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Fumes from oil based polyurethane...how long will it last

storymom
8 years ago
last modified: 8 years ago
I read what is online and I asked the installer. Now I'm asking for real-life experience.
We just installed hardwood in over 80% of our house. They put the last coat of oil based polyurethane on Tuesday. They said not to go in the next day (for the adults) but for the kids, don't go in until at least Thursday. It's Saturday now. I haven't taken the kids there (3 & 4 yo). Hubby stayed over last night to finish up a few things. He said he had the doors closed in one of the upstairs bedroom. The fumes were still powerful enough to make his throat hurt this morning.
So my question: how long is it going to take for it to be safe for little kids and almost 90 yo Great-Mammaw to live in the house? And how can I get the fumes out of there faster?
And if we move in the furniture in the next week, will it be cured enough for really heavy items?

Comments (79)

  • ra_ca
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    HappyEmpire, what do you mean when you say you were never able to rid the house of VOC effects even after refinishing? Do you mean the VOCs from the oil based poly had seeped into the wood of the flooring, so that even after sanding it down and refinishing with a water based poly, you were still getting offgassing of the original VOCs from the earlier oil based poly? Or do you mean the VOCs that outgassed from the oil based poly got into other materials in the house, like fabrics, walls, etc., and then emanated from there? Are things finally better for you now?

    I'm in the same situation now that you were in... our floors were refinished in February with oil based poly... still offgassing strongly 3 months later. Something has to be done... but I don't know what :-(

  • PRO
    DeBord/A.E.
    5 years ago

    From past experience with working with these products, the only way to get the final coat to dry fastest, and alleviate the smell fastest, is to run the air conditioner! Yes I said run your air on cold, the dehumidifier in the unit will help cut your drying time in half. I have done this personally on entire homes that had the same hardwood floors, and coatings. It does work! If this is done within just a few hours of the last coat, otherwise, I am sorry, the smell does take a long time to fade. You can air the place out, then put pleasant smelling scents in front of your air system's return vent, and replace that filter, even it it is brand new! Put in a new one, because the fumes scent do get trapped in your filter!

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  • ra_ca
    5 years ago

    Question for HappyEmpire, HouseFlip32, Dialyb9, or anybody else who has relevant experience with defective oil based poly refinishing that didn't stop offgassing after several months:

    If you chose to re-refinish, what happened when they sanded off the non-cured oil based poly layers? The more I think about this, the more afraid I become. I can only imagine that billions of tiny particles of uncured oil based poly will be released in the sanding dust and will spread themselves around my house, adhering to walls, fabrics, HVAC vents, etc. There they will continue to offgas for who knows how long. HappyEmpire, I'm wondering if that's why you were never able to rid your house of the VOC effects...?

    I'm wondering whether "dustless sanding" would alleviate most or all of this problem (the sanding to re-refinish only making it worse), or whether I need to spend many thousands of dollars to have the entire floor ripped out, and start over with new wood. Even that would not be great for the indoor air quality, because in the largest room that was refinished, the wood floor is glued down to concrete - so sanding off the glue would be bad, too. But at least the glue is cured and no longer offgassing...

    Thank you in advance for any ideas on how to remediate this disastrous situation.


  • PRO
    Cancork Floor Inc.
    5 years ago

    @ra_ca....Just to be clear...."off-gassing" is not the same as odor. A VOC free product can have HEAVY odors and there are products with HIGH VOC content that is ODOURLESS. VOCs are not always detectable by scent. Think skunk smell vs. Carbon Monoxide. One is very heavy on odor but not deadly. The other is deadly but odourless.

    You would have to make some sort of comment to support "defective oil based polyurethane". When oil based is defective it does several things to tell you it is defective. The very first thing it does = remain TACKY for years (it fails to cure or harden). The most immediate thing it does is cause "fish eyes" or splotches...that remain tacky for years (feels like you are stepping into wet bubble gum). Another thing it can do = "orange peel" finish...turns lumpy and rather orange....like an orange peel. This is often followed by failure to cure (remains tacky). I'm not sure if this is what you mean by "Defective oil based polyurethane"...or if you feel it is defective because it is so smelly.

    If you have a good looking finish that has hardened enough to move furniture back into the space (should have been "ready" by day 21-30 after the final coat) then it is not considered "defective". Smell or off-gassing is not considered a defect. But it does depend on your brand.

    Oil based polyurethane has both odourless VOCS and a heavy odour. It has VOCs that take a while to finish off-gassing (continues to give off material into the air) and it has HEAVY ODOURS which take even LONGER to get rid of.

    Oil based polyurethane applied in WINTER (a closed house) is going to take longer to get rid of SMELL than if it were done in summer (when you can open all windows/doors for 14-20 hours per day for 5 months).

    Dustless application does not mean "chemical free". Dustless has two meanings:

    1) A chemical is applied to your floor (a primer) and then a new coat of polyurethane (could be VOC heavy or could be low VOC...either way it is more finish)...aka "buff and coat" or screen and coat. Adds MORE finish = more chemicals.

    2) Sanding machines with HEAVY vacuums attached (90%-99% dust free) that does all the same things as a regular sander...but with only 1-10% of the dust that is normally thrown up. Still need to add finish.

