the kind of window vent that I have:  http://www.ehow.com/how_5128896_order-glass-block-basement-windows.html 

-- jaydillyo

RE: Epoxy Indoors?

Jay,

Don't know what the heck he was talking about. According to System 3's MSDS, the flash point for their epoxy is over 300 degrees F, which would indicate to me that its vapors are not that flammable.

For that matter, if the fumes were that flammable, every one of us who's had a container of epoxy go exothermic would have seen an explosion. Maybe he's talking about some other epoxy, a formulation with lots of solvents in it.

I use my garage & heat lamps, too.

Laszlo

RE: Epoxy Indoors?

Lazlo, 

Would you mind linking me to the kind of lamps you use?  I appreciate all of the help.  I'm sure I'll be bugging you over on the other boat building forum when I get to my boat.  :)

 -- jaydillyo 

RE: Epoxy Indoors?

I realize that CLC supplies MAS epoxies with its kits, so most people here are probably using their products.  I used West System on mine and have no experience with MAS ... and I certainly don't want to start a debate on the relative merits of the two.  I note that MAS sells a fast hardener and their web site discusses the feasibility of mixing hardeners to modify cure times.  It also mentions that pot time doubles for every 18 degree F decrease in temperature below 77 F.  Those of you with the product and product specs in your hands probably have more precise guidelines.  In any case, I notice MAS has a tech support phone number and e-mail address.

In the case of West, the fast hardener can be used down to 40 F; however the cured epoxy isn't as clear has the result one gets with their slow hardener ... and if the hardeners sit around on the shelf in humid conditions, they slowly become more and more tinted.

I mention all of this to suggest that regardless of the epoxy brand you're using, you should be able to work in your garage in fairly cool conditions by using the appropriate fast hardener for the brand of epoxy you are using.  If you do that, you can remove your epoxy projects -- or at least large ones which are likely to cause the greatest problem -- from your basement during any part of the year except the really cold parts of the winter, even in the colder regions of the continent. 

That's what I did (in northern Virginia), and the results were fine. Things took longer to cure during the cool weather, but they cured just fne.  I did wait for warmer weather (60F, in the case of West's slow hardener) to epoxy the areas I was planning to varnish, but that didn't slow me down too much, either.

RE: Epoxy Indoors?

Jay,

I used the heat lamps available at the big box harware stores. For that matter, pretty much any high wattage incandescent bulb will work, since they put out some 90% of their energy as heat.

Jim makes some good points. The actual temperatures will vary from brand to brand, but the approach is the same. Other approaches are to store the epoxy and hardener indoors and only take out enough for the day's work to the garage.

Even with the heat lamps, though, I pretty much take a vacation from epoxy work in the coldest parts of winter (and that's here in Maryland, not somewhere where there's a real winter). Even though the heat lamps can heat up the shop enough so that the epoxy will work, it's still cold for me to function. :-)

For real winters, you might want to consider putting heaters in the garage.

Laszlo

 

 

 

 

RE: Epoxy Indoors?

Per the MSDS it has to be heated to emit flammable fumes.  I believe they are talking 200-270 degrees F.  Check out all the MAS data sheets here...

http://www.masepoxies.com/Safety_Articles/MSDS_Sheets.html

 Most of the Health related problems are incurred when ingested or gotten into eyes.  If you are not sensitive to the stuff it should be safe stuff.  One sheet does not even give data on permissible lower levels of contact with fumes.  That tells me they are not too concerned.  But to be on the safe side ventilate. 

I built 3 yaks indoors with no problems.  One in my living room 2 in the basement. 

Varnish outside.

Kim

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