We used Enduro’s waterbased polyurethane for several months during 2004 until we noticed that the top edge of the doors on the sink cabinets appeared to be water damaged at two customer’s homes. We decided not to simply depend on someone telling us that their product was durable or that it passed KCMA testing, so we performed our own tests.
We inquired on this forum what water based products other people liked and ordered samples of VanTech’s Van Aqua 247 sanding sealer and 485 topcoat, Breakthrough’s Clear Advantage sanding sealer and topcoat, Fuhr’s 375 used for both sanding sealer and topcoat, SDA/Craft’s Aqua Pro and sanding sealer, and Enduro’s polyurethane and sanding sealer.
We applied one coat of sanding sealer and two topcoats of each product on maple. All of the products laid down nicely and left a smooth finish. The Breakthrough was particularly smooth, but that appearance may have been a result of its satin finish having less sheen than the other products.
Stain test: We allowed these samples to cure for one week and then applied Bacardi, mustard, Windex, orange cleaner, balsamic vinegar, and Ajax mixed with water. After 24 hours we washed these products off and noted that the results varied quite drastically.
The Enduro poly, which had started showing signs of destruction within a few hours of application of the solutions, was stained by all 6 products. And a couple of the products had darkened the wood underneath the finish.
The Van Aqua showed stains (some slight) from all of the solutions and there were small crackles in the finish where the Bacardi had been.
The Fuhr 375 showed light stains from 3 of the solutions and left a dark stain from the orange cleaner.
The SDA/Craft Aqua Pros showed very light stains from 5 of the products (all but vinegar). The mustard stain was lighter than that left on the other finishes. The Windex stain was the worst of them but still not very severe.
The Breakthrough Clear Advantage showed only 2 stains – mustard and orange cleaner. The orange cleaner seriously marred the finish, though.
Edge test: We placed all the wood samples on a damp sponge for 24 hours. The Enduro, the Breakthrough (surprisingly, considering the exceptional results of the stain test), and the Van Aqua all failed this test. The finish on the edges completely separated from the wood or raised up into crackles.
The Fuhr and SDA/Craft products held up well to the edge test with just a tiny bit of the corners appearing to have water get underneath the finish.
Conclusion: Overall, I think the Fuhr 375 and the SDA/Craft are solid products. We’re going to go with the SDA/Craft as we are located in Southern California and they’re close by. The Fuhr gets too expensive for us once you add on shipping, as they do not yet have a local distributor.
I’m thinking about putting all the samples in the dishwasher to see how they hold up to a ridiculously hostile environment, but I don’t know that I want to trash the results of my other testing.
P.S. I also considered testing a Gemini coating, but I had such a hard time finding someone who even sold it (and they were on the other side of the country) that I gave up.
From contributor D:
Interesting evaluation. I have a few questions on the test. What was the dry mil thickness of the finishes and did you apply them uniformly or to each manufacturer's specs? What was the amount of time that they were allowed to cure before testing? Did the time left to cure meet the time of the manufacturers' specifications?
I did a similar test a few years back between SDA duraVar, Vantech 482 and a door that came from a leading national cabinet company that was a catalyzed finish, but I do not know the brand. Both wb finishes outperformed the factory finish in that case and neither caused any problems. I did mine a bit differently, as I took 5 ml of the following products: isopropyl alcohol, acetone, lacquer thinner, denatured alcohol, Lime Away and hydrogen peroxide and laid the panels flat, then poured the products on them and let them sit until they were evaporated in my case. Both passed with no problems. I like your sponge on the edge test.
All finishes were allowed to cure for 7 days, which is the longest cure period listed on all of the manufacturer's containers. This appears to be an industry standard for cure time. It's funny that your test of Van Tech and ours was different. We did test different products, though, so maybe that is the reason. We asked their sales person what product we should use on kitchen cabinets and we didn't want to add a crosslinker for safety reasons. He pointed us to the 485.
We were very unhappy with the Enduro poly. When we called them about the problem they kept telling us that it was just a calcified water spot that we needed to wash off with soapy water. It was obvious to us that the water had gotten under the finish. Enduro advertises that their finish was rated best in Fine Woodworking but that article was done way back in 1998.
Have you tried any comparisons for scratch resistance? This is my biggest concern with Enduro. I think another concern when choosing a product is their customer service. If anyone has experience with the tested products' customer service (good or bad), I'd love to hear about it.
For water-based finishes, I usually use Target Coatings and I noticed they let the finish cure longer than you did before they do the testing. And they have specific wet mils recommendations as well as time between coats for optimum performance with minimal cure time. I'd guess that all the water-base manufacturers have similar guidelines.
Someone said 7 days was not a long enough time to let the finishes cure but this was per the manufacturers' specs. The test was done on only one side of the sample pieces of wood, so maybe I will try again in a couple of weeks.
I know you said you use Target coatings and I did not test their product, but there are so many to choose from. I wish I could test every finish there is, but that is not possible.
There might be a few people who think I am a sales rep for somebody, but I assure you I am not. I will restate that I chose SDA/Craft for my finish because of how their product performed and their proximity to me. But I would also like to say that Fuhr by far had the best customer service and all of the companies provided sample products to me at no cost or only shipping charges.
I think your test told you what you needed to know and helped you pick a finish that meets your needs. You found the finish that performs the best according to your application technique, re-coat schedule, and cure time. It's a lot more than most folks ever bother to do.
The one week listed on a can… is that what you will rely on? A contributor on this forum made these observations about how long waterbornes need to cure before they are truly useful, and that was more than a year ago. It took a little, but one or two suppliers/formulators in that thread did admit that waterbornes need a while to fully cure. Fact, not opinion, and not container label hype.
Remember, it is manufacturers and suppliers who hype the solids ratios of their products by weight instead of by volume. Weight is a useful number for regulators and formulators. Only the volume measurement is useful for us finishers who need that info to complete the math on our dried mil thickness.
Just to make the playing field level for any waterborne, keep it at four weeks.
By the way, what about waterborne floor coatings? They say you can walk on them within one day in your socks. How long before you can expect normal traffic patterns for your newly finished floors? The manufacturers for those coatings do not shy away from the rule of a few weeks.
Four weeks for waterborne. And four weeks for solvent precat. And four weeks for conversion coatings. That's if you really want to do proper comparisons and tests from one product to another. It's just like gestation and kids, we don't start testing them in school until they are born. Until then, it's all hypothetical.
We used MLC Ultrastar satin for several years and were able to get a beautiful finish initially. Upon returning to a kitchen some three years later, the finish was definitely failing. I can't guarantee that we followed the correct application procedures, so my criticism of that finish remains anecdotal and not scientific.
One thing that I have a hard time with is the amount of finish applied in the tests described above. Three coats of any finish is hardly what I would consider a durable finish, especially if you're sanding between each application. I doubt you have hardly any finish left to protect your cabinets. I do three applications and sometimes four if I'm working with a soft wood like alder.
First step is two coats of sanding sealer (no sanding between coats), then scuff sand with 400 and clean up with synthetic steel wool (3m purple metal grade), next application, two coats of gloss (no sanding between coats), then sand and clean up as above. Final coat is a catalyzed (crosslinked) topcoat. It is very important to properly mix the catalyst into your mixture or you won't get the desired results.
Also, I couldn't agree more that the actual cure time is four weeks. One day per coat is the rule of thumb. But like most here have stated, that's just not the real world. All of my invoices clearly state full cure is four weeks and to avoid caustic cleaners in the interim, and that recommended clean up is soap and water, or some other mild cleaner (409, etc.).