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Being green is about more than driving a Prius

low VOC wood floorsLet’s hit a few touch points about sustainability that matter to us here at Paragon. After seeing what happens to wood floors over time, we know sustainability is a function of product longevity. Sadly, a number of new products hitting the market are not always designed with a long service life in mind. Material source, construction, and serviceability are important if the environment is a priority for you like us.

 Material Source

Whether a floor is engineered or solid, real wood is used to make the flooring. Where the material is harvested has a long range value regarding forestry, sustainability, and economics. Here are a few common sense material sourcing rules:

The closer a material source is to its final destination the better. A lot of products, especially engineered flooring, are manufactured in China. In fact, a lot of the lumber for engineered flooring is shipped from the United States overseas. It is then manufactured for lower cost and shipped back to be sold in America. Why not cut out the boat ride and just buy material sourced and made in our own country?

 

 

Not all countries have the same forestry standards and practices. Less developed countries that need economic growth often overlook sustainable practices of forestry.

Materials that originate overseas may behave differently in the living environment of your home, especially exotic flooring. Wood harvested in a humid tropical environment can experience problems in a dry climate.

 

Flooring made from materials with inconsistent sources can prove difficult to match if you want install more rooms in the home years later.

 

Some flooring may contain high levels of formaldehyde if not from a trusted source, which can irritate your breathing as mentioned in this clip by 60 minutes on Lumber Liquidators.

Construction and Service Life

Forgetting to ask about how your flooring is assembled or milled is something all consumers need to consider.  From what adhesive is used to make engineered flooring to how well a mill understands lumber drying. 

Engineered wood flooring can vary quite a lot in quality. Plywood layers are combined with adhesive and real wood to make engineered flooring. The number of plywood layers and the quality of the adhesive is important.

 

Some adhesives contain formaldehyde and other chemicals that affect indoor air quality.

 

Although engineered wood flooring has a real layer of wood attached, this layer can vary quite a lot in service life. Some flooring sold with 25 year warranties has less than 1/16” of real wood. This means the flooring is unable to be refinished and will end up in a dumpster once it has worn.

Products that have a long service life are generally able to be refinished three or more times. Although, this is somewhat dependent on the skill and technique of the machine operator at the time of service.

Choosing a product that can be altered in color and appearance over time is important. For example, a white oak floor can be stained or treated to result in a lot of colors (light or dark). Where a Brazilian cherry floor will always be darker in color and cannot be lightened significantly.

Luxury Vinyl Plank, which is often sold as a direct competitor to real wood flooring, contains phthalates and plasticizers that mimic reproductive hormones.

Our intent is not to scare you into making a specific choice. Our advice is simply written to make it easier to separate the treasure from the trash in the wood flooring industry.

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