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A Holistic Approach to Finishing -Step 3

6. November 2019 12:54

By: Joe Baggett, Innovative Wood Process Solutions

One personal mission I have is to inform, inspire, equip and empower leaders in the wood products industry to achieve the highest value. Through the introduction and the first two steps I really wanted to provide value information and the questions asking process in regards to approaching finishing from an holistic perspective.

There is so much technology for coatings and application is hard to make sense of it and how it could all fit together for each and every scenario and opportunity. But the good news is there is so much opportunity to put it all together to create game-changing and difference-making coating systems. In step three, the environmental side for emissions and permitting there is the highest level of complication. So much so many times organizations abandon good coatings strategies due to the complication. The purpose of this article is to begin to simplify this step in the process.

First of all, let me say that many think this step isn’t applicable to their operation or organization. Let me say that all finishing operations in all the 50 states is regulated by the EPA and any combination of the state and or municipal environmental regulatory agencies. Even some small shops that qualify for the de minimis clause still should maintain usage records for the exemption. Any time small finishing operations grow and move into the next level of permitting and air emissions regulation these steps will be applicable. Sometimes it seems backward to develop a coating for performance and marketing purposes first but it is better to work backward in this situation. If the process starts with the question of “what can our current permitting process allow in coating formulation?” then seldom will a coating that is difference-making or game-changing be on the table for serious consideration.
This is where the complication starts since each state and municipality regulate air quality and emissions differently it is important to understand what these are. It is well worth understanding the permitting levels and the time and cost involved. Involving an environmental consulting firm that specialized in air permitting is crucial at this point.

Basic Coating type  


Bleaching Whitewood Color

 Blending agents/processes Tones whitewood colors by removing natural pigments from the surface of the wood. 


Tones whitewood color usually with dyes and a clear


Dyes in solution used to create color and penetrate the wood grain

Wash Coat 

Tinted initial coat to provided background to subsequent stains and clears tones whitewood color and grain. This is clear mixed with pigment or dye to reduce the blotchy effect in wood color

Wiping stain 

Usually sprayed on then wiped off after drying briefly usually pigmented with some dyes and binder and solids

Spray no wipe 

Dyes with some pigments this creates color usually in one application sometimes two for darker colors. Usually lower solids and binder contents than wiping stains dyes may flip under UV curing light


Chart for clears and opaque pigmented finishes (click to open PDF) (note many of the clears can be tinted with dyes or pigments as well) Step III Holistic Finishing tables (1).pdf (278.27 kb)

Some large organizations do their environmental permitting in house which is fine but getting perspective from a reputable environmental permitting firm is usually well worth the time and money. Sometimes new finishing lines are ordered or coatings are formulated without doing this portion. This costs more and takes longer than the doing the environmental discovery on the front end. The value in using an environmental consulting firm is learning and using valuable information that wasn’t known before and then applying it to bring the new coatings formulations that were developed in step I and II. Here is a list of good questions and information to gather for that process. The goal it to get the new coatings system appropriately permitted.
1. Coatings developed from step 1-2 with the regulatory compliance data sheets (100% speciate if your state or local regulatory agency require them.
2. Ask your environmental consultant if your state and local regulatory agencies recognize the exempt solvents list from the EPA. If so ask for the regulatory compliance data sheets designate the exempt solvents.
3. For startup or relocating operations where location is flexible are there any constraints or disadvantages to where the finishing operation will occur geographically?
4. What permits would allow us the most flexibility?
5. If line changes may be required how long before permitting would allow construction for changes?
6. Are there nitrous oxide limits from gas burning for ovens (if gas ovens are used)
7. How often can permits be amended?
8. How can high(er) transfer efficiency maximize our permit and emissions in relation to volume? This one the best ways to maximize a permit and emissions but few people measure and monitor it in a meaningful way. A 15% improvement in transfer efficiency can proportionately increase your permitted emissions into produced volume.
9. In areas such as California with low levels of permitted emissions and tighter restrictions on coating and emissions are water-based coatings truly a requirement or does the level of emissions and the projected volume limit the coating? Polyurethane, UV solvent and water based and 2K water-based coatings may be options here. Discuss the regulatory compliance report with the environmental consultant.
10. Can reclaim from flat lines with a recovery system in liquid form be re-used without having to count it twice towards emissions?
11. Can waste paint and solvents recovered in liquid form be deducted from usages?
Through this discovery sometimes the discussion of a control device such as an oxidizer comes up during these meetings with the environmental consulting and the coatings suppliers while planning the new finishing system. I am constantly asked the question do we need or have to do this or is it worth it? First of all, we must always comply with the law. But whether it is worth it is another question of worth or value. If during the formulation phase and discussions with the environmental consultant the formulations that will make the most difference and be the biggest games changers will not be able to produced at the projected volumes within a permit not using an oxidizer then it becomes a math question of the financial benefit of the new finishing system and the up front costs and on going costs of acquiring and installing a control device. If the new finishing system financially returns more than the cost of the control device in a reasonable period of time then usually it is “worth it”. Sometimes the volume rises to the point that wood finishers are required to use a control device with the existing finishing system not a new one that game changing. In these instances, I also encourage wood finishers to use these situations to revise their finishing system and coatings to be “worth” it.

Sometimes the after the discovery with the environmental consulting firm the processes works backwards one step. However most likely there is a coating formulation that will still be difference making and game changing. Involve the various coatings suppliers that assisted in the coating development. If you state and local agency recognize the exempt solvents, sometimes the coating can be re-formulated with exempt solvents reducing the emissions and not sacrificing performance if needed.

Holistic Wood Finishing Process Cycle

Important formulation components for performance. For build the solids content and inner coat adhesion is important, for flow out and flatness of the solvents must evaporate slow enough to allow the coating to pull out flat before curing. For stains the solvent line up will affect the look of the pigments and dyes and the pigment to binder ratio will affect the look especially on tight grain woods such as hard maple.
The most important part of the environmental permitting side is the provide enough time and volume of use to achieve the marketing and strategic goals of bringing a game changing finish to market. It is common or great coating systems to die during the permitting process.
Many people are using a mediocre coating formulation because they believe they are either constrained from a permit regulation side or another constraint that will cost too much or take too long. It is important to recognize this but ask the questions from a stand point that will allow for the discovery of the coating system that will mean the most.
Here is the chart from step II but with a column as a rough guide for content of VOC/HAP/PM volatile organic compound/Hazardous Air pollutant/ and particulate matter. These are the main air pollutants that are controlled by the EPA and state and local environmental control agencies. Just as a general rule the water-based versions of these coatings tend to be on the low side but some can be on the medium side if they have water soluble non-exempt solvents. There is a common misconception that all water-based coatings are “low” in VOC this isn’t always the case. See the column to the far right. There is one other coating formulation that is important to consider that has come the stage that especially for low emissions applications that is powder coating for wood applications.

Joe Baggett is President of Innovative Wood Process  Solutions. Reach him at iwpsolutions19@gmail.com,    817-682-3631. www.iwps.biz

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