Friendlier Flooring

Friendlier Flooring

Choosing healthy and green flooring materials

Installing flooring from natural resources can help make your home as healthy as possible, reducing moisture and indoor air pollutants from the ground up.

Wood wise
Utilizing wood from faster-growing trees and choosing engineered lumber are two green alternatives. The latter includes manufactured, structured and layered wood products, such as oriented strand board (OSB) and glulams, or glued, laminated timber.

Although formaldehyde exists naturally in wood, particularly in plywood and particleboard, homeowners should avoid using products with urea-formaldehyde, as this is a suspected human carcinogen. Some medium-density fiberboard (MDF) still contains and emits urea formaldehyde. If using this type of MDF, take precautions to minimize inhalation risk, including ensuring proper ventilation and wearing goggles and masks. However, some MDF products have low to nonexistent levels of formaldehyde and should be safe for consumers.

Wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is both green and sustainable. Using FSC-certified wood offers the assurance that the creation of a product has not contributed to the decimation of a forest but rather has been produced in a sustainable fashion.

Recycled and reclaimed
Other green flooring options include those that contain recycled content and those that are renewable, such as bamboo or cork.

If you’re going with carpet, choose natural materials with glues, binders and backing that don’t off-gas to maintain and improve high air quality. There are many options for green flooring materials. Consider substances that don’t off-gas, are made from waste products or that reuse items such as rubber flooring, which is made from recycled tires.

Reclaimed woods from nearby areas are another environmentally friendly option. These have low carbon footprints because they are moved only short distances to their destinations and because they have been cut down prior to use in current projects, so they aren’t comprised of any new wood. Although reclaimed lumber is unlikely to have a perfectly smooth texture, contractors can still use it for flooring. Another option is to improve upon its texture for use throughout the house, including in flooring.

It’s important to be aware that although there are many green products on the market, many companies are marketing their items for sale as environmentally friendly, whether they are or not. So ask companies you are working with to explain exactly what makes their products green.

stone selections
• If purchased locally, stone is a green option for flooring. It is available in a wide range of different colors and sizes.
• Stone is a good choice for those with allergies, since it will not trap dust, pollen and other particles.

did you know?
Urea formaldehyde, a suspected carcinogen, is used to hold carpeting and its padding together.

concrete choices
Concrete is an energy-efficient flooring material that naturally increases the home’s temperature during the day by passively absorbing the sun’s heat and decreases it at night by giving off the heat.

Although concrete frequently is used in construction, it has controversial value as a green material. Concrete contains large amounts of embodied energy, the energy consumed in making a product and delivering it to its final destination.

However, remodelers are reducing the embodied energy contained in concrete by using recycled materials to construct it, including fly ash. This byproduct of the process of making coal in power plants has often been discarded as waste, but remodelers are using it to reduce the quantity of cement in concrete, increasing the already present durability and strength of concrete.

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