    If you feel you are unable to deal with the oil based odour/VOC content, you can have it sanded down (full sand and refinish) to raw wood (once the product is "off" it is "gone" and you don't have to worry about it any more) you can start again with a water based polyurethane (Loba, Glitza, Bona, Rigo Step, etc) or you can work with a hardwax finish like Rubio Monocoat...which is extremely low VOC.

    What was the brand they used on your floor? And were you told about the smell/VOC content before you agreed to the use of the product?

  • registerrs
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Wondering if we were told the flooring contractor would use water-based Bona Mega but really received an oil-based polyurethane. We were told we could move in last Saturday after work was finished Friday. It's Wed now, and the place still stinks. There are no screens up, so we've had doors and windows open in the cool mornings (and have temporary run the old-style house fan) and the HVAC fan or AC during the day and nights. Is this normal for water-based polyurethane? And is it actually bad for our heavy furniture be on the floors before they're cured? Our flooring contractor told us it's a SIX-WEEK curing time and to just keep non-slip rugs off.

  • PRO
    Cancork Floor Inc.
    5 years ago

    Bona Mega shouldn't have this type of profile. Have a look at the product specifications: https://www.bona.com/Global/Countries/United%20States/Spec%20Sheets/2016%20Specs/Bona%20Mega.pdf

    Bona Mega shows a MAXIMUM CURE of 7 days (one week). The odor is defined as "non offensive"...which is correct if it was Bona Mega. No one should say you can move back in "the next day" after floors are refinished. There is only one type of product that has this type of "time line" and Bona Mega is NOT one of them...and oil based polyurethanes are NOT in that category.

    You did not get a water based polyurethane. You have an oil based polyurethane. If your contract said "Bona Mega" then you should get Bona Mega. If you did NOT get Bona, you have the ability to take this to the "boss" and to get some sort of compensation. Either they redo the floors or they offer financial compensation.

    What you are describing is NORMAL for oil based products. Check your contract to find out what was applied. Be aware that furniture installed over top of a partially cured finish could "sink" into the finish...kinda' like painting your windows shut. They can get stuck in the finish. If you ever move the furniture you could "tear open" the finish because it stuck to the bottom of the furniture.

    Before you move furniture back in you need to know WHAT product was used...and then find out the 70%-90% cure rate. That's around about the time you can move furniture back in without worrying about the furniture sticking to the finish.

    And yes, area rugs need to be kept off of the finish until it is past the 100% cure rate.

  • Jamie Lands
    5 years ago

    Im surprised reading all this. We are in the process of having our floors done, tomorrow is the last day/last coat of poly. I was searching around for info, I currently have all windows and all doors open and the smell is honestly not bad. I'm sure with the house closed up it would be, but I called the company and asked about the odor, and I asked if it was safe to be in the house during the process and he told me yes and to open up the house for airflow. We did get an oil based poly. Should I be concerned?? I just came back in after being gone the whole day, and the smell isn't anything alarming, it's pretty mild.

  • PRO
    Cancork Floor Inc.
    5 years ago

    Could be an oil modified product. Lower VOC content with lower odour. The real test will come once you close the doors and let the interior heat up. That's when you can decide about the odour.

  • registerrs
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Can't write much now, Cancork Floor, Inc, but thank you!

  • emcats9
    5 years ago
    My contractor just started refinishing our entire upstairs with minwax stain. He told us it would smell, but didn't say we should be alarmed or anything. We are currently living in the basement, with the stairs boxed off with plywood to upstairs. They put the first coat of stain on today and said it will take 3 days before they can do the next coat. The smell is unbearable and I'm worried about my own safety and that of my dog and cats. My husband says I'm being crazy and it's not that bad, but should I be concerned? I have fans going, an AC on and Windows cracked. Please let me know if I should be concerned or of any other advice you have!!!
  • PRO
    Cancork Floor Inc.
    5 years ago

    @emcats9....the fumes aren't necessarily dangerous (if they were the flooring guys would be dead before they finished their first house) but they are exceedingly annoying. And to be clear...this isn't the 'bad' part yet. If they used Minwax stain (sigh...another "professional" using DIY materials and getting paid professional rates) they are probably using a Minwax or oil based polyurethane.

    The stain is CHILD'S PLAY compared to the oil based polyurethanes. Just WAIT until they throw down the 3 layers of product over the next 3 days or so. Wow. Talk about FUMES! And the oil based finishes can take as much as 21-31 days to cure.

    If you are having a hard time with the stain....please CHECK to see what type of FINISH they are about to use. You may not be able to handle a month in your basement with the smell.

    Just a little FYI. Please check the brand and the product name...get back to us. You could be in for a bumpy ride with the olfactory offenses.

  • oscaryoshi
    5 years ago

    Cancork, or anyone else, can you please advise: Our contractor will be refinishing our floors in 2 weeks. They typically use Dura Seal oil based stain and poly (I believe this is the step up from Minwax.) They have worked with other products as well, including Rubio monocoat. After reading all of these posts, I am wondering if it is safer, and wiser to use a water based process? Or is there another alternative? I am not as concerned with odor as with safety from off gassing. Also, we have pets, and I am concerned that if it takes several weeks to fully cure, that the animals claws will scratch up the new finish before it has cured. We live in the northeast and I'm guessing it will be pretty humid here in July. Any suggestions would be most appreciated.

