TOPCOATS AND FIN­ISHES

Arts and Crafts Homes - - BRINGING IT BACK -

Whether stained or left nat­u­ral, ev­ery Arts & Crafts floor needs a good top­coat (or at least a few coats of floor wax). Fin­ishes are usu­ally blends of nat­u­ral plan­tor nut-based resins or oils sus­pended in or mixed with oil, al­co­hol, sol­vents, or wa­ter, which cure to a hard­ened fin­ish.

Polyurethane fin­ishes are the eas­i­est to ap­ply, es­pe­cially if they’re wa­ter-based. Wa­ter-based polys re­quire mul­ti­ple coats (with sand­ing in be­tween) for dura­bil­ity, but dry quickly—usu­ally in hours rather than days. These wa­ter-based fin­ishes dry clear and vis­ually “float” on the sur­face, lack­ing some of the depth of oil-based polys and more tra­di­tional treat­ments like tung oil. While they go on eas­ily, re­fin­ish­ing a wa­ter- or oil-based polyurethane re­quires sand­ing the old fin­ish be­fore ap­ply­ing a new coat.

Oil-mod­i­fied polyurethanes are com­po­si­tion­ally sim­i­lar to wa­ter-based polys, ex­cept that the resins are im­preg­nated with oil. Dry­ing times are much longer; al­low at least 24 hours be­tween coats. Oil-based polys cure to a deep, durable, and abra­sion re­sis­tant fin­ish with a slight am­ber color that ap­prox­i­mates pe­riod var­nish. While wa­ter-based polys clean up with soap and wa­ter, oil-based ones re­quire sol­vents to clean hands and brushes.

Tung oil and poly­mer­ized tung oils pen­e­trate rather than float on the sur­face of the wood. Like oil-mod­i­fied ure­thanes, tung oils re­quire longer dry­ing times be­tween coats, but they pro­duce a true pe­riod ap­pear­ance: Water­lox’s Orig­i­nal Sealer and Fin­ish, for ex­am­ple, has been on the mar­ket since 1910. While poly­mer­ized tung oils dry faster than pure ones, a tung-oiled floor usu­ally takes 30 days or more to fully cure and should be treated care­fully for the first few months.

Best of all, tung oil and low-VOC fin­ishes made from nat­u­ral pro­teins can also be re­freshed with new coats with­out strip­ping. No sand­ing is re­quired be­tween coats, ei­ther. Note: Nut al­ler­gies may be trig­gered by tung oil dur­ing ap­pli­ca­tion and cur­ing.

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