Michael Dresdner

straight talk about wood finishing

Don’t Blame the Dog…

Q: We applied waterbased Varathane to unfinished oak doors and base boards. They were stored in our garage for two weeks. This last weekend we installed the baseboards but had to remove them because the varnish odor was making us sick. What can we do about the varnish odor?

A: I must admit that this makes very little sense, since waterbased finish has almost no odor at all, other than a faint ammonia scent, even when you sniff the can. Once it dries, which happens overnight, it is pretty much odorless. Thus, I have a sneaking suspicion that what you are smelling is something other than the finish. If you told me what it smells like, that might help, but in any case, it would be wise to figure out what is causing the odor first. That way you can arrive at the best plan to eliminate it. For instance, there are general sealers that block odors, the best one being Zinsser SealCoat, but if the smell is coming from mildew or mold growth, you must kill the mold or mildew before sealing the wood.