NTE Podcast: Another Dip Into The Mailbag

So many awesome questions being sent into the show these days, so Jay and Andy use this episode to discuss some of them. Piano’s and radiators, lingering paint odors, and a followup question to a previous episode about countertops.

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Another Dip Into The Mailbag

Another Dip Into The Mailbag

Another Dip in the Mail Bag

Andy: Welcome to the Non Toxic Environments podcast. My name is Andrew Pace. Every week, my cohost Jay Watts and I will discuss healthier home improvement ideas and options. Thank you for finding us. And please enjoy the show. 

Welcome back to Non Toxic Environments, everybody. This is Andy Pace. Jay, once again, we are here to discuss-

Jay: What we love to discuss. I think, I think what we last time folks, we we talked about countertops, we always suggest that you send us emails and ask us the most probing questions you have about how to make things safer in your home. So Andy and I thought today what we might do is just pick up on that and answer the mail that’s come in to us with questions. All kinds of questions. Andy, you’ve got one about countertops, which was our subject last time. So why don’t you do that one first. Let’s talk about what the question is. See if we can come up with a solution there. 

Andy: Sure. And actually it’s a pretty, it’s a pretty simple one, but I just have to say it’s kind of cool to have such instant feedback from the listeners. You know, we had a show that just got published less than a week ago and we’re already getting feedback. It’s actually regarding a client that I’m working with here locally and she heard the show and coincidentally she’s having countertops installed today as we record. We supplied the Cambria quartz products for her house. Well halfway through the project she called up and I always get a little nervous when people call while my installers are there doing the work. But she said they want to use this epoxy in between the pieces of quartz. What do we have that replaces that? You know, this is a fantastic question. It’s something that we didn’t touch on yesterday, excuse me last week in our show. So when it comes to putting quartz countertops together or granite countertops together, you understand that the only common slabs that are a certain width, and if your kitchen is larger than that width, if you’ve got any runs larger than usually, 90 to a 100 inches, they’re going to want to put a seam in there, are going to have to put a seam in there. Not only because of size limitations but also because of logistics of trying to get those slabs in. They’re very, very heavy. So in the field they will put the pieces together, but then they’ll use a two part epoxy that they’ll mix up onsite, put into that seam, they’ll push it together, they use some really cool equipment to put it together. Letting it cure; it cures very fast. They buff it down and when it’s all done, you barely even see it. 

Jay: No. Yeah. You don’t see the separation. 

Andy: Correct. 

Jay: So I’m gathering from what you said about the component nature of the bonder and it’s quick quick turn time that this is something that probably is not high on the list of worries first for our folks. 

Andy: Right. It’s actually one of those things in my exact response to this client was, sometimes you take one step backwards in order to take two steps forward. And there is no other material you can use at this time to piece these materials together. The good news is with two-part epoxies is that because of the rapid cure time and a rapid release of the solvent that’s in it, there’s an odor during the process, but once it’s cured, it’s done. It’s fully catalyzed, 

Jay: Right? And that’s usually within a couple of hours, sometimes even faster. Maybe the case with this, whether they’re needing to bond it and then put it in. 

Andy: Correct. And if there was a safer option that worked just as well, I would be the first one to tell you. But there is that, it’s a small, small, area to acquiesce on when you’re looking at doing such a large countertop area. You can still use safer caulking materials and sealants still use a safer adhesive underneath the stick it to the cabinets, but there is no replacement for that epoxy joint filling material. 

Jay: Yeah, there you go. All right. That’s a good, that was a good question and when we didn’t address, but there’s the answer. I have one here. These folks just had a piano stained and somehow they didn’t get the message that the contractor was using a gel stain from another manufacturer and the gel stain is oil based. And of course this stain is producing a pretty strong off gassing problem and they’ve had it off gassing or ventilating for four days and they’re still unable to play the piano. So they’re trying to figure out what do we do at this point to control the off gassing from the stain that’s on the piano. I think this is a challenging one for a couple of reasons. I mean, piano finishes are art at the highest end of furniture finishing in my book. You have, typically you want a very hard and a very shiny finish and it has to be perfect. It has to be mirror-like, I don’t know, they didn’t tell me where this is a Steinway or was just some old upright that they’d gotten. But there’s some challenges here. 

