Staying at home for months on end has led many homeowners to spot some serious need for home improvements. According to a recent Bona Cleaning survey conducted online in February 2021 by The Harris Poll among more than 2000 adults 18 and older, the remodeling projects at the very top of people’s lists over the next 12 months are floor refinishing and interior painting.

“From the floor up, these improvements can transform your home,” says Erik Peterson, territory manager for Washington and Oregon at Bona a company that specializes in floor care and renovation products. “They make it nicer to live in and, if you decide to move, easier to sell.”

If just the thought of a remodeling project fills you with dread, you may be remembering the smelly, dusty, time-consuming and even hazardous projects of 15 or 20 years ago. The good news for homeowners is that a great deal has changed since then — for the better. Whole new categories and brands of products and materials have come on the market, and many contractors have adopted new, eco-friendly processes.

The impetus for these improvements came from consumers, but also from contractors who work with remodeling products on a daily basis. In 2007, Kevin Reyes, who owns Element Hardwood Floors in Seattle, started switching from acid-cured finishes, such as Swedish finish, to waterborne finishes from Bona.

“It’s just smart as a business to protect workers and clients,” he says. “The new products are so much safer to be around.”

With just a bit of shopping around, you can find contractors like Reyes using these new products, materials and processes for remodeling projects. You can enjoy the benefits of a remodel without worrying that you are risking your health or causing damage to the environment.

If you haven’t done a painting project in the past 10 years, you are in for a pleasant surprise. Latex paints no longer give off smelly and hazardous fumes. That’s because the volatile organic compounds in them have been dramatically reduced, making interior painting projects safer and more enjoyable, whether you hire a contractor or go the DIY route.

“The technological advances in low-VOC paints mean that now you get the performance you need,” says Puji Sherer, the director of color marketing for Miller Paint in Portland.

The new eco-friendly latex has not only supplanted older latex, it’s replaced the high-VOC oil-based paints that were once considered essential for painting trim. “There are now latex paints that dry hard, the way oil-based point used to,” Sherer says.

If switching to eco-friendly paint has you worried about what to do with all the half-filled cans of old paint in your garage or basement, take heart: Washington’s new PaintCare program lets you drop off old paint (latex and oil, though, not spray paints) free for recycling. In King County, many Miller and Sherwin-Williams paint stores are dropoff points. Find all locations and a list of the paint products accepted at paintcare.org.

Just because your hardwoods are in bad shape, you don’t need to panic. Most hardwoods and engineered woods can be refinished — you can even update them with color using a stain.

Refinishing an existing floor is easier on your budget and a better choice for the environment. A 2020 report from the IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute found that refinishing rather than replacement achieves a more than 75 percent carbon footprint reduction.

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Because floor refinishing begins with removing the floor’s existing finish, Bona’s Peterson strongly recommends hiring a professional to do the work. You’ll benefit from their expertise as well as their high-end equipment. They can analyze your current floor and finish, determine the best way to remove old finish without damaging the floor, and use sanding systems equipped with vacuums and dust containment systems.

If you select a contractor with experience working with low-VOC, waterborne finishes, they’ll know which ones are best for your floor and how to apply them. As with paints, these products have changed dramatically from the days when a Swedish finish filled the house with toxic fumes.


“If your contractor is using a waterborne finish, your family and your pets can safely stay in the house while work is going on,” Peterson says. “There’s very little disruption.”

Reyes says Element Hardwood Floors works exclusively with penetrating oils and with Bona’s waterborne finishes. “These finishes are great for workers and customers, and the results are better, too,” he says. “Today’s floor renovation products can transform a worn dull floor to what looks like a totally new floor that is beautiful and durable.”

Bona has created a world of innovative sustainable solutions for every wood floor challenge — from installation and renovation to maintenance and care — with the needs and safety of our customers, and the environment, in mind.