Sustainable flooring is produced from sustainable materials that reduce demand on ecosystems during their lifecycle. This includes during harvesting, production, use and disposal. Sustainable flooring is gaining popularity as people become more aware of taking care of the environment. In addition, it provides a modern, smart look.
Environmentally friendly flooring materials
Many environmentally-friendly flooring materials have green credentials although the extent of sustainability differs. Keep in mind the energy that is used to maintain and clean the flooring as well.
The wide variety of options include recycled timber, bamboo, natural stone, concrete, cork, engineered or reclaimed hardwood, pine & other softwoods, glass tiles, laminate, linoleum, vinyl plank, porcelain & ceramic tiles, rubber, recycled metal tiles, composite decking and artificial grass & wool carpets.
Environmental impacts on flooring
Everytype of sustainable flooring has different pros and cons. Invest time to do proper research before making your final choice, as it may very well be a long-term commitment.
What to keep in mind:
- Choose the product that uses the least materials. If you have timber or other hard flooring, avoid covering it with carpet, which involves additional materials and energy to produce. Alternatively, limit the carpeting to a few rooms or use smaller rugs or mats.
- One of the greatest environmental impacts of floors is the energy spent on cleaning them. Carpet is the worst culprit compared to tiles, rubber, vinyl and other hard floors because it is vacuumed often (usually weekly) and steam cleaned. Low-maintenance surfaces such as bamboo, polished stone or concrete, or resilient finishes such as natural linoleum or cork, are better.
- Keep durability in mind. The longer-lasting the material is, the fewer the resources that will be required over time. Carpets have a short lifespan whereas hard floors such as timber, stone, concrete and tile last considerably longer.
- Flooring finishes: Even if a floor is certified eco-timber, it may be finished with a high embodied energy – potentially toxic – polyurethane coating. Instead, choose a natural-oil hard-finish coating.
- Toxic emissions: Some floor coverings are known to emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs), chemicals linked with health problems including damage to the nervous system, allergic reactions and cancer. Adequate ventilation can help but may not be enough to ensure healthy air quality, so avoid these.
- Thermal mass: A high thermal mass material absorbs heat from the sun (via windows) or from indoor heating to warm the inside of a building in winter, while in hot weather, shaded thermal mass can help cool the interior by absorbing heat. Floors with a high thermal mass include stone, tile, concrete, rammed earth and bricks. Covering these with carpet, linoleum or floorboards will reduce the benefits. A concrete slab is one of the most common flooring systems and can offer the benefits of thermal mass. However, concrete also has a high embodied energy. If you need to use concrete, choose a “green” concrete that contains extenders such as fly ash.
- Sustainable carpets: Buy a second-hand carpet and have it fitted to your space. Some carpet products are made from recycled materials such as PET and other plastics; otherwise, look for sustainable natural fibres such as coir, sisal or seagrass.
Sustainability in flooring on the local front
One of the leaders in flooring locally isLM Wooden Floors and Décor. According to its CEO, Le Roi Smit, it has taken him many years to find the perfect flooring solution at an affordable price. “Times are changing, just take the weather of 2022 for instance; it has changed from hot weather to cold and more severe weather and that is where our flooring comes in. It is cool in the summer months and warm in the winter months.” Their flooring vinyl can go on top of tiles saving the customer a lot of money.