Over the course of time a wood floor will need to be loved, nourished

sealed and protected. There are durable floor finishes available that

will safeguard your indoor air quality while looking great in the process.


In North America, polyurethane varnish is used almost exclusively

as a wood floor finish, but floor oils are gaining in popularity. There

are many benefits to oiled floors, especially with softwood since it’s

prone to damage.



Environmental impacts and indoor air quality (IAQ)


Whatever floor finishes you choose, the products will have different

impacts on the health of your home and the planet. Like paints, floor

finishes contain varying levels of VOC (volatile organic compounds),

or if you’re a savvy, smart, consumer, none at all.


While the odor may be undetectable in days or weeks,

the effects won’t be. Polyurethane finishes will continue

to “gas off” or pollute the air in your home for 90-100 days, which

can be the cause or exacerbation of a myriad of health problems.

The production and disposal of these toxic chemicals have

a negative impact on the environment.


Water based vs oil based polyurethane varnish: 


Gloss or Satin option

Quick drying

Non-flammable and non-combustible

Contains half the VOC’s of oil based

Product improvements have increased the durability

Soap and water cleanup

200 grams of VOC’S



Oil Based:


If there’s a ‘pro’ to oil based varnishes, it is that they enhance

the color of woods and add more warmth to their overall tonal range.

Any negligible durability hardly seems worth making the compromise

to your health as well as the environment.


Downsides include longer drying times and about 450 grams of

VOC’S per can. Cleanup requires the use of solvents which

contributes to more production and disposal. Oil based varnish

is limited to a glossy finish.



Natural Oils (linseed or tung oil)


Natural oil finishes come from renewable resources, such as

flax seeds and tung tree nuts. Floor oils aren’t as durable

as polyurethane finishes are, but are much more natural looking

as they age, and are much easier to repair. Lacking the hardened

coating of a varnish, these floors are more prone to denting and

water damage. Whatever finish you choose it is pretty much a given

that a softwood floor will be vulnerable to wear and tear, Scuff marks

and dents on an oiled surface are far less offensive as those on varnish,

I’d still score a point here for oil. Most commercial brands contain

and release far less VOC’s than varnishes, so for both health and

environmental reasons, natural floor oil is the winner. Floors

finished with natural oil are aesthetically appealing and require

less maintenance. Rather than stripping the room of its’ furnishings and

then stripping the floor to prep for a reapplication of varnish, you simply

do a quick sanding of damaged areas and rub on a small amount of oil. As

for aesthetics, an oiled floor looks and feels so much more natural.


Huggins Wood Floor Specialists have been using eco conscious

zero VOC wood floor oil for the last decade. The health, beauty

and durability of your floors is what drives our company

and we want you to breathe easier. Since WOCA Denmark wood floor oil

is completely plant based it’s the greenest finish we have found. WOCA Denmark

is the safest floor finish, and Huggins Wood Floor Specialists preferred

choice. We know that baby steps, marathon building block sessions and

family fun nights are staged on your floors, and your toddler should be

the only VOC (volatile organic compound) gassing off in your home.


While WOCA Denmark may seem expensive when priced by the can,

but it’s offset for the simple reason that you only need

to do one coat. The oil bonds with the wood on a molecular

level and once it cures the surface will reject any additional

oil. WOCA Denmark comes in at around 30 cents per square foot

and by the time you purchase enough varnish for 3 coats

you will be well over 40 cents per square foot. Ultimately

this means less work and money for a great looking and easily

repairable non-toxic floor. Zero VOC flooring translates to a

great return on the overall health and safety of your most

precious assets.


A product called ‘Refresh’ can be applied to high traffic areas to

restore wear and tear. Refresh is a quick applying and quick drying

solution. Freshly exposed wood due to small dents can be

repaired with leftover oil. If time is an issue there is also an

accelerator that can be purchased which speeds

up the curing process.


Expect around 200 grams of VOC’s per can of water based poly,

compare that with a low VOC paint which will contain about 50

grams, or Zero VOC paint which will have….wait for it zip, nada

Both consumer demand and government regulations have led

to a heavy drop in the levels of VOC’s found in paints and floor

finishes. Flex your consumer awareness and ask lots of

questions when you shop.

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