Get a free measure & quote!
Call Tristan on 0414 823 305

Water based Finishes v Solvent based finishes

Water based Finishes v Solvent based finishes

Water based finishes are classified as non-toxic, with a solvent content of less than 10%. They provide excellent wear resistance without toxic fumes. Water based finishes are also faster drying and non-yellowing, so there is absolutely no reason to use a toxic solvent-based finish.

Solvent-based finishes are classified as poisons and are dangerous not just for the trades people who apply the coatings, but also home owners and other ‘passive’ users who come into contact with these products.  They are also affected by U.V light, in time turning orange and becoming brittle – which makes the coating scratch and mark easily.  In addition, because solvent based finishes change colour dramatically, floors coated with them are also unable to be repaired without the repaired area looking totally different to the rest of the floor.

What are the dangers associated with solvent-based finishes?

The truth about the toxicity of solvent borne floor coatings and in particular that of class 2 cancer causing Toluene Diisocyanate (TDI) contained in all current Australian solvent borne polyurethanes, is often hidden from, or simply not provided for the users of these products or conveniently made difficult to access.

More info at

Toxic fumes given off by solvent floor finishes contain free isocyanates that affect the respiratory system and are particularly dangerous for asthma sufferers, children and the elderly. Solvent-based floor finishes are classified as poisons and homeowners should vacate premises until the coatings are fully cured. This can take a minimum of 7 – 14 days. In addition, the fumes from solvent finishes can taint food-stuffs in pantries and even refrigerators. Some water-based house paints can turn yellow due to a reaction between isocyanates in the finish and amines in the paint. Plants, wall paintings and pets should also be totally removed from the vicinity until the finish is totally cured.
Solvent and / or Isocyanate exposure is medically linked to:

  • Chronic and Acute Asthma.
  • Sleep Apnoea.
  • Aggressive Behaviour.
  • Pregnancy Failure as result of male partner exposure.
  • Memory Loss.
  • Cancer in humans and animals.
  • Peripheral nerve conditions.

Alternatively home owners can choose the convenience of a water based floor finish. No toxic fumes or isocyanates – so no need to move out!  These modern polyurethane finishes offer excellent wear resistance, are non-yellowing and bring out the real beauty of timber flooring – without risking your health. Solvent finishes are a thing of the past.

Don’t solvent-based finishes wear better?

20 years ago, the answer would have been yes. Today’s technology means that the best water based finishes are 100% polyurethane and provide wear resistance that is better or at least as good as solvent based products, but without the toxic fumes. Best results are achieved using a 2 component system. This means a hardener or cross linker is added to the finish – creating a far superior hard wearing and more scratch resistant coating.