Andy: Your history with this Jay, with working with your products may be similar to mine, which is it’s possible you can get something like the AFM Acrylacq or Poly to stick to it, but it’s gonna take a couple of weeks for that stain to fully, fully cure out before you can even try it. 

Jay: Right, right. Folks, gel stain if you’ve never used a gel stain. It’s a very thick bodied stain. It typically comes in a small squat can. You can’t pour it, you have to rag apply it is how it works. And so it’s much thicker. So when you’re rubbing it on there, the idea is you rub it in your there because it’s oil based, it’s very user friendly, you don’t have lapping challenges. That’s why installers like it. But yeah, as Andy said, just alluded to, you have to let it fully cure out. Otherwise you have a basic incompatibilities between the water coating like mine, the AFM products going over that gel stain. So you have to let that cure out what we recommend is before you invest in any product for that matter that you’re going to put over the stain, that you get some small samples of that. And then you can do a little area that’s hidden. If it’s a grand piano you can actually lift up the lid of the string area and you could use the bottom of side of the lid as a test area underneath the piano someplace. What you’re doing there is you want to make sure that you’ve got good adhesion between the surfaces, that new sealer in the and the stain, right? That’s the thing you’d have to do on that. And then, again, this is depending on the quality of the piano and how important that is to you, but it’s probably gonna want to be sprayed to get that mirror finish. Unless your contractor is such a high skill level that they can brush. But there’s very few contractors that can brush mirror finishes. Very, very few, especially with a water based product. With oil bases maybe. So maybe there’s some real talented contractors out there if you’re listening and you guys can do that with oils and get that mirror finish, congratulations. Harder for water-based cause just cause they dry so much faster. Right. And so spraying is usually what has to be done. And then of course that means that the piano would have to be moved to someplace where it could be stained. You’re not going to be able to do it in an on site typically. I mean, I guess it’s possible you could set up zip walls and spray it and split in place. But I don’t, I don’t think so. So it sounds to me like this one was probably not that level, this isn’t a concert piano or if it is, they don’t care that much about it. So, I just want to touch on this and I think it’s, it’s always odd to me that, and I understand why, folks that are unfamiliar with finishing anything will look for someone to help them and the people that they sign on to have their ways of doing things and a pretty convincing and talking about how they’re going to do it. And so in a way it kinda, it doesn’t allow for the client to be able to step back and say, wait a minute, what are you going to use? And tell me about that and let me look into it myself and see if that’s something I want to be around at the beginning of it. I think what happens is the contractors, they’re there to sell their services and they can be convincing, they can be pushy too. They can say, hey, this is the way we’re going to do it. This is the way you’re going to do it. And if you don’t do it this way, you’re asking for trouble. And I think a lot of people can kind of get thrown off by that. And of course then we get the message, right. Oh, this happened. It’s like, I almost want to say, how did it happen? How did you let that happen? But I know why. 

Andy: Well, we know that with any trade that comes into somebody’s home, their opinions. Their expert opinions are typically what the customer is going to go with. It’s kinda like having a painting contractor, if we’re selling a Safecoat finish to a client, the painting contractor comes in and starts badmouthing those water-based finishes as you, customers get really nervous and say, well, geez, he should know.He’s been doing this for 25 years. I mean, he’s an expert. What do I always tell the customer? Well, I’ve been golfing for 25 years. I’m still horrible. 

Jay: So I love that. And by the way, I may say I’m in the same boat you are.

Andy: But truly, you’re right. It’s a difficult situation for any of us to be in because we’re certainly not telling the contractors or the trades that they have no idea what they’re talking about. These products are better. No, these products are different. 

