What’s in a Floor?

If you’re planning to make some flooring changes in your home you can do it using sustainable, earth friendly and IAQ* safe products.  I’d say hardwood floors are  the main level flooring choice these days.  Certainly the majority of my clients want hardwood floors in the homes they buy or want to install them.  They’re not just beautiful and easy to keep clean, but hardwood floors greatly reduce allergens if they’re not finished or stained with toxic chemicals. If anyone in your home has asthma or other allergies, hardwood floors will go a long way towards improving their quality of life.

Many buyers want to know when they purchase an older home that is carpeted, whether there are hardwoods underneath. Recently I listed an older townhouse for sale and the seller was going to replace the carpet that had been there since she purchased it.  When the carpet was pulled up absolutely beautiful hardwood floors were revealed that didn’t even need to be refinished. That was great.  But what if the floors need to be stripped, sanded and refinished?

If the floors need to be refinished, find a company that uses low or no-VOC finishing products. These finishes will not leave highly toxic fumes circulating in your home for months. Osmo is one brand of floor finishes and stains that Universal Floors, a DC metro area hardwood flooring company uses.  CCI  Wood Floor Specialists is a small Virginia company whose owner, Jimmy Stallings, only uses VOC compliant products when he finishes floors. The Green Home Guide has a lot of information on hardwood floor finishes.

If you are installing hardwood floors you should look for FSC certified wood floors. The Forest Stewardship Council is an organization that promotes responsible forest stewardship to reduce the worldwide destruction of CO2 life giving forests.  Look for this symbol.

Reclaimed wood is another way to install beautiful hardwood floors with minimal environmental impact.  This is the ultimate repurposing. Its previous life may have been in a North Carolina tobacco barn or railroad trestles in the midwest.  This wood is generally more expensive because reclaiming and milling it adds to the labor costs. It can have really unique qualities and looks that for some, may be worth the cost. As always, be careful on sourcing reclaimed wood to make sure the company is not greenwashing.

Illegal, unsustainable and unmanaged wood (tree) harvesting is destroying large quantities of the world’s forests in places were the ecological balance of nature is being seriously compromised such as Indonesia and the Amazon.  China, which makes most of the wood products used in the United States, is scouring the world buying up wood because deforestation in China is a huge problem. The World Wildlife Fund reports on the global impact of deforestation.

*Indoor Air Quality



Gayle Fleming




My purpose is to serve my clients and advocate for their highest and best good, so they attain their real estate goals.


2 responses to “What’s in a Floor?

  1. Hey Gayle! Great post. De-forestation is a big problem in the amazon where the indginous population puts no value on their trees. They will wipe out huge patches of them to harvest bananas, after they are done, the farmers come in and let the livestock graze and ruin the soil for new growth. If we give trees value and treat them accordingly (as a crop), we can make great advances in sustaining our forests for generations. The FSC, which is the only certified wood that the USGBC recognizes to date undr their LEED program, is doing great work in preserving our forests and protecting/ educating the people of these countries that the trees have a value to them. Clear cutting still goes on in some areas of the US, along with the use of GMO’s. Their will always be bad apples in the industry and it’s blog posts such as yours that will educate americans to do their research before buying just any hardwood floor. We don’t want to support manufacturers that destroy our beautiful planet. All the best gayle and keep up the great work.

    • Hi Chad. All the facts of your comment are right on except one. It is not the “indigenous” people of the Amazon who “put no value on their trees”. The indigenous people absolutely understand the life giving value of trees since they are what sustains them for food, medicine, shelter, etc. It is in fact, rich Brazilian cattle ranchers who are responsible for 60-70 percent of the deforestation. And guess who’s buying and eating much of that meat? Yep–the US. Our insatiable appetite for beef in the US can be easily correlated to the rate of deforestation in the Amazon! The subsistence farming by the indigenous population of Brazil accounts for only a small amount of the deforestation.

      Also, Indonesia’s forests are now threatened because China, which produces about 70% of the worlds wood products (furniture, cabinets, etc) are buying the wood faster than it can be cleared. And reforestation programs are in their infancy in Indonesia. Thanks for the comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s