Part I: Engineered hardwood flooring can be a greener option than solid, but there are many factors to consider before you buyWe knew the day would come. Many of us in the green products industry pushed engineered wood floors because they require less premium wood to manufacturer than solid hardwood floors.
Many customers resisted. Solid wood is stronger, lasts longer and doesn’t echo when you walk on it, they argued. Not true, we countered. When properly manufactured and installed, engineered wood floors can be more durable and feel almost the same underfoot as a solid, hardwood floor.
Today, the argument has dwindled. Engineered hardwood is a top pick for people building green homes on the West Coast. And the trend also has spread across the country. It’s even apparent in the Midwest.
More than a decade after its U.S. entry, chemical-free carpet gets mainstream attention and could be part of a market that is “ready to explode”Some rolled their eyes and suppressed laughter at the idea that a chemical-free, biodegradable, un-dyed carpet could make it in mainstream America. But when Brian Cox saw Nature’s Carpet in the early 1990s, something told him it would be a winner.
After seeing this wool carpet at a Domotex trade show in Germany, Cox returned to his office at the Colin Campbell distribution company in Vancouver, BC, he organized his presentation, and he began calling on retailers. After the Canadians started selling it, Cox crossed the U.S. border and called on one of the country’s first green-building gurus in Bellingham, WA. The builder in turn installed the product in several green homes, including his own, and he helped Cox introduce Nature’s Carpet to the Environmental Home Center in Seattle, which would later be known as EcoHaus.
“That’s what broke open the United States market,” Cox recalls. “It went from there, all the way down the West Coast to California.”
Popularity of commercial rubber flooring is boosting residential interest on the West CoastA 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 insulationWinter 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 reusableTile – 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 installersQ: 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 increasingAs 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.”