Jay: Right. 

Andy: Which is a different way to do it. And we believe that the customer is going to appreciate the final product even more. It may not look as beautiful and as perfect as what you’re used to because you’re not used to working with these products, but the end result is something that is tolerable. It doesn’t have that tremendous off gassing. And I think ultimately the customer will be happier. 

Jay: I agree with that completely. I completely agree with that. Okay, I have another one. Lets just finish that out actually, I’m sorry, I’m kind of leaping ahead a little bit too quickly there. So back to the answer to the question is you would need to let that oil stain dry for three weeks, I mean three weeks, right Andy? 

Andy: Two to three weeks. 

Jay: And then you want to make a selection of your clear finish, whether it be one I make or another company’s clear finish water base, you’re going to want to get a sample of it and you’re gonna want to test it in an area someplace inconspicuous on the piano. And then if you see that it’s bonding, well then you know that you have some good, a good sense that it’s going to bond well to the rest of the unit and you’ll be able to seal it. Now let’s say that it doesn’t bond well. How would we know that? Well, a couple of ways. You know that you put on your coating and the first thing you want to see is that it’s laying down and making a nice film on the surface. If you put a brush it on there and it starts to curl up or beat up right away, then you know it’s not ready to be sealed with a water base. 

So then what do I do? Well, there’s a couple options, one that I’ve explained to people and of course there’s questions that come up when I talk about this. And I know Andy, you’ve talked about it too. So Andy and I both in a situation where we know we’re going to have a basic incompatibility and we need to seal something and the water-based isn’t going to stick to it. There is shellac, just pure shellac. It’s been around for hundreds of years. Shellac is a great, what I call bridge coating. It likes to stick to most things, oil or water. So you can use a shellac as a bridge. It’s clear, you shellac as a bridge. And then once the shellac dries, which is very quickly, good shellac basically is carried by alcohol. So the alcohol flashes off. You’ve got the shellac as your bridge coat and that shellac allows other things to be easily applied to it. 

You can apply water base, you can apply oil base to the shellac. So that’s a way to overcome a problem where we don’t have good compatibility. The other way that this can be assisted would be that lightly sand the surface receiving it to see if the profiling or the de-glossing of the surface would allow a water-based coating to actually adhere to it. Those are the two methods. You gotta decide which one you feel the most comfortable with. I tend to… it depends. I go back and forth. Sometimes I do both. Sometimes I degloss or profile and then I use the shellac as well. Sometimes I just use the shellac, but usually I’m doing a little bit of sanding. My best sense about this folks, and this is me. I’m always like kind of fanatic about prep and I think Andy would agree preparation is 99% of the project’s success. You prep right, you’re going to probably have a pretty good end result, all other things be equal. 

Andy: I agree. 

Jay: I like the sanding idea a little bit. 

Andy: Well, and I think it really, what it comes down to is, there are many different kinds of gel stains and brands on the market. And the way it reacts with the wood that you have, how it sits on the surface or soaks in. There’s a variety situations that you could be in with this. And so you just have to test and see which works. And you know, I’ve had a lot of luck with sanding and I’ve had a lot of luck with just wiping lightly with a cloth with rubbing alcohol. And so what happens is certain stains that have a lot of oils in them as the stain cures, the oils pushed to the surface. Which makes it difficult for water-based coatings to adhere to. And if you take alcohol and wipe off the oil, you’re left with a surface that’s much more amenable to adhesion. 

Jay: There you go. There you go. Okay. I think we talked that one out. I’ve got another one here. This is pretty basic. This client from a Kirkland, I guess Washington asking, I’m hearing so much about how paints take up to two weeks to cure and are very smelly. In the meantime, is this an application issue? I’d love to hear your thoughts. As I was all said to order paint, but I have to clear up these concerns. Thank you. 