  • PRO
    Floors by The Shore
    5 years ago
    Dear All Concerned,
    I am a flooring contractor/retailer in the northeast and we work with all flooring types. We install new and refinish old. I have been working in the flooring industry for the better part of 30 years and I am also chemically sensitive. The fact is stains and oil based polyurethane contain isocyanates, as they cure they create tremendous off gassing. Some people are extremely adverse to this, others are not. As stated above it depends on the type of product they used as to how long it will last. If you are at all concerned about off gassing from your floors you should also be concerned about your (paint, furniture, synthetic rugs/carpeting, new car, and anything plastic)
    All of these materials together can be overwhelmingly troublesome to our homes health. Where we spend most of our time.
    There is a better way. I suggest to my customers FSC certified site finished northern white oak (mostly quarter and rift sawn) and Woca/Rubio oiled floors. These products do not contain V.O.C's are very durable and easy to maintain. They can be oiled without additional sanding for years. I also suggest Wool carpeting. Wool has the ability to absorb VOC's from the air within 30 minutes and do so for up to 30 years as well as being to dry for dust mites and self extinguishing. I also suggest air cleaners by Austin Air. They contain charcoal filters that absorb VOC's as well. Fresh air is also underrated and should not be overlooked.
    Think twice before you use traditional stain and Poly. These products are not durable, bad for our health and the environment.
  • PRO
    Cancork Floor Inc.
    5 years ago

    @oscaryoshi...Dura Seal and Minwax are made by the same company. The Oil Based finish from Dura Seal is almost as bad (for off gassing & VOC content) as Minwax. They come from the same chemistry lab...from the same chemists...from the same manufacturing facilities...you get the picture.

    If you are worried about VOC content then the LAST thing you want to use = oil based polyurethane. The water based polyurethanes can be less than half the VOC content than the oil based. Compare:

    Lacey Act: 275 g/L VOC content is the MAXIMUM allowable

    Minwax: 350 g/L VOC

    Dura Seal: 550 g/L VOC; 450 g/L VOC

    Polywhey: 150 g/L VOC

    Loba 2K Supra AT: 130 g/L VOC

    Ohhhhh dear! Dura Seal is WORSE than Minwax. Hmmmmm.

    If you switch to a water based, 2 part (2K) polyurethane, be prepared to change flooring companies/workers. Those who work oil based finishes are RARELY trained in water based finishes. They are TWO DIFFERENT ANIMALS. Beware the floor "guy" who says, "Sure. I'll give it a try. What's the name again?" Run...don't walk.

    Good luck.

  • ra_ca
    5 years ago

    @HappyEmpire and @HouseFlip32 , I'm about to order air quality testing to assess the level of aliphatic hydrocarbons (VOCs) from the refinished floors. I asked the testing company what the reported levels would be compared to in order to establish whether they were hazardous or not, and they answered that the levels would be compared to ACGIH indices. Is this the same comparison point that your air quality reports provided? If not, what standard or index was your testing compared to?

    I can't wait to move forward with the testing (to prove to the flooring contractor that there is a problem) and then have the floors pulled out. It's been nearly 4 months since the floors were refinished, and they still reek so much that I can't use half my house. In fact, with summer coming and temperatures going up, the offgassing has increased rather than decreased over the last month. For the first few months after the refinishing, I couldn't bear to be in that part of the house with the windows closed, but I could stand it if the windows were open. Now I can't stand to be in that part of the house even WITH the windows open.

  • Caroline E
    4 years ago

    @ra_ca - did you find a solution to your problem? What were the results of the testing company? I am in a very similar situation - Had our ENTIRE house refinished in February (bona stain with either duraseal or minwax oil based finish). Now, 13 weeks later, the house still smells. My sister won't come over because she gets a headache, and pretty much anyone who comes in asks where that smell is coming from (unless they're polite and don't say anything!) I have aired out the house a ton, and it makes zero impact. As soon as the windows are shut again, the smell is just as strong as before.

    My flooring guy is blaming it on the painter, and the painter is blaming it on the flooring guy. (The whole house was painted at the same time the floors were being done...back and forth for a couple of weeks.)

    I would love to have a definitive test so that I could prove to either of them that it is the floor or the paint (although I'm pretty sure it's the hard wood floors because the basement does not smell and we had it painted and new carpet placed).

    Would love to hear any advice from people on what my options are, especially if there are companies that will test this for me. And also, what I can expect the flooring guy to do to fix the problem.

  • ra_ca
    4 years ago

    Hi Caroline,

    well, it turned out to be complicated. I had an environmental engineering firm test the air in the rooms of interest. The way it works is that they need to know what to test for - they can't just test for anything and everything that might be a problem. Thinking that the flooring finish was the only problem, I gave them the MSDS for that finish, and they set up to test for the two substances shown on that MSDS. To my surprise and exasperation, the tests showed very low/negligible concentrations of those two substances. At that point I gave up on being able to prove to the original flooring contractor that there was a problem, and decided to just pay out of my own pocket to have the floors totally redone with prefinished wood.

    I then chose new wood and a new flooring contractor, and paid thousands of dollars to have the old floors and baseboards totally removed, and new floors and baseboards installed. When they removed the old baseboards, they found gobs of finish that were still wet and tacky and off-gassing. That finish had been pushed under the baseboards during the refinishing process and had never dried.

