Stephen Perrera, Owner Of Top Floor Installation Co. and native Tucsonan since 1955 has been in the flooring trade for over thirty-two years. He is licensed, bonded and an insured state of Arizona Flooring Contractor and detailed troubleshooter who performs moisture testing and floor failure analysis, installing a variety of floor coverings. Top
Why Hard Wax Oils for Arid Zones
I have heard this statement from clients many times. "My designer and or friend/real estate agent said "Do not get a hardwood floor, they don't last out there in the southwest." Well, I tell them, just go down around the older parts of Tucson near the University of Arizona and you can see thousands upon thousands of homes built in the early 1900's that still have the original hardwood floors in them. Quite a few of the floors were fastened directly on top of the joists over top of a dirt crawlspace. Many still as tight as the day they were installed. I'd bet many even had wax as a finish at one time. The main specie was quarter or rift sawn red oak, but some are even fir from up top of the nearby mountain that had its very own sawmill.
Many of the problems these hardwood naysayers are referencing involve the cheap finishes gone bad over junky imported engineered wood floors. But I believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel!
Seems like the new rage for wood floor finishes is from Europe. I'm talking about finishes like Rubio Monocoat Hard Wax Oil. The Europeans seem to have a different outlook on finishes, not so glossy and more natural looking without that build of layer upon layer of plastic on top. Maybe it is because they live in the old world and everything has some weathered natural look to it. Personally, I love it.
Just having a title with the word "wax" in it brings back memories of grandma's old hardwood floor she labored over to keep shiny and new looking. But this is not your grandma's wax. Only similar because it may need a maintenance coat every five years or so depending on use. However, not two or three times a year like the old waxed floors needed. But what floor doesn't need maintaining once in awhile? The hard wax oil gives you a beautiful natural look to your floor. And it's not full of nasty chemicals.
Unlike the current urethane type finishes the hard wax oils are not a build type finish. They bond into the top fibers of the wood and provide a harder surface plus unsightly scratches are easy to fix with a little 220 grit sandpaper and a quick application of the hard wax oil and a buff, presto, fixed. Try that on your aluminum oxide pre-finished floor, or even the site-finished floor.
The hard wax oils have been around Europe for many years. The first time I read about Rubio Monocoat was on this websites front page where there is still a link to a video. The finish is zero VOC and is as green as green can get. So imagine my excitement when a client called and told me he was buying a wide long plank white oak from Oregon Lumber and they suggested the finish used should be Rubio Monocoat! Yes!
I'm not a finish guy by any means but I can run a buffer and that's about all that's required to finish this pre-sanded European white oak hardwood. I wax my old Bruce oak hardwood floor (circa 1985) a couple times a year. I still have a box the Bruce floor came in, it says "Pre-waxed for Your Convenience" I get a kick out of that every time I read it.
After we installed the 8 inch wide, ten foot long 3/4 inch 3 ply engineered solid floor all that's needed, if you have a pre-sanded like we had, was a quick screen and vacuum to remove any contaminants from the installation. I have got to tell you how awesome it is getting a high quality pre-sanded hardwood plank like we got. That saves a huge amount of time and money. The owner was worried about getting some swirls from the 120 grit we used, so we used pole sanders. Yes pole sanders... Is this how the Vikings did it... am I Amish?" Anyway it went pretty quick. Then all that is needed is to buff in the Rubio with a red pad, wait 15 minutes or so and buff with the white pad and you're done. Note: (Call Rubio for the correct grit for your specie of wood)
So what is this part about the Rubio Monocoat system in arid zones like where I live in the desert southwest? If you know anything about wood finishes, you know the harder the finish the easier it will check (small cracks in the finish) if subjected to large swings in relative humidity. So, what do we all know about protecting wood? Think oils, Swedish oils and even the old wax. They protect the wood from drying out. We use them on our furniture; I have kept samples boards lying around in my house, some out in the garage for the last year from that job. I've seen zero checking on the finish. Why? I think it is because there is no layered hard finish on top to check. I believe that is one key on eliminating this problem in arid zones.
Although some veneer checks in engineered hardwood (not to be confused with finish checking but also a cause for finish checking) are formed when stress failures occur in the face veneer, caused by differential shrinkage or swelling between the face veneer and the panels substrate it is applied to, keeping your home in an environmentally controlled atmosphere helps as does buying a balanced constructed engineered hardwood like the one we installed. There are also manufacturing methods that cause checking in wood, but for now we will leave that for the wood scientists.
The hard AO finishes cannot expand and contract with the wood so they exhibit checking and it seems wood with hard wax oils do not seem as affected at all by low Rh as far as I have witnessed. Your wood can even reveal checks and split in very low humidity but the hard wax oils seem to protect and condition the wood itself whereas the hard urethane finishes do not. Water beads up on the finish and does not leave a spot like the old wax did. My clients' refrigerator had a water line leak that went several feet out into the kitchen and great room. The floor cupped and after drying the floor out, the finish was unaffected.
My dream hardwood floor is a mesquite with Rubio Monocoat Natural on it. Of course, I would settle for the wide white oak plank any day. Maybe I will just hand scrape my old Bruce floor and put some hard wax oil on it. At any rate it will be better than regular wax. And definitely better than a total sand and finish with the standard urethane finishes.
Now for the best part, several manufacturers are pre-finishing their hardwood with Rubio Monocoat. The Rubio also comes in a multitude of colors to match any interior you could imagine. Last week I received some beautiful samples form WD Flooring with Rubio Monocoat already applied. I just hope more manufacturers will make pre-sanded unfinished and pre-finished hard wax oiled in their product lines. I really enjoyed doing that floor and look forward to doing many more.
Edited by Admin 11/9/2011