Thursday, March 13, 2014

How to choose eco-friendly flooring

How to choose eco-friendly flooring options
Eco-friendly flooring options abound, for basements, kitchens and the rest of your home. Here are some great options.

Renovations are not my favourite thing to do. I love the idea of renovating but it’s all the decisions, the final decisions, that I find difficult.

Take our current project: We’re in the process of finishing a room in our basement. It’s almost complete but we’re stuck on the flooring and have been for nearly a year.

We want something that is durable, suitable for a basement and eco-friendly.

Finding options that are both durable and suitable for a basement are easy enough, but figuring out what options are the most ecofriendly are more of a challenge.

We ruled out carpet right off the bad since carpet harbours toxins and most emit dangerous VOCs (volatile organic compounds). There are low and no-VOC carpets available but you still need to vacuum frequently (twice a week) to keep the dust and all that it carries at bay.

Next on our list of options is engineered wood (floating floor). I knew enough to search out brands that are FSC certified. Forest Stewardship Council certification is a designation given to wood and wood products that are sourced from sustainably managed forests. 

The FSC designation is well respected but most of the engineered wood products use adhesives that contain formaldehyde, a known carcinogen that ends up off-gassing into your home. Then there’s the carbon footprint of shipping since most of it comes from China. There are some brands made with FSC Canadian wood and low VOC finishes. Duro Design based in Quebec has a number of options available. Ecotimber, based in the U.S. with dealers in Maine have options made with U.S. wood and low-VOC adhesives.

Bamboo flooring is appealing, especially since some brands do carry the FSC certification. Overharvesting of bamboo is a significant environmental problem in China and other bamboo producing countries, so if you do choose bamboo look for the FSC seal of approval. Be aware though that bamboo flooring also contains carcinogenic adhesives. Look for brands that are formaldehyde-free or at least low in formaldehyde.

Laminate flooring is appealing because it is so inexpensive. The problem is that next to vinyl flooring it’s just about the worst environmental choice out there. It’s fabricated with all sorts of nasty chemicals and it off-gasses a lot so isn’t ideal for enclosed spaces.  There are ecofriendly choices out there that are formaldehyde-free and contain all of the benefits of not-so-ecofriendly laminate flooring (search and the product COREtec Plus)

We have considered cork flooring. Environmentally it’s a good choice because cork harvesting is sustainable and the industry ensures that cork forests, important habitats for a variety of endangered species, are protected rather than razzed. There’s still the concern of adhesives and finishes with formaldehyde but low VOC brands are available.  (Check Duro Design).

For a more detailed overview of ecofriendly flooring options look for the book Ecoholic Home by Adria Vasil.

1 comment:

jill brock said...

Great research Bridget. Thanks. It's really difficult to know what to choose to support the environment. You do a great job in helping people make good decisions.