Andy: You know, it’s a simple question but it’s a fantastic question. I get this all the time. So this is going to be my paint level, maybe a 200 level class on paint. 

Jay: Alright. Alright. I’m all ears. 

Andy: All water-based paints can take up to two to three weeks sometimes to reach a full cure in a full cure simply means that the liquid that was applied to the surface has fully coalesced into a film. 

There is no more solvent or water left to evaporate out. That’s a full cure. Now, 24 hours after you apply a thin coat of water-based paint, and I’m talking about at 350 to 400 square feet per gallon, not a thick heavy coat, but a proper thin coat of paint, 24 hours after that application, it’s about 95% cured. That last 5% is what takes two weeks or longer sometimes. Now, why would it take longer than that? Well, too thick of an application. I know there’s a lot of folks that have this belief that you want to put on a nice thick, heavy coat to make sure it looks good. Well that’s actually counterproductive. It takes longer to dry, longer to fully cure if it ever does, and the colors actually don’t come out as nice as they should and you’re better off putting multiple thin coats on. 

Jay: Yeah, and that’s the challenge too, when people are, especially in paint, when they’re working with dark, dark colors. Because it’s funny, it’s counterintuitive, but dark colors can be translucent. In the lighter colors, in the pastel colors and the tint base colors, you have an ingredient in there, you have a white ingredient titanium dioxides in there, and that titanium dioxide is giving you a base, a wider base. When you start taking out the titanium dioxide to be able to tint the darker colors to their color, in essence, what you’re starting with is you’re starting with a clearer base. The base isn’t as white in those darker colors and say you’re inserting all this pigment and you can put these colors on a surface and you can lay down one coat and you put it on real thin and in some colors, not all colors, but there are some colors where you put on a coat and it’s very, it’s very transparent. You look at it and you go, oh my God, I need to put it on thicker. I gotta put on a thicker coat because I gotta hide. Let me get the language clear here folks. There’s two language and they’re used incorrectly. Coverage is how far a gallon will cover it at certain mill thickness, mil thicknesses, how thick the film is on the wall. That’s coverage. Hide is how the coating disguises the background. So there are two different ideas. So I’m talking about hide the ability for the coding to hide the background. So what happens is I’m alluding to Andy’s comment about thick coats. So what happens is the tendency is okay, put on a thick coat, put on a really thick coat and we’ll get the hide, there’ll be better hide. 

But then we run into the problem and Andy is going to continue to talk about right. 

Andy: You put on that thick coat to try to get that better hide and you actually don’t. It turns out blotchy, not proper to color and it also extends the cure time and extending the cure time, results in two very, very bad things. Number one, the coating stays really soft. If paint is supposed to cure in two weeks, if it’s taking three, four, or five weeks for that paint, it’s still sticky after that long. It’s soft. So it doesn’t have the durability, it doesn’t have the functionality that a fully cured paint has. The other issue is it’s also releasing odor. And now this is getting directly to the listener’s question. 

Paint that might be two weeks, three weeks, four weeks… heck, I’ve been involved in some jobs were six weeks later you can still smell the coating that was put down and this is where it gets a little science wonky here. What happens is that last 5% of moisture is trying to come out and then you put another coat on and then you put a third coat on because not getting the coverage you want. You’re trying to deepen the color you’re, trying to finish the project quickly and now you have multiple layers with multiple amounts of percentages of water still trying to get out. And it takes longer and longer for that moisture to come out. But as the moisture comes out of the coating, it’s also carrying with it the chemical footprint of where it was. So this is how we describe the differences between curing and off gassing. 

