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Sustainability and Wood Stains

Date Added: July 14, 2009 02:32:16 AM
Author: Ron Cameron
Category: Business
How do we measure sustainability? The government measures VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) in products to determine the effect they have on the environment (which includes the atmosphere, people and vegetation). VOCs are vapours or gases emitted by various solids or liquids, many of which have short and long term adverse health effects. How many types of wood stain are there? There are three generally accepted types: Waterborne Water base Solvent base What are the VOC levels of each stain type? Old generation Waterborne- 250 grams per litre New generation Waterborne- <100 grams per litre Water Base – 270 grams per litre Solvent Base – 350 to over 800 grams per litre What percent of the total pollutants emitted into the atmosphere are singled out to be Solvent use (paint or stain) VOCs? The government's website shows that in a recent study 28% of the total emitted pollutants came from Solvent use. The government also says that it will have, by the spring of 2010, a new standard which will reduce the VOCs levels to 250 grams per litre. Currently there is no ceiling in this area. What are the differences between the three different types of stain? 1. Solvent base uses mineral spirits (another name for solvents) to mix with the stain so it can be applied, and it needs to be cleaned up with more mineral spirits. Both Solvent base and Water base are what is called "film forming," meaning they build in layers. They are both based on the belief that covering the wood is the best way to protect it, but Solvent base produces a harder coat than Water base, and with regular maintenance will last 20 to 25 years. This is where the Canadian government's new legislation (VOC levels to be under 250) comes in! After the spring of 2010, this product in its current form will be classified as a hazardous chemical, and thus Solvent base wood stain will not be available for maintenance, reducing the life of the stain to between 7 to 10 years. 2. Water base, like Waterborne, uses water as a thinner to mix with the resin so that it can be applied, and cleans up with soap and water. This, though, is where the similarities end. Water base is designed to sit on the surface of the wood, the rationale being that, if the surface is coated, fungus and mildew cannot get into the wood. This would be true, except for one thing - wood expands and contracts with the seasons and this continuous stress to the stain breaks it down sooner. Water base stain has shown to have a life span of 17 to 20 years if regular maintenance is done. 3. Waterborne, as well as being the most environmentally friendly of the three, gets into the surface of the wood, and is known as a breathable stain. This means that humidity can pass through it and the wood can expand and contract with the elements so that it does not crack or peel. It also has mild fungicides and mildecides to stop airborne fungus and mildew from entering the wood and grow unchecked. Waterborne uses water as a thinner to mix with the resin so that it can be applied, and cleans up with soap and water. Waterborne stain has an expected life of three or more decades if regularly maintained. Finishes 1st is an independent supplier of wood finishes and other home finishing products, and, as such, is not limited by the marketing department of a particular manufacturer. Ron Cameron - president of Finishes 1st - is passionate about empowering home owners with information that will help them make the home finishing decisions that are right for them. Much more helpful information, for both the home owner as well as the industry professional, is available on
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