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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.

So many choices, so few that are fast and reusable Tile – made of baked clay – is an original, natural product that sometimes gets overlooked. Its  simplicity might be one reason. Its subfloor needs, thinset, grout and installation that spans days also might add to your hesitation. But an interlocking porcelain tile floor that can be installed over most existing floors -- in a third of the time it would take for a traditional installation -- has removed the obstacles for those who want real tile fast.  Avaire® Floating Porcelain Tile also reduces waste because you don’t have to tear out your existing floors, and because it can be moved and reused. “The whole idea that it is reusable is a big attraction for our customers,” says Gary Cissell, director of flooring for Nebraska Furniture Mart, where Avaire tile is the third-highest seller out of the store’s eight tile lines. “It is a great environmental story.”

Measuring moisture content in strand bamboo can puzzle even experienced hardwood flooring installers Q: In Part I: Bamboo 2011-Style, you told consumers to consider their climate and the humidity of the environment before installing strand bamboo flooring. What you didn’t talk about is that the typical moisture meter a flooring contractor has on hand might not give him an accurate reading of the moisture content in the floor. This is needed when installing the floor, as well as later if any moisture problems arise. When we needed accurate moisture readings a few years ago on a very large commercial installation, the strand bamboo manufacturer told us that we would have to send a piece of the floor to a laboratory for an oven-dry test.  Sending pieces away and waiting for answers or trying to do a bake test in a home oven isn’t practical. Is this a problem across the industry or an isolated incident?

Reader says shopping for chemical-free carpet spurs confusion Dear Natural Interiors: Your blog and the Natural Housewife got me thinking about indoor-air quality, and wool carpeting, because I am getting ready to replace old carpet in my home. But after going to a local flooring store, I am really confused. The salesman showed me some wool carpets, but they all had been treated with mothproofing chemicals, and some contained synthetic materials, too. I said I did not want chemical emissions, but he said I would be okay with any brand in the store – even synthetics made from petrochemicals -- because they all had CRI Green Label Plus. When I named Nature’s Carpet, the salesman pulled out a box of small carpet pieces from under the counter. But I know from going online that there are a lot more styles than the ones he had. He said that he only kept the box for people who specifically asked for it, and that it really wasn’t needed because of all the advances in limiting chemical emissions. So, what’s the deal?

Environmental Working Group’s fifth annual Sunscreen Guide says U.S. consumers still are being duped about the safety of sunscreen  Three out of five sunscreens made in the U.S.A. are not acceptable in Europe, where manufacturers follow more stringent standards about chemical additives, according to the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) fifth annual Sunscreen Guide. The good news, EWG says, is that CVS, Neutrogena, Banana Boat, Aveeno and Walgreens now offer sunscreens with titanium and zinc, instead of potentially hormone-disrupting chemicals such as oxybenzone or Vitamin A, which might be carcinogenic on sun-exposed skin. These products also are not powders or sprays, so they do not pose hazards associated with inhaling chemicals.