    Thinking that the undried finish had been the only problem, I expected immediate improvement once the new floors went in (since I used prefinished wood on the second go-round), but in fact what happened was that the odor was nearly as bad after the new floors went in. At that point I realized that a big part of the odor problem had been and continued to be from offgassing of the glue used to glue the flooring down - not the finish, or at least not just the finish. The second flooring contractor used a low-odor glue on the upstairs room where the new flooring was glued to a plywood subfloor, but the downstairs room has a concrete foundation that the flooring got glued to, and he couldn't use that low-odor glue over the concrete. The different glue used for the downstairs room has been a huge odor problem for me for months now. The odor upstairs was a problem at first, too, but that one improved faster than the downstairs room. The second set of floors was installed in November of last year, and now it's May, and it's just now getting to the point where I can stand to be in the downstairs room. For about 4 months after the new floors went in, I couldn't stand to be in that room at all. I am hopeful that in another 3-6 months, I'll be able to go back to using my house normally.

    I don't know if my situation helps you at all, but at least if you pursue the idea of air testing, you will be aware of the limitations... meaning, if you don't know ahead of time exactly what the source of the problem is, you can end up testing for the wrong things, and then the test won't show anything even though there is a real problem. (In my case I was sure the problem was from the finish; but actually it turned out it was probably more from the glue than from the finish.) It's also possible that even if you *do* know exactly what the source of the problem is, the substances that are listed on that item's MSDS may not be the substances causing the odor, so that testing for those particular substances will show nothing even though the odor is unbearable.

    Wishing you good luck!

  • Caroline E
    4 years ago
    Thanks ra_ca for your help. That's a very interesting situation with the stain getting down to the baseboards and never drying. I'm sorry you're having trouble even after replacing your floors. What a nightmare.
    I'm not sure what to do now about testing the air, and if that will even help me get my flooring guy on board with a remedy.
    Just curious did you ever consider an ionization machine to clean the air?
  • ra_ca
    4 years ago

    Caroline, no, I never considered an ionization machine. I thought that ionization machines only help with particulate matter (as opposed to gaseous substances diffused in the air). So I didn't think it could help remove gases from off-gassing.

  • Marilyn Davidson-Cowan
    4 years ago

    So much information here. I don't think I would have done the floors if I had known how much smell it was going to be. We are getting ready to sell our home and thoujght it would help sell if they had been done. Here is the problem.... while the floors where being done in the living room and dinning room we lived on the 2 lower levels of a 4 level sidesplit. While living in the basement we decided to do the laundry...... bad idea. The gas dryer reaks of the poly and all the clothes need re done. I just don't know how to get the smell off the heating coil in the dryer??? Also the fumes made the sensor on the hot water tank guit as well. We had the repairman come in and he replaced the sensor but said it would continue to go each time they came to do each coat. With my husband being an electrician by trade he made sure that he took the sensor out and out it in a plastic bag in the garage while they were doing the coats, once the fans had run he replaced the sensor so we could shower and have hot water.

    Is there anything we can but in the dryer to remove the smell before we start doing laundry again? Any help would be appreciated. Thanks. :)


  • Leah V
    4 years ago
    We're having our floors finished with three coats of oil-based Fabulon. I called the company, ARCAT (800.364.1359), and the rep said that off-gassing occurs as the floor cures and that the rate at which the VOC levels fall is correlated with the curing. So he said that 80% of curing typically occurs within 24 hours with an upward bound of 96 hours and at that time 80% of your VOC off-gassing is complete. He said that the remaining cure time could take up to 30 days from the time the last is applied and that when the floor is fully cured, the VOC off-gassing is fully complete. He said that as long as windows are open during the first 96 hours sonthat the house is well ventilated, there should be no danger of moving in after the 96 hours.
  • happyempire
    4 years ago
    We tried Ionisation on our floor issue and it had very little affect. The owner of the company was surprised and disappointed and refunded 50% of cost.
  • happyempire
    4 years ago
    @FloorsByTheShore. Thank you for your response. We had to move from our home because of the provoked sensitivity from the floors. Now, we are in a home of the same age and are postponing renovation because of pure fear. We moved and continued to notice symptoms and realised it was our mattresses and pillows and rugs. With a coil mattress and new pillows, comforters, etc we were finally able to sleep and recover. My husband was consulting with Simmons and we were able to purchase the best mattress on the market at an amazing discount. We were not able to tolerate the off gassing from the foam for over 6 months.
    I will take all of your advice into consideration when we are finally courageous enough to renovate. The flooring is our biggest fear but new cabinets, doors, wainscoting, furniture? The list goes on.
    Any further information you may have will be much appreciated-especially if you have first "nose"experience.
    Thanks again.
    Wish I could find someone who undetstands, first-hand, in the southeast.
  • ra_ca
    4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    @happyempire, I'm so sorry that you and your family have gone through such an ordeal. I wanted to say thank you for warning us about potential off-gassing issues with mattresses, pillows, and rugs. I will need to buy a new mattress very soon, and in fact already started shopping for one. In the showroom the one I liked best was a hybrid coil/foam design... but I wasn't accounting for the off-gassing problems I might encounter with a product that is even partially foam. After reading your comments I'm thinking I would do best to stay away from any mattress that is even partially foam. The last thing I need is to be breathing in off-gassed odors and chemicals all night, every night.

    About renovating -- I have remodeled 3 bathrooms in my house, and have not had any problem with off-gassing from the cabinetry (each bathroom got a new vanity cabinet plus medicine cabinet). That was Dynasty series semi-custom cabinetry from Omega Cabinetry.

