Polyurethane! Water Vs Solvent

After years of admiring other people's glossy timber floors, I decided it was time to rip up our old carpet and see what treasure's lay beneath. On removing the carpet we were presented with old Tasmanian oak hardwood timber floor boards. We then hired a floor sander to remove the paint and clean them up back to original appearance. The timber that was presented was a beautiful array of different shades and grains as we had hoped. The next step was to seal the floor with polyurethane to really bring out the colour and shine, the only problem being was which polyurethane to use? There are so many on the market that it is very hard to choose, so I spent the next couple of weeks investigating polyurethane.

The more I looked into polyurethane's the more apparent it became that it is not a very safe option in regards to health. Sure, the floors looked fantastic, but at what price? The following disclaimer was given to me by a flooring sander when I was considering solvent based polyurethane.

IMPORTANT WARNING-Toxic fumes given off by solvent-based floor finishes contain isocyanates that effect the respiratory and central nervous systems. They are particularly dangerous for asthma sufferers, children and the elderly. There is growing evidence that solvent-based floor finishes may also be dangerous for pregnant women and their unborn children.

That in itself was enough to ring alarm bells and after further investigation I found these claims to be quite accurate and also came across a lot of other floor sanders with the same opinion. The next part of the disclaimer was enough to put me off solvent-based polyurethane completely and start to look at an alternative. It read as follows.
If a solvent-based finish is to be used on a floor the owner must adhere to the following basic precautions:

1.Vacate the premises for at least 14 days.
2. Empty pantries and refrigerators. Solvent fumes taint foodstuffs-even packaged products.
3. Remove pets from premises.
4. Remove all indoor plants.
5. Remove all oil and water based paintings.

The decision to move back into premises, including pets and plants, is totally at the discretion of the owner. Solvent based finishes normally take 14 days to a month to fully cure.
"Please sign your life away" ….
We'll that was enough for me, so I started to look into water-based polyurethane. These finishes did not come up quite as glossy as the solvent based polyurethane when compared side by side, but on their own gave a very nice gloss shine without the health issues attached. Most of the environmentally friendly polyurethanes were manufactured overseas, and now that I was looking "green" I decided that I may as well also look at a product that was locally manufactured. Finally I came across Tuff Enviro polyurethane.

This product is water-based polyurethane with a solid content of 50%, and is 100% environmentally friendly. I came across this product at a local development that is totally green and self sufficient. Tuff Enviro met all of their strict criteria and was also locally manufactured. This was one of only two products allowed in this development and the other was from over seas. Naturally I decided on Tuff Enviro.

After investigating as to what makes a good water-based polyurethane, I compared all on the market and came to the conclusion that Tuff Enviro was the best product (apart from the fact that it was locally manufactured) to use. It has greater solids content than any other on the market, it has long wet edge, no smell, is easy to apply and is extremely scuff and scratch resistant. Having come to this conclusion, I then applied Tuff Enviro to my timber floor with an outstanding result. For anyone who is contemplating a gloss or satin timber floor, it is well worth while checking out the environmentally friendly polyurethane's, particularly Tuff Enviro as an alternative to the nasty solvent based polyurethane.