Products & Certifications

Popularity of commercial rubber flooring is boosting residential interest on the West Coast A lot of homeowners are using underlayment made from recycled tires under their hardwood floors. But a lot of them are using rubber flooring, too. “We have sold and installed rubber in retail stores and gyms, but we’re also installing it in residential homes,” says Sam Snow, owner of EcoFloors in Portland, OR. “One of the best sellers is Zip Tiles from RB Rubber.”

A word of warning about spray polyurethane foam insulation Winter is coming again, and so are all of the e-newsletters about insulation, weatherization tips and and energy savings. Spray polyurethane foam (SPF) is big this year because it stops air flow -- around that water pipe or that vent through the roof -- when other insulations don't. But the companies pushing their SPFs aren’t really talking about what the chemicals in these products can do if not handled properly. And if you’re chemically sensitive, you might not want to use them at all. SPFs are a very effective insulation product, and they are on our standing weatherization tip list. But, whether open- or closed-cell, SPFs contain diisocyanates, amine catalysts, flame retardants, polyol oils and blowing agents. Without getting into all of these, diisocyanates cause asthma, lung damage and can sensitize humans, triggering ongoing reactions to chemicals. The primary hazard exists when the products are being applied, and unsafe levels of the chemicals are released into the indoor air. The label on your product might not say it, but NIOSH and OSHA would tell you to wear full protective equipment, including a fresh-air- supplied respirator. In the array of information available online, you will also see that unprotected workers and building occupants should leave the building while spraying is underway, and they should not come back until all dust and vapor are ventilated out of the building, and just when that is can be difficult to determine.

WE Cork demonstrates that “Eco” also stands for economics They have said it themselves: The newest line from WE Cork is the “Eco”-Nomical series. So when they mention that it is made of recycled wine stoppers, remember that this is not the thrust. [caption id="attachment_1581" align="alignleft" width="90"] Eco Ash[/caption] All cork flooring is made from the waste of the wine-stopper industry. When bark is harvested from the Evergreen Cork Oak Trees – about every nine years – the first thing that happens is the punching out of wine stoppers. The leftovers are then ground up and made into other items, including flooring. “The manufacturing process of the Eco line does not differ,” says Sheila Furtney, WE Cork sales manager. “The stoppers are not actually all from used stoppers, but rather the stoppers that did not make the grade.”

What makes carpet pad “green?” Q. It seems like every carpet pad on the market has some kind of “green” certification label on it. I am mostly concerned about indoor-air quality, and am worried that even if I buy a carpet with CRI Green Label Plus, I won’t benefit from the low chemical emissions, because there could be higher emissions coming from the carpet pad. How do you sort through all the “green” carpet pad choices and make sure you get what you are looking for? A. Remember that “green” can mean good for the planet, good for human health, or both. The good news with almost all carpet cushion --excluding rubber and prime urethane -- is that it contains essentially 100-percent recycled content from either pre- or post-consumer waste. This means: Good for the planet.

So many choices, so few that are fast and reusable Tile – made of baked clay – is an original, natural product that sometimes gets overlooked. Its  simplicity might be one reason. Its subfloor needs, thinset, grout and installation that spans days also might add to your hesitation. But an interlocking porcelain tile floor that can be installed over most existing floors -- in a third of the time it would take for a traditional installation -- has removed the obstacles for those who want real tile fast.  Avaire® Floating Porcelain Tile also reduces waste because you don’t have to tear out your existing floors, and because it can be moved and reused. “The whole idea that it is reusable is a big attraction for our customers,” says Gary Cissell, director of flooring for Nebraska Furniture Mart, where Avaire tile is the third-highest seller out of the store’s eight tile lines. “It is a great environmental story.”

Measuring moisture content in strand bamboo can puzzle even experienced hardwood flooring installers Q: In Part I: Bamboo 2011-Style, you told consumers to consider their climate and the humidity of the environment before installing strand bamboo flooring. What you didn’t talk about is that the typical moisture meter a flooring contractor has on hand might not give him an accurate reading of the moisture content in the floor. This is needed when installing the floor, as well as later if any moisture problems arise. When we needed accurate moisture readings a few years ago on a very large commercial installation, the strand bamboo manufacturer told us that we would have to send a piece of the floor to a laboratory for an oven-dry test.  Sending pieces away and waiting for answers or trying to do a bake test in a home oven isn’t practical. Is this a problem across the industry or an isolated incident?

Reader says shopping for chemical-free carpet spurs confusion Dear Natural Interiors: Your blog and the Natural Housewife got me thinking about indoor-air quality, and wool carpeting, because I am getting ready to replace old carpet in my home. But after going to a local flooring store, I am really confused. The salesman showed me some wool carpets, but they all had been treated with mothproofing chemicals, and some contained synthetic materials, too. I said I did not want chemical emissions, but he said I would be okay with any brand in the store – even synthetics made from petrochemicals -- because they all had CRI Green Label Plus. When I named Nature’s Carpet, the salesman pulled out a box of small carpet pieces from under the counter. But I know from going online that there are a lot more styles than the ones he had. He said that he only kept the box for people who specifically asked for it, and that it really wasn’t needed because of all the advances in limiting chemical emissions. So, what’s the deal?

From narrow planks that look like hardwood to large, defined tiles, cork’s design possibilities keep increasing As this year began, two manufacturers anticipated huge consumer attention on their newest products – cork flooring planks designed to look like wood. With this introduction, Wicanders Cork  and USFloors revolutionized the appearance of cork floors, which until then, was limited to larger panels and  squares. New is good and consumers are taking note. But panels and squares are in no danger of extinction. “The hottest trend we have seen in cork has been the large-format cork tiles,” says Sam Snow, owner of EcoFloors in Portland, OR. “They offer a unique look by having micro-beveled edges that really make the large format stand out. It’s a look of cork with a layout more similar to tile. The skinny cork planks have also gained some interest . They provide more of a hardwood look that works great in smaller, galley kitchens and little spaces where a larger format is not as appropriate.”

Is Owens Corning’s entry into formaldehyde-free products timely or tardy? How do you know when health concerns about chemicals emitted from interior building and decorating products are valid? How about when the company whose Pink Panther is synonymous with “industry leader in insulation” finally comes out with a formaldehyde-free product – years after it had the capability to do so? Owens Corning Eco Touch™ Fiberglas™ insulation is still pink, but its PureFiber™ binder – made from plant materials – means it is formaldehyde-free. If you haven’t routinely looked for or researched green products that are indoor-air friendly, you might think this is a cutting-edge option with no competition when you see it on the rack at the big-box store.

Demand for traditional bamboo fizzles while strand draws attention It’s official: traditional, vertical- and horizontal-grain bamboo flooring is dated. Despite its popularity five years ago, it appears this fad was destined to fade. Strand bamboo, on the other hand, is here for the long-haul, flooring experts say. “There is almost no interest in traditional bamboo in our store,” says John Hill, ecological coordinator at Interstate Flooring in Portland, OR. “It seems to be, been there, done that. When people are looking at bamboo, they want a more evolved look. Strand, stained and hand-scraped bamboo give them that.” This sentiment is not limited to the west coast, which is always on the cutting edge of green-product style. “Traditional bamboo has become a tired look,” says Joe Byrnes of the Allied Flooring Group in Cincinnati, OH. “Consumers are disenchanted with it. It was oversold, treated sort of like it was the second coming of Christ.”