Fab Floors: Eco-Friendly Flooring Options for Green Design

Flooring materials can be beautiful and still tread lightly on the earth.

| May/June 2007

  • Antique, distressed oak floors from Aged Woods have a rustic character.
  • The natural variations of color and texture in these cork tiles from Expanko create a striking floor pattern.
  • Bamboo flooring from Plyboo is sustainable and stylish, with exquisite grain.

Your choice of flooring can reflect both your style and your convictions, defining the personality of your entire house. Today’s beautiful, environmentally friendly alternatives—including bamboo, reclaimed or sustainably harvested wood, cork and natural linoleum—make it easy to find a floor that suits your needs.

You can use nontoxic installation methods for these floors, too. Nail down bamboo and wood, or install any of these options as “floating” floors—meaning they’re not glued or nailed down but “float” atop subfloors so they can accommodate the room’s humidity changes.

If you elect to use an adhesive, look for a less toxic, water-based version with low- or no-VOC (volatile organic compound) emissions. And make sure to read the directions to ensure that the adhesive works on your product and in your climate.

Bamboo: Grows like a weed

Bamboo looks so graceful and willowy it’s hard to believe that some varieties are tougher than hardwoods. Bamboo looks a lot like hardwood; but while trees take decades to replenish, bamboo is a quick-growing grass—some species shoot up three feet a day. The downside? Most is imported from Asia, although U.S. sources are emerging as bamboo’s popularity grows.

To make bamboo into flooring, producers cut the plant into strips, boil it to eliminate sugars and insects, and often dry it in a kiln. Then they glue the strips together to make a solid surface. Some manufacturers degrade the sustainability of their bamboo by using adhesives with toxic urea-formaldehyde. The less expensive the bamboo, the more likely it is to have a high formaldehyde content. Always ask the manufacturer or distributor whether formaldehyde is used—or check the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), which manufacturers are required by law to provide, and which is often available online. Some distributors offer floors made completely without formaldehyde; other companies comply with Europe’s E1 standard, which limits formaldehyde concentrations to 0.1 parts per million (ppm).

6/7/2014 12:39:30 PM

I was considering using reclaimed wood flooring but unfortunately I could not find the color I want. My niece told me I should http://www.rlcflooring.com/#!benefits-of-hardwood/c135j hardwood flooring because the prices are cheaper in this time of year, I started the house remodeling project two weeks ago and this is the last thing I must buy to finish the project.

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