Eco-Coach

Green your life at home, work & play

Put a cork in it! Green flooring alternatives April 13, 2007

If you’re remodeling and considering replacing your floor, or are tired of your carpet and want a new one, there are many environmentally friendly alternatives to choose from. Here are a few to consider:

  • Bamboo: I’m sure you’ve heard of this one already. It’s a grass that requires minimal fertilization and pesticides, grows to floor quality in 5-7 years, with the next batch of bamboo growing from the same roots.
  • Cork: Same material as wine corks only for your floor! Cork is taken from the bark of the cork oak tree, can be harvested, or peeled away after the tree is 25 years old and then every 9-12 years, without killing the tree.
  • Linoleum: No, not the vinyl flooring that many mistakenly call linoleum. The real thing, also known as marmoleum, is made by compressing linseed oil with pine resin, sawdust, dust and often other recycled materials.
  • Sustainable Wood: Wood that is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has been grown sustainably. This category also includes wood that is salvaged and reused, since reuse of materials is also a sustainable approach to flooring (decrease the harvesting of non-renewable resources).
  • Low VOC & sustainable carpet: Some carpet companies recycle their carpeting or manufacture their carpeting from recycled materials. In addition, they limit amount of chemicals involved in the process, for example by using natural dyes, natural adhesives, no flame-retardant surface coating and jute or hemp backing (rather than synthetic fibres).


And…a quick summary of pros, cons and resources (with my two cents added in, of course!):

Type
Pros
Cons
Comment
Resources
Bamboo
— Grows quickly
— Durable
— Lower cost ($3-$6/sq ft)
— Imported from Asia (CO2 emissions)
— Poor quality bamboo is flooding the market (softer bamboo is often cheaper; more prone to scratching and warping)
— Look for bamboo with no toxic adhesives (urea formaldehyde)
Bamboo Info
More Info
Cork
— Holds heat
— Dampens sound
— Fire retardant
— Anti-microbial
— Comparable in price to mid or high-end hardwood flooring ($3 – $7/sq ft uninstalled)
— Cork floor with the standard polyurethane coat is said to stand up to “normal wear and tear” for only 5 -10 years, after which it will need a new coat
— Imported from Europe
— Choose finishes made of of low-VOC polyurethane or beeswax base
— 2 types: floating click flooring (comes with acrylic finish & doesn’t respond as well to wet situations) and the stick down type (should have 4 coats of polyurethane applied to it, either insitu or bought with it already applied)
Sustainable FlooringFloor Facts
Linoleum
— Durable
— Anti-microbial
— Lower-cost (about $4/sq ft)
— Biodegradable
— Linseed oil outgases some VOCs
— Needs a backing substance, which is often synthetic
— Porous & may need to be waxed or polished
— Choose adhesive that is water-based, formaldehyde free, and has low VOC content
— Prices generally range from $5-$8 per sq ft
Build It Green
— Forbo
Sustainable Wood
— Salvaged wood can be locally bought
— Sturdy
— Good forestry practices
— Salvaged wood can be irregularly sized
— May need more work
— May be shipped from long distances (FSC cert.)
— More expensive, depending on the source (about $6/sq ft for FSC certified, & $5-$13/sq ft for reclaimed timber)
— Look for sealers with low-VOC emissions
Habitat for Humanity
Forest Stewardship Council
Aged Woods
Sustainable Carpeting
— No off-gassing from VOCs
— Between $5-$10/sq ft for 100% wool, non-dyed and non-chemically sprayed carpeting
—Synthetic carpets are made from petroleum
— Look for CRI (The Carpet and Rug Institute) certification
— Area rugs and carpet tiles are preferable wall-to-wall) carpet.
Green Floors
Flor Carpeting
Green California

Aside from the options and resources above, there are others, such as recycled glass tiles and rubber, as well as stone, made from nonrenewable resources but that is relatively long-lasting. You will need to weigh the pros and cons (did you think this was going to be easy??) and decide the best choice for your needs. Happy flooring!

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4 Responses to “Put a cork in it! Green flooring alternatives”

  1. I have another green flooring idea for you. We along with many others, sell recycled rubber flooring for use in weight rooms and home gyms that is made from recycled tires. This can get a building LEED points as well as be very beneficial to our environment since tires now don’t have to end up in landfills. For a further rundown on the recycled rubber tire industry, check out http://rubber-flooring.blogspot.com/. Keep up the good work. I am learning quite a bit about green building from your blog. Thanks.

  2. Anton Pavlenko Says:

    Another great resource for sustainable products is using Douglas fir flooring milled from old-growth boomstick logs rediscovered in the Columbia River. Tight grained, beautiful mineral staining, and affordable.

    Giving old logs a second life.

    NWCF Corp.
    503-866-4647
    nwcfcorp@gmail.com

  3. Brighton Early Says:

    Cork is obtained by harvesting the bark of a cork oak tree; which is located in the Mediterranean. There are seven countries around the Mediterranean that contain cork oak trees; they are Algeria, France, Italy, Morocco, Portugal, Spain and Tunisia.

  4. Another green flooring idea is our wood flooring from Shaw that we have on our site. The wood inner core is composed of wood fiber that’s created in the manufacture of other products, that would otherwise be burned or put into landfills. Our Shaw branded floors puts essential natural materials to good use, instead of having them enter the planet’s waste stream.

    We also have Laminate which is engineered to last, which eliminates the need for replacing and you don’t have to cut down any trees. Laminate gives you the upscale look of wood and tile while the actual material isn’t used and the natural resource is preserved.

    Another alternative is bamboo. Bamboo is naturally green because of its very quick growth. Bamboo is a hardwood and can be stained by heating to get the desired look.

    Cork is another great flooring product that is green. Cork is made from bark that will grow back and be harvested continually. Cork is great for any living space, kids room or gym floor. Cork needs to be installed in dry places only, bathrooms and kitchens aren’t recommended. So many different looks can be achieved with cork as well as your desired thickness and cushion.


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