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

ECOS 05/12/2016

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 only needs two or three coats, the odor may be so strong the home is uninhabitable for several days.

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 may develop vision difficulties, throat irritation, nausea, uncontrolled coughing, vomiting and headaches. Isocyanates contain compounds that are classified by the EPA as potential human carcinogens.

Many varnish products contain benzene, which is a known carcinogen that 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 our WoodShield varnish product that is non-toxic* for human health and has no offensive odors.

ECOS WoodShield is designed for use on furniture, cabinets, floors, woodwork and doors and is available in a wide array of sheens. The water-based varnish has exceptional clarity and durability, and it can be applied with the same applicator tools commonly used with polyurethane.

Still have questions about refinishing your hardwood floors? Let us know in the comments and we'll do our best to help!

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

CATEGORIES non-toxic poly|non-toxic varnish