Finishes are vital to protecting the beauty and performance of hardwood cabinetry, flooring and millwork, and in the not-so-distant past, it was considered practically impossible to make high-quality finishes that did not emit VOCs, both during their application and throughout their service life. But that was then.
Thanks to advances in wood-coating technology, many of today’s zero-and low-VOC finishes deliver the same quality, durability and performance as their predecessors. Some manufacturers argue that today’s finishes are even better than old solvent-based products because they require fewer coatings, provide equal performance and do it in a healthier way.

Most zero-and low-VOC finishes are water-based. Because they contain no solvents, they are safe for people and the environment, and they give off virtually no odor. They’re also easier to use because they dry quickly, and clean-up can be tackled with plain soap and water.

Janos Spitzer, owner of Janos P. Spitzer Flooring Company for nearly 50 years, adds that “Waterborne, catalyzed polyurethane floor finish has become ubiquitous throughout the wood flooring industry, owing to its superior performance, ease of use, low VOC emissions, UV shielding, and moderate pricing. Application of other finishes makes up a very small percentage of the projects being undertaken today.”

Speaking of green, what can we do about the perception that a hardwood floor will cost too much “green”? With proper care hardwood floors will last a lifetime. Carpet, vinyl, and laminate floors have to be completely replaced on an average, every eight to ten years. A hardwood floor can be refinished for a fraction of the price of a complete reinstallation of the other flooring choices, making hardwood the most economical choice.

Whether you’re trying to design “green” or “save” some green, hardwood specifications are the way to go. By limiting the VOC emissions, and the number of times your customers will have to completely reinstall their flooring, you can make the world a greener place.

This article adapted from an original post from the American Hardwood Information Center. More information at: