Modern consumers may wonder if this staple elegant material is appropriate for the eco-conscious generation. From the food we eat to the cleaning products we use; eco-friendly choices are becoming more mainstream as consumers increase their demand. Hardwood flooring is a great investment that can stand the test of time. If you care deeply about the environmental impact of your choices, hardwood is a top eco-friendly choice for these primary reasons.
Hardwood can be sustainably sourced
The deforestation of our planet is a major concern in conversations about the environment, and some people assume that genuine hardwood floors contribute to this problem. While the natural material obviously requires a tree to be cut down and processed, there are sustainable options.
Managed forests produce wood that is harvested responsibly so that trees are continually replaced, and the forest continues to exist for future generations. Unlike illegal tree cutting or unsustainable logging practices, responsible forestry protects watersheds and wildlife to ensure that eco-systems remain intact while providing a continual source of hardwood. This modern approach to farming lumber also benefits the environment because new trees produce more oxygen than old growth and can absorb vast amounts of carbon emissions.
Hardwood is waste free
You can feel good about your choice of flooring with hardwood because none of the tree is wasted during the manufacturing process. Bark, branches, and sawdust can be used to provide energy to processing facilities, and less energy is burned to produce wood products than other materials like steel and concrete. When your flooring eventually requires replacement, hardwood can be recycled so that at every stage of your floor’s lifecycle your environmental conscience stays clear.
Hardwood is a long-term investment
The beauty of genuine hardwood floors is undeniable, but there is great value in its durability as well. With proper care, your Toronto hardwood flooring can last for generations, even up to 100 years. This has a great impact on the environment because unlike laminate or vinyl, you won’t need to replace your floors every ten years. This in turn reduces the consumption of natural resources on our planet.
It’s easier than ever to make an environmentally conscious choice. Look for the official accreditation of the FSC, (Forest Stewardship Council) on your hardwood products. They provide global certification that hardwood products are produced with environmental and forest conservation as a priority. The FSC will place a stamp directly on the product so you can be completely certain of what you are buying. Both solid and engineered hardwood flooring options will increase the value of a home and compliment any design style. Engineered hardwood uses a top, thin layer of wood to cover compressed wood and other materials underneath. These boards are very strong and long lasting. As well, one plank of solid hardwood can technically produce multiple engineered boards, so it may be even more environmentally friendly than solid boards. Both are sustainable, natural choices for an eco-friendly home.
Low volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
Be sure to read the labels and ask questions. Some keywords to keep an eye out for is “volatile organic compounds”, or commonly known as VOCs. These are listed as grams per litre and can help you determine the environmental impact of a product. Lower VOCs content is better for the environment and pose a lower health risk. There will be some products that claim to be zero-VOCs finish for hardwood flooring, this means that the VOCs content is below 5 grams per litre. For finishes that are considered as low-VOCs, they will contain less than 200 grams per litre of VOCs. It is important to understand that while paints, stains and other hardwood finishes can emit VOCs, there is a wide array of other household products that are also culprits of VOCs emission, including carpeting, electronics and cosmetics.
In the past, it was almost impossible to find a high-quality hardwood finish that did not emit VOCs during its application and its lifetime, however zero and low-VOCs finishes can now deliver the same high-quality, durability and performance. Unlike their predecessors, most zero- and low-VOC finishes are water-based with no solvents, making them safe for people and the environment. These types of finishes are also easier to apply since they dry quickly, and clean-ups require only soap and water. Finally, the disposal of zero and low-VOCs finishes is relatively straightforward. You can simply open the containers in a well-ventilated area to allow it to dry before disposing them in the trash. Beyond the finishes for hardwood floors, homeowners can also select natural paints, stains and sealers which are all made with eco-friendly and safe ingredients including water, plant extracts and minerals that VOC-free.
Environmentally Friendly Hardwood Finishes
Oil polyurethane varnishes combine various protective ingredients to create a durable and easy-to-maintain finish. This makes it ideal for areas with high levels of foot traffic or if moisture exposure is an option. The varnish will add an amber shade to most floors, which can be a plus or a minus depending on how you feel about the tint. The primary downsides to oil-based polyurethane are that it is slow to dry, meaning you lose access to the floor for longer periods when varnishing and that it is flammable.
Water polyurethane has many of the same benefits of the oil-based variety except that it is not flammable and is more resistant to moisture. The durability is comparable to oil-based polyurethane except the water type dries faster. This makes water polyurethane more popular for commercial hardwood flooring since it gives strong protection while minimizing downtime. Water-based polyurethane also has about half the number of VOCs as its oil counterpart.
Tung oil comes from the seeds of the Chinese tung tree and is known for being able to enhance the “character” of wood. More specifically, it adds a granular or grainy appearance that—like polyurethane’s amber—can be a pro or con depending on personal tastes and needs. Tung oil takes around 48 hours to fully dry and has to be rubbed into the wood rather than applied with a brush. One interesting benefit is that it’s easy to restart a finish if the first few coats don’t look right. Lastly, tung oil contains no VOCs.
Wax is a traditional choice and dries quickly while also being easy to repair. Wax finishes require more ongoing maintenance than other varnishes but have the potential to last for decades if properly cared for. Although wax was edged out for a time in favour of polyurethane finishes, it has begun making a comeback due to its low VOC count.