Responsible Shopping: Tips for Buying Wood Floors

Responsible Shopping: Tips for Buying Wood Floors

Michelle Chin
Nov 14, 2011

A reader comment about my recent post, Before & After: Replacing Icky Carpet With Wood Laminate, prompted me to look into tips for finding the greenest options for wood, engineered wood and wood laminate flooring.

1 Reclaimed lumber, which is wood salvaged from old buildings or old factories and barns. It can come at a premium, especially for rare or high quality wood, but keeps valuable resources out of our landfills. Discount prices can be found, but make certain that it's in good condition. Also make sure that you are purchasing from a reputable dealer. With the market so hungry for vintage flooring, you need to make sure that you're not buying new flooring that has just been banged up to look old.

2 If you choose flooring made of virgin lumber, make sure it's certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). (Certified wood is often more expensive, though.) Never buy virgin products made from tropical or old-growth forests or trees harvested from ecologically sensitive areas unless they are FSC certified. See if you can find flooring made from trees harvested in your region (or at least domestically).

3 Engineered wood flooring is perhaps one of the best options, as far as resources and cost. It is created from inexpensive, fast-growing plantation trees with a veneer of more expensive wood. This flooring can often be refinished, as solid wood floors can be, but there is a limit to how many times it can be refinished before you sand through the veneer.

4 Laminate wood flooring can be a wonderful option, but you need to make sure that it isn't created with formaldehyde or vinyl. It is created by gluing a laminate veneer (printed image) to fiberboard. That fiberboard is often made from reclaimed material from the timber industry. Some brands use FSC-certified wood as the backing. It cannot be refinished, but is known to be durable. It doesn't have the same look as real wood, but it's also inexpensive and can stand up to a lot of wear and tear.

5 For real and engineered wood, know whether the variety you are choosing is a hard or soft wood species. Hardwood is much more durable, as softwood will dent and scratch more easily.

6 Floating floors (those that click together) and nailed floors don't require adhesives for installation. If you do have to glue your floor down, make sure you're using a low or zero VOC option.

7 If your flooring is not factory-finished (meaning the stain and sealer is applied before it arrives at your home), make certain you also use low or zero VOC finishes. Plant-based finishes may have a lower petroleum content than synthetic wood finishes, but are not necessarily low in VOCs.

(Image: Apartment Therapy)

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