Advantages to Waterborne Finishes

Waterborne fans tell a beginner why they like waterborne, and recommend their favorites. February 8, 2008

I have tried several different waterborne finishes in the past, all with no great success. They all worked, but drying times were in the hours and days timeline. I see several people use waterborne products here. Have things changed in the past year or so? And if not, why are people using them and what advantage over regular solvent based products do they have?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor T:
Keep trying them. If all wood finishes were waterborne, you would have no choice. VOCs are helping wreck our environment. I use Fuhr 255 primarily. It is sandable in 20 minutes under room temp conditions. Maybe 30 minutes in cool weather. Faster if you warm it with radiant heat.

In my mind there are two types of water borne finishes, urethanes and acrylics. I like urethanes. They feel slippery. Seem tougher. I use acrylics for cheaper stuff or on oak. Urethanes darken oak.

My customers can't stand the smell of regular lacquers. It reeks forever! They love the "green" factor of low or 0 VOCs. So it helps sales.

Water is all I need to rinse out my guns, thin the finish, or clean up. Put a sink in your spraybooth.

Avoid cheap water borne finishes. They give water borne a bad name. Fuhr, Target or Chemcraft have been good for me.

You will save tons. No explosion proof spraybooth nonsense needed, no pails of solvent, no paint lockers. And much healthier for yourself and everyone else.

The only thing you may need to get used to is light scuff sanding between every coat, especially after the first coat due to grain raise. I don't mind and had to do this with solvent based as well. I love waterbased. It makes so much sense. I'm just a satisfied customer, not in their business.

From contributor P:
I second what contributor T says. I use the same products, plus General Finishes and ML Campbell, Lockwood and TransFast dyes and Golden Glaze. The only things I can think of that are measured in days would be applying WB topcoats over oil stain, or curing a topcoat before rubbing it out.

From contributor J:
Problems with drying times? I have used finishes from Target, Apollo, Gemini, Enduro and ML Campbell - and they all dried in typically about 20 minutes or less. I just did a job using the Gemini white and that stuff was dry enough to stack in about 4 hours. Where on the planet are you located? Is it in a rainforest or the Pacific Northwest? That might explain the drying times.

From contributor B:
We have been using Fuhr 380 topcoat for about a year now and we couldn't be happier. We have stacked doors on top of each other after an hour of being sprayed. I have used their 260 product and all of their stains, and they are both good stuff.

Contributor P, how do you like the Golden Glazes? I want to try but haven't had a chance.

From contributor P:
I like the Golden Glazes just fine. Easy to use, long open time, and they sell a base that you can custom tint.

From contributor U:
If you are spraying, try Shurewood water reducible lacquer (Sherwin Williams). Recoat in 10 - 15 minutes 2 - 3 coats. I had to add butylselusol to retard it, mix it 50/50 with water and reduce at 3% I think. I don't have my notes with me. The hot air from the HVLP was drying at the tip of the gun. I would not use it for casework, but for interior doors, millwork, and paneling I'm loving it. I've only used about 20 gallons, but I'm sold on it. Under $25 a gallon and looks great.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the input. I will try the brands that everyone specified. I called my chemical vendor and they said what you guys said was impossible, but at this point I am more apt to believe you and give it a go for myself than them, as they don't finish themselves and don't sell it, so they wouldn't want me to switch over. I will report back my experiences.

From contributor A:
If you have a pro shop and a good booth with heated air makeup or some similar setup, then dry times are in the less than 30 minutes (for Target, Beckers and Chemcraft). For spraying large units, set the temp control on the booth to 60-65 or it will dry too fast.

By the time you shoot 100 parts they are dry enough to flip. There's no reason a guy can't shoot 100-200 parts in a day with 3 coats as long as you got the 65-75 degrees. When you're done if the booth has a cure cycle, set it to 110F for one or two hours depending on the coating. Move out the racks and roll in the next ones.

The issues with waterborne are more in grain raise and having to sand one extra time vs. solvents. You can, however, minimize the grain raise if you stick with NGR stains and just use a waterborne topcoat system. The advantage of using a waterborne coating is that is simply the ethical thing to do these days.