Natural Oil Finish


Natural Oil Finishes vs. Polyurethanes

Natural Oil FinishNatural oil finishes have been used to finish wood for hundreds of years. Rubio Monocoat is made with linseed oils, an old standby for finishing wood. Polyurethane is the new kid on the block, developed about 50 years ago and its primary design purpose is to make furniture shiny. Polyurethane is a plastic made from petroleum, a flammable liquid often used in chemical energy sources such as gasoline and diesel, and which gives polyurethane its distinct “chemical” scent.


Zero VOC vs. Low VOCs

Applying a natural oil finish to a 400 sq. ft hardwood floor project will require one liter of Rubio Monocoat, which will emit zero VOCs and leave you without that harsh chemical scent. A typical polyurethane floor will require three gallons of finish, one gallon for the sealer coat and two more gallons of the top wear layers. VOCs from Polyurethane evaporate into your home at the rate of about 4 lbs. per gallon, which means that 3 gallons of poly used to coat 400 sq.ft equals 12 pounds of VOCs floating around in your home for your family to enjoy.

Bond and Strengthen vs. Surface Coatings

Rubio Monocoat, a natural oil finish, is not a surface coating. The product is designed to become part of the wood by penetrating, bonding and hardening with the first layer of wood. When wood is finished with Rubio Monocoat it will dent, it will scratch, and it may be repaired. To bring a Rubio Monocoat floor back to a fresh state: first, scuff the floor until it is clean as possible, then apply a new layer of oil. Typically, only spot sanding on extreme wear marks and scratches would be necessary, and a total wall-to-wall sanding is normally avoided.

Polyurethane is a plastic coating that sits on top of your wood, and acts as surface coating. The purpose of a surface coating is to separate wear and tear from the wood, which polyurethane can achieve, however, a polyurethane floor will never look better then the day of the final finish application. Immediately polyurethane finishes begin picking up small and large scratches - abrasions that defuse the light and pick up dirt - and quickly become visible from all angles.

The end-life of a polyurethane floor is not because it is worn out - it just becomes ugly. This process is accelerated when the floor is damaged by scratches that penetrate the surface coating and expose wood, which happens when dents penetrate the soft wood (NOTE: all wood is soft enough to dent and scratch). Unfortunately, all too often polyurethane floors must be maintained by sanding again and again, eventually exposing nails that hold the floor in place. Recoating a polyurethane floor is the recommended maintenance option. When should this be done? It has to be a joint effort, as soon as you have a scar that penetrates the surface coating, or when the floor looks dirty after you wash the floor. This “dirty” look means there is an abundance of surface scratches holding dirt. Scuffing and recoating will remove most of the dirt and provide a smooth cleanable surface.

Living With vs. Living On
The vast majority of my polyurethane customers live on their floors. They take of their shoes at the door, they have floor protectors under all furniture, and care to have nothing foul left on the surface.

A normal expectation of a polyurethane floor is that it is maintenance free. Rubio Monocoat customers live with their floors. They seem to recognize that wood expands and contracts with the seasons. Some believe this movement is a sign the wood still thinks of itself as being a tree. Feeding wood natural oils supports the notion that you are living with your wood and in turn, the wood responds to the appropriate care that’s given.

Reparability vs. Durability
Wooden sidewalks - Mayville, North Dakota, oak parquet floors - Auguste Rodin museum, Paris, France have convinced me that wood is very durable on its own. Natural oils enhance the durable nature of wood. While polyurethanes provide a durable barrier, this barrier also consumes a layer of wood each and every time it is applied. At best there are three to four sandings in a floor's life before the floor must be replaced. Over time, reparability is more important than durability.

Article written by Mark Toveri, North-East Regional Representative for Monocoat

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