Question from Julie
I have a question for you about permanently reducing VOCs from hardwood floor finish.
We had the hardwood floors in our new house stained and refinished 2 months ago. We expected a water-based product to be used for the finish, but unfortunately an oil-based poly was applied instead (Bona Woodline Polyurethane). It was also applied in less-than ideal conditions during a cold, rainy period.
Two months have passed since the refinishing and we’ve moved into the house (with a newborn), but there is still a noticeable smell. We’re also seeing tVOC levels spike to over 500 ppb on our Awair air quality meter.
We have air purifiers on and have been opening windows and running fans whenever possible, which improves the air quality at the time, but doesn’t seem to be solving the underlying off gassing problem.
I know that you don’t recommend baking VOCs out, but I’d like to know what you do recommend that would speed up the off gassing of our hardwood floors. I’d love to get to a place where our floors are fully cured and not emitting VOCs.
I’m sorry you are dealing with this, particularly with an infant! I know that it would be great if there were ways to eliminate toxins quickly, easily, and safely but unfortunately, that is not always possible.
The majority of the off-gassing will occur while the finish is curing, so the good news is that the worst part should be past. However, as The Green Building Council reports, oil-based finishes can off-glass for months and even years. It’s important that you do address the situation.
Indoor Air Quality professionals sometimes use a method called a “Flush Out” to reduce VOCs in a new building when concentrations are highest. The method is complex and uses a very precise mix of air volume, temperature and humidity. I don’t think this method is right for you because the majority of the off-gassing has already occurred. There is no method that will simply eliminate the lingering VOCs that will continue to offgas.
I recommend sealing the floor with a product designed to trap in any lingering VOCs. ECOS Interior Air Purifying Varnish is made for interior floors and can applied over your existing finish. It does require the floor to be lightly sanded so its important to maintain good ventilation and run your air purifiers. Also, make sure your vents are covered so the dust does not get into them.