Flooring ideas for the eco-savvy household

Flooring ideas for the eco-savvy household

Flooring is one of the most important elements of an interior and the good news is there are lots of eco-friendly options at prices to suit all budgets

Marmoleum is a brand name for linoleum, made by Forbo Nairn

Solid wood and solid stone floors are expensive and not always the most eco options. So think about other materials which will look great and give you green cred...such as linoleum, pictured above, made from linseed oil, wood flour and pine resin. And remember that whatever floor you choose, you'll need to keep it eco-clean and sparkling!

The good news when it comes to flooring is that there are increasing numbers of sustainable and competitively-priced materials on the market. And it's great that harsh chemicals aren't needed to keep them clean - because every floor, whatever the material, does need regular cleaning. If you're environmentally conscious you'll know it's vital to choose floor cleaners that won’t harm the planet..or the products themselves, such as the top 10 we're looking at here:
 
 
Linoleum
 
Made from all-natural ingredients including linseed oil, resin, and wood fillers, real “green” linoleum is making a big comeback. It's durable, hard-wearing and suitable for high traffic areas such as kitchens, hallways, and offices, it doesn't off-gas, making it a good choice for adults/children who suffer from allergies or asthma. It comes on a roll or in tile form. 
 
Bamboo
 
Bamboo isn't a wood, of course, it's a fast-growing, sustainable evergreen plant that reaches. But it does possess many of the properties of hardwood and it's proving increasingly popular for flooring. Bamboo is lightweight, durable and easy to maintain and you can buy it in many different shades and gives the creative designer a great range of choices for unique patterns, not only as flooring but also on walls. Bamboo is good for flooring in most spaces but as with wood, it's not ideal where there's humidity so keep it out of the bathroom.  but, as with all wood products, doesn’t do well in humid areas like bathrooms.
 
Cork
 
Cork is the stripped bark from the evergreen cork oak tree, which grows in Portugal. Cork used to be seen as worthy but dull, however the range of cork products has increased and manufacturers have found ways to achieve a colour palette beyond mid-brown. Cork is super sustainable as the bark on the trees replenishes itself within 10 years. Cork flooring tiles are well-priced, they look, and indeed are, warm and inviting and they have good acoustic properties. Some manufacturers include recycled scraps from wine stopper production in their flooring, increasing the material’s green quotient.
Cork shouldn't get wet, so it's not ideal for bathrooms or basements prone to damp. 
 
Pure wool carpet
 
Carpet is still many people's preferred flooring for sitting rooms, staircases and bedrooms because it's soft to walk and sit on. A pure wool carpet is a good eco choice, but bear in mind moths love to eat wool so do get it treated with a moth-repellent. Wool carpet that gets a lot of traffic will show signs of wear, so for these areas consider an 80/20 mix ie 80 per cent wood with 20 per cent nylon, which will prove much more hard-wearing. Wool carpets can help improve indoor air quality bcause they absorb pollutants and wool is inherently fire retardant too - another bonus. And of course wool carpets come in every colour under the sun and in myriad textures. New Zealand wool is considered the best for carpets.
 
Leather flooring
 
Taken from the central part of a cowhide, leather tiles offer a rich and chic flooring material. They develop a unique patina over time and leather absorbs sound and is comfortable underfoot. Leather floor tiles are not particuarly cheap and you'll need to find an expert installer. Note they don't react well to water or humidity so are best used in low-traffic areas such as studies. 
 
Recycled glass
 
Again, not a cheap option but a very eco one. Recycled coloured glass is being made into beautiful tiles for flooring, which, when properly laid, can be long lasting. Glass is a material that doesn't off-gas, nor does it get mouldy or affected by mildew. 
 
Recycled ceramic
 
Recycled ceramic tiles are coming onto the market, though what this means is that manufacturers at long last worked out how to make quality tiles that contain up to 70 per cent pre and post-consumer waste material. There isn't a wholly recycled ceramic tile because tiles need some virgin clay to ensure strength and stability. Tiles with recycled content are more expensive than their 'new' counterparts because of the complexity of manufacturing them. But you'll have the satisfaction of knowing you're doing your bit for the circular economy.
 
Reclaimed hardwood
 
Solid wood floors are beautiful and they're high on many people's wishlists. But as deforestation is a major cause of greenhouse warming, we should be looking to use the wood that's already in existence, Reclaimed wood from old boats, from railway sleepers, from demolished buildings is widely available and a lot of it is being turned into flooring boards. Reclaimed and salvaged wood has patina and character and is ideal for older buildings. Use wood in sitting rooms, bedrooms, hallways and offices. Again, it shouldn't get wet. Oil it regularly to protect it and prolong its life, with sanding every few years.
 
Recycled rubber
 
Made from old tyres, rubber flooring is used mostly in home and commercial gyms. Rubber is not particularly easy to recycle, however recycled rubber mats are becoming popular for areas of the home that can be a slip hazard, since they are anti-slip. And in case you didn't know it, Travelators (horizontal escalators) in airports contain recycled rubber. 
 
Polished concrete
 
Concrete is notoriously unsustainable because so much energy is needed to produce it. But some argue concrete's longevity makes it an eco choice. Concrete needes to be polished if it's going to work as a floor and you may want to top it with rugs to soften the look. When laying a concrete floor, there's the choice to create pattern by inlaying it when wet with fleck of glass or other pieces of decorative inlay. When dried and polished you'll have a unique floor that will last for decades.
 
So depending on your budget, you can have an affordable, durable, eco-friendly floor that will enhance your home. And as the call to everyone to reuse and recycle grows louder, it's important to consider reclaimed or sustainable materials first. As Kenyan Nobel Laureate Prof. Wangari Mathai said, 'if you cut down one tree, plant two!'  Find out how many trees you’re costing the planet and do your bit to reverse the damage.
 
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