Refinish Your Old Home's Hardwoods the Green Way

Mary Butler

When you bought your old house, its wood floors could have been in any condition: painted, badly scuffed or perfectly preserved under carpet. If you weren't lucky enough to have inherited the latter, refinishing your floors is a logical step--and a very green solution. Why replace something, when what you've got is perfectly good?

But how do you do it without using toxic strippers, sealants, stains and the like? Luckly, there are many green options available. But first, let's look at the task at hand.

Begin by Safely Sanding Your Hardwoods

Before you stain or seal the floors, you should to sand them, which can kick up a tremendous amount of toxic dust. To protect yourself and your family, use plastic to wall off the area that will be sanded and seal it with tape around doorways, including around the bottom. Use an exhaust fan to pull air out of house and attach a furnace filter that will capture the dust, rather than send it over to your neighbor's house. When renting a sander, request one attached to a vacuum to help keep dust to a minimum. And be sure to wear a respirator while doing the work.

However, things can get trickier once your floors are ready to finished. The big question is: what products should you use?

How to Choose Ecological Stains and Finishes

You may have noticed that every company wants to jump on the "green" bandwagon. So how do you differentiate between the truly green products and those that are greenwashed?

  • Look for the Green Seal, a certification standard that says the product has met an environmental standard for the category, "as demonstrated by rigorous evaluation, testing and a plant visit," according to Green Seal's Web site.
  • Shop at an eco hardware store that specializes in green building products and employs knowledgeable staffers, who can help you determine what products might work best for your project.
  • Consult a reputable green building products online buyer's guide.
  • Read online product reviews and see what the pros recommend.

While eco products haven't always resulted in the same quality finishes as their toxic cousins, things have changed. Finishes made with plant oils and waxes are being engineered to be amazingly durable. And unlike polyurethane, which forms a protective film, these products breathe.

Once you've made your product choices, the rest comes down to elbow grease. And then you can enjoy your beautiful finished floors with peace of mind.




Steve Rush • We're expecting twins soon. How can we refinish our floors now with the least harm to air quality? • May 13, 2007 • • Green Home Guide

About the Author
Mary Butler is a Boulder, Colorado based writer and editor, who spends much of her free time remodeling an old house.

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