Author: Nancy Kibbee

Today’s natural interior design aesthetic includes many flooring products, from natural-fiber rugs to luxury vinyl tile. For this customer, natural means chemical-free wool. Page IMG_0253Elena Page, M.D., knew what she would do when it was time to replace her carpet. An occupational and environmental medicine physician in Cincinnati, OH., Page has a lot of experience in how chemicals can affect indoor-air quality. All carpets from major manufacturers these days have CRI Green Label Plus Indoor-Air Quality certification, ensuring that the products meet safety limits for Volatile Organic Compound (VOC ) emissions set by the state of California. But that wasn’t enough for Page. “I wanted to be sure that whatever I put in my home was not an emitter of VOCs,” she says. “I also care very much about what the workers are exposed to in making the carpet, and synthetic carpets expose them to a variety of harmful substances, some of which are carcinogens.”

A mainstay for natural household cleaning, lemons now are being promoted to combat high cholesterol, and possibly, cancer DSC_0003There’s a recommendation circulating the Internet to keep organic lemons in the freezer and grate them onto your foods. This recipe follows an array of published claims that lemons are antiviral, antibacterial and an emerging anti-cancer weapon. Though some of the latest claims are not valid, an investigation by www.snopes.com has clarified that some preliminary studies do point to health benefits. “Recent studies have further shown that limonoids inhibit the development of cancer in laboratory animals and in human breast cancer cells as well as reducing cholesterol," the investigation found.

Indoor-Air Quality Certification on original product does not automatically apply when that product is sold under a different name FloorScore LogoMore and more Natural Interiors visitors have been inquiring about flooring products that have names we don’t instantly recognize. These are products from known manufacturers. But the retailer is offering the product under a private-label name. This practice is common in the flooring industry, and the private-label product usually is of the same look and quality as the original. Nonetheless, third-party indoor-air quality certifications – such as FloorScore, GREENGUARD or CRI Green Label Plus – are not automatically transferable to the private-label name.

Flooring restoration and replacement at The Transept was mindful of the historic character of St. John’s Church IMG_0434 Transept1There is a natural appeal to something that can be restored instead of replaced. So the second floor of The Transept building in downtown Cincinnati, where the original pine floor was patched with materials salvaged onsite, gets extra points. Formerly St. John’s Church, built in 1814, The Transept is now a grand venue for weddings, special gatherings, receptions and meetings – brought to Cincinnati by Funky’s Catering.

Zero-VOC hardwood floor finish proves to be unmistakably modern and virtually odor-free Cincinnati Architect Adam Fosnaugh and his wife, Margot, were clear on what their new hardwood floor would have to be: Warm, durable and honest to the material. Indoor-air quality also was key. They selected a palette of light colors and natural finishes, designed, Adam says, “to be minimal and modern with a sense of Scandinavian sensibility. … Living with a two-year-old and being keenly aware of the detrimental effects many building materials have on indoor-air-quality, we were also looking for environmentally-friendly solutions with low VOCs.” With their remodeling spanning weeks and nearing a conclusion, their new White Oak flooring has been installed throughout the first floor, and finished on-site with a zero-VOC, three-step white lye finish.

Complaints about carpet pad odors show that researching the underlayment is just as important as the carpet that goes over it green-labelThe homeowner was almost distraught. She had just invested in a high-quality nylon carpet, only to deal with chemical fumes throughout her home as soon as the installation was complete. Now, she was spending hours doing research on the Internet, and she called Natural Interiors® for help. She had a remnant of the carpet and had isolated it long enough to know that it was not the problem. The odors, she had determined, must be coming from the carpet pad. “Can you tell me about chemical-free wool carpet and pad that you carry?,” she asked. “I am thinking that I may need to redo this whole project.” I replied: “Is the company that sold you the carpet and pad going to give you your money back? It would be a real shame for you to have to pay twice for the same job.”

Temperature changes of winter and summer should remind you to get a hygrometer, even if you don't have hardwood floors DSC_0568Colder temperatures usually mean drier air – inside and outside. That’s why hardwood flooring manufacturers issue written guidelines that the owner must keep indoor relative humidity levels between 39 and 60 percent. When humidity drops too low, the floor with shrink. Too high, it will expand and cup. But most people have no idea what their indoor humidity levels are at any given moment. And there are more reasons to know than just for maintaining your flooring’s health. It is important for your own health, too.

U.S. vinyl flooring manufacturers are aware of the dangers and have taken steps to eliminate phthalates from their vinyl products. To be sure, there are questions you should ask. DSC_0325Q: I have put my plans to put vinyl flooring in my kitchen and family room on hold because of news reports about phthalates in vinyl flooring. Why is this information just coming out now, and can you recommend an LVT (Luxury Vinyl Tile) that does not contain these chemicals? A: This is not new news. The Consumer Product Safety Commission and the U.S. EPA have been looking at potential health concerns with phthalates for more than a decade. It began in the 1990s, with studies, and then rules restricting phthalate use in children’s items, like rattles and teethers  -- things that they would routinely put in their mouths.  Flooring was not on the list. More recently, the U.S. EPA has issued an action plan for several phthalates, some of which have been used in vinyl flooring.

Low- and zero-VOC hardwood finishing program expands with architect’s vision OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACincinnati Architect Adam Fosnaugh was in awe of a wood floor made in Denmark. It was the look he wanted for the first floor of the Clifton home he and his wife are remodeling. Could we recreate this aesthetic?, he asked. It was White Oak plank, bleached in color, not too white, but no yellow tones that are typical with traditional hardwood finishes. Oh and yes, it had to be low- or zero-VOC. Adam is a LEED AP at MSA Architects. His wife, Margot, is a chemical engineer and air quality consultant, and they have a 1-1/2-year-old daughter. Indoor-air quality, in addition to the perfect color, also would be important for the cork flooring they would select for the second floor.

Indo Teak flooring is durable and planet-friendly, but also serves as a tribute to the travels of St. Xavier DSC_0297Don’t be misled by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certification that comes with this Teak flooring. It does not mean the wood came from a sustainably managed forest. Instead, it comes from deconstructed structures in Indonesia – some up to 300 years old. And it has proven  to  be the perfect look for the northern foyer at St. Xavier Church in downtown Cincinnati.  Church administrators' desire for sustainable products and durability was a key reason Architects Paul Duffy and Adam Luginbill  at glaserworks selected it.