Home flooring needs to be attractive, non-toxic, durable and easy
to clean. Typical flooring options include:
- Timber Flooring Systems
- Linoleum and Vinyl
Timber flooring can either by solid timber of timber veneer.
Solid Timber Floors
Solid timber flooring systems are more durable than veneer systems.
This is largely because solid timber can be sanded a number of times,
whereas sanding is not possible with most veneer systems.
When selecting timber flooring, always select timber from sustainable
sources which has been certified by a third party.
Consider recycled tongue and groove flooring , available from salvage
yards at a reasonable cost.
Timber Veneer Flooring
Timber veneer flooring consists of a thin layer of wood on plywood
When choosing a veneered system, ensure the plywood or chipboard
has been manufactured with low or no formaldehyde content. Also
check the wood layer has also been sourced from certified sustainable
sources. NOTE: Beware of floor systems which claim to be "70%
certified" ; this generally means the substrate is certified,
but the surface timber is not. Many exotic veneers are being produced
from endangered timbers, sourced from Asia.
Fixing Timber Floors
The most ecologically sustainable method of fixing floor systems
is using mechanical means. This makes it easier to salvage floor
materials during demolition.
If adhesives are to be used, consider using low odour water based
Timber Floor Finishes
Timber flooring requires a durable finishing system to protect
the timber. The most environmentally friendly options are natural
wax and oil systems. These however, do require a significant amount
of maintenance over their life.
The most commonly used timber floor finishing is Polyurethane.
Polyurethane can contain solvents, VOCs and isocyanates.
If polyurethane is used, select water based polyurethane endorsed
by the environmental choice labelling scheme. And where possible,
get the finish applied in environmentally controlled factory spaces,
rather than onsite.
Bamboo is an attractive, hard wearning alternative to timber flooring,
being avaiable from rapidly renewable sources. The drawbacks of
using bamboo are:
- The high levels of VOC emissions from the adhesives used.
- Distance to renewable resources, transport adding to the carbon
More on Bamboo in
Resilient Sheet Flooring
Resilient sheet flooring includes a wide range of synthetic, petroleum
based products such as vinyl sheet flooring and man-made rubber.
On the other side, there are totally natural and sustainable products
such as linoleum, cork and natural rubber.
- Vinyl flooring uses PVC, not acceptable to
environmental groups as the production, use and disposal of these
materials are produce dangerous and toxic pollutants such as dioxins.
- Linoleum is made totally from natural products
and is biodegradable at the end of its useful life.
- Cork flooring is made from a natural product,
can be extremely durable, and is biodegradable.
Recycled Synthetic Flooring
Some manufacturers of synthetic flooring materials are improving
the environmental performance of their products by increasing their
recycled content. This includes vinyl flooring with recycled PVC
and rubber flooring made from recycled rubber.
Some also provide recycling schemes for their products.
Flooring adhesives are a regular source of internal air pollution.
Always select water based low emission glues and adhesives.
See: American Resilient
Floor Covering Institute
Hard Flooring [Tiles]
Hard flooring is both durable and low maintenance. By eliminating
carpets and rugs, dust mites and underlays manufactured from petrochemicals
are avoided. Hard flooring has many other environmentally friendly
- Therma Mass - when positioned in direct sunlight,
hard flooring provides passive solar heating and cooling of the
- Heating System Efficiency - Hard flooring materials
do not interfere with the efficient operation of under floor heating
and cooling systems. Timber floors, carpets or other surfaces
insulate the floor from the room, dramatically reducing the effectiveness
of the underfloor heating system.
The downside of hard flooring systems are that they are often cold
underfoot, can be slippery when wet, and provide no cushioning should
breakable objects be dropped.
Good levels of underfloor insulation are required, especially around
the perimeters of the building, and underfloor heating is essential
in areas where occupants are often bare footed, such as bedrooms
Ceramic and porcelain tiles are generally manufactured overseas.
Together with their production and firing process, long distance
transport adds up to a relatively high embodied energy. This is
largely offset by the durability and beneficial thermal properties.
Carpets are generally manufactured locally from natural materials
such as wool, jute or goats hair. There are some carpets manufactured
from synthetic materials.
To ensure your carpet selection is environmentally responsible:
Choose the correct carpet grade for each locations - to avoid early
Select carpet manufactured from natural materials with credible
environmental certification such as the Environmental Choice labeling
scheme. This covers the material, dyes, cleaning agents and scouring
chemical used in processing.
Modular carpets manufactured from synthetic materials (or synthetic/
natural mixes) can seem the most appropriate choice for some heavy
duty commercial locations. Synthetic material is often mixed with
natural fibers such as wool to improve the performance of the product..
Synthetic broadloom or carpet tile are long wearing, stain resistant
and easy to clean. Tiles make damage easy to repair.
Solution dyed nylon requires less chemicals than wool carpets,
although this advantage is only appreciable in locations where high
wear or hygiene demand frequent washing of the carpet.
Select synthetic material with improved environmental performance
such as those manufactured from recycled materials, bio-based synthetic
materials or carbon neutral manufacturing processes. Check the Environmental
Choice labeling scheme where available.
Fixing Synthetic Carpets
Many synthetic carpet tiles do not require seam sealing. Seam sealers
are a major source of VOCs. Where seam sealers are required, use
a low emission water base low VOC type.
Broadloom carpets can be loose laid or fully adhered. Loose laying
is generally environmentally preferable as it reduces the use of
adhesives and improves the potential to remove and recycle the material
However, fixed carpet generally uses an underlay to increase its
lifespan. Avoid underlays manufactured from 100% synthetic materials
- there are many underlay options manufactured from natural materials
such as natural rubber or recycled wool scraps.
Modular carpet tiles create less waste from off cuts (1%-2%). Professional
broadloom has a wastage of 5-6%; an improvement on old laying techniques
that had an average 10% wastage.
Demolition and Recycling
Carpets manufactured from natural materials are biodegradable,
making them easily disposable. They are often recycled as weed mats.
Some countries have carpet recycling programs, and many carpet manufacturers
offer to remove and recycle their carpet products on demolition.
Synthetic and modular carpets often contain synthetic backings
containing bitumen or PVC. B
Bitumen backing - can contain sulpher and heavy
metals such as lead, chromium, mercury, arsenic, selenium and other
toxic elements. Ensure this product is disposed off in accordance
to a green recycling policy. Do not dispose of in landfills.
PVC backing - select carpets with the highest
recycled content and a manufacturer with a buy back and recycling
Modular carpets can easily be sourced with recycled fibres and
Back to Top
Building Green Index | Carbon
Neutral Homes | Low Allergen Homes |
Remodeling | Materials
| Insulation | Linings
| Glazing | Roofs
| Cladding | Doors
| Flooring | Furnishings
| Paints | Flashings
& Sealants | Heating Systems | Ventilation
| Air Quality | Moisture
Control | Utilities | Landscaping
| Standards & Ratings