American passion for eco-friendly flooring is growing. In fact, there has been a general swing towards “keeping things real” in homes and workplaces. People seek out timeless and natural products. This enables them to be environmentally conscious and to reduce the toxins in their living and working spaces. To make the most of this trend, manufacturers and suppliers have sometimes created marketing campaigns promoting products as being green and eco-aware.
However, some have buried the less environmentally friendly aspects of their range under marketing-speak!
This means that homeowners and commercial specifiers are also now taking more interest in the credentials of the products they use. This includes not just accepting construction materials at face value. Buyers want reassurances that materials are sustainable and harvested in a responsible way. They also need to know they are manufactured by companies who share their environmental concerns.
There is also a greater awareness of the need to include recycled components in materials and projects. Or at least, to use things that can be ultimately recycled. This is the sort of thinking that could well be going into your 2019 construction project, refurbishment or upgrade.
For some of you, the top of your list of priorities will be the floor! Starting from the base of the room or entire building makes sense. Once you have a firm “foothold” on that, you can start considering other interior design features. In 2019, many architects, interior designers and owners of homes could be prepared to ramp up their use of eco-friendly products. As well as introducing energy-saving initiatives.
So, here is a guide on how to make your floor a central part of your “green credentials”.
Eco-Friendly flooring materials are provided by nature
When you consider environmentally conscious flooring, you may well think wood, stone, tile, cork and bamboo. Mother Nature has kindly provided materials that represent strong eco solutions. However, when you specify your eco-friendly flooring, you need to also consider the carbon footprint that each option offers. As well as other aspects of its production.
Materials such as cork and bamboo are natural. However, the limits on their harvesting and reduced lifecycles do raise questions. As well as how far they travel to get to US wholesalers and suppliers.
Bamboo is growing in popularity, not least as it creates an aesthetic effect similar to hardwood flooring. The perception is that as it is grass it’s more environmentally sound than wood options, such as oak or pine. These take longer to grow back. This is not necessarily true though. There are some concerns about deforestation and the environmental impact of harvesting too much bamboo.
An alternative that has impeccable eco credentials is cork. Its harvesting does not kill the tree and it is easy to re-grow. Cork flooring is long lasting and a great insulator. It is also a relatively inexpensive eco-friendly flooring material.
However, cork is certainly not to everyone’s tastes. For many homeowners and businesses, the best eco option for flooring remains stone, marble, or hardwood.
Stone, tile and hardwood floors have the added advantage of being highly durable. You will not have to replace them for a long time. This is another way they help you to reduce your carbon footprint. Hardwood, tile and stone floors are also easy to maintain. You don’t have to buy products containing harsh chemicals or use electrical devices to keep them looking good.
Sustainable flooring solutions
One concern people sometimes have is whether these natural, eco flooring materials are sustainable. Particularly as they are growing in popularity!
Natural stone and marble have been used to construct floors since Roman times. So, they are certainly not going out of fashion any time soon! Did you ever wonder though, “Could the world’s supply of marble and natural stone run out?”. This is impossible to predict for hundreds of years in the future. Certainly, for now, there is no need to panic.
Marble is usually made from compressed and buried limestone, which is a process known as metamorphism. Limestone is very abundant on planet earth, and therefore new marble is being constantly found and quarried.
Natural stone is also readily available.
Tiles are produced from natural clay and other plentiful raw materials. This means they are also an option for anyone who wants to use naturally occurring materials in their eco flooring. Recycled components are increasingly used in tile production too (see below).
Wood floors are also a sustainable environmental decision if you buy from a respected source. Ethical flooring suppliers only buy hardwood from sustainable enterprises. These are the ones that plant as many trees as they fell, and harvest using responsible means. They are often organisations that carry the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) standard.
Recycling and reclaiming
This leads to another important consideration for eco-friendly flooring. One of the reasons that natural building materials are so sustainable, is that they can be recycled, reused and repurposed. In fact, the US construction trade and manufacturers in this sector are very good at regenerating natural materials. Including incorporating them into new products or projects.
This gives buyers the option to use flooring materials partially or wholly made from recycled components.
When creating eco-friendly flooring in 2019, you could specify reclaimed wood as your base material. This could be reclaimed wood from barns, for example, re-purposed into beautiful flooring planks.
One of the great advantages of this is the character and authenticity it brings to your floor. Reclaimed wood tends to have knots, cracks and patterns. These make it clear that this aged building material has already stood the test of time. Incidentally, there are more advantages from constructing wood floors from reclaimed timber. It is well seasoned and once installed it doesn’t move.
In 2019, there could well be more tile companies manufacturing products featuring recycled glass too, including former television screens and windshields!
Eco friendly flooring adhesives
So now you have chosen your preference for eco friendly flooring. Next, you may want to check whether other materials you are using are environmentally aware.
Adhesives used in flooring have been of great concern in the past. They can contain harmful toxins, that can release gases into your living and working environment. To get around this, you could choose a natural, sustainable and recyclable flooring product that does not require adhesive. This could include an engineered hardwood floor that floats. There are also wooden flooring options that you nail down.
Other variations require a certain amount of adhesive for fixing wooden flooring in place.
If you do use adhesive, choose one with low VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) and avoid any containing “formaldehyde”. Read the labels of other associated products carefully too. This includes selecting a primer for your wood floor that is water-based. There are also no-wax biodegradable formulas to clean and add shine to wood floors, tiles and marble.
The last bit of advice on eco friendly flooring?
When specifying your floor, talk to a knowledgeable supplier who has a genuine interest in this topic. One who scrupulously checks the credentials of all organisations in its supply chain.