December 20, 2022

The Dangers of Hardwood Flooring Finishes

Woman painting floor with flax-seed oil

In 2022, hardwood floor refinishing has become one of the most cost-efficient flooring projects for homeowners. With their increasing popularity, more people are looking for more affordable ways to restore or install their wooden flooring. Despite the financial benefits of refinishing old hardwood, finishes pose several dangers to homeowners and their properties. Before you start your hardwood floor refinishing tasks, here are some of the hazards of different finishes you need to know. 

Lacquer Sealers

Several finishes used for hardwood floorings today have high solvent content. These coating choices, like lacquer sealers, are highly flammable and produce strong vapors. While applying them on your hardwood floors makes them shinier and more durable, they can also ignite in the presence of one tiny spark.

Lacquer sealers also stick deeply into your hardwood, and refinishing them can be a tedious task. Most of the time, remodelers give up sanding and refinishing floors with this floor finish and opt for replacing them instead. In addition to being highly combustible, they also have the highest VOC content overall flooring finishes.

These flooring finishes are also the top causes of many hardwood flooring fires in the US. Despite their obvious hazards, lacquer sealers are still one of the most popular finishes used across the country. Many services apply them to their clients’ houses because they’re more affordable and dry faster than other options.

When applying lacquer sealers, homeowners or service professionals need to be vigilant with materials and equipment that can cause any ignition. In addition, they also have to limit their exposure to the chemical and its vapors to avoid long-term health damage. 

Defining VOCs

VOCs or Volatile organic compounds are organic chemicals emitted as gases from consumer products like paints, varnishes, and building materials. The EPA states that VOC concentrations indoors are two to five times higher than outdoors and can even reach 1,000 times higher at their peak.

Several studies confirm that VOCs cause headaches, eye, nose, and throat irritation, and short-term dizziness. Prolonged exposure to the chemical can lead to more severe health effects, like cancer, liver damage, reproductive toxicity, and central nervous system breakdown.

In recent years, VOC laws are continuously developing and been followed across the US, limiting the use of low-quality lacquer sealers for hardwood floor refinishing. While they’re still an available option for remodelers, looking for certified hardwood floor refinishers that can offer other finishing options is best.

Solvent-Based Finishes

Most of the popular and well-used hardwood floor refinishes are under solvent-based finishes. Unlike lacquer sealers, these options produce pretty and long-lasting coats. In addition, many services and amateur home remodelers can apply them to their floors without fuss and incidents.

While solvent-based finishes are less dangerous than lacquer sealers, handling them with caution is still essential. Many of these finishes still give off strong fumes and vapors, while some produce more than others. In addition, they also produce yellow stains on the floors over time. Although there are new laws that restrict these refinishes due to their VOC levels, homeowners can still avail a majority of them in specialized hardwood flooring shops.

Solvent-based finishes like oil-based polyurethane build up fumes and vapors inside your home upon application. Because of its properties, hardwood floors with this type of finish are flammable and can easily ignite with a lit cigarette.

When you happen to apply solvent-based finishes on your hardwood floors, be sure to open all windows and vents to dissipate the fumes faster. It’s also best to remove all materials that can ignite while applying the finish.

Water-Based Finishes

Among all hardwood flooring finishes, water-based finishes are the newest and safest options for remodelers and their homes. Unlike solvent-based finishes that release VOC fumes and vapors when they dry, water-based finishes release water vapor instead. While some of these options are not void of solvents, they only carry extremely low components, making little to no chances of flame or combustion.

In recent years, more water-based options of popular hardwood finishes have become available to the public, like water-based polyurethane. Like their oil-based counterpart, they provide hardwood floors with a glossy finish and a protective coat from scratches and dents without the fumes and toxic vapors.

In addition, these finishes maintain the natural color of the timber and won’t turn amber over time. Some studies also proved them to be more durable than solvent-based coatings.

The Hazards of Hardwood Flooring Finishes

Old hardwood floors can still offer the same perks as newly-installed ones after they get a new coat of finish. While refinishing projects are cost-effective, the finishes you apply also come with hazards. To prevent disasters and your health from deteriorating, knowing the dangers they pose is essential.

Although applying them yourself is okay, hiring professional hardwood refinishers is the best option. Find an expert on hardwood floor refinishing in Austin today. Contact a professional from Kelly Hardwood Floors now!