Study gives ‘Thumbs Up’ for water-based finishes

Researchers have compared water-based paints with conventional solvent-based paints using standard characterisations, including rubbing/scrub resistance, cross-hatch test, pencil hardness, colour, gloss and haze measurement, drying time, stacking test, and chemical resistance.

The College Centre of Technology Transfer for the Cabinet and Woodwork Industries in Quebec (Canada) recently completed a study on water-based wood finishes, the Woodworking Network has reported.

Researchers decided to take a closer look at the pros and cons of water-based finishes because an increasing number of furniture and woodworking companies have made a transition toward more eco-friendly practices. Many others had not done so because of perceived barriers to implementation.

The researchers said that the two major reasons cited by companies that had adopted water-based technology were health hazards associated with high-VOC paints and regulations that limited the level of VOC emissions that could be released in the environment.

To better understand the implications for wood product manufacturers to transition to water-based finishes, the centre partnered with one of the biggest manufacturers of Quebec’s wood industry. The company had some concerns with many aspects of water-based finishing technology that included drying times and product performance.

The researchers said many of the fears associated with waterborne coatings were dispelled using standardised tests to help characterise the overall performance of waterborne coatings.

Among the results, they compared water-based paints with conventional solvent-based paints using standard characterisations, including rubbing/scrub resistance, cross-hatch test, pencil hardness, colour, gloss and haze measurement, drying time, stacking test, and chemical resistance.

The results showed that not only had water-based coatings moved closer to solvent-based paints in terms of performance but in some cases are even better.

All testing was conducted during summer with relative humidity over hovering at 25°C. All 12 different systems used in the test got better drying time from 5- to 20-minute differences. These results were, however only true when using drying technologies suitable for waterborne paints like IR radiation.

According to the researchers, the test results have proven that most fears come from older water-based technologies. Newer ones have overcome issues limiting their implementation.

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