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Going Green

 

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Going Green


As a take-off from the expressions "Got Milk?", we ask the rhetorical question - "Got Green?" as an introduction to the topic of the green-ness of hardwood flooring.

This discussion has two major aspects:

  • the green-ness of the hardwood flooring product itself, and
  • the green-ness of the finishes used when turning the raw hardwood product into a fine, finished hardwood floor.

And a fairly new wood floor - Bamboo.


Hardwood Flooring Is Green!

On the overall topic of the green-ness of wood flooring (mostly hardwood flooring), the National Wood Flooring Association cites the USDA Forest Service, the EPA, Wisconsin University, the National Association of Home Builders, and its own studies to conclude:

"Wood flooring is the most abundantly renewable flooring material available. The trees used to make wood floors are produced in a factory called a forest by a renewable source of energy called the sun. Sustainable forest management makes it possible to harvest wood without any serious impact on the environment, because trees are a renewable resource that can be replaced time and time again.

and

  • net growth for hardwoods is greater than average annual removals
  • wood is a carbon neutral product
  • wood floors use less water and energy to produce that other flooring
  • wood floors last hundreds of years, so won’t need to be replaced as often as other flooring

You can learn more about the environmental benefits of wood floors by downloading a copy of the University of Wisconsin Wood Products Program Solid Wood Flooring Life Cycle Analysis"


Hardwood Flooring Finishes Are Greener (than in the past) and Getting Greener Still!

Definition: VOCs

Volatile Organic Components/Compounds - that may be catalyzing agents and/or drying agents in the finish or the stain.

The past:

The largest negative aspect in the past had been the  level of VOCs in wood floor finishes - those VOCs which gas off into the home environment and the outside air, considered to be detrimental to residents and the overall environment.  Over the past several decades, the finish industry has come a long, long way in addressing those concerns and reducing the levels of VOCs in their products.

The current "state of the art" for Hardwood Floor finishes:

There are four types for surface finishes for on-site application.

(Note: Two older penetrating finishes have fallen out of use because of the high degree of maintenance effort needed to maintain their appearance: penetrating-stain-and-wax and wax-only.)

1. Oil modified urethane is the most common and is easy to apply. It is a solvent based polyurethane that dries in about eight hours. It will amber with age.

2. Moisture-cure urethane is a solvent-base polyurethane that is more durable and more moisture resistant than other surface finishes. it comes in both non-yellowing and ambering types, and is available in either gloss or satin. It is difficult to apply, has a strong odor and is best left to the professional.

3.Swedish finish or acid cure urethane is a clear finish, fast drying, durable and non-yellowing. It has a strong odor and is also best left to the professional.

4. Water-base urethane is a waterborne urethane that dries by water evaporation, is a clear and non-yellowing, has a milder odor than oil-modified finishes and dries in about 3 hours. Water-based urethanes are generally more expensive than their solvent based relatives.

Of the surface finishes, oil-modified urethane and water-based urethane are the most commonly used hardwood floor finishes. Both have significantly improved their level of VOCs - but water based is the winner here with both lower VOCs and greater floor durability, and the "loser". so to speak, due to higher cost.

Newer formulations of penetrating finishes are now emerging into the arena of hardwood flooring. As yet, they have not proven to eliminate the periodic renewal needs of the "old" penetrating finishes, yet they are more green than the surface finishes due to lower VOCs. And they have a higher cost when both initial application and renewal processes are considered. Visit the link below for more info on one of those newer penetrating finishes, Rubio Monocoat.

 

 


Net - Net:

Generally speaking, the lower the VOCs, the higher the cost of the finish. So, it takes more "green" to be "greener".

Our recommendation is that you ask for a quote for each type of finish for your particular job, so you can decide the value / cost trade-offs you wish to make.

And, the equation is constantly changing as new technologies and production methods emerge.

 


Bamboo Flooring:

 

A recent entrant - bamboo flooring - has added another item to be considered. Bamboo is a fast growing grass, so it replenishes itself faster than the other, tree-based hardwood floors.

On the surface, it would appear that bamboos would have an edge on "green-ness" because of it's fast growth grass origins.

On the other had, all bamboo flooring is a composite, manufactured product, composed of strips of bamboo that have been straightened, milled and then bonded together using a glue, heat and pressure. The level of processing and chemicals involved begs the question of its net level of "green-ness".

See Wikipedia for more information:  Bamboo Floor Green Characteristics

The product is beautiful, durable, and easy to install and maintain.

But . . . We have just not seen the final word on its "green-ness".

 

 


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Date last changed: Monday, July 01, 2013 04:12:45 PM