    As far as standalone wood furniture, in the past when I have bought furniture that is "stock" premade furniture, I haven't had a problem with odors, because I guess by the time I took delivery, the furniture had finished off-gassing. However, recently I did purchase a piece of custom furniture that was built to my specs and then delivered to me immediately after being built, and that definitely did have an odor when I received it, presumably from the finishes used. But the odor was not overwhelming, and it decreased and became undetectable within about 6-8 weeks.

    Re: doors, a few years ago I bought some unfinished red oak Feather River interior doors from Home Depot, and had a handyman finish them in the garage here at the house with polyurethane (no stain, just polyurethane sealer). That definitely did smell for a while, but I left the doors in the garage for a week or two after the polyurethane application before hanging them inside, and by the time I hung them, I didn't smell anything any more.

    Re: flooring, I will never install a site-finished wood floor again, but I wouldn't hesitate to install a pre-finished wood floor if it could be nailed down instead of glued. The pre-finished wood flooring that I eventually put in didn't smell at all (although the glue used to adhere it on top of concrete was and continues to be a real problem). In the bathrooms that I renovated, I used porcelain tile from Crossville, and I don't recall any odor problems either from the tile or from the mortar/adhesive used to install it. I'm thinking I'm also going to put tile in my kitchen when I get around to renovating that.

    Hope that helps!

  • PRO
    Select Hardwood Floor Co.
    4 years ago

    YIKES!... hard to believe I was one of the original "commenters" on this thread on: July 22, 2013.

  • kevinzen8
    3 years ago

    Hello !

    To the point..

    We had a concrete floor done on our bedroom and sealed with xylene. Doing the right thing with air etc., But still odor after week and a half. I'm concerned about being able to inhabit again.

    Would an encapsulating sealer do the trick? Which one?

    Same guy did the kitchen countertop and sealed with polyurethane.

    Should I be worried there also.? Remedies there if needed ?? Oh boy...

    Thanks for any help.

  • nk_smith
    2 years ago

    Just wanted to share my experience with everyone in case it spared someone my stress and cost. I had my wood floors refinished naively not knowing about all these issues nor all the options available. A month after moving my furniture in (but not yet moving in myself) I wondered why I was having asthma attacks and migraines. It took a couple weeks (and lung function testing and a consultation with a toxicoligist) to figure out it was exposure the oil-based poly after just spening an hour or two here or there finishing up some of the renovation, not even moved in. Masterline was the particular brand if I'm not mistaken.


    Everyone told me I just needed time for it to finish off-gassing, but I needed a place to live, and made the very stressful and expensive decision to redo the floors again, and then spent another stressful week researching what to use. Bona was the winner (look for UL green- and gold-guard certifications). They were very helpful on the phone too. I nearly went with the Vermont whey-based finish but my floor guy had no experience with it. It's been another month and I've finally moved in and both asthma and migraines are improved. But I can assure you it was the flooring, because if I even spend a minute in the other unit I had refinished three months earlier my asthma flares for two days. Correctly noted above that polyurethane is produced from isocyanates, which apparately are known asthma triggers but you have to dig deep to find this information.


    Take home point - if you have any respiratory disease (or children), avoid polyurethane like the plague, especially the oil-based ones. And that said, I can't imagine inhaling those chemicals is good for anyone, even if you can't immediately feel the effects.


    Maybe I'd have been fine after a month if it had been water-based, but the oil-based ones truly can takes several months or longer to completely be safe. I had my trimwork redone in what I think was a water-based poly and that seems to be ok - but I am still having intermittent flares from my asthma. I think it's when I sit on any of the cushioned furniture that was moved in a month after the last coat of the oil-based poly was laid, and presumably because they absorbed all of the chemicals.


    And one question for the pros/others - I've replaced my mattress, but am hopeful that I won't have to replace my sofa and armchairs. Any experience with whether the cushions will eventually release/off-gas what they absorbed or whether there is any way to speed up that process? I've been advised to vaccuum, to use charcoal, to fan - but presumably it's pretty deeply in there and I haven't found any solid evidence that any of that actually works. I welcome any advice.


    TIA and good luck to all.

  • L H
    last year
    last modified: last year

    To @happyempire @Caroline E @ra_ca @nk_smith We are having a similar problem with our hardwood floors and fumes and are looking for possible solutions. I'm wondering if any of the folks who tried a solution and moved back into their homes have an update on how the floors and fumes are doing now.

  • ra_ca
    last year

    Hi LH, my "solution" to my original fumes problem was to tear out and replace the very problematic site-finished hardwood flooring with pre-finished wood flooring. However, as I wrote about earlier, it turned out that the replacement pre-finished wood flooring had its own fume problems, which turned out to be from the glue used to install it. I don't recall exactly when I stopped smelling/having a problem with the glue fumes, but I don't notice it any more. That prefinished wood flooring was installed in November 2016... I wrote in an earlier post that the glue fumes were better but still noticeable in May 2017... and now it's October 2019 and I never notice any odor any more. If I had to guess, I'd say it was late 2017 when I stopped smelling the glue odor from the non-low-odor glue used over concrete -- so about a year after the flooring was installed. The fumes from the low odor glue used over plywood in the other room stopped being an issue much sooner.

    I'm sorry to hear that you are in a similar boat and I wish you all the best in finding a solution that works for you.

