In this post, I’ll be addressing the prefinished harwood floors that were finished with aluminum oxide. It has long been on my mind as we continue to run into so many issues with it.
1. Repairability: Repairing a few dented/scratched or water damaged boards with a prefinished floor, in theory, should be easy. Rip out the damaged ones and put new ones in. However, there in lines the issue. Do you have extra waste of the original material sitting in your basement? If you do, that’s great, but you may still run into an issue. Color changes over time due to sun fading, chemicals used to clean the floors, and so on. If you install the exact same floor, it could still end up standing out.
If you aren’t one of the lucky ones that have extra cases of wood lying around, this is where it gets even worse for you. First, you have to find the product. Wood manufacturers are constantly changing the range of products they supply and in order to keep up with design trends they also change their selection over time. The floor in your home may have been discontinued. If it has, you’re out of luck. If the flooring hasn’t been discontinued yet, you’re still most likely out of luck. The same flooring you installed will most likely stand out as well for a number of reasons: That new wood will have come from a different tree, different forest, it’s not sun faded, and etc.… No matter what you do, you can’t win.
2. Is it toxic? This is a tricky question. Most aluminum oxide flooring is UV cured. It’s a safe choice as the amount of chemicals that could absorb through your feet as you walk on it is incredibly minimal. However, there has not been enough studies done to provide us with any information on whether aluminum affects anyone via long term skin contact. That doesn’t put our minds at ease or raise concerns.
However, what if 10 years down the line the floor is scratched/dinged/damaged and needs to be refinished. This is where you run into issues and things get hazardous. Sanding off the aluminum finish is obviously going to lead to the dispersal of aluminum oxide particles. While the toxicity of aluminum oxide on human skin contact is nothing to stress about, inhaling it is a different story. Smokers or people who suffer from asthma are particularly vulnerable. The inhalation of aluminum oxide can be dangerous as it could lead to pulmonary complications. It could go so far as to cause respiratory restrictions. Needless to say, that those with preexisting pulmonary issues should not risk sanding away an aluminum oxide finish even with protective gear on.
We have had countless homeowners, builders, and construction guys ask us about the best way to fix aluminum oxide floors. Our answer is: Don’t install them in the first place. They will cost you more to sand them due to the hardness of the finish requiring additional sanding, they are costlier (and more of a headache!) to repair, and let’s not forget the obvious dangers to your health when sanding. Installing and site finishing solid hardwood floors may cost more upfront, but they are MUCH cheaper in the long run and have MANY more benefits. If you truly want the prefinished floors, consider an all-natural floor that was prefinished with a hard-wax oil like Legno Bastone. They have tremendous repairability and you don’t have to worry about any of those chemicals.