There are many factors that come into play when choosing flooring for your home, whether you are looking to add an area rug, renovate a bathroom, or are starting from scratch. You must consider the durability, style, and of course, the price! But there are also many environmental and health factors to consider as well. Just because a product appears to be natural does not mean that it is. Here are the key things to look for when buying flooring that is not only attractive but also good for you.
1. Choose Natural Products
Many flooring products are made from synthetic ingredients. Vinyl tile and carpets made from nylon, polyester, and acrylic make up a good portion of the floor covering market and are laden with chemicals, including known carcinogens. If you’ve ever walked through a flooring store and could smell all the products, you know how nauseating the off-gassing can be, and you certainly don’t want to be living with it in your home. Look for products made from naturally occurring materials such as wool, stone, cork, rubber, and the many varieties of wood flooring available such as bamboo, cherry, and pine (just be sure that it is sustainably harvested). Other good options are tile made from glass (often recycled) or ceramic and natural linoleum which is made primarily from linseed oil and cork dust.
2. Check the Backings, Coatings, and Adhesives
Unfortunately, in most cases it isn’t possible to just put down stone tiles or planks of wood and get the look, feel, and durability you are looking for in your flooring. Wool, jute, and other natural fiber rugs must be backed once they are woven in order to keep them together and prevent them from sliding. Look for rubber or latex backings instead of synthetic ones. Tiles need to be adhered to the sub-floor and wood floors need to be sealed. Some manufacturers use backings, coatings, and adhesives that contain formaldehyde or other harmful chemicals, so it’s important to pay attention to how the products are put together and what is required for their installation. Those wood veneer floors are good looking and cost effective, but there may be toxins in that glue that secures the veneer to the base. In addition to selecting flooring products that aren’t produced with harmful chemicals, it’s also important to seek out less toxic products when it comes time to install and finish your flooring.
3. Paying More Will Cost You Less in the Long Run
While investing in natural, healthier flooring may be more expensive in the short term, it is well worth the investment. Many people choose a synthetic carpet because it is marketed as stain resistant, but more expensive wool carpets are naturally stain resistant because of the lanolin that occurs in the formation of the fibers, making it easy to clean and more likely to stand the test of time. Wood floors can be refinished time after time instead of having to be replaced when they begin to show wear and tear. Selecting flooring derived from properly harvested natural products and installed properly means you likely will never have to replace the flooring again.
Photo Credit: Maureen Lunn