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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.

Wintertime’s dry air means special precautions for hardwood floors

030Q.  I had solid Red Oak select installed throughout my first floor last summer. It was sanded and  finished with low-VOC waterborne polyurethane on site. It was absolutely perfect.

But now that winter is here, there are spaces between the boards. Is it possible that I was sold inferior wood?

A. Gaps between floor boards are common in the wintertime. Your installer should have told you that you have to control the humidity in your home to prevent inordinate gapping. In fact, most hardwood manufacturers recommend maintaining your indoor environment at 40 to 60 percent humidity year-round. But 36 to 50 is better if you want to prevent mold growth.

Carpet recycling industry sees dramatic rise in this non-recyclable carpet fiber SAMSUNGWe like to tout our diligence in carpet recycling, particularly when Natural Interiors® affiliates divert 2 million pounds of carpet from landfills annually in Greater Cincinnati alone. But it’s possible that we are painting a somewhat rosier picture than reality allows. Yes, post- consumer carpet recycling has grown into a successful industry over the past decade.  But this national business success is focused largely around nylon, and to a lesser extent, polypropylene. Unfortunately, 30 percent  of carpet sent to recyclers this year will be made of polyester (PET). That’s up from 4 percent in 2007. PET is not recyclable because, unlike nylon, there are not products of value that PET can be turned into.

Painstaking remake of historic Rauh home in Cincinnati means authentic replication, along with new, environmental features The squares within the new parquet floor had to be just so. They were the design foundation in restoring the former home of Frederick and Harriet Rauh in Wyoming, Ohio – one of the oldest Modernist residences in the state, built in 1938. All you have to do to understand this is to look at all the squares and rectangles in the flat-roofed, International Style home designed by architect John Becker. A grand landmark in its day, the home eventually fell victim to deterioration and vandalism. But with funds donated by Emily Rauh Pulitzer, and the expertise of noted Cincinnati architects and contractors, the Cincinnati Preservation Association (CPA) oversaw a two-year renovation, completed this year, and returned the building to its original glory. With some new, modern efficiency improvements, the project is setting new standards for historical preservation.

Research indicates LED day-time health benefit, but possible nighttime risk It’s not yet cost-effective for residential use. But Light Emitting Diode (LED) technology is improving every day and ultimately slated to replace most other artificial light forms. Will it yield, I ask hopefully, a more natural and healthful light than the compact fluorescent light bulbs I am using? “You seek the Holy Grail,” answers Phil Richards, a senior instructor with The Juno Lighting Group. “And what you are asking about is an amazingly complex topic, currently being addressed by the American Medical Association (AMA) and medical societies in the European Union as well.” The AMA issued an alert in June because of research that shows certain types of nighttime lighting suppress our natural circadian rhythm, and shift-workers have been shown to have an increased incidence of breast cancer and other medical conditions.  Additional research published in April suggests a possible reason: The blue light -- in LED and all non-incandescent light forms in use today -- affects non-visual, blue-sensitive photoreceptors in the retina, which in turn suppresses melatonin production.

Flooring retailers and distributors see roadblock in FSC certification requirement Flooring retailers and distributors -- who have learned they must have Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification in order to sell FSC-certified products that count as certified wood under the U.S. Green Building Council’s rules -- are questioning whether FSC rules have gone too far. FSC certification is the hallmark of sustainably harvested wood. While it is the only certification accepted for certified wood by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in awarding credit under its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system, the USGBC acknowledges that it has not strictly enforced certification requirements on retailers. Flooring manufacturers who produce certified products have FSC certification and must package and clearly label FSC-certified products. Some retailers who then sell those products argue that they are not repackaging or altering the materials, and should not have to pay to get certified. Depending on sales volume, a wholesale flooring distributor or retailer can expect to pay $2,000 and up annually for achieving and maintaining certification. “Does it pencil out to become certified?,” asks Mark Thompson, sales manager for Major Brands Floor Supply /Abbey Carpet & Floor of Seattle. “Is it something that will drive business toward me? If the certification is so watered-down that every other store down the street is certified, then what goal was achieved? Some Eco-capitalist got more chumps to buy into his ‘label.’”

DuChateau strives for vinyl flooring that is better for people and planet More mainstream flooring manufacturers are paying attention to the growing controversy over phthalates – a plasticizer – in vinyl flooring, even though studies suggesting a link between phthalates and lowered IQ, endocrine problems and respiratory ailments have been dismissed as independent and fringe. DuChateau Floors is now making vinyl without phthalates, though the product’s backing, made using recycled content, still may contain trace amounts because old product is recycled by the company. This switch by DuChateau follows the introduction by competitor Tarkett of its “phthalate-free except for recycled content” vinyl flooring earlier this year. “Only a very small portion of phthalate-containing plasticizer can be detected from the recycled bottom layer,” says Don Bufalini, western regional sales manager for DuChateau Floors.  “The tile should not really be affected by the phthalates if they are in the bottom layer.”

Demand is growing, and it’s readily available at a flooring store near you It’s a fact: Reclaimed hardwood is now mainstream. You don’t have to search it out through a specialty retailer. Just ask Ben Cochran, whose northwest Virginia company has been making floors from deconstructed buildings since 1978. “Everything we use in our reclaimed products is structurally salvaged from barns, factories and other buildings that are being removed to make way for new developments,” says Cochran, outside sales manager for the company his father started. “It’s been that way for more than 25 years.” Cochran Lumber’s flooring is one of four reclaimed flooring brands that are readily available through many hardwood flooring companies.

Flooring industry takes steps that recognize that consumers want products that are Better for People “I don’t really think most flooring customers really care about green,” a rep for a large hardwood manufacturer tells me. “The planet just isn’t a priority to them, particularly if an FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) -certified  label  on the product is going to cost more.” I have to ask: “Do you think they care about the other part of green – the indoor-air friendly, low-VOC (Volatile Organic Compound), better for human health part?” “Absolutely,” he says without hesitation. “That is coming up all the time now.”

IMPORTANT NOTE: This article was accurate as of the date it was published, and was signed off on by all of the manufacturer sources quoted. That said, manufacturers frequently change their formulations and ingredients, so this article, given its age, becomes background. DO NOT rely on this article for purchasing these manufacturers’ current products. The questions are relatively simple, but if you would like help in getting guaranteed answers about certifications on a current product, sign up at: https://www.naturalinteriors.com/consumer-subscription/ Indoor Air Quality Certifications offer some, but not complete, assurance about vinyl flooring Q. While I am intrigued by natural, linoleum products, my budget is more inclined toward the Naturcor vinyl flooring I am looking at buying from my local flooring dealer. I also am concerned about buying a product that does not emit excessive chemicals, and I have been warned about dioxin, which is a carcinogen, by another blogger. Still, I have seen some vinyl brands advertise that they are green.  What is the truth about vinyl? A. The truth about vinyl – or polyvinyl chloride (PVC) – is that it isn’t the preferred product of environmentalists or most green product enthusiasts.  But dioxin is an end-of-product life or house fire issue, because it is released when PVC is incinerated.