Andy: Alright, so as the product is still curing and the moisture, whether it’s water or solvent or both coming off of the surface. It’s carrying with it the smell of where it was. Typically that’s the smell of the acrylic resin and the pigments and even the surface that it was on. Those aromas can be if it’s an off brand of product or you know, not so good of a product can be very, very dangerous. Now let’s say the coating finally cures, do you still have a sense of a solvent smell or you’re getting a reaction? That is what’s considered off gassing. Off gassing and curing are two completely separate terms and completely separate actions. Curing is the release of the moisture in creating the film. After that film was fully cured. This is when off gassing begins. Off gassing is the release of unreacted chemical monomers from a cured surface. 

This is essentially like dust, just kind of poking out of the coating. And this can give somebody with allergies, asthma, chemical sensitivities, a reaction. Quite often we hear customers saying, I just can’t stand the smell of paint that off gassing one after I put it on. Well, it’s not the off gas that’s causing the problem. It’s the curing, I understand what you’re talking about. But off gas starts after that cure after. 

Jay: That’s totally counterintuitive how people think about it. 

Andy: It is. And so understand that curing takes on the average two weeks off gassing can take up to three and a half years after that coat was finally cured. And so it’s difficult sometimes to detect if you had paint on a surface for a week or so, whether it’s carrying or offgassing. The reason we like to know which one it is and we have to sort of deduce through questions and some research is because if you were to take a coating that has a very strong smell that’s only been on a surface for three or four days, and then say it’s off gassing, I need to cover it with a Safecoat product to stop it from off gassing. I’m probably going to tell you at this point, don’t do anything because if you put another coating over the surface, all you’ll be doing is slowing down the cure and that smells gonna linger even longer. So it really is crucial to know whether the product is still curing or it’s fully cured and now it’s off gassing. Then we can address the situation. 

Jay: This sounds like a, the subject for a paper.

Andy: Yeah, right. Well, I told you this is second year college stuff, right? 

Jay: There you go. Yeah, yeah. Right. Good stuff. I guess there’s one more here. Boy, we’ve already gone a half an hour. This one’s really simple, easy. I mean, hi- I’m looking for a radiator paint that will resist up to 90 degrees. Wait a minute, hold on. I’m reading the email here. 90 degrees centigrade. They got a C in there. They don’t mean that do they, I guess, right? Yeah. 

Andy: Yeah. So I’m probably a question for one of our wonderful, Canadian listeners. We appreciate that. Unfortunately, there is no healthy paint that I know of that will withstand that kind of temperature. Latex paint, if it was 90 degrees Fahrenheit, yeah, no problem. With radiators because of how hot they get. And because of painting radiators, you’re talking about painting typically like a cast iron material, right? There’s a lot of swelling and shrinking that goes on as the radiator heats up and cools off. A traditional latex paints just don’t have the ability to withstand that, which is why people repaint them all the time. It’s kind of a vicious circle. You keep on repainting with products that don’t really work and you have to do it again another two years. I give two suggestions. Number one, you have to use what’s called an appliance paint. Something that can withstand that heat, right? There’s nothing safe about it. The second thing you can do is use what’s called a radiator cover, which is typically a nice almost piece of like wood furniture that covers the radiator, allows for the radiant energy to come out, but you don’t have to worry about painting it. 

Jay: Right? Yeah, that’s a good one too. That’s a very good one. There’s a lot more in my bag, but I think we’ve run our show. 

Andy: Great questions from the mailbag today. 

Jay: Not bad and we keep getting good ones and we really appreciate it folks. When you send those to us and challenge us. We like to be challenged and the more exotic the question, the better because sometimes we get educated ourselves. Our listeners will educate us. 

Andy: Well, and as the old saying goes, the only dumb question is the one never asked. 

Jay: That’s it. 

Andy: All right folks, that’s it for Non Toxic Environments this week. Jay and I will be back next week with another fantastic episode of the show. Please go to iTunes and leave us a rating and review. We greatly appreciate it and let your family and friends know about the show. We really appreciate the exposure. We’ve got a lot of great feedback from listeners recently too with the show and the better audio. Thank you for that. Jay, I think that’s it. We’ll talk to you again next week. 

Jay: Sounds good, Andy.


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