Green flooring: Durable while helping the environment

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There are varied alternatives in home improvement products for consumers interested in buying “green,” those products that improve the quality and preservation of the environment.

According to FloorMall University (university.floormall.com), there are many ways to define “green” flooring products with each one referring directly to the impact that a product’s production, refining, or maintenance may have on the environment as a whole.

Rich Veilleux, operations manager at Floor Systems in Lisbon, has a section of the store called the “Green Zone,” where earth friendly flooring can be found. He often advises customers to do research about a product if they want an item that is 100 percent green, “…while some vendors say that their cork flooring is ‘green,’ it isn’t completely if formaldehyde adhesive has been used in its processing,” said Veilleux, noting that much of the product comes from China where the green production standards may not be as stringent as in the United States.

The “Green Zone” offers cork and bamboo flooring as well as many lines of traditional hardwood flooring that can be purchased as green products.

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“The ‘green’ alternative is identical to the traditional one except that it was harvested from an FSC [Forest Stewardship Council] certified area,” said Veilleux. “The FSC certification says that for every tree harvested, at least two more are planted.”

Pricing for FSC certified flooring is usually 15 percent to 20 percent higher than non-certified products.

Todd Lebel, a kitchen designer at Sherm Arnold’s Flooring and Kitchen Design Center in Lewiston, often suggests bamboo as a “green” floor product.

“Bamboo wears as good, if not better than, solid woods like oak or maple,” said Lebel. “It is very durable, wears well, and, surprisingly, costs less money, which is rare with green products.”

A comparison between bamboo flooring and traditional flooring shows that pricing can be up to 15 percent less with this green alternative.

Lebel says that bamboo is one of the fastest growing trees on the planet and can be harvested every five to seven years without the need to replant because the root system is left intact when harvested.

Cork flooring is a “green” alternative that is popular and durable with the bonus of a spongy texture that gives it a unique character.

“You know how a wine bottle cork expands after you pop it, the flooring has the same quality, but with a hard, durable finish,” said Lebel.

According to a promotional flyer at Sherm Arnold’s, cork is made from the bark of what is called a bark oak tree. The bark is removed by hand and grows back after being harvested. Cork trees are never cut down and one tree can be harvested about 20 times in its lifetime.

Lebel says that cork flooring ranges from $4 to $9 per square foot while bamboo generally runs $3.29 to $5.50 a square foot.

Flooring Systems offers a linoleum flooring called Marmoleum that is made entirely of natural products, the same ingredients of old-fashioned linoleum manufactured before the arrival of vinyl flooring.

“It even wears a bit better than vinyl,” said Veilleux.

Both flooring stores offer a line of new carpeting made from recycled carpets and recycled plastics.

While Lebel and Veilleux are pleased to offer green flooring products, consumer interest remains low.

“I may have someone looking for green flooring maybe once every two months,” said Lebel.

“I’d say that between 5 percent to 10 percent of our customers are looking specifically for green products,” noted Veilleux. “In time, I think there will be more.”

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