Watch your step: pick the perfect flooring
BEACH pebbles, big tiles and carpets made from corn are just some of the hot new flooring trends for homes. But homeowners looking for environmentally friendly products will find some old standbys have made a comeback.
Retailers have noticed a higher demand for eco-friendly products — but there’s a limit to how much people will pay. Buyers might be willing to pay a small premium for a green product, but when presented with a significant price difference, they tend to vote with their wallets, not their consciences.
Although consumers say they want to buy green products, they make it clear they are not willing to pay more, retailers say.
Flooring manufacturers have expanded their lines to include materials made from renewable sources, such as cork, bamboo, wool, and now, corn. Carpet Wall-to-wall carpeting’s popularity has been supplanted by hardwood, stone and tile in the last 20 years. However, its price and relative ease of installation still make it a popular choice for homeowners.
Almost all carpeting manufactured in North America comes from three man-made fibres derived from petro-chemicals: acrylic, nylon and polyester.
A product called SmartStrand is the hot new fibre. It’s made from corn instead of petroleum. It requires 30 per cent less energy to make, and produces 60 per cent fewer greenhouse gas during manufacturing.
Choices consumers face today:
But the surprise is an old standby: wool. Wool has always been sustainable, non-toxic and renewable.
At one time referred to as the rich man’s carpet, the price of wool has been stable compared with increases in prices of carpets based on petrochemicals, which rise whenever oil prices go up.
Wool is a tried and true product that has been eco-friendly all along. The starting price of wool carpeting is now around $4 a square foot, comparable to the middle of the price range of a nylon carpet.
Carpets made from recycled pop bottles and other plastics diverted from the waste stream are another eco-friendly alternative, but experts warn they generally don’t wear well and are at the low end in quality.
Used carpets can be recycled to provide raw materials for new carpets.
Prices for carpet vary, but can range from $1.40 to more than $21 per square foot. Woods New certification programs such as FSC (Forest Stewardship Council), which certifies wood harvested on sustainably managed tree farms, give consumers a green standard for eco-friendly wood.
Wood has replaced carpeting in popularity in the main living areas of a house, because of its durability and sustainability.
Depending on the manufacturer, some wood floors can have up to a 25-year warranty on the finish. Traditional hardwoods such as oak and maple are joined by:
• Bamboo, a fast-growing grass that reaches maturity in six years and can be continually harvested.
• Cork: The bark of a tree is harvested every few years without killing the tree. One advantage of cork is that it’s warm on the feet.
• Reclaimed wood, wood salvaged from the demolition of older houses, barns and commercial buildings.
Although bamboo is eco-friendly, the plant grows mainly in Asia so the ecological cost of shipping the product to Canada has to be factored in when you consider the product’s carbon footprint.
Hardwoods cost from $5 to $20 per square foot. Cork comes in at $5.50 to $9. Laminates cost from less than $1 to $5. Linoleum Frequently confused with vinyl floor covering, linoleum is made from tree sap, linseed oil, reclaimed wood and cork.
It is completely natural, has anti-bacterial properties, and is an excellent product for people who suffer from allergies. At the end of its life, it will decompose without off-gassing. Tiles Big tiles — some as large as 24 by 24 inches — are all the rage among designers and homeowners.
But bathroom floors laid with Indonesian pebble tiles are the hottest designer trend in floor tiles. The tiles are made by attaching natural, flat pebbles to a mesh backing.
Tiles are increasingly popular because they work well with in-floor heating. Depending on size, a modular in-floor heating system can cost between $300 and thousands of dollars.
People who are sensitive to allergens and dust often choose tiles over carpeting, because the surface is easier to keep clean.
Tiles cost between $2 to $19 per square foot.
— Canwest News Service
You have to take into account what the room will be used for when choosing flooring materials: Tiles in a front entryway? Good. Wood in bath
rooms? Not so much.