I have come to the realization that I have been focusing on formaldehyde release in coatings of late at the expense of VOCs. VOCs or Volatile Organic Compounds are a major source of indoor air pollution. They are used in the creation of coatings. Some examples are acetone, benzene, ethylene glycol, methylene chloride, toluene and xylene. They are those things that “flash off” when that coating dries and/or cures. Lowering VOC content in coatings is a must in today’s green market place.

As Kermit the Frog’s song laments, it’s not easy being green. But understanding the process is the first step. VOCs are released from the components that make up our homes. A few examples are carpets, adhesives, composite wood products, paints, sealants and caulks, solvents, upholstery fabrics, and vinyl flooring materials.

I’d like to encourage all of you to take the time to go “kick a tire or two” in an effort to find out

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more about what it really does mean to be “green.”

Something that one of my associates said recently led me back to Greenguard.org to click on their “find products” tab and spend some time looking at their certified products to see what really makes them able to comply with Greenguard’s standards for indoor air quality.

The degree to which those standards are met is visible there. Either you comply or you don’t. It’s that simple.

Articles about indoor air quality appear often at WoodworkingNetwork.com, in CWB magazine, and on my wood finishing blog at Woodworking Network. I encourage you as a finisher, woodshop owner, project manager, or, simply, reader, to spend some time with this website today. What you learn will pay you benefits tomorrow.

There are a bunch of problems that must be overcome from a chemistry stand point to develop wood coatings that meet those Greenguard standards. The two that receive press time are formaldehyde and isocyanates.

Formaldehyde is a real buzz word across the industry. In coatings, it has to do with a chemical reaction in solvent-based coatings that causes formaldehyde to be released when acids are used to catalyze urea resins. The latter is the result of using polyurethane resins in a catalyzed coating in either water-borne or solvent-borne coatings. Look back and see that these reactions have been discussed in my previous articles.

A few weeks ago AkzoNobel/Chemcraft sent out the announcement that they had developed and were marketing coatings that were Greenguard certified. That was worthy of note, so I wanted to check it out. According to Greenguard’s website, AkzoNobel/Chemcraft, M.L. Campbell, Mohawk, and Valspar all have coatings that are certified.

Categorize Coatings
So, here’s what I would encourage you all to look for when deciding on a green finish. First, categorize the coating by base. Is it water or is it solvent-based? Then, look at the certificate and look for restrictions. Please note that these are common. They seem to amount to the length of time required between spraying and installation. Some require up to a 14-day waiting period. That means that the sprayed items need to cure elsewhere for that period before the trip to the job site. Greenguard must feel that at the end of that period, there is nothing remaining to interfere with indoor air quality.

Next, be sure to dig deep enough to discover what the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturer’s Association (KCMA) testing has revealed. Is this coating acceptable for kitchen cabinet and other higher abuse installations? Some are only specified for furniture, millwork and trim. That’s different from the rigors of life in the kitchen and bath environment.

Armed with that information, decide how to proceed with finishing the project at hand. If LEED points are involved, you and your shop need to know what to do to be able to earn those points.

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