Choosing to have hardwood floors installed is one of the best choices you can make for your home. Hardwood floors bring with them a wide variety of benefits, not the least of which is boosting the value of your residence. In addition to this, they are easy to clean, they do not trap dust and dirt the way carpets do, and they require far less maintenance than other types of flooring. With all those advantages we’d say that hardwood flooring is already an excellent choice for your home, but they offer an even greater benefit: sustainability.
While carpets come full of chemicals left over from the manufacturing process, hardwood floors are a natural alternative that literally grows on trees. Since they’re made completely from trees, they are an excellent choice for a “green” household. If you’re looking to have wood floors installed in your home, you have several options to maximize sustainability.
Reclaimed wood is, quite simply, wood that has been reused. Quite often it has been repurposed from a very old building (such as a 100-year-old barn) and turned into flooring. This type of flooring provides a unique vintage appearance for your floor as it can come from trees that were harvested centuries ago. Besides its aesthetic advantages, you can rest easy knowing that your hardwood floor is sturdy and built to last since the wood has already weathered the test of time.
Suppressed Wood Flooring
Forests can become vulnerable to fires and diseases when they grow too dense. To prevent this, people will often remove the trees that are at the highest risk, leaving the healthy trees to grow safely. When a forest is deliberately thinned out by humans in order to prevent fire and disease from spreading, the trees removed are usually the smaller, slowest growing trees. While for many years the wood from these trees was simply used as firewood and not much else, recently they’ve started to be repurposed as “suppressed” hardwood flooring. They are great if you’re looking for a wood with a close grain and fine texture, and they have the added benefit of protecting the world’s forests as well.
Bamboo is one of the fastest growing hardwoods in existence. A bamboo tree can reach full maturity in as little as five years! Contrast this with other hardwood species, which may take decades to reach their ideal strength and size. Due to the speed of growth, bamboo is one of the most sustainable choices for hardwood flooring. Bamboo can also grow to be extremely strong and durable, providing you with a floor that can last for years and years. It’s not without its drawbacks, however, as bamboo floors are also particularly vulnerable to scratches and have no standardized grading system to help you decide which floor to purchase.
“Engineered” wood is made from several layers of plywood covered with a veneer of hardwood. Since it uses less hardwood than a traditional wood floor, it tends to be cheaper, not to mention more sustainable. It has other advantages as well: it is less vulnerable to moisture than traditional hardwood flooring and provides more stability as well. If an engineered wood floor is properly installed, it’s extremely difficult to tell the difference between it and a traditional hardwood floor.
How to check if your hardwood flooring is sustainable
While you are shopping for new hardwood flooring, you’ll want to check to see if it really is sustainable or not. There are a number of ways this can be done. Check if the wood has a label from the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) or the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Both organizations place stringent standards to ensure the wood collected is environmentally friendly, in particular the FSC. Woods they recommend include Long-Leaf Pine, American Cherry, and Central American Teak. You can also check if the wood has been rated by LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, which is another leading environmental certification program. LEED has four levels of certification from Certified to Platinum. If the wood you purchase for your flooring has a high number of LEED points then it’s an excellent choice for sustainability. The fact of the matter is that currently only about 10 percent of the flooring that’s available is truly sustainable so you will have to do some research before making any decisions.
Going green for the life of your floor
Keeping your home sustainable doesn’t end after your hardwood floor has been installed. Being green is an ongoing process and you’ll need to stay on top of it for as long as you are living in your home. Try to avoid using any toxic glues when you are having your floor installed, for example. In addition, make sure that any cleaning products you purchase for your floor are non-toxic to the environment. As long as you are diligent in your research, you will be able to proudly live in a green home made from sustainable materials for years to come.