Question

We just installed aluminum-clad/pine windows and a pine ceiling. What is the greenest and best-quality clear stain to use?

Asked by Angela Wyble
Talent, OR

I am concerned about the pine yellowing with age. I want to buy an environmentally friendly stain but I also want it to be high quality. We have heard of applying Benite to the wood before staining. I am having a hard time finding any information on what this is and what exactly it does.

Answer

Rick Goyette

Answered by Rick Goyette

Pawtucket, RI

Emerald Dream Builders

April 26, 2010

Choosing an environmentally friendly stain for your project is not only a great way to support a company with an environmental conscience but also a way to protect the indoor air quality of your home.

I had never heard of Benite, and my research was probably no more productive than yours. However, from what I did find, it appears that this product is a locally produced wood conditioner manufactured in the northwestern part of the United States. In addition, I found specifications from one manufacturer which noted that Benite contains petroleum distillates. These chemicals are hydrocarbon solvents produced from crude oil. They are also volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which are responsible for poor indoor air quality and have proved to be hazardous to human health depending on exposure levels.

Petroleum distillates are not inherently bad. They are used in a variety of very important building products; however, they are best employed only on the exterior of your home. You can find the specifications for Benite here.

To your question about which stain would be best for your project: While investigating indoor finishes on a previous LEED project, I discovered a line of products from Vermont Coatings that exceed the LEED-H (VOC) standard for clear wood finishes, which is 350 g/L for varnish and 550 g/L for lacquer. As a side note, some states have even more stringent standards. The State of California Indoor Air Quality Standard allows only 250 g/L VOCs. Vermont Coatings produces a Natural Furniture Finish that is specified for use on almost all indoor wood applications and by comparison has 180 g/L VOC content. Their products use whey protein, which is a waste byproduct from the production of cheese, as a binding agent, replacing petroleum products typically used for this purpose.

Many contractors prefer solutions that have been time tested. Often they rely on hard evidence of being able to see how a product performed 5, 10, even 15 years down the road. This defensive mindset is somewhat responsible for the slow adoption of truly revolutionary technology in the building industry. In very few cases, this methodology does warrant “I told you so.” However, I see the use of this product for your project as a win-win-win.

1. Win for protecting your indoor air quality.
2. Win for reducing dependence/demand on petroleum.
3. Win for using a product manufactured from waste byproducts.

Good luck on your project, and I hope the results produce a fourth win for your home.

Tagged In: natural wood finish, windows

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