February 17, 2010

Hardwood Floor Finish Contest Winners, Part 1

Some of the test samples in our hardwood finish contest. Thank you to Rick Woodland of Terrene Sustainable Building Supply for creating the samples.

Today, I am pleased to announce the winner of our Hardwood Floor Finish Contest. See earlier post for list of contenders and criteria details. Still pending is the Painted Floor Finish portion of the contest (update below), so check back for those results soon.

Pine Flooring

For the Antique Heart Pine Reclaimed Flooring on the first floor of THE CONCORD GREEN HEALTHY HOME, we will be using the Bona Kemi Floor Finish System: Bonaseal undercoat, topped with Bona Traffic in Satin finish.
In our testing, we found that Bonaseal undercoat effectively seals in allergy-triggers (terpenes and aroma from the pine), while topcoat Bona Traffic provides a durable and low sheen finish that enhances the gorgeous vertical grain and color of the antique heart pine. While not completely devoid of VOCs (volatile organic compounds), the cure rate is extremely fast and the product is well-tolerated by individuals with MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity). Of course, each person is different and therefore it is always important to test for yourself before making a final product selection. Bona does offer a lower VOC variation of Traffic, called Eon 70, but there is some trade-off in durability, which may mean refinishing is required sooner.

A close runner up was the low-VOC, recycled whey-based Vermont Natural Coatings, which performed equally well in sealing the wood, and has a gorgeous matte sheen. The only edge held by Bona was that the future occupants of the home have tolerated Bona Traffic well, and have no history with Vermont Natural Coatings. This is important to consider when one acknowledges that a small sample can never replicate the impact of a product when applied to an entire floor.

Lastly, if sealing in wood allergens / terpenes had not been required, the hands-down winner would have been newcomer Rubio Monocoat. Non-toxic, this product only requires one coat to protect the wood, the finish is subtle and stunning, and you never need to resand. Simply reapply to worn areas, and the Monocoat only adheres to exposed wood... no buildup. I predict that this product is poised for explosive growth.

Painted Floor Update

See earlier post Painted Floors - Have Some Fun! for background.

The undersides of the oak flooring will be painted with AFM Safecoat Zero VOC Flat Paint to seal in oak terpenes. Safecoat narrowly edged out non-toxic Mythic Primer based on somewhat better coverage. As a sidenote, we are using the Safecoat Flat Paint as a primer on all of the walls and trim in the house as well, with Mythic Flat and Semi-gloss Paints as topcoats. The semi-gloss is nice and subtle, almost comparable to a Satin or Pearl sheen in other lines of paint.

The painted floor surface coat is still outstanding. Front runner ECOS Non-toxic Floor Paint from the UK got held up in US Customs, even though it is technically a non-hazardous material. Hoping to get the matchpot today. The back up option is Ivy Coatings Low VOC Floor Plus, which has approximatly 100 g/l of VOCs. While readily available here in the US (ECOS opens its first US facility in Spring 2010), I would much rather use a 100% No-VOC product in the bedrooms, if we can get the shipping straightened out in time. Fingers crossed.

UPDATE: We have added Farrow and Ball Eco Floor Paint to our testing. Rated Zero VOC by US Standards, but containing just 53 g/l VOCs by British standards, it requires one coat of Farrow & Ball's Stain Block Primer (2 g/l VOC) and two topcoats. Stay tuned.


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  2. Great article. How did you test for vocs in your research? Is there a field test method or is it based on each brands reported results? What are the voc levels of the 2 coats of Bona Traffic combined?

  3. Hi JC.

    Testing included manufacturer data review (MSDS, Product Specification sheets), online research of consumer reactions, interviews with distributors, but more importantly, we encased samples in glass and foil containers and left them in the sun for up to 2 weeks. When you open the container, you immediately can sense the level of off-gassing. Lastly, when possible, we visited locations that had recently applied the product. There is nothing like being in a whole room or entire house in order to see if VOC levels are too strong.

    Each person can react differently, so it is important to test every product with every member of the family that will be living with it.

    I would have to do more research to learn if the VOC levels double with two coats or whether the MSDS specs already account for that in their total, since the directions do say to apply two coats. Good question. Please post back if you learn any more on that topic.

    Thank you for your comment!


  4. Hi Lisa, We did an oil, like the monocoat, on our antique heartwood reclaimed floors in 2006 and it hasn't stood up well to our two dogs in our nyc apt. But I wonder if perhaps it was the wood, maybe it didn't absorb as well as a new wood. It's kind of degrading away so we are about to redo. I just wanted to follow up and see if the Bona Traffic held up well over the past 7 months.
    Thanks, Alexandra

  5. Hi Alexandra.

    First off, I am curious to hear if you used the Ruby Monocoat specifically, or some other oil.

    Secondly, the Bona Kemi Traffic has held up very well. I will say that there is some slight VOC off-gassing for the first few weeks (I could sense it for about 8-10, but now it is terrific).

    Meanwhile, since this decision, I have also discovered ECOS Organic Wood Varnish now being manufactured in the U.S. I have only tried it on furniture with great results thus far, but it is also specified for use on floors. Check it out at www.ecospaints.net. Please check back and let me know how things go.

    Best of luck.



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