For the floor refinishing, everything was sanded and prepped to get down to the bare wood. Most flooring jobs would then include a layer of oil-based or water-based polyurethane, with or without using a stain first.
For The Healthy Home Project, the floors will be left their natural color. Instead of conventional poly, I opted for Vermont Natural Coatings Interior Floor Finish from Green Depot. It’s a water-based finish that uses whey protein as the primary binding agent.
According to the website, “Whey protein is a natural by-product of cheese making, and a renewable resource. It makes for a very low-VOC wood finish, which means better indoor air quality for you. When cured, PolyWhey natural wood finish is twice as hard as the conventional water-based polyurethane products…It dries fast, won’t yellow over time, and there’s no noxious odor. It resists scratches, chemicals and water, and it’s long-wearing, even in areas with heavy foot traffic.”
Because the product is thin like skim milk, three coats were applied in the first floor rooms. In areas where the floors are a lower-grade wood (as is common in the upstairs rooms of older homes), the floor refinisher advised using a conventional, reduced-VOC oil-based poly because the product’s thickness would help this old wood resist splintering that could potentially occur with floors over a century old.
The floors have been coated for just about three weeks now. Downstairs, where the fir wood floors were done with PolyWhey, emitted virtually no odor from the start, and even that disappated after a day or two. The oil-based poly on the second floor (a softer, more splinter-prone oak) is still offgassing enough to notice, so I keep the windows in those rooms open during the day and cracked at night to let in plenty of fresh air.
The floor refinisher did explain that he gets sinus irritation when using water-based products. For him, oil-based products don’t have that effect. For indoor air quality, PolyWhey is superior as long as irritation isn’t an issue for the installer. It’s a beautiful satin finish, cleans well and is made with sustainable, safer ingredients.