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Interior Design / Make over / Sustainability

How to choose an eco-friendly floor

wooden floor area

What’s an eco-friendly floor?

Choosing a floor is a big task. For our new kitchen/diner we are considering underfloor heating and a hardwearing floor because the kids and the dog will put it to a test every single day. We also want a healthy floor and it has to be easy to clean. If you want to choose an eco-friendly floor there are some things to consider. The good news: With this guide, it’s easier than you think!

These floorings are considered eco-friendly:

  • Cork
  • Tiles
  • Bamboo
  • Hardwood (sourced from FSC certified wood) or reclaimed wood
  • Linoleum or Marmoleum

(This list is not conclusive and if there is a flooring I’ve forgotten, please leave me a comment.)

To deserve the term “eco-friendly” the floor should fulfill some of the following criteria:

  • no VOCs (volatile organic compounds)
  • sourced responsible and certified (Blue Angel, FSC, etc.)
  • fair employment for workers
  • manufactured with renewable energy
  • carbon-neutral
  • no animal by-products

The choice is yours

Try to look at what options are available in your local area first. A trusted flooring company will try to answer your questions to your satisfaction even when you think the questions about sustainability are annoying.

Cork

Cork floor

Source: The Colour Flooring Company

Cork is the bark from the cork tree and when harvested the tree is not harmed and the bark grows back. This makes cork flooring one of the most sustainable flooring options. The benefits of cork are endless. It’s smooth and warm and naturally insulating. This is also the reason why not every cork floor is suitable for underfloor heating (better check with your supplier). Cork is a natural sound absorber because its cells work as an acoustic insulator, it reduces the walking sound up to 53% compared to laminate flooring. Cork comes on rolls or tiles and in many colors, which makes it suitable for large areas. Wicanders is a company that offers stunning cork floorings sourced responsibly from the cork trees.

Tiles

A study on porcelain tiles has shown that tiles are a sustainable choice for your floor. Tiles are very durable and have therefore a long life span. It’s also a great choice for underfloor heating as it’s heat-retaining. Tiles are available in any design you can imagine, their versatility is endless. You can get even tiles that look like wood planks or replicate an aged period style look. The manufacturing process of tiles has a less negative impact on the environment than other flooring productions. The downside of going with tiles is that they can be expensive, and installing them is costly and time-consuming. Also be aware that when you put tiles on underfloor heating, they have to settle, and, depending on the tiles, the heating should not be turned on for about 4 weeks. If you can get your hands on reclaimed tiles – even better.

Bamboo

Bamboo flooring is around for over 15 years and its popularity grows ever since. There is a variety of colors, strengths, and styles available.  Bamboo is durable and easy to clean. Bamboo is a  type of grass, which grows very fast.  When it reaches maturity it can be harvested in around five years. In comparison a hardwood tree needs 25 + years.  Whoever has bamboo in his/her garden knows, that the root of the bamboo also self-generates.  It doesn’t need replanting after the harvest, the bamboo will continue to grow. To make sure though the bamboo floor was responsibly sourced look for the FSC certification. Bamboo flooring is compatible with underfloor heating when used in combination with an engineered board. In the case of underfloor heating, I suggest talking to a trusted installer about what type of underlay should be used for your specific bamboo floor choice.

Hardwood Floor

A real wooden floor is everybody’s dream. It makes the room instantly cozy and adds warmth. Hardwood flooring can be very expensive and when you have a big area it might be outside the budget. If you decide to go for it, check where the wood is sourced from (FSC). An alternative to a new hardwood floor could be that you look at what’s under your existing floor covering. When you lift up the old carpets there might be a pleasant surprise – wooden floorboards which could easily be sanded down and brought back to life. Another idea is to look for reclaimed wood. Some people sell their original real parquet floor. Look on your local online selling platforms and you might find a bargain!

Wooden Planks

Linoleum

Linoleum is made of raw natural materials, like linseed oil, wood flour, rosins, ground limestone, powdered cork, pigments, and jute. It isn’t very popular in residential homes but should be reconsidered because of its eco-friendliness. Linoleum is durable, hardwearing, and easy to clean. It comes in all colors and patterns you can think of. What a great floor for a playroom! The company Forbo has developed an even more sustainable form of linoleum, it is called Marmoleum and is C02 neutral without offsetting.

Do your research

If you like a floor but you are not sure if it is eco-friendly, actively enquire about certifications like the Blue Angel or the FSC label. Every company will answer all your questions about your concern regarding allergies, suitability, the materials used, the origin of the floor, etc. If a company doesn’t answer your questions to your satisfaction then it’s probably not a good choice. By asking these questions you also make the companies aware that there are conscious costumers out there. The floor you choose will stay in your home for quite a bit, so make sure all your questions are answered.

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