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Wood Floors Refinishing - Water-Based vs. Oil-Based

The history is as follows: 

Just like paint, consumers and contractors alike wanted finishes that were less offensive to the environment, home and work place. Basically, consumers didn't want to live with the toxic solvent-based vapors and long inconvenient dry times, and floor refinishing professionals wanted a finish that was less hazardous to their health, and convenient to work with.  Responding to market demand, lines of "finish systems" were introduced by manufacturers at the retail level called "waterbased" coatings. These new coatings were traditional oil-based products that were modified so that the liquid vehicle suspending the resins were not toxic solvents anymore, they were now just simply water.  The problem was... the quality and durability of these "new" finishes couldn't compare with the traditional and extremely durable, "oil-based" lines applied at the professional level causing them to fail. This gave the water-based floor finish product a bad reputation at introduction.


Fast forwarding through the next decade.... Mandated EPA restrictions on solvents used in oil based polyurethane triggered massive re-formulation campaigns through-out the industrial coatings industry.  Oil based polyurethane was suddenly a totally different product to work with and the new formulation is definitely not as durable; but to this day is sold under the same name.  The only thing you will see different on the label is the VOC Compliant Tag on everything gallon size and up; quarts for some reason is still sold retaining the old formula and is evident by the absence of the VOC compliant tag. This makes no sense!  The chaos this caused in the wood floor industry alone was enough to consider a career change but we stuck it out and are glad we did. The only thing saving oil based polyurethane is its good name and relatively cheap price, but this makes no sense either because oil is more expensive than water.  Go Figure!

Because of this gigantic industry mess, companies such as "Bona" and "Basic Coatings" turned their attention to producing eco-friendly finishes the would be equal to or better yet...more durable than oil based finishes, and succeeded. These water-based products are now top-of-the-line catalyzed floor finishes that by far surpass the newly formulated oil-based polyurethanes in terms of being Eco-Friendly, wear resistant and convenience.  They're far more convenient and eco-friendly because they are water-based, no toxic vapor and they dry fast.  They're more durable because the active ingredient is no longer a polymer (plastic) like in polyurethane.  The new active ingredient in the most durable industrial coatings is now Aluminum Oxide.  Sounds toxic right?  But it's not because the suspension vehicle is not a solvent...its only water!  The product is an awesome alternative to traditional polymers and has a richer, more natural look. If you're looking for the most durable hardwood floor finishes on the market today and want the advantage of minimal fumes and smell, then these new finish systems are what you're looking for. They are zero problem products that are extremely convenient; the only negative being they are a little more expensive....but what isn't these days...I chalk it up to paying for a healthy environment and convenience.

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