Looking to go ‘green’? Replace your floors with an eco-friendly option, but be sure to choose the best option for your home.
While there have always been numerous factors to consider when choosing flooring options for your home, homeowners today are becoming more conscious of the effects their choices may be having on the environment. Certain flooring types are more sustainable than others, and just like less-sustainable options, each type has its pros and cons. This handy list can help you choose the option that’s right for your home with sacrificing your environmental principles.
Bamboo has become a much more popular option in recent years not only because of its sustainability but also its classic, hardwood-like look. Though it can be processed to look like hardwood flooring, bamboo is actually a grass and supplies replenish within 3 to 7 years, much more quickly than trees.
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- Recyclable and biodegradable
- Harder than most hardwoods (better scores in a janka hardness test than other hardwood options)
- Many color options (bamboo is a natural blond, but can be stained any color or carbonized to be from tan to light brown all the way through the material)
- Different construction options for style (can be put together horizontally to retain grass ‘knuckles’ in grain, vertically for the cleanest grain, or woven for durability and a unique look)
- Easy to clean and maintain
- With no independent standard of quality, it’s difficult to determine the bamboo’s quality other than by price
- Can’t be refinished. While bamboo will endure scratches and dents similarly (or better) than hardwood choices, damaged planks will have to be replaced
- Absorbs moisture more than hardwood options, so will need to be acclimated before installation and should not be installed where standing water may be an issue (think: kids’ bathrooms)
- There has been more concern recently over the chemicals that are sometimes used to manufacture bamboo flooring, along with the natural resources used to transport bamboo. More research may be needed into particular manufacturers
Though cork is less well-known as a flooring option, it has numerous benefits in addition to its eco-friendliness. Made from the bark of the cork tree and mixed with resins, cork can be harvested approximately every decade without damaging or destroying the trees, which can grow to be hundreds of years old. Also, harvesting cork produces virtually no waste (in fact, cork flooring is often made from the scraps of producing wine bottle stoppers, reducing waste production).
- More adaptable to changing climates than hardwood floors
- Provides added layer of insulation (conserving heat in winter and remaining cool in summer)
- More forgiving than hardwood and bamboo: cork’s cellular structure makes it a material that gives more than other materials and thus cushions footsteps and falling objects alike
- Is fire-resistant, antibacterial, and antimicrobial (resistant to mold, mildew, and insects)
- Easy to clean and low-maintenance
- Has a very specific, unique, and variable look (no two bits of cork ever look the same)
- Can’t be refinished
- Due to its ‘give,’ you may need to move heavy furniture every so often or use pads in areas of heavy use to prevent wear
Many confuse vinyl and linoleum flooring, but the two differ greatly, particularly in their environmental impact. While vinyl is made of nonrenewable petroleum and its manufacturing process produces poisons including dioxin, vinyl chloride and ethylene dichloride, real (non-synthetic) linoleum is made of all-natural and mostly renewable ingredients, including linseed oil, resins, recycled wood flour, cork dust, limestone, mineral pigments and jute.
- Fire-resistant (vastly different from vinyl)
- Anti-bacterial (one of the top reasons why linoleum is so often found in hospitals)
- Naturally anti-static; rather than attracting dirt, linoleum will literally repel it
- Super durable and long-lasting
- Colors are all the way through (will not wear off over time as surface color would)
- Though linoleum is a more eco-friendly choice than vinyl, it has a very similar look for a higher price-point
- Susceptible to staining
- Produces higher rate of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which can bother those with asthma or chemical sensitivities
- Needs relatively regular maintenance to preserve original quality
Written by Ty Leisey, also writer for homeyou.com . A company that helps homeowners connect with trustworthy and high quality contractors for their home improvement projects. Also on Instagram @teamhomeyou and Twitter @teamhomeyou.