Waterborne floor finishes

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РWhite oak flooring above finished with waterbased  floor finish in Central Falls, Rhode Island.

One of our favorite floor finishes to apply are water based or water modified floor finishes.

An excerpt from a highly regarded floor finish manufacturer’s website reads:

“It has been a misconception that waterborne finishes are not as durable as oil-modified finishes. In Taber test results, it is proven that waterborne finishes withstand the wear and tear of commercial and residential floors better than oil-modified finishes”

source – Bona Kemi

If you’ve ever had your floors finished in the past 15 years or so chances are they were top coated with older, outdated finishes such as oil based polyurethane, moisture cure and lacquer sealer. These were the norm finishes for floors during the building boom of the 70’s. They are extremely toxic to your health, to the refinishers and the environment. For example, if you use oil base polyurethane on your floors then it is advised you vacate the home elsewhere during refinishing and expect for hydrocarbons to evaporate into the air you are breathing for the next 30 days until the finish cures. Moisture cure is even worse, pilots have to be turned off in the home during refinishing as these outdated finishes can be highly flammable and combustible. Also these finishes require multiple coats that require at least 24 hours for additional in-between coats so most projects will require you to be out of the house for 3-4 days.

Waterborne finishes are quicker, safer, stronger and the wiser choice for refinishing wood floors today. These finish have higher chemical and scratch resistant properties. Keep in mind not all finishes are created equal and the best finishes are sold exclusively to registered flooring contractors and not available at your nearest paint shop or big box store. Even then your flooring contractor has the option for low end finishes to high end so it’s always advisable to ask to see exactly what brand is being used on your wood floor.

As the name implies these finishes are water based and dry extremely fast to the touch (30 minutes), oil based polyurethane on the other hand is a solvent based that takes 24 hours to dry before you can take a single step on it. Waterbase finishes have almost no odor and dry as the water evaporates from the finish leaving you floors protected where as the outdated finishes gas off a lingering fume that is offensive to your eyes, lungs and respiratory tract.

Here in Rhode Island and Massachusetts most of the floors that we go out and quote have been finishes previously with oil based polyurethane and by the time we are called the floors show extreme wear and tear form traffic, kids, cats, dogs and sun damage. Often times it takes very little effort to sand off the finish. It’s rare we encounter floors previously finished with waterborne finishes that need to be sanded and when we do it is quite labor intensive to remove the top layer as the coating is so strong.