Hardwood Flooring for a Sustainable Future


When it comes time to install new floors in the home, most people agree that quality, aesthetic appeal and value are the most important characteristics. If the same is important to you, hardwood flooring is to be considered. Although hardwood is a larger initial investment, the rewards pay off in the long-run. Hardwood is designed to last a lifetime and won't need to be replaced. It's durable, resourceful and attractive in all homes. Simple to maintain and perfect for homes with children and pets, the qualities of wood cannot be replaced by other flooring types.

In past decades, wood floors were installed in formal areas such as dining rooms and living rooms. Yet with today's hard-wearing hardwood options, wood floors can be installed just about anywhere. There are layers of UV-cured polyurethane or aluminum oxide applied to the top layer, giving the floors their durability and strength. The only restriction on wood floors is that they are not installed in a room with a full bath. Wood is susceptible to moisture and a full bath can be damaging over time. However, kitchens and even basements work well with engineered wood, which involves several layers of laminate construction on the inside, finished off with a solid wood exterior.

With today's growing concern over sustainable lifestyles, some people worry that hardwood flooring is not an Eco-friendly option. This is quite the opposite however, as hardwood floors come from a renewable resource. Instead of cutting down wood with little concern over what will happen in the future, forests are now well-controlled and managed. When timber is cut down, it encourages new growth and allows the trees to continue offering their resources. Not only will you enjoy a sustainable floor, but its prolonged existence is also beneficial to the environment.

If Eco-friendly flooring is important to you, don't expect that all manufacturers are created equal. Many are making great strides to maintain their forests and create as little damage to the environment as possible. Learn as much as you can about where the wood comes from and what stamps of approval the manufacturer has. For example, to be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), manufacturers must meet 57 different criteria, including limited pesticide use and protection of wildlife. There are no limits to the types of hardwood that are available in sustainable selections, and some of the popular choices include cherry, red oak and maple.

In addition to the wood selection, you'll also want to evaluate how the wood is manufactured. The company should use an Eco-friendly process that uses no formaldehyde or pollutants. Although people enjoy the "new floor" smell, this often comes from the toxic adhesives that are used in the manufacturing process. Instead, look for finishes that are VOC free, and the same goes for any glue adhesives you use. Eco-friendly glues are water-based and come at a similar cost compared to other wood glues.

When looking at sustainable wood flooring, you may be concerned about the added cost of this option. Interestingly, this type of flooring is competitively priced to conventional hardwood floors, especially as more flooring companies are offering sustainable choices. To save additional money, look for engineered wood selections that can be installed on your own. These "floating" floors can be installed over existing floors or subfloors using a snap-and-lock system. Simply install the wood planks over the floor, and enjoy a beautiful upgrade to your home in one day. And, save hundreds of dollars by doing the work on your own.

Engineered floors are quite durable and can even be installed in below-grade applications such as basements. The bottom layer is made from a sturdy wood selection like spruce, while the inner layers are a laminate or pine wood. The inner layers are designed to be temperature resistant, which prevents the floor from buckling. The top layer is the finish of your choice such as maple, ash or white oak. If you choose unfinished flooring, you have complete control over the stain and finishing products you use on the wood. Although unfinished wood floors require more work, it's a surefire way that the products used are free of harmful chemicals.

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