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Wed, Aug. 21

Ask the Contractor: Green flooring industry blooming with options

As Kermit the Frog would say “It’s not easy bein’ green; it seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things.”

That is hardly the case now days. It is easy bein’ green, especially since there is plenty of energizing news about “green” floor covering.

“My husband and I want to go ‘green’ with flooring and would like to ask your opinion. We know that YCCA is a great resource and we love reading your columns.” Betty and Art — Cottonwood.

Nowadays, there are so many creative options for consumer tastes and preferences and with all of environmentally-friendly materials on the market, they are comparatively priced to non-green counterparts. The green wave is starting to make its mark in Arizona.

EPA studies have shown that indoor pollutant levels can be two to five times higher than they are outside, and to find the source of many of these pollutants just glance down. Installation of new carpet and flooring can fill the air with hundreds of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including known and suspected carcinogens like formaldehyde and benzene. In addition, carpets are often treated with toxic chemicals for moth-proofing or to repel soil and moisture, and carpeting is also notorious for trapping many chemicals, VOCs, and allergens that are tracked in from outside.

With the growth of “green”, many of these flooring options minimize indoor pollution and mitigate health problems caused by toxic carpets. Green products are durable, stylish and often less expensive than conventional floors and carpets, and these sustainable options provide a responsible and healthy way to enhance your home.

“There was a time when the initial green product purchase did cost more,” noted Matt Greenlee of Greenlee Designer Surfaces. “However, those prices have now come down and leveled off to a point where they are on par with non-green products and the installation and maintenance costs are typically no different than non-green products.”

Consumer preference and taste now play a significant role in decisions, according to Sylvan Incao, owner of Desert Hardwood Flooring. He is seeing a fast transition to eco-friendly flooring from more and more of his clients.

There seems to be passion taking place with green flooring.

Trusting that knowledge about what’s available in green products will assist consumers in making the best overall decisions for their households, Sylvan and Matt have a vast knowledge of products available from cork, bamboo and other woods harvested using sustainable practices; laminates employing reduced chemical content; utilization of recycled materials in manufacturing; and carpeting generating lower Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) emissions of strong chemical odors.

Hardwoods

The green product line available locally is made from bamboo, cork and other “naturally green products through manner of harvesting.” The inventory also includes hickory, walnut, maple and birch and similar woods harvested under stringent standards and quality checks by North American and European manufacturers.

Standards regarding “what goes inside a flooring product, such as the glues and finishes needed to make a finished plank” are established by industry leaders and watchdog groups. Initiatives from the National Wood Flooring Association, the California Air Resources Board and similar associations have established stringent standards for formaldehyde emissions from wood and other products. Incao described resulting CARB 2 compliant products as “friendlier to your health and household.”

Cork and bamboo are both obtained from sustainable and easily replenished sources. Bamboo is harvested every four to five years without damaging the root systems of the plants and grows back very quickly. Cork is actually the bark of the cork tree and can be stripped off every nine or 10 years without damaging the tree.

By practicing sustainable harvesting of hickory, walnut, birch and similar trees, forests are not simply clear-cut. Trees are selectively harvested without damaging the entire forest. New trees are planted to replace the harvested forests at an equal pace.

Another development in eco-friendly flooring is utilization of wood salvaged from barns and other buildings. Making a comeback is the old-fashioned linoleum, which has been on the market for 60 to 70 years. Constructed from high-density fiberboard with a Formica surface, linoleum has experienced recent chemical content improvements in glues and formaldehyde. Whatever the option decided, consumer sentiment remains front and center.

Laminates

Customers with chemical sensitivities who prefer laminate flooring “would be wise to spend a little more and find a high-quality laminate product that adheres to strict emission standards,” Incao advised. The German-made laminate flooring is subject to German/European standards, which are “often higher than in the U.S.”

A zero-VOC pad is employed as an underlayment and moisture barrier. For applications to concrete, eco-urethane glue with almost no odor is utilized. This type of glue is a little more expensive than a lot of wood glues on the market, but the quality and health-friendly elements are more than worth the cost.

There is no inherent superiority or benefit to bamboo or cork flooring against any other hardwood flooring. It’s mostly a matter of preference and taste. However, if a consumer likes the fact that bamboo and cork are harvested without killing the host plant or tree, then they can make their decision almost on ethical or environmental grounds.

Carpeting

Be sure and look for the “Green Select” label certifying that they are environmentally friendly products.

Online sources for information about green flooring include the National Wood Flooring Association at hardwoodfloorsmag.com/blog/green-blog/; the World Floor Covering Association at wfca.org; and links located at riemerfloors.com/goinggreen.

Remember it is easy and cost-competitive to choose eco-friendly floors when your old floors need upgrading. All you have to lose are some pollutants.

Remember to tune in to YCCA’s Hammer Time at 7 a.m. every Saturday and Sunday on KQNA 1130 AM, 99.9 FM, 95.5 FM or the web at kqna.com. Listen to Sandy to Mike talk about the construction industry, meet your local community partners and so much more. What a great way to start your weekend.

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