12 tips for healthier flooring

June 19, 2015

Your choice of flooring will be influenced largely by your lifestyle and local climate. However, given the harmful chemicals emitted by some flooring, indoor air quality is another important factor you should consider.

12 tips for healthier flooring

Choosing the right flooring for your needs

The flooring in a home often represents a significant financial investment and long-term commitment, so it is well worth your while to do your research and make an informed decision. Here are some important factors to consider if you are interested in choosing a healthier flooring option.

  1. The production of some types of flooring – such as synthetic carpets – has a high environmental cost, so consider more natural choices first.
  2. Think about your needs in different rooms. Ask yourself if you really need wall-to-wall carpet. Hard-wearing surfaces are ideal for areas of heavy traffic such as halls and kitchens, whereas softer coverings might be preferable in bedrooms and some living areas.
  3. Although attractive and comfortable, new carpet is likely to emit toxic chemicals due to treatments during production. If you do want carpet, choose one that is made with natural fibres and ideally without any chemical treatments.
  4. When carpet underlay is required, select recycled rubber or natural latex instead of synthetics, which require large amounts of energy to produce and emit harmful gases.
  5. Ask your carpet layer to fix the carpet in place using mechanical fixings – tacks or staples – rather than synthetic adhesives. If adhesive is essential, use a non-toxic adhesive or a water-based adhesive with low levels of toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
  6. Whatever type of carpet you lay, ventilate the area well when fitting and do not use the room for at least three days. Avoid laying new carpet in rooms where babies or pregnant women will sleep.
  7. Consider hardwood floors. They are soft underfoot, easy to clean and don't harbour dust mites. Choose boards made from timber that has been harvested sustainably, or, better still, source some good-quality second-hand boards. Often the timber in these is far superior to what is currently available. Make sure any new wood is not treated with chemical treatments or sealants.
  8. Consider stone or slate flooring, especially if found locally or from a second-hand supplier. Though non-renewable, these materials are abundant, durable and absorb heat.
  9. For high-traffic areas, especially in a warm climate, think about using ceramic or terracotta tiles. They are derived from non-renewable but abundant sources, require relatively little energy to manufacture and are recyclable.
  10. Rather than covering a concrete floor, try applying a finish to it. Polished concrete is hard-wearing, waterproof and attractive, especially if a natural tint is added when the concrete is poured, and chemical sealants are not necessary.
  11. Terrazzo tiles are another good warm-climate alternative. They consist of second-grade marble chips set into concrete, which is then polished. They're attractive and a lot cheaper than marble.
  12. Try to avoid PVC (or vinyl) flooring. Its production releases large amounts of toxic chemicals, it causes as many problems for allergy sufferers as carpet, and on disposal it leaches chemicals into landfills.

Given the abundant flooring options available today, why not make a choice that is earth-friendly, cost-efficient and better for your health?

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