Stylish Eco-Friendly Flooring Options
Cork floors were popular in the early 1900's, and were even a favorite of the architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Now they've come into vogue again due to their sustainability, along with their warm look and feel. Cork is harvested from the bark of cork oak trees in the Mediterranean without damaging the tree.
Pros: Good acoustic buffering and shock absorbing properties. Floors have a warm feel underfoot. Naturally fire resistant and insect repellant. Comes in a wide range of colors. Relatively easy to install. Very environmentally friendly.
Cons: Cork will fade in sunlight, and the color will change with age. Heavy furniture can leave dents. Susceptible to water damage.
Best Rooms: Cork is a good option for the living room, dining room, kitchen, and the home office. It is generally not recommended for bathrooms or other areas prone to high moisture levels.
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-Certified Bamboo
Bamboo has become increasingly popular over the last decade due to its durability, attractive variety of appearances, and the fact that it is easy to harvest sustainably because it grows back every four to seven years.
Strand-woven bamboo is the hardest type, and lighter shades of bamboo are more durable than those in darker, carbonized colors.
Pros: Durable and relatively easy to install. Comes in a wide range of finishes. Very eco-friendly, although it's best to purchase FSC-certified bamboo because in some countries native forests are being cut down to make room for bamboo plantations. FSC-certified products have met internationally recognized sustainability standards set by the Forest Stewardship Council.
Cons: Susceptible to fading in the sun. The bonding material that holds bamboo fibers together is softer than the strands, which means that bamboo tends to show scratches more easily than wood with the same hardness rating. Some experts believe that engineered bamboo is susceptible to surface cracking, whereas the traditional solid and strand-woven versions are not.
Best Rooms: Bamboo's classic look makes it an excellent choice for living rooms, kitchens, hallways, and dens. It should not be exposed to much moisture, however, and is therefore not ideal for bathrooms.
Yes, linoleum is making a comeback! Contrary to popular belief, linoleum is not the same as vinyl. It is made of natural materials that include linseed oil, cork dust, and tree resins, whereas vinyl is a synthetic product made from petrochemicals.
This photo shows an example of Marmoleum, a popular brand of linoleum that comes in a huge variety of styles.
Pros: Eco-friendly, recyclable, and will not off-gas Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). Can last up to 40 years. Easy to maintain.
Cons: Newly installed linoleum may off-gas linseed oil vapors, which some people are sensitive to. It appears to also scratch more easily than vinyl, and is more sensitive to moisture. Considered less high end than materials such as wood or tile.
Best Rooms: The photo galleries of the manufacturers show some beautiful installations in living rooms and bedrooms, but the safest bet for resale value may be to use linoleum in areas such as entryways, mud rooms, laundry rooms, and children's play areas. Due to its sensitivity to moisture in the subfloor, it is generally not recommended for below-grade rooms such as basements.
FSC-Certified Reclaimed Hardwood
Other styles may come and go, but the beauty and durability of wood floors create lasting appeal. Now you can find gorgeous wood flooring derived completely from timber that has been reclaimed from demolished structures such as old barns and buildings. There is also FSC-certified old growth wood, which comes from sustainably harvested forests, and from developers and tree trimmers who would otherwise have sent the wood to a landfill.
The best-selling hardwood styles have historically been oak, maple, ash, walnut, and cherry, although traditional oak has been losing ground and maple is becoming more popular. Floors with darker, chocolate-toned shades are also showing up frequently in new construction homes.
Pros: Available in many different grains and colors (click here to see examples on the Elmwood Reclaimed Timber website). Can last the lifetime of a home, especially with multiple refinishings. Warm underfoot. Eco-friendly, especially when FSC-certified. Many varieties of reclaimed wood create a look that gives 'character' to floors.
Cons: Hardness varies by tree species; some are less durable than others. (Click here to see the Janka hardness rating of various wood species.) Like all wood floors, can be susceptible to scratches and moisture damage. The look of reclaimed wood may not fit every home style.
Best Rooms: Hardwoods create a warm, elegant look that is suitable for nearly every room of the home. They tend to be used less in bedrooms and full or three-quarter bathrooms.
Natural Stone and Tile
Another flooring style unlikely to ever lose desirability is the look of natural stone and tile. Natural stone includes marble, travertine, and limestone, while ceramic and porcelain are popular tile options. All are considered to be environmentally friendly materials because they come from plentiful resources. Tile is generally less expensive than natural stone.
Recently the trend has been towards less glossy finishes. Buffed travertine is a great option for many homes, and laying tiles in a diagonal pattern can create a unique, classic look.
Pros: Beautiful and durable. Available in many different styles, colors, and finishes. Imparts a high end feel. Resistant to moisture damage. Eco-friendly because stone and tile are derived from plentiful resources, although their weight in shipping detracts from that advantage to some extent.
Cons: Can be expensive. Cold and hard on the feet. Glossy styles can be slippery when wet. May crack or chip if something heavy is dropped on them. Grout needs to be cleaned and maintained.
Best Rooms: Tile and natural stone give a beautiful, classic look to entryways, kitchens, sun rooms and bathrooms. They can be used in sub-grade levels as well, although they tend to be colder in those locations.
Engineered hardwood looks like solid hardwood, but is comprised of two main components: a surface layer of high quality wood, and a substrate beneath it that can be made of various materials, primarily wood-based. It comes in a huge variety of styles and finishes.
Pros: Usually less expensive to install than solid hardwood. Can be installed directly over concrete subfloors. Eco-friendly because it uses the highest quality wood only in the top layer, and faster-growing, more plentiful types of wood in the substrate. Does not expand and contract as much as solid hardwood.
Cons: Generally considered to be less high end than traditional hardwood. Can be sanded two to three times, whereas solid hardwood can usually be sanded three to five times.
Best Rooms: Any room in which you would put solid hardwood. Can also be installed on concrete subfloors and in below-grade rooms as long as a moisture barrier is included.
Do you have questions about any of this information? Please call me, or just click 'Reply' to this email. I'll be happy to give you my take on our local real estate market, or provide you with any other real estate advice that you may need.
(What the lawyers make us say: The information in this newsletter is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Please always consult a qualified expert before making decisions based on this content. Nothing in this article is meant to be taken as expert legal, financial, or medical advice.)