Can my wood floors be refinished with a UV floor finish? How does it work? Is there a real health benefit?

Asked by Heather
Blue Springs, MO

Companies such as claim to have a UV finish for my wood floor. Instant cure and low VOC and odor. Is this a gimmick?


David Edwards PhD

Answered by David Edwards PhD

Santa Clara, CA

EarthBound Homes

June 10, 2010

It all depends on what they are promising you. The idea that the floor can be cured by exposure to UV light is not at all far-fetched. Many chemicals are affected by UV light and crosslinking is a common method of stabilizing chemical structures found in nature (proteins, DNA, fats, etc.) as well as the chemistry bench.

There are no verifiable claims about the durability of the finish on the website and really, there is no standardized system by which flooring finishes are rated for durability.

As far as the health claims that your salesperson is making, there is nothing on the website that makes any sort of health benefit claim, with the exception that one could infer that because it has a low VOC content, it is therefore healthy. This is of course not true at all, and something with no VOCs can be deadly (dioxin, cocaine, etc.) while something with high VOCs is not (beer, Coca-Cola, etc.). Unfortunately, our rush to protect ourselves from the supposed evils of the bad VOCs has caused us to lose sight of the fact that only certain VOCs are harmful (methylene chloride, benzene, etc.) and others have little or no health effect at all (carbon dioxide, ethanol, etc.).

Most likely, the VOCs in these solutions are the same as those in other water-based polyurethane floor finishes (i.e., water, the most ubiquitous solvent on the planet). We highly recommend water-based floor finishes, and our favorite is Bona Traffic. It can be applied two coats in one day, and refinish can take two days, depending on the size of the job. You will pay a little bit more for the material, but the labor is the same and the job goes faster. There are little or no fumes, and the smell is gone in 24 hours. It can be walked on 8 hours after finish. The best part is that it doesn't yellow with age and UV light exposure like oil-based finishes do, and you don't have to smell the rightfully described TOXIC fumes from the oil-based finishes.

In short, the product could be good, but it is very hard to know without testing from some third-party organization for its claims of durability and low toxicity. If it is really important to get back into your house a few hours earlier than you could with water-based finishes, then maybe it is worth it to try this finish.

Personally, I am a home builder for a career and I depend on the things that I do to clients' homes to work well, the first time and for a long time. While sometimes it is tempting to try some newfangled thing out on a client's house that may have some great advantages over the tried-and-true material, it is not without great hesitation that I will try something out without third-party testing or empirical evidence from other home builders, stating that there are no unforeseen consequences or disadvantages of using the new material.


For more information:

Check our wood floor refinishing Q&A section.

Also read Victoria Schomer's tips "Make Floor Refinishing Greener and Safer."

Tagged In: floor refinishing

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