What is Wood Floor Panelization? (HINT – Don’t Use “Cheap” Finishes on Wood Flooring!)

With the recent explosion of waterborne floor finish products (many are low-quality box store products), we’re seeing more panelized floors than ever before!

Stringent VOC Regulations Have Seriously Diminished the Manufacturing of Solvent-Based Floor Finishes

Floor finish manufacturers have had to continually adapt technologies to keep up with stringent VOC regulations. Solvent systems have had to reduce or remove selected solvents and modify polymers, creating more opportunities for water based finishes. This has also proven to be a tough challenge with water based finish manufacturers as they strive to fill the solvent products void.

New Water-Based Wood Floor Finish Formulations Continue to Gain Market Share

Water based finishes have been in use for decades, but have not found wide acceptance on wood floors until recently. Advancements in polymer within polymers and cross-linking technologies have performed well and continue to improve.

Side Bonding (aka Panelization) Creates Special Challenges

Water based sealers had not been widely used on wood floors in the past because they could cause side bonding, otherwise known as “panelization”. The Maple Flooring Manufacturing Association (MFMA) defines panelization as “a condition where localized excessive cracks develop between some strip flooring boards while adjacent boards remain tightly bonded together with no apparent separations”.

Causes of Side Bonding (Panelization)

In order for panelization to occur, TWO THINGS MUST HAPPEN:
1) The environment changes significantly, causing individual boards to expand and/or contract;
2) The individual boards are tightly bonded together, causing the floor to move as one large panel.

If either one of these factors is controlled, the floor will not panelize. Because maintaining constant humidity is impractical, it becomes important that the sealer/finish doesn’t “glue” the boards together.

The Importance of Minimal Side-Bond Strength of Wood Floor Finishes

Traditional “old school” oil modified urethane sealers had a minimal bond strength of 9 lbf/in., which is in line with the frictional forces required to move a tongue moving against a groove.

At Scrub n Shine, we use water-based oil modified wood floor coatings that use an acid formulation to disperse its acrylic polymers. This unique formulation provides optimal adhesion, appearance, slip resistance, scuff resistance and sheen to the top surface of boards, yet has a virtually identical bond strength of “old school” oil modified formulas of 12 lbf/in., helping to prevent panelization.

BEWARE – Some Floor Finishes Have Side Bond Strength as High as 414 lbf/in.!

NOTE – Buyer of “cheap” finishes beware! North Dakota State University’s testing of other commercially available water based sealers/finishes showed results as high as 414 lbf./in. At this level of bond strength, your wood floors are MUCH MORE LIKELY to panelize!

Contact us to discuss your situation. We can help!