  • MJ Bluemel
    last year

    I am having serious problems due to refinished wood flooring. I just recently signed a lease on a new apartment- a hard to find, perfect location apartment. The problem- when I first saw it I thought the fumes in the apartment were due to the new paint. I don't have any experience refinishing wood, so I had no idea. I shut the doors and when I arrived to actually move in almost 3 weeks later, the apartment smelled just as strong... maybe worse. That day I was having problems- nausea, headache, burning eyes and throat. The next morning my eyes were actually swollen. I soon found out it was the floors. I actually had a friend come over who was more sensitive than I am, and she could barely stand to be in there for 15 minutes. I opened the windows and went to stay at a hotel. The property company put a fan in the apartment. Fast forward- Now it's been two and a half weeks, and it was already bothering me significantly after being over there only a couple of hours yesterday. I'm currently in a corporate apartment, and I'm trying to decide what in the world to do. I've been trying to find out from the property management what was used on the floors, who completed the work, and when it was done. I've sent them three requests over the past two weeks, and I finally received a response- "satin floor finish" was applied two months ago. Those were the exact words! If I was the homeowner, it would be my fault, but I didn't know what was done before I moved in. I checked with a company that can do VOC testing, but it will cost $1000 and I've already spent a ton of money on the corporate apartment I'm staying in.....not to mention the rent I'm paying. I want to get the property company to replace the floors with (maybe) vinyl flooring. Any advice would be appreciated! I had a flooring company come look at the floors, and they said it's really unusual for the smell to be that strong after a month....but it's actually been two months!

  • ra_ca
    last year

    MJ, I'm so sorry to hear of your predicament. If the odor is still that strong after two months, that suggests to me that something went wrong with the refinishing, in which case it's unlikely that the problem will go away by itself within the next few weeks or even next few months. As to what your options are, I'm guessing that depends on a whole host of factors -- is there a different apartment in the same complex they would let you have instead? How much negotiating power do you have? Do you have a rental mediation program in your city? Can you try to get out of the lease and then sue the landlords if they won't return your deposit and/or let you out of the lease? After all it seems to me there is an implied warranty in their agreement to lease the property that the property will be habitable and not a hazard to your health -- and if the floor is off-gassing hazardous or noxious chemicals, that would seem to me to be in breach of that implied warranty (but that's just a layman's perspective - I'm not a lawyer).

    I feel for you and hope you can work out something that doesn't harm your health or your bank balance.


  • mainenell
    last year

    @m j Bluemel I’m sorry you are having these problems. But let’s talk reality. Instead of expending energy and angst over potentially many months arguing with the landlord I suggest you ask the landlord to let you out of the lease without penalty. This is not a solution that can be solved to your satisfaction in a timely manner. And no landlord who has gone to the effort to install or maintain hardwood floors is going to want to rip it out and install vinyl, a far inferior product. Vinyl flooring is also not any less likely to have these issues.

  • L H
    last year
    last modified: last year

    Hi @ra_ca Thanks so much for your update! I'm glad to hear ripping out the finished-in-place solid hardwood floors and replacing them with something else eventually worked for you. So glad to hear that the fumes eventually dissipated from your new prefinished wood floors and the glue. It's such a long ordeal to figure out how to solve a problem like that, and I applaud you for all the effort you put into it and am so glad it worked out. It is very kind of you to share your experience with other folks facing similar floor issues.


    Can I ask if you think it is worth it to get environmental testing? And if you have any tips about the process of getting the floors ripped out and putting something else in? And the big question, how could you tell when it was safe for you to move into your house?


    The other thing we're wondering is: What kinds of things in the house could have gotten fumes in them and would need to be replaced (I noticed the earlier comments in this thread about mattresses, upholstered furniture, and pillows)? Anything else? Do those fumes get into the walls?


    We're thinking of getting our hardwood floors ripped out and put in something safer for us with no VOCs, like maybe tile or something. I'm wondering if it is worth doing the environmental testing just to see what the VOC levels are in there now and if they go away if we rip out the floors. Or if the testing isn't necessary, i.e. would we be able to tell from our reaction if there are no more fumes if we take out the wood floors.


    We had solid hardwood red oak floors put in a year ago, and the installer used Bona Mega finish (water-based poly) and a Minwax stain. We wanted the lowest VOC option and were hopeful that the Bona Mega would work. We actually wanted him to use a Bona stain, but he insisted that he needed to use a Minwax stain (high VOCs) because it worked better, in his experience. We stayed away until the cure time was over. When we then went to check on the house, we smelled fumes and got those common symptoms of a reaction to offgassing (headaches, fatigue, etc.). Because the fumes are so bad, we have continued to stay away while we try to fix this problem. The floor installer said he'd never seen that problem and he didn't think it was the floor fumes. We tried but gave up on getting help from him.


    In our efforts to solve the problem, we talked to a company that does things like mold remediation, and they had heard of this happening with floor fumes. They recommended trying to air out the house frequently and run an air scrubber with charcoal filters. They thought the fumes would dissipate with time. We've done that for a year. The fumes improved a lot but haven't gone away. Recently, someone who was airing out the house for us went in on a day the AC was off while being repaired, and the fumes were so bad when he walked in that he got nausea and lightheadedess.


