Monday, August 1, 2011

Low VOC Waterborne Urethane Finish

H. Behlen Waterborne
Urethane Finish
By Rebecca, Shelter Tools Staff
Shelter is lucky to have many thoughtful and engaged customers. They know what they like and what they don’t like. Best of all, they are great at sending us their reviews, so we can pass their thoughts on to others. One such customer from the Virgin Islands recently called us, gushing about the Behlen’s Waterborne Urethane Finish we carry. She couldn’t say enough good things about the stuff—that it was ”really easy to use,” low on VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), environmentally-friendly, dried quickly, and created a harder, more durable finish than other finishes she had used.

Interested in what had made this customer such a passionate fan, we began to look into waterborne urethane finishes and quickly discovered that they really are impressive. For the science-y people out there, a quick explanation: waterborne urethane is composed of fully reacted urethane polymers dispersed in water, which replaces many of the typically toxic solvents found in other finishes. Because they’re fully reacted, they tend not to cause allergic reactions and produce few VOCs (making them suitable for LEED projects) and result in no hazardous waste byproducts. Behlen’s formula is particularly wear and abrasion resistant. Better still, it can be applied in nearly every way there is: soft cloth, synthetic bristle brush, foam brush, or sprayed on with a gun or airbrush.

So how does waterborne urethane differ from traditional oil-based polyurethane? Most appealing for those looking for a natural look, it produces a finish closer to the color of the wood than oil-based formulas. It also has much lower VOCs and less odor, making it a great choice for environmentally-conscious consumers. And compared to it’s oil-based counterpart, waterborne urethane is extremely easy to not only clean up (just use water!), but also dries very quickly, usually taking just about an hour. Waterborne urethane does need more coats than oil-based urethane since it has a lower percentage of solids. Need more positives? Because it dries so quickly and emits few chemicals into the air, you can actually finish a wood floor with the recommended four coats during the day and then sleep in the same room that night—without fear of choking on the nasty fumes as you would with other wood finishes.

That’s all well and good, you might say, but what the heck do I use this stuff on? Besides the aforementioned wood floors, waterborne urethane is also great on wood furniture and other high use applications because it creates such a tough, durable finish, protecting your treasured possessions for years. It's also great for musical instruments like guitars and violins because it resists cold-checking caused by temperature changes that make the instrument’s wood expand and contract. Waterborne urethanes are also great for non-metals and have been praised for how well they work on concrete, handling the material’s alkalinity unusually well. For example, they are great for concrete countertops, producing a harder and more oil/grease resistant surface than acrylic finishers, which means easier maintenance for you. But the concrete applications need not only be interior—as the officials of the San Antonio River Walk discovered, these urethanes are also great for exterior use because they actually resist graffiti!

Interested in giving Behlen’s Waterborne Urethane Finish a try yourself? Just stop by our store and check out our selection—we offer it in quarts, with your choice of a satin or gloss finish. Not close by? Call us at 207-442-7938 to place an order. Very soon, we'll make the polyurethane available at our online store.

If you're curious about H. Behlen products, visit their website or check out their YouTube channel. I've embedded below a video that shows you how to use another Behlen product we carry: burn-in sticks.

No comments:

Post a Comment