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Styling, price and performance determine engineered hardwood flooring sales, though environmental attributes abound If you’re thinking about putting engineered hardwood flooring in your home, style, performance and price – rather than the product’s planet friendliness – are probably the points you are pondering. More people in the Midwest are choosing engineered hardwood because of a growing demand for wider plank flooring, particularly the 5-inch wide hand-scraped products. The fact that these products use less premium hardwood than solid wood floors, along with other green attributes, is not the focus.

Toledo customer wanted a planet-friendly product that also offered healthier indoor air Ordering and installing Nature’s Carpet “felt great for a number of reasons,” says Julee, who now has “Clearwater,” part of the “Dark Green” line, in her home in Holland, OH. She found the carpet at Carpets by Otto, which has several locations in the Toledo area. The “Dark Green” line from Nature’s Carpet is made from New Zealand Wool, with no synthetic materials or chemical additives. Julee wanted a product that was good for the planet and would not emit chemicals in her home. “After having lots of negative symptoms with new carpeting, I was wonderfully surprised at the lack of odor with Nature’s Carpet, which means, of course, there were no chemicals to off-gas,” she says. “I purchased the wool felt padding as well. For the first time in my life, there literally was no odor from the carpet. With my chemical sensitivities, I had zero problems with the carpet. It was a true Godsend.”

Part I: Engineered hardwood flooring can be a greener option than solid, but there are many factors to consider before you buy We knew the day would come. Many of us in the green products industry pushed engineered wood floors because they require less premium wood to manufacturer than solid hardwood floors. Many customers resisted. Solid wood is stronger, lasts longer and doesn’t echo when you walk on it, they argued. Not true, we countered. When properly manufactured and installed, engineered wood floors can be more durable and feel almost the same underfoot as a solid, hardwood floor. Today, the argument has dwindled. Engineered hardwood is a top pick for people building green homes on the West Coast. And the trend also has spread across the country. It’s even apparent in the Midwest.

More than a decade after its U.S. entry, chemical-free carpet gets mainstream attention and could be part of a market that is “ready to explode” Some rolled their eyes and suppressed laughter at the idea that a chemical-free, biodegradable, un-dyed carpet could make it in mainstream America. But when Brian Cox saw Nature’s Carpet in the early 1990s, something told him it would be a winner. After seeing this wool carpet at a Domotex trade show in Germany, Cox returned to his office at the Colin Campbell distribution company in Vancouver, BC, he organized his presentation, and he began calling on retailers.  After the Canadians started selling it, Cox crossed the U.S. border and called on one of the country’s first green-building gurus in Bellingham, WA. The builder in turn installed the product in several green homes, including his own, and he helped Cox introduce Nature’s Carpet to the Environmental Home Center in Seattle, which would later be known as EcoHaus. “That’s what broke open the United States market,” Cox recalls. “It went from there, all the way down the West Coast to California.”

Popularity of commercial rubber flooring is boosting residential interest on the West Coast A lot of homeowners are using underlayment made from recycled tires under their hardwood floors. But a lot of them are using rubber flooring, too. “We have sold and installed rubber in retail stores and gyms, but we’re also installing it in residential homes,” says Sam Snow, owner of EcoFloors in Portland, OR. “One of the best sellers is Zip Tiles from RB Rubber.”

A word of warning about spray polyurethane foam insulation Winter is coming again, and so are all of the e-newsletters about insulation, weatherization tips and and energy savings. Spray polyurethane foam (SPF) is big this year because it stops air flow -- around that water pipe or that vent through the roof -- when other insulations don't. But the companies pushing their SPFs aren’t really talking about what the chemicals in these products can do if not handled properly. And if you’re chemically sensitive, you might not want to use them at all. SPFs are a very effective insulation product, and they are on our standing weatherization tip list. But, whether open- or closed-cell, SPFs contain diisocyanates, amine catalysts, flame retardants, polyol oils and blowing agents. Without getting into all of these, diisocyanates cause asthma, lung damage and can sensitize humans, triggering ongoing reactions to chemicals. The primary hazard exists when the products are being applied, and unsafe levels of the chemicals are released into the indoor air. The label on your product might not say it, but NIOSH and OSHA would tell you to wear full protective equipment, including a fresh-air- supplied respirator. In the array of information available online, you will also see that unprotected workers and building occupants should leave the building while spraying is underway, and they should not come back until all dust and vapor are ventilated out of the building, and just when that is can be difficult to determine.

Wanke Cascade president was a leader in flooring, “green” products and friendship [caption id="attachment_1740" align="alignleft" width="135"] Jim W. Johnson, 3/25/54-9/18/11[/caption] Every time I talked to Jim Johnson, I got stronger. The first time was at a panel discussion during a Surfaces trade show, where a past-president of Teragren LLC was to speak. I was a Teragren bamboo flooring distributor, Jim was Teragren’s West Coast sales manager. When he sat down at my table, I was looking for a misplaced receipt, worried that an attendant would be around to verify that I had paid to get in. “Why did you pay?,” Jim pressed. “You’re a distributor here to support a vendor.  You are entitled to just walk in.”

WE Cork demonstrates that “Eco” also stands for economics They have said it themselves: The newest line from WE Cork is the “Eco”-Nomical series. So when they mention that it is made of recycled wine stoppers, remember that this is not the thrust. [caption id="attachment_1581" align="alignleft" width="90"] Eco Ash[/caption] All cork flooring is made from the waste of the wine-stopper industry. When bark is harvested from the Evergreen Cork Oak Trees – about every nine years – the first thing that happens is the punching out of wine stoppers. The leftovers are then ground up and made into other items, including flooring. “The manufacturing process of the Eco line does not differ,” says Sheila Furtney, WE Cork sales manager. “The stoppers are not actually all from used stoppers, but rather the stoppers that did not make the grade.”

You have served me well for a very long time, but there has to be something that holds dust better Dust containment. This is the term on my mind this morning as we near completion of our bathroom renovation project. My aging vacuum has done a commendable job, sucking up the sanded drywall compound and other mess that left a trail down the hall. But the unseen microscopic remnants are lingering. I know this every time someone sneezes, including the cat and the dog. While this website has focused on chemical emissions when discussing  Indoor Air Quality, dust, particulates and other allergens deserve equal attention. In keeping with that, I am coming to terms with reality: My vacuum cleaner is no longer the top of the line. It has seen me through every tough job, and it operates with admirable suction power. But too much of what it sucks up comes back out of its filter and it’s polluting my indoor air.

What makes carpet pad “green?” Q. It seems like every carpet pad on the market has some kind of “green” certification label on it. I am mostly concerned about indoor-air quality, and am worried that even if I buy a carpet with CRI Green Label Plus, I won’t benefit from the low chemical emissions, because there could be higher emissions coming from the carpet pad. How do you sort through all the “green” carpet pad choices and make sure you get what you are looking for? A. Remember that “green” can mean good for the planet, good for human health, or both. The good news with almost all carpet cushion --excluding rubber and prime urethane -- is that it contains essentially 100-percent recycled content from either pre- or post-consumer waste. This means: Good for the planet.