Options in “Green” Floors


By Tammy Adamson-McMullen


If you’re in the market for new floors and want your home to be “green” from top to bottom, you’re in luck: “Green” flooring options are plentiful in 2019! Flooring companies increasingly are using sustainable and recycled materials in all types of flooring. And over the years they’ve greatly improved their manufacturing processes to eliminate toxins and produce fewer VOCs.

Here are some of the “greenest” choices to consider:




No discussion of eco-friendly floors can exclude bamboo, one of the “greenest” of flooring options. Bamboo is sold as a hardwood but is actually is a grass that replenishes itself. Each bamboo plant sends up shoots that grow quickly and can be harvested without killing the parent plant. For this reason, bamboo is extremely sustainable. It also is hard and durable, making it a perfect choice for active families with children and pets.

To purchase the “greenest” flooring in this category, look for bamboo that is grown without fertilizers or pesticides and is VOC- and formaldehyde-free in its manufacturing and finishing processes. Also check if the bamboo is certified through the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Hailed by environmental groups, FSC offers certification for cork and hardwoods, too.



Cork is another highly sustainable product. Cork is harvested from the outer bark of standing trees, which are able to regrow the removed layer. To create cork flooring, manufacturers grind up the cork, compress it and bond it with resins. The result is a product that is durable like bamboo but surprisingly soft underfoot. Cork offers additional eco benefits:

·         Cork has special antimicrobial properties created by alternating layers of wax and suberin (a rubbery polyester biopolymer). These protective layers resist the growth of mold and mildew and repel insects.

·         Cork is hypoallergenic—repelling dust, hair, etc.—and actually improves indoor air quality.

·         Because it has millions of air-filled holes, cork is highly insulative and can actually reduce energy costs.

One note of caution: Because cork is an organic material, it can rot in standing water. So avoid putting it in “wet” areas, such as bathrooms and leaky basements.


One eco-friendly advantage of hardwoods is that they last a long, long time. However, not all hardwood floors are created equal. To make the “greenest” choice, avoid rare and exotic woods and choose from those in more abundance, such as oak, maple, cherry, walnut and pecan. Pine is another great option because it grows more quickly than other deciduous trees.

Regardless of wood type, make sure that the wood flooring you’re considering has been sustainably harvested, was manufactured with non-toxic adhesives and finishes, and is low in VOCs. To be “greener” yet, consider engineered hardwood rather than solid wood flooring, which has more wood in the final product.

Carpets and Rugs

This category has many natural, renewable materials to choose from, including organic wool, organic cotton, jute, sisal, seagrass and coir. Organic wool in particular has become a very popular carpet choice and—like hardwood floors—can last a lifetime if cared for properly.


Whatever the material, be sure to purchase the highest-quality carpet you can afford. Additionally, look for a label by the Carpet and Rug Institute’s (CRI) Air Quality testing program ensuring that the carpet has passed low-emissions standards. Choose carpet pads that are made from natural materials—felt rather than styrene-butadiene rubber, for example—and ask installers to use a non-solvent adhesive.




Can resilient, laminate and linoleum floors really be eco-friendly? In a word, yes! Many of today’s products are lower in VOCs—a feat achieved through eco-friendy printing and adhesive processes—and made from renewable materials and recycled content. As a quick primer, resilient flooring is a combination of natural and synthetic materials. Laminate flooring has a hard, printed laminated surface and a fiberboard core bonded with melamine resins. Linoleum is made entirely from natural, biodegradable materials.


When selecting from this category, consult with your retailer to make sure you’re getting the “greenest” product available. You might also look for LEED  (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, one of the most widely used “green” rating systems in the world. And again, make sure installers are using eco-friendly products and practices.


Recycled tile is getting a lot of attention these days, and for good reason. Tile manufacturers increasingly are making beautiful and durable products from renewable and recycled materials, such as scrap glass, scrap ceramics and porcelains, fine residues leftover from industrial sand processing and more.


But tile in general is an eco-friendly choice. Arizona Tile makes a convincing argument for this point on its website, noting that the majority of tile manufacturers have “closed-loop” facilities that reuse materials and water. Additionally, because tiles are kiln-fired at very high temperatures, they don’t emit any VOCs in the spaces where they’re installed. And since tile is manufactured throughout the United States, the product can be locally sourced rather than being shipped from overseas—thus reducing its carbon footprint. Last but not least, tile is virtually maintenance-free and usually can be cleaned with nothing more than water. The bottom line? It’s fairly difficult not to be “green” in this category!

