Cork flooring is renewable, moisture-resistant, and the most DIY-friendly of all green options. Photo: The Cork Flooring Company
Well-maintained hardwood floors can be absolutely breathtaking. Oak, pine, beech -- even engineered wood
-- are still popular hardwood options. But more and more homeowners are becoming environmentally-savvy when it comes to choosing materials for renovations. They're looking toward renewable and recycled flooring materials, many of which are just as beautiful and durable as their traditional counterparts.
Naturally, flooring manufacturers are getting on the green bandwagon, too, because of customer demands. Even home builders see the long-term benefits and are often choosing eco-friendly materials in place of traditional resources. Eco-friendly flooring materials vary in price, but they're well worth the investment.
Installing most eco-friendly flooring is not much different than installing traditional hardwood floors. If you're not experienced installing wood floors, but want to DIY it, it's best to do so under the guidance of an experienced craftsman.
That said, let's explore a few of the most popular types of environmentally-friendly floors.
1. Reclaimed hardwoods
Recaimed, or recycled, flooring
is a great option because it gives new life to hardwood that was harvested long ago -- preventing new trees from being cut down. Reclaimed wood also has a visual character that can only be achieved over time. Because you can't just pick up reclaimed wood at your local home improvement store, it takes a little more effort to get your hands on this unique building material. But the price is comparable to -- at times lower than -- traditional hardwood. When shopping for reclaimed hardwood, as This Old House reports
, make sure it's kiln-dried (so it doesn't warp), scrubbed clean, and checked with a metal detector for any nails. To find companies that offer reclaimed flooring, it's best to ask your local home improvement store representative, a contractor, or a carpenter for recommendations, to make sure you don't get scammed.
2. FSC-Certified hardwood
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)
is an organization that guarantees the practices used to source your hardwoods are sustainable and environmentally responsible. FSC-certified wood allows you to use hardwood in your home with a clear conscience, knowing that you're still supporting the environment and its tree population. For your convenience, the Forest Stewardship Council keeps a list of manufacturers and retailers on their website
is a hardwood is an increasingly popular flooring option. Because bamboo is actually a grass and not a tree, it's fast-growing and easily replenished. While it takes trees tens of years to mature, bamboo grows to maturity in about five years
. So how does bamboo go from grass to wood? Wood that's stronger than oak, no less? The wood is actually harvested in from adult bamboo stalks, which go through a process of slicing, carbonizing (steaming), purifying, gluing, and kiln-drying
. Bamboo flooring is also a great option if you have allergy sufferers in your home, as they don't attract dust or harbor dust mites. Another benefit: bamboo flooring can often be less expensive than some hardwoods.
Cork is the most DIY-friendly of all green flooring materials. It's made from the bark of the cork oak tree or from recycled wine corks. Harvesting cork does not harm the tree in any way, and the cork is replenished about every 9-10 years. Cork is easy to install and requires little to no adhesive or nails. In fact you can often simply float cork planks
over an existing floor. Its patterns and color vary
, with many gorgeous options. Cork floors also have a nice cushion-y feeling underfoot. Because it's naturally resistant to moisture and mildew, cork is ideal for bathrooms too.
Finishing your wood
If you decide to go green, be sure that your hardwood is finished with a low-VOC
product. VOCs, or Volatile Organic Compounds, are chemical compounds that have a high enough vapor pressure to release into the atmosphere. They can contribute to air pollution and damage your health.