Finding your Finish – Natural Furniture, Floor and Wall Coatings -by Erin Diamond

You have taken the time to choose the perfect hardwood for your floors, avoided the drywall laden with hydrogen sulfide, and picked the perfect table for your deck or dining room.  Finishes cover the majority of surfaces in your home, including the stain-guard on your carpet and the wrinkle-reducer in your favorite shirt.  Why skimp (or poison yourself) on the most prevalent building product in your home?

A few more nature-based coatings have made appearances or received acclaim in the marketplace lately, and we thought they were definitely worth mentioning.

Land Ark Natural Wood Finish – Land Ark NW, LLC

This company (based in Blodgett, Oregon) makes beautiful interior and exterior finishes from all natural ingredients such as tung oil, linseed oil, citrus solvent, pine rosin, and beeswax.  They have several finishes for different applications – all without harmful chemicals and drying agents.  For exterior applications, customers can request added Zinc Oxide UV protection or a chemical mildew inhibitor.  This wood finish is used extensively (and sold) by The Joinery in Portland, and I can honestly attest to how it brings forth the natural beauty and luster of the wood grain inherent in each piece.  Check out their site:

AFM Safecoat Naturals

AFM Safecoat (based in San Diego) has been making quality finishes for chemically sensitive and health conscious customers for 25 years.  They are our go-to recommendation for paint that seals in off-gassing and odors from prior finishes.  Now they have introduced a plant-based  paint that is biodegradable and breathable, with options to tint with zero-VOC pigments into any color in their repertoire.  We tested this paint on a basement wall, and were very pleased with the limited odor, thickness of the paint, and ease of application.  It was also a very quick clean up! Paired with the AFM Naturals High Performance Primer, we give this product a healthy thumbs up.   Check out AFM Naturals here:

PolyWhey – Vermont Natural Coatings

Vermont Natural Coatings (based in Hardwick, VT) has both floor and furniture finish made with whey as its bonding agent.  Whey is a byproduct of the cheese-making industry that would otherwise enter the waste stream.  Though PolyWhey does contain some hazardous drying agents, it has relatively low VOC content when compared to competing clear finishes.  We have not tried this product directly, but feedback from local distributors and customers has all been good –  easy to apply, low in odor, and durable.  In fact, PolyWhey was voted one of BuildingGreen’s top-ten building products of 2008.  Read about them online:

American Clay Enjarre

American Clay (based in Albuquerque, NM) has long been one of Greenhaven’s favorite products, due to its low toxicity, breathability,  ease of repair, restorative feel, and stunning aesthetic.  They have recently released a sprayable product called Enjarre, making the clay more affordable for larger commercial applications.  Enjarre is sprayed on in a single coat, followed by a second coat of finish clay plaster that is trowelled on.   Application instructions and more on American Clay’ website:   See Portland’s Traditional Natural Plaster Company applying Enjerre below, and click on the pics for a link to their website:

Traditional Natural Plaster Company applying Enjarre in a local Portland home.

Trowelling on the second coat.

All in all, some natural finishes exist on the market today that compete with their synthetic counterparts in durability and performance.  The market demands a high standard, but it is not necessary to sacrifice your health or that of the planet to get the beautiful and lasting results you are looking for.


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