Choosing Environmentally Friendly Flooring

Environmentally-friendly flooring options help preserve our natural resources while eliminating exposure to toxins. When installing new floors in your home, you want to make sure your flooring choice does not damage your family’s health. Here are some things to think about when installing new floors.

Eco-Friendly Flooring

EPA studies have shown that indoor pollutant levels can be two to five times higher than they are outside. To find the source of many of these pollutants, just glance down. Installation of new flooring can fill the air with hundreds of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including known and suspected carcinogens like formaldehyde and benzene. It can take years for these substances to dissipate.

There are several sustainable flooring options that can minimize indoor pollution and mitigate health problems caused by toxic carpets. You can now choose from a rapidly growing line of flooring made from recycled and eco-friendly materials. Durable, stylish, and often less expensive than conventional floors, these sustainable options provide a responsible and healthy way to enhance your home.

Eco-Friendly Wood Floors

When shopping, look for Good wood. That means reclaimed lumber from local buildings, or, if it’s virgin lumber, make sure it’s certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). (Certified wood is often more expensive, though.) Never buy virgin products made from tropical or old-growth forests or trees harvested from ecologically sensitive areas unless they are FSC certified. See if you can find flooring made from trees harvested in your region (or at least domestically).

Non-Toxic Wood Floor Finishes & Adhesives

Try to buy flooring that is factory finished, so finishing chemicals cure in the factory not your home. If you do apply the finish at home, use low-VOC stains and sealants (preferably with less than 275 grams per liter of VOCs). Plant-based finishing oils may have a lower petroleum content than synthetic wood finishes, but are not necessarily low in VOCs. If buying engineered wood flooring, choose a product made without urea formaldehyde adhesives.

Many wood floors are nailed down or installed as glueless floating floors. If using a wood flooring adhesive, choose an adhesive with less than 100 grams per liter of VOCs.

Eco-Friendly Wood Floor Alternatives

From a resource-conservation perspective, engineered wood flooring makes good sense: the rarer and more valuable hardwoods are used in smaller quantities for the veneer, while the bulk of the material comes from fast-growing plantation trees. Solid wood flooring uses more high-quality wood than engineered products, making it particularly important that any solid wood flooring you buy comes from FSC-certified or reclaimed sources. Reclaimed wood flooring keeps valuable materials out of landfills and reduces pressure to harvest trees.

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