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Questions about chemicals in flooring are now common for the mainstream flooring shopper FloorScore LogoSomething is changing in the flooring industry. Customers are asking more frequently about what chemicals the products contain. Though there is no national statistic on what percent of the population has concerns, it is safe to say that 2015 should go down in history as the year mainstream consumers gained noticeable awareness of how flooring can impact indoor-air quality and human health. It started in March, with the 60 Minutes report that alleged excessive formaldehyde was being emitted from cheap glue used to make some of Lumber Liquidator’s laminate flooring in China. A second wave of concern erupted weeks later when it was announced that The Home Depot would phase-out sales of vinyl flooring that contained ortho-phthalates.

Confusion and half-truths follow report of excessive formaldehyde in some Lumber Liquidators’ laminate floors Carb II CompliantA customer who has seen the 60 Minutes report about unhealthful levels of formaldehyde in certain laminate floors from Lumber Liquidators now is questioning a flooring purchase she was about to make. “No worries,” her salesman says. “All of our flooring meets California Air Resources Board (CARB) standards for formaldehyde.”  He is misleading, but not intentionally. To assist its salespeople, a national retail group issues an alert to its members that reads: “All of our laminate flooring meets CARB 2 standards.”  Another over-simplification. Most flooring retailers – including those touting “natural” products – have limited understanding of how to gauge a floor’s impact on indoor-air quality. Understanding the evolution of people-friendly products, and keeping up with the ever-changing status of which manufacturer has added a certification and what the certification means, is a specialized field of its own. Compounding the confusion, certifications expire annually.

Onsite, UV-cured hardwood floor finishes are starting to beam BulldogWe talk a lot about low-VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) floor finishes, and the scientific advancements that have produced less-toxic polyurethanes and natural oil floor coatings.  But the truth is that our search for the perfect people-and planet friendly option continues daily. “Water-based” and “waterborne” now are second only to “low-VOC” on the list of buzzwords that put our minds at ease. But when you consider that zero-VOC paints are readily available, the VOC content in floor coatings can seem high, in addition to other chemicals that some formulas use. This reality has made the ultra-violent curing machine the latest proven weapon in our arsenal of remedies for unhealthful indoor air. It stops chemical emissions by instantly curing the finish that would ordinarily take days to weeks to completely dry and stop off-gassing. In addition, waterborne polyurethanes with VOC content as low as 17 grams per liter are now available.

Couple turns former Anderson Township barn into spectacular natural home [caption id="attachment_4423" align="alignleft" width="168"]After After[/caption] It started with a vision: Preserve the spacious serenity.  Restore and transform the barn into the grand centerpiece. Gaze out from any window and feel the tranquility of sprawling pastures, a winding creek and the natural acoustics of wildlife and waterfalls. Instead of a collective group of neighboring farmers ready to hoist the beams and hammer the nails, it took 18 months of intense focus by Karen and Jerry Whitney who, all the while, lived in a trailer on the property. [caption id="attachment_4438" align="alignleft" width="210"]Before Before[/caption] "It’s sustainable,” Karen says. “It was the natural thing to do, and it has paid off in the way the home looks and feels. Coming home from work is like entering a spa or a retreat.”

Custom design in cork gives light and warmth to dark kitchen Laura cork 2IMG_0037Laura wasn’t kidding when she said her new kitchen floor had to create a warmer, brighter space than the brown vinyl that once covered the floor in this room with very little natural light. Something natural that was indoor-air friendly would also be a plus, Laura thought as she began to research different floors.  Tile was her first choice. But the cement board  required as an underlayment would have raised the kitchen floor much higher than the adjoining rooms of carpet, hardwood and slate. She found a design – in cork flooring tiles – that she liked online, and selected colors for her own custom look. 

Cork, hardwood, tile and wool carpet – installed in five days and looking great seven weeks later

As should be done with all new construction projects, moisture levels were monitored for weeks before the hardwood flooring installation began. After acclimating the boxes of flooring on-site for three days, the transformation began. It took five days:

004032 All of the wood meets CARB 2 standards for formaldehyde emissions. The brown, grey and travertine-look cork flooring meet GREENGUARD Gold.

Deteriorated floor gets new life and attracts buyer just two days after completion 046A lot of people would have decided to tear out the floor and start over. But Interior Designer Jen Phillips was determined to do the right thing. The pine floors in the historic, downtown Cincinnati row house were damaged by water and years of abuse. Sections of the subfloor were rotten. And as the work began, termite damage was quickly discovered. Phillips, owner of Interior Renaissance, called in her experts and got the answer she was looking floor. “The contractor we hired determined that we could replace only the bad subfloor and flooring, then use a special machine to sand and refinish the entire floor to make it all blend and look uniform,” Phillips recalls.

Managing flooring heights and ensuring floors contain no urea formaldehyde mean extra work on this job 012I made myself very clear on this project: All products would be proven to contain no added urea formaldehyde, and there would be no transitions. The homeowner had selected three styles of cork flooring that were almost ½-inch in thickness; prefinished solid hardwood that was ¾-inch; and the tile, the first flooring to go in, was sitting at 1-1/16th inches in height once installed. To complicate the job further, the cork was a floating floor, meaning that it does not get glued or nailed to the subfloor, which typically requires transitions, such as T-molding, where it meets up with other floors like tile and hardwood. So, we decided on a modified transition.

Air conditioning gets installed in the nick of time for proper moisture levels needed for hardwood and cork 003“The relative humidity is still reading 65 percent. Should we open or close the windows?” In preparing to install hardwood flooring, we have been monitoring moisture levels at this new construction site for weeks. It’s part of our normal preparation for installing hardwood and cork floors. “Don’t leave the windows open overnight or we’ll be sabotaged by night-time condensation,” our quality-control manager says. “The air conditioning is being installed tomorrow, and as long as that happens, we should be fine.” Tomorrow will be just 24 hours before all the flooring is delivered to acclimate in the home for three days prior to installation. The moisture content in the subfloors has been measured and was fine, but the relative humidity has been climbing since the walls were painted.