DIY or Contractor?

Should you tackle that painting job yourself or hire a professional?
Here are points to consider

By Tammy Adamson-McMullen


Like many consumers, you might have toyed with the idea of tackling a painting project yourself—maybe to save the costs of hiring a professional painter. But before you reach a final decision, there are important points to consider. And not all of them involve money.




First, it’s important to be honest with yourself: Do you have what it takes to produce a satisfactory end result? If you answer “yes” to most of the answers below, then a DIY painting project might be in your future. If not, it’s probably time to call a professional.


·         Patience: Patience—or endurance—is one of the most important skills in painting. Do you have the patience to plan the project from start to finish? To prepare the surface to be painted, such as washing walls, filling nail holes and gauges, sanding uneven surfaces, masking abutting walls and trim, and priming? To work slowly and meticulously until the project is complete? To wait for the paint to dry between coats? And to properly clean up your work area and tools?


·         Fine Motor Skills: You don’t have to be Van Gogh, but it’s helpful to have a modicum of skills. Can you properly hold and manipulate brushes and rollers? Can you lay painter’s tape in a straight line? Can you “cut in” corners and small areas? Lay on even coats of paint? Avoid major spills and splatters?


·         Strength: Painting can be physically demanding, although proper tools definitely help. But it’s worth asking: Do you have the strength to move furniture out of the way? To lay tarps to protect flooring and furniture? To pour paint into trays? Can you carry and climb ladders? And bend over for lengths of time?


Project Scope


Many DIYers have no qualms about painting a small room or focus wall. But what about larger and more complex projects, such as finishing kitchen cabinets or painting a two-story exterior? Before starting any project, do your research to understand its scope—products that are needed and steps involved. Watch YouTube instructional videos that show similar projects, do extra reading on the Internet and discuss the project with your local paint retailer. A paint retailer can help plot the project and can suggest everything you’ll need—which might include renting additional equipment, such as a power sander, pressure washer, paint sprayer or scaffolding.


DIY Budget


There’s no doubt that doing a project yourself saves money (unless you make a mistake that requires a do-over). But don’t go overboard by skimping on paint and tools. Purchase all the products you need—putty knives, spackle, sandpaper, brushes, rollers and trays, masking tape, tarps, stirrers and so on—so that you can work without interruption. And buy the best quality you can afford, to ensure a smooth application, beautiful end results and a lasting finish.   


How much can you expect to spend? According to, the average cost of painting a 10-by-12 room ranges from $200 to $300. To calculate the square footage of the paintable area so that you buy only the paint you need, add together the length of all the walls to be painted and then multiply that number by the height of the room (floor to ceiling). Generally speaking, one gallon of paint will cover between 350 and 400 square feet. Before purchasing paint, discuss the dimensions with your local paint retailer who can ensure that you purchase the right quantities.


You’ll additionally need primer if you’re painting over drywall or dark walls, and you may need an extra coat of paint, too, depending on the product you’re using. Remember: Better-quality paints provide better coverage. Depending on your project, it might be worthwhile to splurge on a high-end product that combines a primer and coating in one, or that totes its one-coat coverage benefits.


Professional Budget


You’ll need a larger budget if you plan to hire a professional painter, but you won’t have to lift a finger to achieve gorgeous results. When selecting a candidate, gather estimates from three or four painters and check references. Inquire about the paint brand they generally use, and if it’s not a brand you like or are familiar with, ask if they are willing to change. Make sure you understand the estimate they provide—does it include moving furniture, for example?—and ask for clarification if necessary.


Painters generally work by the hour, although they sometimes charge a flat fee for smaller projects. notes that the average cost of hiring a painter for a 10-by-12 room is $380 to $790, not including ceiling, trim or the cost of paint. The average cost of hiring a painter for a home exterior is $2,700 for a single-story home, but it’s not unusual to pay upwards of $6,000 for a multi-story home with multiple colors. And again, these costs don’t include products. Cost variations depend on the painter’s experience, how many coats and colors are required, the complexity of the project, etc.


One last note: If you want to hire a professional but are keen on saving money, consider tackling the surface preparation yourself. Some painters are willing to let you do this—as long as you’re fastidious in doing the work properly. Happy painting!