Healthy Homes From the Floor Up

By Sandy

Posted on Monday, September 17, 2018 9:26 AM


Healthy Living, Healthy Homes Start From the Floor Up 

The healthy living, healthy home trend is catching on in a big way as consumers are now demanding safe, natural and environmentally friendly products without sacrificing beauty or performance. And yes, they are willing to pay more for it.

You see this often in new home construction where it’s easier to select products that meet these new healthy home standards – from water and air purifiers to low-emission paint and flooring. But what about existing homes?

healthy homes

Start with the Floor

Because flooring makes up so much of our interior spaces and offers so many environmentally friendly options, it can be the perfect place to start – whether your home is under construction or 100 years old.

One of the most important considerations when choosing healthy flooring options is how it affects indoor air quality. We’ve all heard about formaldehyde in flooring and are rightly worried about volatile organic compounds and off gassing. How do you protect yourself and your family?

The best way is to look for the environmental testing programs that now certify flooring (click here for a more in depth look) but we can also take a closer look at each flooring product and where it stands.

Ceramic Tile

ceramic tile porcelain Fondovalle Stone Icons

Ceramic tile may be the safest choice because it doesn’t off gas and is completely inert. Fired at extremely high temperatures, anything organic is quite literally burned off during the process. The result is a completely natural and safe product. 

Some tiles come with special titanium dioxide surface treatments that create a photocatalytic reaction that is activated by air and light. This oxidizes any organic matter it comes in contact with. It not only kills bacteria (that can also cause odors), it also makes floors easier to clean.

Hardwood

hardwood flooring  Hallmark Hardwood Avalon

Solid Hardwood is another great contender. Solid wood, stain and a wear layer – often aluminum oxide or urethane – make it not only beautiful, but all natural and safe.

Engineered hardwood floors can contain small traces of formaldehyde, but here again it is best to look for environmental certification programs to ensure their safety. There are also certifications that ensure these products are legally and sustainably harvested for those who are as interested in protecting the environment as they are in protecting their home. 

Laminate

laminate flooring  Mannington Seaview Laminate

Laminate flooring got a bad rap not too long ago when Lumber Liquidators was found importing cheap products that do not meet current environmental safety standards. 

Cheap imports aside, today, these products are increasingly manufactured to meet standards set by the North American Laminate Manufacturers Association and are safe for your home. Another certification to look for is the California Air Resources Board (CARB) which sets and enforces emission standards. 

Vinyl Flooring

COREtec Coretec WPC

There has been some concern about the use of plasticizers and phthalates in vinyl flooring but that has largely been addressed by manufacturers and has been virtually eliminated in the construction process. Most vinyl flooring, including the various luxury vinyl offerings, are made primarily of PVC which is completely inert by the time it is turned into flooring. Look for the FloorScore seal to make sure yours is safe. 

Carpet

carpet Phenix Restore Carpet 

There is a lot of misinformation about carpet and healthy homes, particularly around indoor air quality and allergies. 

When it comes to allergies, the fact is that carpet is both good and bad, depending on what kind of allergies you have. On the one hand, carpet is actually good for most allergies because it traps dirt and allergens keeping them out of the breathing zone. On the other hand, if you’re allergic to dust mites, carpet (and bedding) are notorious breeding grounds for these microscopic creatures. 

As for off gassing, check for the Carpet & Rug Institute’s Green Label program to ensure your carpet and corresponding installation materials have low VOC emissions. 

A number of new carpets come with antimicrobial treatments that also contribute positively to improved indoor air quality. 

Installation and Ventilation 

No matter which flooring you choose, you’re likely to be most exposed during the installation process which sometimes involves the use of mortars, glues or adhesives. Always ventilate the space properly and for a period of 24 to 48 hours after installation to remove any contaminants from the air.

- Sandy 

 

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