Synthetic floor finishes may not be the best option when it comes to cost or indoor air quality - even those advertised as being free of volatile organic compounds.

The use of eco-friendly oils and floor finishes made from natural ingredients can achieve significant savings over the long-term when it comes to floor maintenance costs, as well as improve indoor air quality and reduce the risk of adverse health effects.

Andreas Petruzzi, director of Livos Australia who will be delivering a presentation on the long term effectiveness of using sustainable products at the 2015 SEE Sustainable Experience Brisbane, points to the broad range of alternative, natural materials that can be used for the manufacture of oils and finishes in lieu of conventional synthetic products.

“Products such as oils for timber floor, concrete floors and furniture can be made from naturals raw materials that are renewable,” said Petruzzi to Sourceable. “These materials include cold-pressed linseed oil, different types of waxes and earth pigments, rosemary oil and pine oil.

“These are an economical and sustainable alternative to your synthetic varnishes and paints.”

A chief source of the enhanced economy of natural finishes is their heightened resilience, which serves to better protect the underlying material.

According to Petruzzi these natural material can do a better job of protecting timber surfaces than the vast majority of synthetic products.

“Once these oils are applied properly to timber building floors they will not need to be sanded again as long as they are properly maintained,” said Petruzzi. “This saves you a huge amount of hassle, because if you have a timber floor in a house that needs to be redone due to scratches or wear, you have to move your whole family out as well as your furniture during the repair period.

Petruzzi also notes that avoiding the need for surface repair work is of intrinsic benefit to the quality of the timber itself.

“When you repair the floor you’re actually sanding the timber down itself. The more your sand down the floor, the less timber there.

“Especially with older buildings it becomes critical that you apply a type of coating that you can maintain, because eventually once you sand them too far down, you’re going to lose that tongue and groove, at which point the only option left is replacement.”

Petruzzi said that the savings that can be achieved in terms of timber maintenance and replacement costs can be highly significant, depending upon the size of the building or structure involved.

“We’ve done a cost effective study where we refurbished the floor of a school hall that had been scratched and scuffed by tradespeople, and achieved a savings of $20,000 on that single project alone.”

In addition to these savings, Petruzzi said that the use of natural oil and paints can help to avoid health risks associated with indoor air quality (IAQ) compared to synthetic products – even those that are advertised as being free of volatile organic compounds (VOC).

“Whilst a no VOC product might sound better that’s not necessarily the case, because they can still be offgassing semi-volatile organic compounds and cause health issues – particularly those who are sensitive,” said Petruzzi.

“No VOC does not mean that a product is healthy – if that were true and no VOC were the best health option, then we would need to avoid oranges or pine forests, all of which give off these gases.”