Sooner or later, old homes need new floors.
Fortunately, you have several eco-friendly choices. Three jump to the front of the list--recycled wood, cork and bamboo.
Recycled Wood: Older Is better?
Recycled wood, fitting for a rustic home, might be your greenest choice. Recycled wood can be old flooring or flooring milled from timbers of long-ago structures. It can be expensive, but recycling keeps the wood out of landfills and keeps more trees standing.
Bamboo: The Green, Green Grass of Home
Bamboo is technically a grass rather than tree. It grows rapidly with little fertilizer and pesticide, and does not need to be replanted. It can be harvested within three to five years, rather than the 30 or more years necessary to grow trees for wood flooring. This makes it especially attractive to eco-friendly remodelers.
But despite its attributes, bamboo is not automatically green. Much bamboo comes from Asian countries with lax labor and manufacturing standards--formaldehyde especially can be present in its adhesives. In some areas, hardwood forests have been leveled to make way for bamboo plantations. Only recently has the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a nonprofit organization dedicated to encouraging responsible management of the world's forests, certified some bamboo producers as forest friendly.
Bamboo flooring can be placed over many different types of sub-floor, which makes it attractive in old, cantankerous homes.
Put Cork in It
Cork comes from the bark of the cork oak tree, grown mostly in Spain and Portugal. It is harvested without killing the pant. The tree then obliges by growing more cork, which can be harvested every nine years or so.
Cork flooring often is made with the waste left from making wine corks. It is ground and mixed with resins and heated, creating a durable and comfortable product. It has heat- and sound-insulation properties, and is great in high-traffic areas (especially kitchens) because it is soft to the foot and falling dishes.
The flooring can be glued, in tile form, nailed as tongue-and-groove, or snapped together in a floating-floor system. The latter is attractive because, as with bamboo, it can cover old linoleum or most any kind of sub-floor.
New Wood Flooring, Linoleum, Tile and Other Choices
Several other coverings have degrees of eco-friendliness. New wood flooring, as long as a group such as the FSC has certified it, is considered green--it's natural, renewable, and as seen above, can be recycled.
There are many options when it comes to eco-friendly flooring, enough that you should be able to find a fit that is just right for your old home.