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Floor Varnishing with Water-Based Varnishes 

Floor varnishes are generally made up of one-part solvent and one-part resin, also called polymer. Water-based varnishes are called that because their solvent is water-based, instead of being oil or alcohol-based like more traditional varnishes. The solvent is used only to dilute the varnish to keep it in a liquid state during application. The goal of a varnish is to harden once applied to the floor. The process that causes it to harden is the evaporation of the solvent. In this case, the water evaporates from the surface of the floor to dry and harden the product, allowing the resin to act. 

Here’s why water-based varnishes are more eco-friendly: They have a low impact on air quality during evaporation. They’re often nicknamed “latex varnishes,” since their construction is based on a mixture of water and a polymer reminiscent of latex. In the field of floor restoration, water-based varnishes are highly appreciated. They’re preferred by both consumers and contractors.  

Several kinds of resin can be used to manufacture a varnish: urethane, alkyd, acrylic, polyurethane, etc. If you’re looking for professionals who know how to advise you on which products to use, our specialized team can answer your questions and take care of all your work throughout the Greater Montréal area (including the North Shore and the South Shore). 

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The Properties of Water-Based Varnishes: A Little Chemistry 

Several options are available when evaluating the formulation of water-based varnishes (latex varnishes). They consist of a mixture of several substances. In essence, there’s a solvent, a resin, and some additives. Chemists refer to the resin by the term “polymer,” which is a viscous component similar to plastic. It’s this substance that gives the wood floor the vitrified – or plasticized – look once the varnish has dried. A varnish may thus consist of a single type of resin or a mixture of several different resins. They remain distinct from one another once mixed. A multitude of combinations is possible: equal parts urethane and acrylic, 60% polyurethane and 40% acrylic, 100% polyurethane, etc. 

What distinguishes hybrid varnish from water-based varnish? 

Varnishes in the hybrid category aren’t part of the family of water-based varnishes. Rather, they’re derived from a so-called “hybrid” resin. The molecule of a hybrid resin is made of polymer and oil. It’s called “hybrid” because, after mixing, the resin becomes chemically modified. For example, it could be a modified polyurethane resin. Rest assured that the presence of oil doesn’t make the varnish toxic.  

On the other hand, due to the presence of oil and their amber colour, hybrid varnishes may tend to slightly alter the colour of the wood. This effect gives the wood a darker, warmer colour and a more old-fashioned look. This style is sometimes sought after by certain consumers. The difference between a purely water-based varnish and a hybrid varnish therefore comes down to the chemical composition and the colour on your floor. 

The Advantages of Eco-Friendly Water-Based Varnishes 

It’s worth noting that all water-based varnishes have a low concentration of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). In fact, their VOC content is about two times lower than their cousins, varnishes with oil-based solvents. In addition to being eco-friendly and safe for the environment, water-based varnishes can be applied without a mask, which allows the occupants to stay inside their home. 

Once the floor has been varnished, the faint odour caused by the floor sanding work dissipates very quickly. A water-based vitrifying coating doesn’t alter the colour of the slats. It therefore preserves the authenticity and natural warmth of the wood. Water-based vitrifying coatings are available in several gloss levels: You can get them in a matte, satin, semi-gloss, or glossy finish. They’re sold at a large number of varnish retailers that will offer you a wide variety of products. Faced with this accessibility and diversity, it can be hard to make a choice. You should know that a good floor varnish manufacturer will offer a high-quality product and honour their warranty. 

Inform yourself adequately before choosing a product, because there are many factors to consider! The manufacturer Bona is a well-known supplier that offers a range of high-quality varnishes to perfectly protect the surface of your wood floor. The Bona Novia, Bona Mega, and Bona Traffic HD varnishes are water-based varnishes that each offer different performances to be considered based on your needs. 

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Choosing a Lasting Water-Based Varnish: Price Variation and Product Quality 

Since the chemical composition of varnishes is complex, it’s the degree of resistance to abrasion that defines whether a varnish is high-quality or not. You may have guessed that a high resistance to abrasion usually leads to a higher price. The type of resin used in the manufacture of the product greatly influences the degree of resistance of the varnish. So, generally speaking, a urethane or polyurethane resin will provide greater resistance to wear. The more urethane or polyurethane a varnish contains, therefore, the higher its performance and the higher its price will be. Additives also play an important role in the quality of varnishes. They can also influence the level of resistance. 

It’s worth noting that, for an even more lasting finish, it’s possible to incorporate a catalyst. This will increase the chemical properties, reduce the curing (hardening) time, and increase the durability. The Bona Traffic HD catalyzed varnish is a perfect example of a high-end varnish. It’s super effective and highly recommended for high-traffic areas. 

It should be noted that catalysts are capricious products that generally require more advanced expertise. It’s therefore preferable to do business with a floor sanding specialist to guarantee an optimal result. 

Finally, to make a wise varnish choice, check out our table of the advantages and disadvantages of varnishes. If you have any questions or comments, contact us for advice from our floor restoration specialists. 

Additional Tip to Better Make Your Choice 

To better choose a water-based varnish, you should base your decision on the manufacturer. Choose a quality product with a good reputation. In addition, select a varnish retailer that offers unparalleled customer service to facilitate communication between you and the producer in case the product is defective. To avoid this kind of hassle, a floor sanding expert will be able to handle the situation with the manufacturer if their product is faulty. 

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