CenterPoint Home Energy Program


Flooring

Indoor Environmental Quality

Conventional flooring has become controversial due to the potential for chemical off-gassing, the pollution created at the time of manufacturing, the amount of space it takes up in landfills, the time and products needed to maintain cleanliness, and most of all the fact that it harbors mold, dust, bacteria and other allergy-causing organisms.

A good flooring material should be durable so it will last longer and it should be easy to clean. At the same time, softer surfaces may be preferred for reasons of comfort, noise absorption, and style, setting up a potential conflict in choices. Raw material and manufacturing impacts must also be considered with many types of carpeting and other floorcoverings. Green flooring alternatives are becoming more popular as we learn more about the environmental and personal health hazards of certain products.

Carpeting

Carpet is typically the last choice on the list of green flooring alternatives, but it still has a strong marketplace presence due to its beneficial aspects of sound reduction, comfort, and low cost. Carpet can be wrongly blamed for contributing to asthma and allergies and for emitting high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Studies have shown that carpet is better at trapping allergens than hard surfaces, such as tile or hardwood, because carpet fibers catch particles and allergens that fall to floor. When allergens are trapped in the carpet, they cannot circulate in the air for you to breathe. Proper cleaning with a CRI-tested and approved vacuum effectively sucks up the dirt and dust from the carpet, locks it in the machine and keeps it out of the air.

So if you are concerned about asthma, allergies or VOCs, look for carpet that is certified under the Carpet and Rug Institute's "Green Label" or "Green Label Plus" testing programs. These programs indicate that the product has been independently tested and found to exceed specific compliance levels for harmful VOC emissions that degrade indoor air quality.

Glue-down carpets and resilient flooring should be applied only with low-VOC adhesives. Alternative carpet-fastening methods should also be considered. These include: tackless strips, commonly used in residential settings; a hook-and-loop (Velcro®-type) tape system that allows sections of carpet to be lifted and reattached as needed; peel-and-stick adhesive systems, such as those used on modular carpet tiles—the acrylic adhesives used on tiles are generally considered safer.

Our program awards points for the use of carpet with reduced emission levels and also provides mandatory provisions for controlling carpet exposure to moisture in order to minimize the potential for growth of bacteria.

Wood & Bamboo Flooring

Traditional wood flooring is highly durable and easy to maintain. They offer warmth, character, and rich natural beauty that can compliment any style. Hardwood flooring from certified well-managed forests may be an excellent environmental choice. Other hardwoods come from forestry operations that may not be environmentally responsible. Due to the sensitivity of the ecosystems in which they grow, tropical hardwoods, in particular, should be avoided unless certified to Forest Stewardship Council standards, which involves third-party evaluation and monitoring of sustainable forestry practices.

Reclaimed and recycled wood flooring milled from the large timbers of old structures, trestle bridges, or "sinker logs" is another option.

Fast-growing bamboo is manufactured into hardwood-type strip flooring by a number of Southeast Asian companies, offering an intriguing alternative to standard hardwood. Bamboo is a grass and has a short growth cycle, approximately five years thus is considered a renewable and sustainable product. Bamboo is long-lasting and is harder than red oak.

Bamboo is currently very popular because of its aesthetics and its green reputation however; much bamboo is imported and has a long shipping distance. Due to the popularity of bamboo, it is increasingly displacing forested areas. In addition, bamboo strips are commonly sealed with formaldehyde-based chemicals. Finally, bamboo lacks the certification systems established for wood flooring. Thus, although some bamboo may be truly "green," homeowners need to investigate the source of bamboo and make their own assessment about the bamboo's attributes relative to alternatives.

Linoleum

Natural linoleum is manufactured from renewable, natural raw materials (cork, wood flour, linseed oil, pine resin, jute, and limestone). It is a highly durable and easy to maintain as well as hygienic, naturally anti-static, and resistant to indentation marks.

Laminate

Is a multi-layer synthetic flooring product fused together using a lamination process. It can simulate almost anything including the post popular wood and stone. Laminate floors have grown in popularity since they were invented in Sweden in 1977 under the original name Pergo. It is best known for its durability, ease of installation and maintenance and low cost. 
What is concerning is there are inferior products out there that contain formaldehyde which releases volatile organic compounds which will effect the air quality of your home. Some floors use a chemical process to reduce and neutralize such emissions.
Laminate is easy to install and typically can be floated over a level subfloor. No nails, glue, tape required. An underlayment (like a carpet cushion) is the most component and is needed to absorb sound, keep the floor in place and act as a moisture barrier. 
Laminates are rated based on their durability levels:
AC1: Moderate Residential- suitable for moderate residential use, including bedrooms and closets.
AC2: General Residential – suitable for normal residential applications like living and dining rooms.
AC3: Heavy Residential – suitable for all residential applications.
Not all laminate flooring manufacturers go by these ratings, but most of them do use them!



Other Flooring Choices

Vinyl Flooring

Vinyl flooring, whose primary component is polyvinyl chloride (PVC), may be a source of VOC off-gassing, both from the flooring itself and from the adhesive. There's also concern about toxic byproducts, such as dioxin, which may be produced in accidental fires or if the material is incinerated at the end of its useful life.

Ceramic and Porcelain Tile

Ceramic and porcelain tile have a high embodied energy, but their durability makes them environmentally sound in the long run. Some high-quality ceramic tile incorporates recycled glass. Regionally produced stone flooring is a good natural finish when sealed with low-toxic sealers.

Terrazzo

Terrazzo is a long-lasting, nontoxic floorcovering option that uses crushed stone and, sometimes, post-consumer recycled glass in a cementitious matrix. The embodied energy of portland cement is a consideration. Epoxy-based "synthetic terrazzo" may also utilize recycled glass; while the 100-percent-solids product is considered safe for installers and is benign when cured, bispehonal-A (BPA) is used in the manufacture of epoxy. BPA is a bio-accumulating chemical considered by some experts to be an endocrine disrupter even at minute quantities. Like brominated flame retardants, BPA has been showing up in nature in increasing amounts.

Flooring Suppliers

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