    At this point, we feel like we need to make a decision and move forward. I don't know how much longer it would take for the fumes to dissipate and for the house to be OK. We don't want to risk our health. So we're trying to figure out what to do and considering ripping out the floors and putting in something else. We're trying to figure out options that would be safer for us to put in, with no VOCs. Maybe wood-look porcelain tile. Were there any other flooring options that you looked into with no VOCs? We're scared of putting something else in there that could offgas. We're eager to get this ordeal over with and get to enjoy the house.


    Thanks so much for any insights you could share! Very much appreciated.

  • MJ Bluemel
    last year

    @mainenell When the landlord is a property management company that is replacing the old Parquet wood floors with new more durable fake wood as tenants leave, redoing the floors might be an option. The new fake wood is not nearly as toxic as oil based polyurethane. @ra_ca thanks. The Apartment is really perfect other than the fumes, so I really want to try and work with the property company and I don’t want to break the lease.

  • mainenell
    last year

    But they don’t have the durability either. Landlords goal is to create tenant-proof rentals. Real hardwood generally takes more abuse than fake stuff. And your previous post you specifically said vinyl. Hardwood can last 100 years. Vinyl and other fake wood products will not. And since they refinished these floors I would say it was not their intent to replace them or they would have done it.

    If it were me you would be offered “the happy clause”. I’ll let you out of the lease with no penalty if you leave it rent ready. It is obvious you won’t be happy here. Which it is obvious. I would not change the flooring to a less desirable product when I have a great there already. Now, if you want to approach it under ADA and say that you need accommodations for your medical issues it would have to be accommodated. On your dime. You pay to rip out the existing flooring, install whatever you want, and put into escrow the amount to return the floor to the original condition (hardwood). From my perspective, those are your two options.

  • nk_smith
    last year

    @L H most of my update was in my initial post - asthma really cleared up largely after redoing with Bona. The only thing I was disappointed about was that I couldn't get that rich aged amber hue to match the trim, as the Bona products are much lighter (we did add a little bit of "amber tint" but not the same), but I'm much rather breath now and also not have diminished lung function down the line (discussed this at lenth with my allergist and an occupational medicine doctor) from 6-9 months of exposure to asthma-inducing chemicals.


    The only update on my end is that the sofa and armchair do seem to have off-gassed from the exposure but I'd say 6-9 months before it fully cleared up.


    Also there's still some fine dust circulating from the HVAC that was probably produced during the sanding (as hard as I tried to prevent this the floor guy ended up turning the system on grrr to "help it dry" because he was in a hurry to finish the project), I've had the ducts cleaned but doesn't get it all. I'd suspect at this point though it's just dust and is no longer releasing the chemicals.


    Best of luck to everyone.

  • ra_ca
    last year

    Hi @L H, I actually don't think it was worth it to get environmental testing. If I had to make the choice again, I would save my money and skip it. I was naive in thinking that the testing would surely show a very high level of one of the VOCs listed on the floor finish's MSDS (I was planning to use those test results to pressure the floor installer to fix the issue). In fact, environmental testing is pretty useless unless you know in advance exactly what to test for. But how can one know exactly what chemical(s) is/are in the horrible fumes, and so what to test for? I certainly guessed wrong, and wasted good money as a result.


    As for what other flooring options to consider if you do rip out the existing problematic hardwood, that's a tough/complicated question. It depends on so many things, like the purpose/usage of the room(s), how hard of a floor your joints (knees, etc.) can tolerate, and so many other factors. For example, I have porcelain tile in all of my bathrooms, and I love it for that purposes, but I would never install it throughout the whole house, because it is so hard (which is more and more of a problem as I get older and more arthritic) and so cold (I installed heating coils under the tile in the bathroom, but that's not feasible for a whole house.) For me, pre-finished wood turned out to be a pretty good choice, although as I mentioned the glue fumes were problematic for a while. If your subfloor is suitable for a nailed-on installation of prefinished wood rather than glued-on, that might be ideal. Or if at least you are installing prefinished wood over plywood rather than over concrete, so that they can use low odor glue, that will help.


    BTW on my second installation I ended up using prefinished wood flooring from Mirage, and I love the product. The flooring is beautiful, and the flooring material itself had no odor whatsoever. The only odors were from the installation glue. Here is Mirage's website: https://www.miragefloors.com/en-us/hardwood-flooring/


    I didn't really have an option to move out of my house while the fumes were a problem, so I basically just avoided those parts of the house that were problematic as much as possible. I kept the doors closed between those rooms and the rest of the house as much as I could, and the windows open in those rooms as much as possible. The whole experience was very inconvenient and very expensive on the utility bills for a very long time :-(


    Thankfully I didn't notice fumes off-gassing from my furniture/rugs/curtains after the point where I stopped noticing the fumes from the glue on the second installation.


    All the best to you.




  • ra_ca
    last year

    @L H, one more thing - on my second go-round I used Mirage's "Engineered" hardwood flooring, not the 100% hardwood product. I think I had to go with Engineered because one of the floors was being installed over concrete. I was somewhat worried that any glues or binders used to create the engineered product stack-up would give off some fumes - but as I mentioned above, the product itself had no offensive odor. Mirage is a very reputable (high'ish-end?) flooring company, though -- I have no idea if all (i.e. cheaper) engineered prefinished flooring is likely to also be free of harmful fumes.

