How Long Do Your Hardwood Floors Off-Gas After Refinishing?

Emma from ECOS Paints 03/08/2023
Refinished hardwood floors in living room

Refinishing old, hardwood floors is a great way to give a room a fresh, new look. Plus, since you're re-using your existing floors instead of buying new, it's a more eco-friendly renovation choice. If you read the label of whatever product you choose, you'll see how long you need to let the floors cure before walking on them or placing furniture on them, but there's one important detail missing: how long do your hardwood floors off-gas after refinishing?

Understanding What's Off-Gassing After Refinishing Floors

Water-based polyurethane can have less of an offensive odor when compared to oil-based products, but floors require at least four coats to achieve the desired level of protection. While oil-based polyurethane typically only needs two or three coats, the odor may be so strong the home is uninhabitable for several days or weeks, depending on your sensitivity level.

At its core, polyurethane is a petrochemical resin that contains isocyanates. Uncured polyurethane can aggravate a variety of different breathing problems including allergies, asthma, and bronchial conditions.

Additionally, those who are exposed to the fumes are at risk of developing vision difficulties, throat irritation, nausea, uncontrolled coughing, vomiting and headaches. Isocyanates contain compounds that are classified by the EPA as potential human carcinogens.

Many conventional varnish products contain benzene, a volatile organic compound that is a known carcinogen and is highly flammable. The solvents in varnish are extremely pungent, and the fumes can cause drowsiness, headaches, skin irritation and dizziness. At high concentrations, a person may become unconscious, suffer respiratory distress and may even develop pulmonary edema.

Clearly, knowing how long these toxic VOCs might be present is an important bit of information in order to protect your health.

How Long Do Your Hardwood Floors Off-Gas After Refinishing?

According to an article in the Home Guides of the SFGate, "VOC off-gassing is most acute during application and the drying of hardwood floor finishes. Even long after these finishes have dried, however, smaller amounts of VOCs continue to off-gas into the home. The length of the off-gassing period can vary significantly based on the amount and type of finish you use, conditions in the home, and how much ventilation is available. The U.S. Green Building Council reports off-gassing of oil-based finishes can last for months or even years. Some lower-VOC, water-based products largely finish off-gassing within a few days." Still, "largely" finished means they're still off-gassing those toxic VOCs for who knows how long.

Is There a Non-Toxic Product for Refinishing Hardwood Floors?

In a word: Yes! To address the toxicity issues associated with traditional varnishes and polyurethanes, ECOS Paints developed a uniquely formulated, water-based varnish product that is non-toxic* for human health, without the harsh chemicals and fumes typically found in conventional products.

ECOS Paints' eco-friendly varnishes are designed for use on furniture, cabinets, floors, doors, and other woodwork. We offer options for both interior and exterior use that are available in a wide array of sheens, from satin to gloss. Our water-based varnish is a clear, protective finish that has exceptional clarity and durability. It can be applied with the same applicator tools commonly used with polyurethane, including synthetic brushes, foam brushes, or lambswool applicators (for floors). Whether you have chemical sensitivities, other health concerns, or you're simply searching for a better option for your family and pets, look no further than our non-toxic, durable varnish for your hardwood floors.

Still have questions about refinishing your hardwood floors? Let us know in the comments and we'll do our best to help. Want to discuss your project in greater detail? Get in touch with our customer support team today!

*Conforms to ASTMD-4236, specifically concerning oral toxicity, skin irritation and respiratory effects.