Urban Natural Homes November 12, 2012

Flooring Options: Safely Refinishing Wood Floors


If you are lucky enough to have wood floors, then look no further for options. You have one of the best flooring option available, especially for main floor living areas. Wood floors are warm, inviting, durable, and classic—they just seem to pull a room together. And as anyone in the real estate industry will tell you, wood floors are a hot commodity! They continue to be a major selling point for homes throughout the Northwest.

Options for refinishing wood floors, on the other hand, can be a bit complicated—especially for those concerned with health and the environment. For years it has been standard practice to utilize finishes such as oil modified polyurethane and waterborne polyurethane that are known to be highly toxic. Besides emitting dangerous (and smelly) fumes for days, these finishes release VOCs (volatile organic compounds) even after varnishes have dried. Historically safer alternatives have included traditional oil finishes such as Danish, Teak, Tung, etc. These types of finishes penetrate into wood rather than providing a ‘plastic’ coating, as do the polyurethane products. The problem is that they are not as durable and maintenance can be very time consuming.

So what to do? A number of more environmentally friendly products have been coming on the market in recent years. Once such product, highly recommended by the Green Depot, is OSMO Polyx Oil. OSMO has been used in Germany for years, but has only recently been gaining attention in the States. It looks to have the advantages of both previously mentioned systems and none of the disadvantages. OSMO Polyx Oil is an engineered finish made with plant oils and waxes. It contains no biocides or preservatives, and when dry is safe for humans, plants and animals (It currently meets European safety standards for use on children’s furniture and toys). OSMO is a penetrating oil finish which means it penetrates into the wood fibers and protects from within as opposed to products such as polyurethane which coat the floor with a film. It is known to be much more durable than previously mentioned penetrating finishes and the fact that the floor isn’t covered with a film makes spot repair much easier and allows the wood to “breathe”, so that any moisture that does get through can get back out without pushing off the finish. Floors will need to be re-coated every so often, but this is a relatively easy do-it-yourself project as compared to the application of a polyurethane product.

The current feedback for OSMO is quite positive. And again, given growing environmental awareness, these types of products will undoubtedly be industry standards in the near future. Either way, when refinishing wood floors, do be sure to do your homework and know what you are getting into–as obviously not all is as it appears on the surface.

OSMO products are available for the do-it-yourselfer at the Green Depot and are also used by many local wood floor refinishers.

Green Depot
1950 6th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98134