Floor Show

Refinishing a wooden floor the green way



Our big, eat-in kitchen has a pine plank floor, which, sad to say, needs to be refinished every seven or eight years. Lugging all the furniture out of the room, enduring the sanding, getting the dust off everything afterwards, having no access to the stove or the fridge for a few of days... it’s an ordeal.

Last time, in an effort to cut down on the chaos and inconvenience, we finished the floor with a water-based polyurethane that you can walk on in 24 hours. It was a nice summer’s day, so we left the French doors open to aid the drying. All was going well until one of our cats performed an astonishing gymnastic feat, leaping over the double barricade we’d put up, somehow landing in a small, open tin of paint on the threshold, and then tearing in a panic all over the kitchen, leaving little painty paw prints on the still-tacky floor. That beloved old cat has gone on to create havoc in the afterlife, but the memory is still fresh in my mind.

This summer, we’ll have to do the floor again, but I plan to make it as swift and as “green” as possible. (Also planning better barricades.) A little research turned up Mr. Sandless, a company that bills itself none too modestly as The Number One Wood Floor Refinisher in the World, and claims to make the job “quick, affordable and painless.” Tell me more! OK. They claim they can whiz in and out in four to six hours, leave nothing to clean up, and no odor, and the whole deal costs less than sanding — $450 for our kitchen, to be exact. They screen the floor with “a special pad” that removes stains, scratches, and any existing finish (even paint), then seal it with four coats of their fast-drying, non-toxic, space-age polymer finish, which sounds like a contradiction in terms to me, but the stuff’s certified green. The company is about 10 years old, with franchises across the nation. Mr. Sandless in the Hudson Valley also goes by the name Steve Calloway. The before and after pictures on the Web site look great, but I’d love to hear from anyone who has first-hand experience.

Searching for green finishes also turned up OSMO Hardwax Oil, a German product made of plant oil, waxes and mineral spirits that soaks into the wood, rather than forming a skin on top like urethanes do. It looks like a wax finish, which sounds nice, but it has to be applied over the course of a couple of days. One big selling point: you can do spot repairs or reapply it to high-traffic areas, which most finishes don’t allow. Vermont Natural Coatings is a green product made closer to home that uses whey, a bi-product of cheese-making, and supposedly dries twice as hard as other water-based finishes. (And no, it doesn’t smell cheesy.) It also comes in tinted versions, which is a plus, and dries in a few hours, but takes a week to fully cure. You can get Vermont Natural Coatings at Williams Lumber. Anybody used either of these products? Do tell.