floor finish - oil or waterbase? what respirator?

kashka_katApril 16, 2013

Several questions here - need your advice!

A while back I learned how to apply polyurethane floor finish - there was a bit of a learning curve but I perservered and can now do a nice job.

In the meantime, as Ive gotten older Im less reluctant to mess up my lungs and health - sorta get an asthma response to some chemicals.

Now I have another floor to finish. Question - everyone keeps saying the waterbased isnt as durable as the oil - is that true?

Also have read that its more difficult to apply well - for whatever reason, dries too fast, not self leveling or something. What's your experience?

ALSO - if I go with oil based poly - I will not do it without a respirator. However the paint fume masks Im finding in the store say - not for use with isocynates (ie polyurethane) . Asking the young kid in the store gets me nowhere . Trying to order online not helping either - you send your email out and never hear back, and good luck finding a phone number to call.

Anyone out there who can advise me on a SPECIFIC product - the 3m respirators looked good with the interchangeable filters but not finding one for isocynate.


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Catalyzed water-based polyurethanes are, I believe, much more durable on average than oil-based poly. It's what they use on high traffic commercial installations. They cost $120-140/gallon and are usually available at places that sell to the trade, not the Borg. They are considerably less forgiving to apply than oil, but you can put down two coats in a day, walk on it the next day and move furniture in the day after. The odor is minimal, but I have no idea what they might contain that might irritate asthma or what kind of respirators one should use. I've done without figuring that there was no stringent labeling on the bottle and I was only going to be doing it a few times in a lifetime.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2013 at 4:47PM
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Attached is a link for 3M's respirator selection guide. Their technical support line is 1-800-243-4630. If that doesn't help perhaps the manufacturer of your selected finish could offer a suggestion. Failing all of that, you'll need an industrial hygienist.

You may need an industrial supply house or online safety retailer to buy the appropriate filter. Folks at your local hardware store aren't going to be much help with this kind of stuff.

Here is a link that might be useful: 3M Document

    Bookmark   April 17, 2013 at 9:49AM
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"not finding one for isocynate"

There may not be one for isocyanate.

The last time I had to use isocyanate material (Dupont Imron paint IIRC) it was positive pressure air from an external source ONLY.

It is dangerous stuff with VERY low exposure limits.

Think Bhopal India spill (methyl isocyanate).

It is one hell of a paint though.

I wonder how the floor finish deals with it.

Maybe the concentration is lower.

Here is a link that might be useful: Isocyanates

This post was edited by brickeyee on Wed, Apr 17, 13 at 13:52

    Bookmark   April 17, 2013 at 1:48PM
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Look at the MSDS for the floor finish - it will specify what kind of protective equipment you need.


There are many isocyanates ... Methyl isocyanate is not used in floor finishes.

This post was edited by lazygardens on Sat, Apr 20, 13 at 8:20

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 8:15AM
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"Methyl isocyanate is not used in floor finishes. "

It is the isocyanate group that is far more dangerous than the methyl group.

That leaves MANY isocyanate compounds as very hazardous.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 11:45AM
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Well perhaps using 1 new respirator filter per each coating would be safe (ea. would have about 1 hr. of use and then throw away).

On the other hand water based finish is sounding more appealing all the time - wouldnt have that lingering nasty smell. But I dont like the sound of it being "less forgiving to apply." Are there any that are more idiot-proof than others

Also Im kinda confused - why would water-based poly be safe to use and not oil-base? Assuming isocyanate is a component of polurethane and not the solvent it is in.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 1:00PM
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There are no isocyanates (wouldn't they be di-isocyanates to polymerize?) listed as hazardous materials on the MSDS for the water-based finish I've used, which suggests that OSHA doesn't regard them as hazardous if they are there. Many isocyanate-containing compounds are pretty inert, their electrophilicity depends on the rest of the molecule they are attached to.

Here is a link that might be useful: MSDS

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 2:00PM
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"wouldn't they be di-isocyanates to polymerize"

Depends on what you are trying to polymerize.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2013 at 11:54AM
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responding to "water based being less forgiving" - quite true... oil based seems to level out while drying. If you leave a heavy spot with water based it will dry that way and appear white-ish. Oil based seems to dry very smooth even when applied too heavily.. it just levels out. Oil based also typically goes on heavier in the first place. Water based urethane can stretch and glide better so it goes on thin.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 8:42PM
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