Waterborne Finish Systems and Green Credentials

Is the advantage of a "green" rating worth the hassle of switching to a waterborne finish system? August 16, 2009

We have been using Mohawk products in our shop for many years with great success. We use the dyes, wiping stains, glazes, sealers, tinted primers, top coats, and repair products. Our finishers and even I have gotten very good at matching stains, reproducing factory finishes, and repairing just about anything a plumber, granite guy, or whoever happens to be in the house tearing up our cabinets.

Our Mohawk Rep had been telling us about their new Waterborne Finishing system. The idea of changing to a Waterborne finish sounds great. So our rep brought some to try and surprisingly they had waterborne dye, wiping stains, glazes, sealer, and top coat. I was really just expecting the sealer and top coat. We went through a very similar process that we do with the solvent base, granted the steps do look a little different while they are being done it does end up looking very similar.

Is it worth it? We can basically go from one job to the next with no issues. Meaning, jobs get done on time and on budget. Are the benefits of using a water-based finish worth the potential headaches of teaching our crew a new system. Have any of you made the transition smoothly? How do you do with repairs? Our rep went over repairing it and it seemed similar but he always make it look very easy. We did do a small job on our own and it went very well, although I would still like to have opinions on the subject. Also, does the GreenGuard certification give a shop any advantages?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor B:
Our Mohawk guy was just here and went through the same thing. The Greenguard certification is important for LEED projects.

From contributor R:
GreenGuard is only a benefit for LEED projects when someone is trying to achieve the Low Emitting Materials Systems Furniture and Seating credit EQ4.5 in Commercial Interiors 2.0. Even then, it is the completed product that must be GreenGuard certified, not just the finish. The only tangible benefit it will have for you is if you can market it to your clients as a benefit. If they don't want it or don't see the value of it over your competitorís product, it will not help you. There are the intangibles of better for the environment, employee health, less regulation, etc. It is difficult to attach dollar amounts to those. You will have to decide for your situation if it is worth the time and energy to switch systems.

From contributor B:

LEED New Construction and Major Renovations IEQc 4.2 (Version 3 - effective 4/27/09) is low emitting materials: Paints and Coatings. Typically if a finish or paint has been GreenGuard certified, it passes this requirement. It's not just for EQc4.5. GreenGguard is a separate testing entity that is not under the USGBC or LEED. We have to follow these requirements when specifications mandate the use of a more "environmentally friendly" finish than our standard pre-cat lacquer or CV. Rather than having to change finish/stain types/sealers for every job, I am looking for a simpler way to keep things straight.

From contributor R:
It is true that EQ 4.2 does call for the use of paints and coatings that are low VOC. The actual compliance is measured against the South Coast Air Quality Management District rule #1113. However, LEED has no requirement specified for shop applied finishes. They only care about the VOC content of paints or coatings applied on site. If you look at the reference guide for New Construction version 2.2 the requirement says:

Paints, coatings and primers used on the interior of the building (defined as inside of the weatherproofing system and applied on site) shall comply with the following criteria: it then details the different standards that particular coatings are held to. It is better to look at the actual requirements than rely on GreenGuard certification.

From contributor B:
We're splitting hairs. NC Version 3 says the same thing and I've read rule 1113 more times that I care to admit. I agree that the LEED requirement you quote is not based on shop applied finishes. However, anyone that has to go to the jobsite and refinish or touch up trade damage has to use the same type of finish the shop does so it's best to be consistent. I don't want to try and use waterborne (read that a more environmentally friendly finish) in the field and something different in the finish room. Also, I don't want to dismantle a paneled wall and truck it back 100 miles to the shop just so that I can get around the "shop applied" finish scenario.

GreenGuard bases its certification test on several different sets of standards, LEED is one, EPA is another, World Health Organization, etc., etc. whichever is the most stringent is used as the acceptable emission value which is why I said it is important when the project is going for LEED certification. Now can we get back to the original question? Has anyone tried this with any success?

From contributor A:
I do 90% of my work in the field. We did a project in the lobby of 1285 6th Ave. NYC over the last three years and we have been darkening faded areas. This summer we were told that we could not use any solvent based finishes. We had to darken faded columns using dye stains and wiping glaze stains with a water-based top coat. It took a little more time but I was happy with the results and the building owner was happy with the look.