Products & Certifications

Luxury Vinyl Tile’s realistic patterning and glue-less installation boost demand despite uncertain “green” product attributes A floor does not have to be natural to look natural. And the new natural looks of a number of luxury vinyl tile (LVT) brands – coupled with glue-less installation options -- are noticeably boosting LVT sales. Newer, self-locking installation systems do not require adhesives for installation, and replication improvements mean fabulous imitations of wood, ceramic and other patterns. You don’t need adhesive to install these products. So the products much easier to install and repair, they are more indoor-air friendly, and they’re water-resistant, too.

Natural oil hardwood flooring finishes gain popularity as consumers get more familiar with product benefits Some would say that using plant-based oils to finish a hardwood floor is unique. Not the norm, the road less-traveled and, possibly not suited for standing up to high traffic. But with the number of customers who are beginning to ask about oil or low-VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) floor finishes, I would have to say that a trend is emerging. And floors that are standing up to customers and spilled drinks in a downtown Cincinnati bar where the floor was finished with plant-based oil last fall is debunking doubt about durability.

Are you relying on retailers who are “being green,” or screaming green? Each time a regional publication distributes its annual “Green Issue,” loaded with “green” business advertising, I am naturally reminded that some retailers still don’t get it. Particularly when it comes to environmental flooring and interior products. Their advertising messages scream that they are “green” because of such things as selling recyclable nylon carpet, other products from manufacturers who meet their own “environmental stewardship standards,” or they sell cork, bamboo and linoleum. Much like 10 years ago when the “green” interior product market started getting attention, these businesses still view “green” as a specialty market that is of interest to a small percentage of customers and, therefore, requires occasional advertising but little in-depth knowledge or understanding. This theory ignores market research that shows more consumers are seeking healthful products, in addition to an increase in the U.S. green building market from $10 billion in 2005 to an estimated $85 billion in 2012, with expectations that it will exceed $200 billion by 2016.

Demand will mean more product selection, but can your retailer tell you what standards a product meets? Even if you are not consciously seeking people- or planet- friendly products, it’s more likely in 2013 that the product you buy will have some environmental advantage -- particularly if it’s a building or interior finishing product. The U.S. green building market has grown from $10 billion in 2005 to an estimated $85 billion in 2012, with expectations that it will exceed $200 billion by 2016, according to a recently published analysis by Environmental Building News. The top motivators behind this movement? Health-related factors including indoor-air quality, in addition to energy use reduction, according to U.S. and global surveys. Not building a new home? These findings still affect you.

Glass backsplash adds just the right color and dimension In a perfect world, you would remodel your master bathroom all at once, making every selection in advance to ensure all components of the finished product complement each other. In reality, remodeling in stages is sometimes forced upon us. In this case, the latest addition of a recycled glass countertop, new vanity, mirrored cabinets and sink were supposed to mark the completion of this bathroom overhaul. But there was something noticeably missing. The counter area needed a backsplash for a finished look that pulled the whole room together.

Repurposed wood, certified dimensional tile and natural, zero-VOC finishes position new Cincinnati bar for lasting attention Architects and designers know that designing the perfect bar means creating a unique atmosphere for respite and escape. It must invite, perhaps with warm, dimly lit nooks perfectly suited for comfortable conversation.  It must have an attention-getting focal point, and logical pathways that help customers find their way through the building. Now add to that a requirement for a natural aesthetic that uses building materials that are better for people and the planet. For the design-build team coordinated by Core One Resources in Cincinnati, OH, this meant reusing floor joists for interior woodwork and wall paneling, restoring salvageable wood floors, laying environmentally certified tile and finishing new and old wood floors with odorless, Volatile Organic Compound (VOC)-free natural oil. No, the architect explains, this was not done to seek tax abatements through Leadership in Energy and Environmental (LEED) certification. No certification was sought. Is it possible that today’s green building standards have become common practice for the creators of this new, downtown Sixth Street bar, who simply see environmental considerations as the right thing to do?

New cork products from Wicanders look like ceramic, stone and wood Why make cork flooring that looks like ceramic tile or wood? Obviously to expand the uses for cork, which unlike tile, is warm and comfortable to walk on. The new Artcomfort and Woodcomfort lines from Wicanders manage to do this without using plastics or synthetics to create the pattern. First publicized in April, see Cork 2012-Style, product displays are now available and have just arriving at retail locations.

When are pigments dangerous? Q. I just read your article titled “Part Three: The Problem with Paint” published on January 19th, 2011. I have two questions: You had interviewed the owner of Earth Paint, Inc. and he said that "pigments used to color paint should be chosen carefully as the dust from raw earth pigments is often more toxic than synthetic pigments." Is there any way to find out what kind of pigments they use in AFM Safecoat paints? Please advise. I am pregnant and we are planning to paint our house next week and any information you can provide will help us make our decision about which paint to buy. Also, AFM Safecoat has two kinds of paint: Their regular Safecoat and their new AFM Naturals. Which is better? A.  AFM and its dealers use special zero-VOC liquid machine colorants, eliminating the risk of any dust exposure. Unless you are actually mixing dry powder pigments yourself, pigment dust ingestion or inhalation could only occur if you are sanding previously painted surfaces in preparation for a new paint job. Wet sanding and a painter's mask are recommended to avoid this still unlikely exposure.

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.’”