Home & Real Estate

“Green” real estate is a vague term. It is used increasingly these days to refer to multiple situations.

One of those is new construction being built to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) or another “green” certification.

But a home doesn’t have to be new or certified to be energy-efficient or have indoor-air friendly flooring, cabinetry, finishes and furnishings. And studies show that today’s homebuyers are increasingly interested in the health benefits and long-term cost savings of finding a home that is -- or has the potential to be -- people- and planet- friendly.

Patience, planning and a precision flooring product make the new kitchen difference Because the pattern choices are almost endless, weeks passed before Ron Hicks found the perfect look in a rigid core, waterproof luxury vinyl tile floor for his kitchen. It had to complement his new cabinets, countertops and existing Teak floor in the adjacent family room. It also had to be thick and strong enough to float over existing floors – vinyl in the kitchen and hardwood with beveled edges in the front hallway and foyer – without concern of telegraphing. The winning choice was Mannington Adura Max in color: Graffiti Patina. These rectangular panels click together, are made without phthalates and have FloorScore Indoor Air Quality Certification.

Amish Prefab, a lot of DIY -- and a surprising vinyl plank floor -- combine in a place to call home Rick Hicks was looking for a fixer upper to transform and call home when he decided it was time to downsize in 2015. A mechanical engineer, Rick’s ambition was to have enough land to build a 3-to-4-car garage, where he could work on cars – his hobby and passion. But the best properties listed and were sold quickly, and suitable opportunities were difficult to bid in time. Then, an open piece of land in West Chester, OH, caught his attention. The only building on it was a 30-foot by 40-foot metal garage – perfect for working on cars. “It was like being secluded out in the country but with all the convenience of being in the city,” Rick says. “The hardware store is only a few minutes down the road.”

Once frowned upon by healthy-home experts, engineered hardwood flooring is becoming a people- and planet-friendly choice Engineered-hardwood-diagram-150x150If you are looking for a new hardwood floor in today’s popular, wider widths, you most likely have seen engineered flooring. Unlike solid hardwood flooring, an engineered floor is put together in layers, using adhesives. And when the healthy-home movement began more than a decade ago, these products were a no-no. But with today’s No Added Urea Formaldehyde (NAUF) adhesives, used by many leading manufacturers, concerns about unhealthful chemical emissions are diminishing. And because engineered products use the premium wood species only on the product’s surface, planet-friendly product seekers can make a stronger case for engineered hardwood.

Complaints about carpet pad odors show that researching the underlayment is just as important as the carpet that goes over it green-labelThe homeowner was almost distraught. She had just invested in a high-quality nylon carpet, only to deal with chemical fumes throughout her home as soon as the installation was complete. Now, she was spending hours doing research on the Internet, and she called Natural Interiors® for help. She had a remnant of the carpet and had isolated it long enough to know that it was not the problem. The odors, she had determined, must be coming from the carpet pad. “Can you tell me about chemical-free wool carpet and pad that you carry?,” she asked. “I am thinking that I may need to redo this whole project.” I replied: “Is the company that sold you the carpet and pad going to give you your money back? It would be a real shame for you to have to pay twice for the same job.”

Temperature changes of winter and summer should remind you to get a hygrometer, even if you don't have hardwood floors DSC_0568Colder temperatures usually mean drier air – inside and outside. That’s why hardwood flooring manufacturers issue written guidelines that the owner must keep indoor relative humidity levels between 39 and 60 percent. When humidity drops too low, the floor with shrink. Too high, it will expand and cup. But most people have no idea what their indoor humidity levels are at any given moment. And there are more reasons to know than just for maintaining your flooring’s health. It is important for your own health, too.

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.

Carpet padding can now be held to the same standard as carpet for indoor-air quality

green-labelAt last, a moment many of us have been waiting for has arrived.  A testing program is now available for carpet padding that will actually ensure it does not emit unhealthful levels of chemicals.

A lot of people think we already have this through the CRI Green Label program for testing pad.  But the CRI Green Label Plus program that is used for carpet is far more stringent, and soon, we will be able to look for this label on carpet padding, too.

The Carpet & Rug Institute (CRI) and the Carpet Cushion Council announced earlier this week that the Green Label Plus program is being opened up to pad manufacturers.

 "This offers cushion manufacturers the opportunity to qualify their products according to these more stringent standards and provide additional assurance for consumers concerned about indoor-air quality or potential VOC emissions," a CRI spokesman told TalkFloor.

Backyard deer-feeder adds unmatchable natural touch, felt throughout this home’s interior

026Porcelain tile flooring – one style for the kitchen and laundry room, another for the foyer and bathrooms  – offers clean lines and extreme durability.

It blends seamlessly with the hand-scraped, prefinished hardwood flooring, which has been used to replace carpet in the dining room.

Triexta carpet – made from corn-based fuel – softens the family room, which is filled with natural light, thanks to large windows there, and in the adjoining foyer.  Standing there, something tells you to look again, out of the double glass doors in the family room.

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.