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Question:

A wood flooring person came in (we had some small water damage) and said the coating on our floors is illegal to use in California. He said he could tell once they started sanding the floor because their eyes started burning and it had a strong odor . . . . - we have lived here a year. I think he said the name of the coating started with a "c". He suggested we get all of our hardwood floors sanded and put a new coat (finish?) on them, as this toxic coating could affect us as years go by. Do you know anything about this?

Answer:



Dear Flo

Yes, I'm sure some floor finishes are not allowed in California. I hear they outlawed lacquer finishes some years ago, and by now there will be some of the Moisture Cured Polyurethane, or the Swedish Acid cured finished (Glitsa or Syteko) that will also gladly have been knocked off the California paint regulations list. But in all cases the dried film is SAFE. I have personally sanded off all the known floor finishes, industrial and otherwise, and have never experienced any symptoms as described. This is because the dried cured film has no solvents in it (of course) and in most cases is either a nitrocellulose solid or an modified oil solid. Very benign.

That all said, you need not worry or do anything. Unless you are personally suffering an eye or throat irritation, the floor finish is fine the way it is. The most toxic floor finish called Glitsa only gases off small amounts of formaldehyde for 3-6 months after it has been applied. And now your finish is older than that, you say it was applied over a year ago, there is still no problem.

The toxicity of these finishes is during their application, and why they are banned in some states is that the solvents contribute to air pollution. If you can find the brand name of the finish that was used on the floor originally (not the patch job) I can do the research on it, and get back to you right away.

Otherwise, if you have had no ill health effects, you will have no problem with the dry, cured film of any floor finish. Oh, it has been proven the the formaldehyde in the floor finish I mentioned diminishes after 6 months, and this has been tested and documented. So any problems will not get worse like these guys said, but only, invariably better.

As always your Most humble servant, Joseph, the Wood Floor Doctor.

You may also find these articles helpful:

1. Floor Types And Finishes

2. How To Apply Oil Based Polyurethane WITHOUT The Pits And Bubbles

3. Custom Staining Wood Floors Without The Blotchy Effect

4. Laquer Finish Floor Fires

5. How To Take Care Of Your Health And Safety when Installing, Finishing, Repairing or Cleaning your wood floors