Unaware AND a theory… - Lynn Fern

Unaware AND a theory…


Did you know that Polyurethane can cause spontaneous combustion?  I didn’t.  Did you know the vapors can travel & if there is an arc somewhere (can be a refrigerator motor turning on, an a/c unit kicking on to create the arc) that if everything just works out in the perfect storm it can ignite?  I didn’t.  I come from a family that are DIY, carpenters, etc and no one thought about it.  My husband has worked on building houses, working with hardwood floors since he was 13.  His uncle builds homes, his brother has redone 2 houses…  We had been remodeling the house almost finished & the only thing that we needed to finish to get “sleep” there was finishing the girls floor in their room. 

Everything was done right so we thought.  The windows were open, box fans set up to help circulate air, the central air unit fan was on to circulate as much air as possible.  My husband stayed around for hours after he applied the last coat of polyurethane.  By 2 am the house was on fire.  Not sure where the origin of the fire truly was but we have a theory.  The theory is that the vapors rose up through the air return in the attic & there was something that created it to ignite. 

When the news came that this was the “theory” I became unsettled.  It truly is amazing that no matter how professional you are & that you’ve been working around hardwood floors this could happen.  It still boggles my mind.  To really think how much precaution we took in order to ensure the floors were done properly, that there was plenty of ventilation, etc. 

I’ve been reading into the spontaneous combustion that can & have happened…it’s scary.  I am glad I am more aware now but I would’ve liked to have learned a different way.  We have had some unusually humid & dry days here.  Just in reading different fires that have destroyed a few homes in the recent months similar to our situation, I am understanding a little more of happened.  The investigators were even at a loss since we had done everything we possibly could have.  The night was just a perfect storm to create the spontaneous combustion. 

My hope is that someone that comes across this blog & does a little research will benefit from a little additional knowledge.  Thankfully we were not in the house!! We were planning to stay there as could’ve slept downstairs, but the strong odor of the polyurethane was not what we wanted our girls to breath.  If you are planning to redo your hardwood floors or install them, please read all warning labels.  When you sand the surface please know that the shavings can combust.  Please research what the best way to dispose of the shavings would be (I don’t have that sort of knowledge).  I’ve just read a few articles about house fires due to the shavings.  Here are a couple of links:



I hope this information helps.          








Back to Top