A sewer back up in our basement has led us to an unplanned mini renovation project. When we built our home 10 years ago we installed carpet, the floor covering of choice pre Calgary flood of 2013. Given this chance to install new flooring in the space we have consciously decided to investigate healthier options, both for our family and the environment.
You have probably heard of ‘off-gassing’. It means that newly installed products in a home let off chemicals into the air while they settle in. This can happen for years and is detrimental to you and your family’s health. But how do you get around it? How do you upgrade your home without downgrading the health of it? There are a few great non-toxic, eco-friendly, no-off-gassing, healthy flooring options to consider that will increase the value of your home, make you fall in love all over again, and breathe easy knowing your are only making positive changes for your loved ones.
Note: You want to find low Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) products.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are organic chemicals that have a high vapor pressure at ordinary room temperature. Their high vapor pressure results from a low boiling point, which causes large numbers of molecules to evaporate or sublimate from the liquid or solid form of the compound and enter the surrounding air. – Wikipedia
Porcelain / Ceramic Tile
What’s the difference?
Porcelain is a higher-quality tile and more often come in even sizes, which will make laying them simpler. That said, cost is also a big difference, with Porcelain being on the higher end. Porcelain is actually a type of ceramic type but is made with much finer clay and set at higher temperatures.
Porcelain and ceramic are water resistant (porcelain more so) and extremely durable. They are a good choice for higher traffic areas and bathrooms. When installing these, though, make sure the you choose a low VOC mortar or grout to ensure that the entire process is house healthy.
Many people opt for Porcelain or Ceramic tiles in replacement of natural stone due to cost. And why not? Porcelain tiles appear as luxurious as natural stone products… so much so that they often fool designers!
Engineered wood has VOCs in it’s lower layers so it is best to stick to solid wood when you can. There is certainly a toss up, though, since engineered wood uses scraps and is therefore less harmful to the environment in terms of recycling. However, by means of the health in your home, solid wood is a better option because it is natural and has few chemicals (choose to oil your floors to keep them from cracking and discolouration instead of using other store-bought chemicals).
Contact a Who To Call flooring specialist to help you install your beautiful new hardwoods.
Even better! Reclaimed wood is often chemical free because 1) it was always a solid wood or 2) it has long long ago off-gassed. Reclaimed woods are extremely trendy right now, great for the environment (by way of cutting down fewer trees), and have no off-gassing!
Often mistaken for wood, Bamboo is a grass that has become quite popular in modern homes. It is a renewable and sustainable resource and also has some great environmental impact stories. It requires little to not chemicals during it’s growing period and therefore comes in fresh to you home. However, transportation has a huge chemical footprint because it cannot be produced in Canada.
With cork you will need to specifically source non-toxic brands, but if you do the payoff is huge. Cork has a smaller impact on the environment because it is sourced from bark, enabling the tree to remain alive and standing. It also has a high potential for recycling due to… well… how delicious wine is! That’s right, wine corks can be recycling into flooring.
Cork is sustainable and can look similar to wood, and has the same maintenance.
Now, I know you are thinking about that hideous pattern in your grandma’s boot room that is curling up at the ends, but linoleum has come a long way since then.
Linoleum is made of a variety of renewable resources and is often anti-bacterial and anti-allergenic. It is a great, inexpensive choice for a renovation and comes in a variety of different patterns and colours.
Make sure to get it professional installed though, as corners can easily lift and patterns may be hard to match up.
It is best to stay away from carpet for a number of health reasons – with the exception of area rugs. However, if you must have carpet in your home there are a few things you should consider.
Natural Fibre carpet
Recycled content carpet
Recycled content carpet padding