How to Choose Green Flooring

Green Living Image Gallery When considering your new home's flooring, take a look at natural materials. See more pictures of green living.
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Two of the most common flooring materials -- carpet and vinyl -- pose risks to ­the health of the environment and your home. About 70 percent of floor covering in the United States is carpet, mostly made from nylon [source: Green Living Ideas]. Why is that a problem? Nylon is petroleum-based, so its manufacture represents a tremendous use of non-renewable resources. Carpet also harbors allergens and may contain chemicals that make people sick.

Vinyl, also known as polyvinyl chloride or PVC, is petroleum-based as well, and producing it creates dioxin, a dangerous carcinogen that can create health problems. Neither vinyl nor carpet is biodegradable.

How can you choose flooring that is good for the environment and the home? Several natural flooring materials are available to consumers that are renewable and contain minimal industrial processing. Choosing a green floor can decrease your environmental footprint, as well as reduce levels of toxicity in the home and increase energy efficiency. In this article, we'll take a look at how to choose the best green floor for your house.

Before selecting any floor, there are a few factors to consider:

  • Aesthetics: How will the flooring look in the home?
  • Budget: How much will materials and installation set you back? A self-install can offset the higher cost of a flooring material.
  • Maintenance: Is it easy to clean? Will it require additional work over its life span?
  • Performance: How much wear and tear will this floor see? Do you have children, pets, a rock 'n' roll band or lots of spiky shoes? Some floors will withstand increased traffic and loads better than others. Performance also is tied to the function of the room. For example, carpet might not be a good choice for kitchens, bathrooms or basements, which face more moisture than other rooms, but it could be a good option for your living room if you want an extremely comfortable floor for your family gatherings.

Keep these questions in mind as you consider different flooring methods. We'll start with the issue of aesthetics: Do you like the look of carpet and vinyl but still want to avoid potential hazards to your home and environment? On the next page, we'll find out if all carpet is harmful, and how to get the look of vinyl naturally.