Posted by Victor Mulbauer on May 3rd, 2014

In Part 1 of this article, we talked about some of the issues that come from the long cure times of traditional hardwood floor finishes. Namely 1) long waits to replace all furniture and rugs, 2) over exposure to harmful VOCs as the finish off gasses as it cures, and 3) major inconveniences and wasted time on commercial projects.

In this article we’re going to show you how UV Cured finishes solve each of these issues. First though we’ll go through what a UV finish system is and how it works.

How UV Finish is Different

Although UV finish is water based, it is made quite differently from traditional water based finishes. For example, in a typical water based finish, in order for the finish to cure relatively fast and become durable, to work through and although they are faster than solver or oil-based finishes, you’re still looking at up to a week till full cure.

With UV finishes though, the catalysts are monomers, oligomers and photo-initiators. When photo-initiators are exposed to UV light it generates an action that induces cross-linking between the monomers, oligomers and polymers in the finish, which cause it to cure.

It all sounds very technical but the most important, as well as easy part to understand from all of this is that UV finishes, once exposed to UV light, cure, not in days or hours… but in seconds.

This is a huge benefit to pre-finished flooring manufacturers who have been using this technology for years. Pretty much all of the hardwood flooring you see with finish on it at your local big box store has been cured instantly with a UV finish system. It allows for a very fast production line. Quick multiple coats can be applied and then it can be cured, packed and shipped very quickly.

The UV curing machines they use though, are very large and heavy. What was needed was a UV light source that was small and light enough so it could be used on job sites. This is where the portable UV light machines come in to play.

The UV Curing Process

There are two types of portable UV machines used to cure a site finished floor. One is the big machine which comprises of a large UV light, encased in a box on wheels. This large light is rolled over the main floor area once the final finish coat is dry enough to walk on. It is limited though in that it can’t reach corners or other small areas like closets and stairs. So to expose these areas to UV light a small handheld UV unit is used.

These portable UV light machines basically allow us to bring prefinished hardwood floor coating technology to the job site.

The sanding process is exactly the same as it would be for any other finish. The hardwood floor is sanded to finish stage then the first 2 coats are applied and allowed to dry between coats. Once the final coat of finish is applied and is dry to the touch, the UV light machine is rolled over the floor which instantly cures the finish. The result is an impermeable, chemically resistant and extremely durable film that is comparable to the super-tough finishes you find on quality pre-finished flooring but without the negative aspects, like ugly bevels and limited options for customization.

Let’s have a look at the benefits of using a UV cured finish system compared to the limitations of a traditional finish system…

Benefit 1 – Residential Projects

As has been previously mentioned, UV cured finishes instantly cures to 100 percent hardness after the UV light rolls over it. It is then ready for traffic immediately!

Think of how much of an advantage that gives you as a homeowner. Now you can move back all of your furniture the minute the floor guys pull out of your driveway. No more waiting weeks to put your hallway and area rugs and door mats back. No more tip toeing around the house trying not to damage the floor till it reaches full cure.

It is also stressful having to constantly remind the tradesmen working on and around the newly refinished floors to be careful with their tools, ladders, and heavy boots, so they don’t damage it as it’s still curing. Something else that renovating homeowners do is cover the newly refinished floors with paper or plastic as soon as they’re dry, but not cured — do not do this. this will only cause issues with the finish, because the floor needs to breathe while it cures.

Now with instant UV cure finish, all three of these issues are a thing of the past.

Benefit 2 – Zero VOCs

In the Part 1 of this article, we mentioned how VOCs are not safe to be around and breathe in, especially if you’re pregnant or have young children living in your house. That’s one of the major downsides to traditional finishes. Because they take much longer to cure, you’re exposed to these nasty VOCs for a greater period of time. Old school solvent based finishes can contain 750 grams/liter which can off gas for weeks. During that time you’re breathing in all kinds of harmful substances.

With UV finish though, the VOCs are only emitted as the finish is drying. Even then the VOCs are extremely low. Once the finish is dry enough to put the UV lights on, the finish is 100 percent cured instantly and there are no more smelly fumes or VOCs released from the finish.

It’s one of the most eco-friendly finishes available.

Benefit 3 – Commercial Projects

We also touched on the huge issue cure time is for commercial projects. All down time waiting for things to dry and cure costs either time, money, or both in one form or another. Retail stores, offices, and restaurants, can lose huge amounts of revenue from staying closed for even a day.

VOCs, fumes and smell are also a big no, no for commercial projects. And your clientele couldn’t care less about treading carefully on your new floors while they cure either.

With our UV finish system, commercial floor renovations are much more convenient and way faster. Usually commercial floor renovations are done over night, after the business closes for the day. Once sanded, the hardwood floors can be coated and let dry for a few hours until the curing machines can be used. Then, once they’ve instantly 100 percent cured in the time it takes ot roll the UV light across the floor, your floors are completed and ready for you to re-open to conduct business the next morning. All with absolutely no smell or VOCs still being released from the finish and no stress about clientele scuffing up partially cured finish!

Of course certain projects may still need to be completed over the course of a couple of days, but compared with using traditional finishes, the benefits of UV technology for commercial projects are huge.

The Wrap Up

I think you can see why we absolutely love this new technology. On-site UV cured floors are the way of the future in the hardwood floor refinishing industry.

Of course they won’t be for everybody, but if you have a project that… 1) needs furniture moved back in as soon as the floors are done, 2) don’t want to have VOCs or smelly fumes being released for weeks, or 3) have a commercial project that needs to stay open during working hours while the floors are being renovated, then you should really look into UV cured finishes.

We’re happy to answer any questions you have about them.