Indoor Air Quality Tag

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.

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.

Confusion and half-truths follow report of excessive formaldehyde in some Lumber Liquidators’ laminate floors Carb II CompliantA customer who has seen the 60 Minutes report about unhealthful levels of formaldehyde in certain laminate floors from Lumber Liquidators now is questioning a flooring purchase she was about to make. “No worries,” her salesman says. “All of our flooring meets California Air Resources Board (CARB) standards for formaldehyde.”  He is misleading, but not intentionally. To assist its salespeople, a national retail group issues an alert to its members that reads: “All of our laminate flooring meets CARB 2 standards.”  Another over-simplification. Most flooring retailers – including those touting “natural” products – have limited understanding of how to gauge a floor’s impact on indoor-air quality. Understanding the evolution of people-friendly products, and keeping up with the ever-changing status of which manufacturer has added a certification and what the certification means, is a specialized field of its own. Compounding the confusion, certifications expire annually.

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.

Gray or brown, this hardwood floor blends seamlessly with home’s bold natural colors 018The color of this stained Maple floor is called “Jellybean.” When you look at it in natural daylight, it is gray. Put it under artificial light, and it takes on a deep brown. But no matter where you look in Brittany’s new  Milford, OH, home, this floor from Mirage Hardwood is the perfect background for her sky blue and terracotta walls, and her kitchen backsplash tiles that look like they were painted with watercolors. These colors are just spot-on.

Latest  designs encourage movement and discourage assigned work stations and offices Steelcase 2There is a counter-height desk on wheels for the worker who is more productive walking through the office while working on his computer. There are areas for groups of employees to collaborate. And private spaces for when workers need to take important or private calls. Work areas, equipped with traditional seating as well as counters for people who prefer to stand, are arranged for use by all. The corner offices for high-ranking  executives are gone. So are traditional work stations assigned to a specific worker. A work café – for group and individual work – also is a must. What is this place? It is the workplace that promotes health, wellness and the most efficient use of space at a time when businesses do not want to spend for new buildings, says John Shideler, workplace consultant for Steelcase.

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 is growing, and it’s readily available at a flooring store near you It’s a fact: Reclaimed hardwood is now mainstream. You don’t have to search it out through a specialty retailer. Just ask Ben Cochran, whose northwest Virginia company has been making floors from deconstructed buildings since 1978. “Everything we use in our reclaimed products is structurally salvaged from barns, factories and other buildings that are being removed to make way for new developments,” says Cochran, outside sales manager for the company his father started. “It’s been that way for more than 25 years.” Cochran Lumber’s flooring is one of four reclaimed flooring brands that are readily available through many hardwood flooring companies.

Flooring industry takes steps that recognize that consumers want products that are Better for People “I don’t really think most flooring customers really care about green,” a rep for a large hardwood manufacturer tells me. “The planet just isn’t a priority to them, particularly if an FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) -certified  label  on the product is going to cost more.” I have to ask: “Do you think they care about the other part of green – the indoor-air friendly, low-VOC (Volatile Organic Compound), better for human health part?” “Absolutely,” he says without hesitation. “That is coming up all the time now.”