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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.”

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.

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.

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.’”