A Glance at Eco-Friendly and Sustainable Flooring Options
by Marcy Tate
Eco-friendly and sustainable flooring is growing in popularity. Alternatives to conventional flooring are vast and easily accessible. There are eco-friendly underlayment and sealer options, too. Most eco-friendly flooring options cost about 20% more than conventional flooring types. But the growing increase of requests for eco-friendly flooring has proved that many homeowners are willing to pay extra for the great benefits.
Recycled Rubber Tiles
Recycled rubber tile may sound unattractive at first, but several manufacturers have been able to produce beautiful rubber floor tiles made from recycled tires and other rubber-based products. This flooring type is considered eco-friendly not only because it is recycled, but also because it uses very little energy to produce. Recycled rubber tiles are usually made from recycled tires. Rubber flooring is especially favored by families with young children for several reasons: They are sound absorbent, durable, stain-resistant, easy to clean and easy to install. As one of the least expensive eco-flooring types, recycled rubber flooring generally costs less than $3 per square foot.
Cork is a great alternative to wood. It has a similar color and natural appeal as wood. It is considered one of the most sustainable and renewable flooring options. To produce a cork floor, no trees need to be cut down. Instead, the bark is hand-harvested from mature cork trees and the bark can regenerate at least once per decade. Many cork floors are guaranteed for 15 years when they have been layered with a UV-cured acrylic. Cork is also energy-efficient as it provides thermal insulation. Cork flooring costs the same as most hardwood flooring.
Bamboo is one of the first eco-flooring options that made its way into American homes. Bamboo is eco-friendly because it is renewable; it’s a kind of grass that grows very quickly. In fact, it grows about four times as quickly as most softwood trees. Bamboo flooring creates an elegant appearance. It’s also extremely durable and comes in a wide variety of styles and colors, making it a great flooring option. Bamboo flooring is slightly less expensive than hardwood flooring.
Natural linoleum flooring is not only eco-friendly, it’s asthma and allergy-friendly too. It’s easy to clean and does not attract dust. Unlike conventional sheet vinyl or VCT flooring, natural linoleum does not contain harmful VOCs and other toxic chemicals. It’s made from linseed, cork, tree rosin, limestone and jute and can last decades. There are many colors available to choose from. Typically, natural linoleum costs less than hardwood flooring.
Eco-Friendly Floor Underlayment & Adhesives
Many floor finishes and adhesives contain formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is not good for the environment, as it is made with toxins. It can also trigger allergies or asthma attacks and some studies have linked excessive exposure to formaldehyde to cancer. Most eco-friendly flooring options, such as cork and bamboo, use formaldehyde-free glues. Other products, such as water-based, low-VOC glues can be used as well.
There are several eco-friendly underlayment options. CoraZorb green makes a 92% recycled rubber that can be used under hardwood and floating wood floors. Cork underlayment and sheep wool underlayment are additional options.
This article was orignally published April 2010. Marcy Tate is a home improvement writer at Networx. She has been working with tile and other flooring contractors for over a decade.