  • MJ Bluemel
    last year

    I stayed in my apartment last night, and woke up this morning with a swollen eyes/face (mildly swollen-not ER type swollen) and having to use my asthma inhaler that I haven't had to use in months. A couple people have recommended putting a coat of water based poly over the oil based poly to get rid of the fumes. Has anyone tried it with success, or not? I'm thinking of offering that as a solution to the property management. It would be cheap and fast. Any thoughts?


    It can't be normal for it to be doing this two months after they were sealed. Maybe they put it on too thick, or didn't wait long enough between coats? They did finally give me a brand name- Sherwin Williams- but no other information.


    Thank you!

  • ra_ca
    last year
    last modified: last year

    @MJ Bluemel, is it possible that your floor has one of the problems that mine did, which was that there were gobs of finish under the baseboards that were still wet and tacky and off-gassing, many months after the refinishing? That finish had been pushed under the baseboards during the refinishing process and had never dried. I think that can happen if the refinishers don't take off the baseboards while they refinish, and are not very careful about making sure the finish doesn't get pushed/sucked up behind the baseboards.

    Unfortunately I don't know how you'd check for this without taking off one/some of the baseboards...

  • happyempire
    last year

    I think that would be worth a try. It is a sensitivity issue and it does absorb into fabrics, rugs, mattresses, etc. it was more noticeable at night as you sleep closer to the floor but also because the fumes have been absorbed into mattress and covers. Wash all of your bedding and get a new mattress pad and see if that helps. We actually moved after 9 months and when we were in the new house could not sleep. It was disheartening but we immediately purchased a new mattress and all was well. We did move a rug out as well.

    Hope that helps and sorry you are experiencing this. i was in the house more than anybody and became seventy anemic. Just be aware if you are a person with sensitivity. Good luck.

  • L H
    last year

    @happyempire Do you mean that you got anemia from your exposure to the floor fumes? Did it go away after you moved? In your new house, did you have any trouble with the floors there? So sorry that you went through that! We're thinking of ripping out our hardwood floors because of the fumes. We're trying to figure out a better kind of flooring to get with no VOCs. If you have any tips on that, much appreciated.


  • mady nazario
    last year
    last modified: last year

    @L H I'm having a similar situation. I refinished my floors in July. After 2 months my home was still uninhabitable. I hired a new company to refinish my floors again in Sept. As they were sanding they realize that they were sanding off oil based Polyurethane and not water. I specifically asked that company for waterbase. I wasn't there to witness what that company put down with the first coat of finish. I suspected something was not right though, so I made sure I witnessed the final Coats of poly. The final Coats were bona Mega. In my case they used oil poly urethane and covered it up with water poly without proper cure time for the oil. The 2nd company I hired, I purchased the products and everything has been fine until 30 days later. The old smell is coming back and I'm getting severely ill again. Since July I have not been able to move back into my home. In July and Aug. I had air scrubbers running, I had windows open for 40 days, carbon filters, etc. I never took the floorboards out and that may be the problem that the oil and the water that seeped in, in July, is still offgassing , because it's not cured. I'm going to try a sealer in the floorboards. If that does not work, I've looked into Bamboo flooring. I'm going to wait a couple more weeks before I decide to rip out my new wood floors. I'm 4 months into this. I can't even imagine waiting a year to move back into my home. Definitely I'm not going to spend a $1k for air quality test when I know what the problem is. You want use that money for your new floors.

  • L H
    last year

    Hi @mady nazario, I'm so sorry to hear that you are having a similar problem. I know it is a major ordeal. It definitely helps to compare notes on this kind of problem. What kind of sealer are you going to try?

  • Lyndee Lee
    last year

    The classic sealer for odors and stains is shellac. It does smell when applied but the odors don't linger like oil base finishes. The solvent is denatured alcohol so cures much faster. Most floor finishers are going to be familiar with using shellac but they likely don't realize that as universal floor sealant is shellac based.

    Old shellac will dry slow and feel tacky so make sure the product is fresh.

  • mady nazario
    last year

    @L H Safecoat out gassing sealer. I'm only going to squirt it in between the floorboard and the hardwood floor.

  • L H
    last year
    last modified: last year

    @mady nazario Good wishes for the Safecoat sealer! Let us know how it goes! When you had the floors refinished, what products did you use? Did you use a stain? For ours, we don't know if it was the Bona Mega causing the problem or the Minwax stain (or the combination of the two -- still wish the installer had used a Bona product for the stain, though we don't know if that would have helped).

  • mady nazario
    last year

    @L H Just spoke to safe coat. They do not recommend what I want to do. He suggested that I seal the crack with a wood quarter round instead. We used Duraseal stain and bona mega one the 2nd time. I was fine though when all that was being applied.

  • L H
    last year
    last modified: last year

    Hi @mady nazario, Sounds like you might have an issue similar to the one that @ra_ca had, with the problematic finish getting under/into the baseboards. Keep us posted on what happens if you try the quarter round. Glad to hear you did OK with the Bona Mega and the Duraseal stain.

  • HU-495915858
    last year

    Wish I did more research before starting my project….

    I had the garage floors done with an epoxy base and polyurethane topcoat. While it looks great 😊 the entire family is suffering from asthma. I’ve not had to use an inhaler in years and have been on/off it for the last past month. The floors were installed on 5/28 and while the smell has greatly diminished, the cough and shortness of breath have not. Does not help that this is happening during the Covid pandemic. Anyone have experience with this problem in their garage?