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Alternatives to polyurethane floor finishing

Hi Everyone,
We are in the process of closing on a house. The house has been around for over 50 years and is a split level house. The upper level has wood floors (oak). There is wear and tear on the floor and we thought it would be best if we could refinish the floors (sand and coat) before we move in. We asked for quotes from a few local contractors and all the quotes mentioned polyurethane (oil based), most recommended 2 coats.
But here's the dilemma, on researching polyurethane, everyone agrees its toxic and not good to have around the house, especially with kids. I don't want to break the bank but also want to know if contractors generally work with the alternatives and what could be an expected price variation.
So, my question is, what are the alternatives or sustainable products to polyurethane for wood floor finishing?

Re: Alternatives to polyurethane floor finishing

Use the polyurethane and have no fears. Once cured there is zero risk of having your children crawl all over it.

Read this article;


Re: Alternatives to polyurethane floor finishing

This is a new one to me. I have never had anyone worrying about the urethanes being toxic from ingestion. Are these kids the tragic result of gene splicing with termites? :)

Seriously, I would be more concerned with the off-gassing of the urethane before completely cured. If that is a concern, go to the much faster drying/curing water based products such as Bona Traffic or Traffic HD.

I have the orignal oil Glitsa in my house and the stuff is really nasty when being installed and curing. It is really great for the long haul, however. The top coat of Glitsa was not the nasty part, it was the sealer which required outside air respirators on the installers and a minimum of 24 hours before residents return.

Now after several years, we are having it top coated before it starts to wear through to bare wood (there is no stain). We are going with the Bona Traffic precisely due to its low odor and quicker cure time.

Houston Remodeler, thanks for the link. I have had this question come up before from customers. It should alleviate some fears.

Re: Alternatives to polyurethane floor finishing

My house has 1920's red pine hardwoods. Every few years we move the pool table and re-poly the floor with Helmsman's Poly. It reeks to high heaven for a day, which is why we pick a beautiful spring day where we can leave the doors open. The 12 pound dogs are still alive and don't seem to have suffered much brain damage. They are cute, so they don't have to be smart.

Tacoma John
Re: Alternatives to polyurethane floor finishing

On my floors I have used the water based poly. The up side is that it cures much faster, is cheaper, doesnt yellow like oil based and can be recoated the same day. The down side is that I have to recoat it every one to two years. The water based poly still has vocs in it and you should ventilate when using it. The fumes are far less toxic and disipate much quicker. Good luck

Re: Alternatives to polyurethane floor finishing

There are three alternatives to poly that I have employed for my own house, and a fourth that I did for a customer.
1) shellac. Fastest-drying, non-toxic, four coats in a day. Low wear areas like bedrooms is probably the best application (where I used it).
2) waterlox. a very thin varnish, really brings out the grain of woods like heart pine. Fairly soft. Very prominent odor until cured.
3) Fast-dry synthetic varnish (BenMoore 1-hour clear finish.) No longer in production due to the VOC thing. Was really something, though. If it scratches, you could buff it out perfectly. I miss the stuff.
4) stain and tinted wax. (Briwax/Liberon/ etc)Not everybody's "cuppa", but a very fine and completely unique finish. Has the lowest level of protection and has to be rewaxed frequently, But the look!
All these materials have one important thing in common: they may be touched up as needed with the same material without ever resorting to sanding the floors again. In historic work this is the prime consideration. Every time a floor is sanded you lose material and eventually the floor is worn out. With poly that's the way it is, your floor is carried to the curb as bags of dust, Bye-bye!

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