A Guide to Eco Woodstains and Floor Varnish

The eco market is unparalleled with the customer service they give to client, private or wholesale. The Green Shop was amazing: advice is never hurried, always extensive and always friendly. My endless questions were all painstainkingly answered and data sheets were sent along with samples in a timely manner. So how did it all work out???

We’re still working on our special eco project – the last 4 weeks have been taken up with stairs balustrade staining and floor varnish.....yes you have heard correctly, 4 weeks. Using VOC free stains and floor varnish or oil means we have been talking to Jon at the Green Shop (www.greenshop.co.uk) a lot!

Once again the eco market is unparalleled with the customer service they give to client, private or wholesale. The Green Shop was amazing: advice is never hurried, always extensive and always friendly. My endless questions were all painstainkingly answered and data sheets were sent along with samples in a timely manner. So how did it all work out???

BEFORE YOU START...

Think carefully about the time you have available to let these products dry/cure – it takes a very long time.

Think carefully about why you want to use these products – we have no choice in this project, the children are sick and we have to use VOC free, natural products.

Think about the price of the product and the delivery – again as with our other findings on eco materials, not cheap so you need to factor that in.

Think about the labour costs- my experience has been that 99% of decorators have not used these products before, you do have to prep them well, explain the product and how it is likely to perform. Labour will be more as you need the decorator to come back on site several times over lengthier periods. In this project we were not allowed to use stripping products, which means that this took 7 days instead of 3.

THE STAIN FOR OUR STAIRCASE BALUSTRADE

It took 1 week to sand and clean up the old Victorian gunk that was on the balustrade which wraps around on the 1st floor, see above before staining. We could not use Nitromoors, or any other solvent based product at all, basically good old elbow grease was the only thing allowed due to fumes and the danger to our client’s children.

We choose Auro, a CO2 neutral manufacturer, which hails from Germany but is distributed by The Green Shop above. Free of synthetic irritants and pollutants, the products don’t release any artificial solvents. The great thing is their data sheet full declares all the ingredients, so you really do know what goes into it. I poured over datasheets for days!

So we chose the Woodstain Aqua 160 range, they are water thinnable (max 20%) and solvent free. The colours available are extensive and we chose ochre brown 160-86 to match our wood colour.

The decorators did not like this much! When it is applied it has a milky consistency and look to it, so they were worried about the end finish, it was very slippery to apply and at first looked like it might not adhere.

It is touch dry in 10 hours, dry and workable in 24 hours and cured after approximately 5 days. Our experience was that it was still wet day 3, so you really need to leave it for at least 5 days and then touch it as little as possible.

It dries to a matt finish but I found that by buffing it up it gets a nice shine to it, rich and deep.

The prices for a 2.5 Ltr pot retails at £49.90 and covers approx. 31m2, 750ml covers 10sqm and costs retail £16.99 and the smaller 375ml covers 5sqm and retails at 10.45.

We did get a wholesale pricing on this which was great; transport is by Fedex and charged at £6.00 flat fee whether it’s 1 litre or 5 litres.

FLOOR VARNISH/OIL – THIS WAS A REAL CHALLENGE!

The woodstain was a dream compared to this product. The client after looking through various samples we had provided for him, choose the Auro Pure Solid Oil 123. A viscous oil made principally of linseed oil. Again VOC free and Orange Oil a natural solvent is used as a thinner if needed. You can tint it with Auro Colour Concentrates – the range of colours is limited. We mixed less than 3% Iron Oxide Brown and Ochre Yellow each into 2.5 litres of oil to match the existing flooring.

The decorators applied it with a brush – don’t do it! Apply with a rag. The first coat was too thick, it started to jelly up as it dried (or tried to dry). It was a mess. We did not use orange oil. See above.

We applied this on the Friday, Monday we were back scraping off the excess (see above) with scrapers, drying it with rags and re-sanding. For a normal sized room in a Victorian house, it took all day. We were ready for another coat on the Tuesday. A thin coat was applied; we waited 24 hours for it to dry, but had to wait another day as it was not quite dry. By Thursday it was dry, we sanded again as it was not smooth and had not been absorbed evenly. On Friday we had a much drier floor, we sanded again, re-varnished. By the Monday after, the floor was dry but still patchy. We are re-applying another coat as we speak! Fingers crossed this will be the final coat. It took 2.5 litres of oil for one room, it covers 60sqm normally and costs retail £55.85.

Drying time is a major issue. The data sheet says removal of excess material within 30 minutes but this depends on ambient temperature; we could not approach it for days. Dust dry is 10 hours, workable after 24 hours, again we did not find this possible, and it took days to get it dry on each coat no matter how thin. Curing time is approximately 2-4 weeks and you do need to protect the surface during that time.

This has been a major issue for us as the family cannot use that room for at least 1 week after varnishing and will need to be careful for many weeks before it can be completely usable. In all it has taken 2 weeks to get this just about presentable.

The worst part for us was when the excess was first scraped off, the residue spontaneously combusts! We were alerted to this by the fumes that emanated from the bin when we were talking on site – the fumes were so acrid myself and the decorator were coughing violently and felt sick with the smell. We thought someone had inadvertently dropped a cigarette in the bin. I re-read the data sheet and there is a notice that says ‘Important’ in bold, but as small as the rest of the writing and ¾ of the way down amidst the other information. The important notice does confirm that this combusts if clumped or if rags are not allowed to dry out spread out.

I guess it’s not because it’s natural that there are no dangers to these products - a salutary lesson. The builders had to spread out the excess residue over the skip to ensure it dried in the open air, the rags were spread out over the grass and the hoover we had used to clean was washed and cleaned out completely!

WOULD I USE THESE AGAIN?

In a word YES. Why? Well now that I am armed with all the information and I have seen its limitations I feel confident in being able to use this effectively on another project, in half the time we have used on this one, and with half the labour costs. I also feel it sits well with truly putting our money and our time where our mouth is- or is that the other way around in English!? But..... patience is key and allowing for the curing is paramount. Would clients be willing to wait this long in normal circumstances? I doubt it unless truly committed or because like this particular family they have to.

But the wonderful thing? You really only truly know how a healthy house feels like when there are no smells, no volatile fumes and no pollutants. It does feel very different – even the decorators commented how nice it was to use the varnishes, the stains, the paints and get no headaches. Difficult to describe what a healthy house feels like, but it does feel very light on its feet and very fresh.

And frankly I feel very proud of what we have achieves so far, the children are loving the house and are calm and no health issues have surfaced since we have done this refurbishment- very gratifying to see the difference in how they act around the house. We have learnt an enormous amount about how to deal with health issue sin refurbishing a house and I believe it will stand us in good stead for future projects.

 

Françoise Murat & Associates specialise in interior, garden & landscape design.

For more garden and interior design information visit us at www.francoisemurat.com.