Watch your step: pick the per­fect floor­ing

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - HOMES - By Pe­dro Ar­rais

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.

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