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The Pros and Cons of Eco-Friendly Flooring Options

Posted Feb 17th, 2020
Paper eco-friendly tag in brown, chipped wood.

As green home remodeling proliferates, homeowners aren’t afraid to look down. Going sustainable starts from the ground up, so eco-friendly flooring is a natural “want” for homeowners in new builds and remodeling.

Factors that make flooring “green” can include durability, non-toxicity, renewable sourcing, and carbon footprint. No single product hits on all of these, so determining the “best” eco-flooring option can be tricky. And then, of course, remodelers must weigh the aesthetics of each.

Four popular eco-friendly flooring options are bamboo, cork, linoleum, and concrete.

Let’s take a look at these types of flooring and the advantages and disadvantages of each, practically speaking, for the homeowner.

Bamboo

As noted by the DIY Network, bamboo flooring is produced by slicing, shredding, and pressing back together strands of grass, and it has a very unique, attractive look.

Pros: Bamboo floors create a contemporary vibe. Cleaning them is as easy as cleaning traditional hardwood flooring. Installation is the same as with other hardwood, so it’s DIY-friendly.

Cons: Less expensive types of bamboo are easily scratched. The grass it is made of can absorb water and humidity. And the cost can be high for decent quality bamboo flooring.

Cork

Cork flooring has become more popular in recent years. It comes from the bark of the cork oak tree, which is ground and then compressed to create sheets bonded with resins.

Pros: The surface of cork flooring is soft, so it’s great in rooms, such as kitchens, where people are standing for long periods of time or in rooms for children or seniors who prone to falls. Also, it’s a terrific insulator for heat and sound, so it can reduce noise from transmitting to other rooms and help save on heating and cooling bills. And installation of cork tiles is easy, using adhesive.

Cons: Because of very the softness that feels so good underfoot, cork is susceptible to damage. Furniture legs, dropped objects, pet nail scratches, high heels—they can all puncture it or create permanent indentations. Sunlight can fade cork flooring, and even if it’s sealed well, flooding can warp and discolor it.

Linoleum

Many may not think of linoleum (created in the 1800s) as eco-friendly flooring, but this kind of surface is made with renewable materials including linseed oil, tree resins, recycled wood flour, cork dust, and mineral pigments, all mounted on a jute or canvas backing.

Once considered a luxurious flooring option, consumers began to confuse it with cheaper vinyl flooring products, which are not the same thing at all. But linoleum remains a high-quality, sustainable flooring option and is in vogue again.

Pros: Linoleum is highly durable and water-resistant, making it a fit for kitchens, mud rooms, and other spaces where traffic and impact can be harsh. Its color and designs run all the way through, not just printed on the surface as is the case with vinyl flooring. And maintenance of linoleum floors could not be easier.

Cons: While it looks great in certain kinds of rooms and settings, many people don’t consider linoleum appropriate for certain areas such as living rooms.

Concrete

Gone are the days when concrete was thought of only as a utilitarian surface for garages and driveways. It’s long been used in interior living areas.

Pros: Not many surfaces are as durable as concrete. It’s hard to hurt a concrete floor. It’s also super-easy to maintain. The options for color, textures, and design effects are nearly limitless. It’s eco-friendly because most houses already have concrete beneath other types of flooring, so having a concrete floor just means having fewer layers/types of floor.

This also makes it versatile, since the homeowner can later install another floor surface on top of it.

Cons: A trade-off for its high durability is that’s hard on feet, people who fall, and anything dropped on it. It can be cold on bare feet. And if not sealed properly, concrete can fall prey to moisture. And it may not necessarily be such eco-friendly flooring if new concrete is made for a home (rather than using existing concrete sub-floor).

These are just four popular types of eco-friendly flooring. Weigh the upsides and downsides of these and other options to find just the right surface for your remodel.

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