Why Go Green
With an ever-growing concern for the environment and our health, sustainable and healthy products have become a main concern. Not only do the products we use today affect us, they also affect future generations to come.
When it comes to your home, there are many reasons for ‘Going Green’ when considering your flooring options. There are many options available to you with both refinishing and installations of your flooring. When it comes to refinishing your floors, one of the first questions you may ask yourself is either using a Oil-base or Water-base polyurethane. Here are some key factors of both finishes to consider when choosing:
Oil-base Polyurethane versus Water-base Polyurethane
• Amber finish – warm glow that darkens over time with the wood which produces a golden/yellowing effect
• Higher Solids – gives a thicker appearance (resin like) due to its higher solids content
• High VOC content (350 VOC) compared to Water-base
• Longer Dry Times (8-12 hours dry time for foot traffic, 72 hours for 98% cure rate and when furniture can be moved back and it takes 30 days to 100% cure)
• Off Gasses – Lingering smell can take weeks to dissipate
• Economical and Durable – its the most economical finish out there for its durability and ease of use
• Comes in four sheens – Satin, Semi-Gloss, Gloss and High Gloss.
• Self-Leveling – Self levels its self and easier to apply than other finishes
• Non Ambering Finish – doesn’t yellow or darken over time or darken. There are however Water-base sealers that produce an amber affect to the wood
• Low Odor and VOC content (200 VOC or lower)
• Quicker Dry Times (2-3 hours dry time for foot traffic, 48 hours to move furniture back and its 100% cured after one week).
• Lower Off Gassing – because of the lower odor and quicker dry time, water-base off gasses alot less and usually the low odor is gone within a few days.
• Comes in many sheens – Matte, Satin, Semi-Gloss and Gloss.
• Durability: improved scratch resistance and chemical resistance compared to Oil-base
While choosing a finish can be difficult, Go Green Floors can help you choose the right finish for your project. We can help you choose the right finish to best suit your budget and your needs.
Safer for your Family
When choosing a finish for your floors, you may want to consider the toxicity and VOC content of the finish. This is especially important if you have a young family or planning on having one. Some traditional ‘Oil’ base finishes ‘off-gas’ for many days/weeks after they are applied and can be dangerous to small children and pregnant women.
Safer for your Home
The US Environmental Protection Agency, the American Lung Association, the World Health Organization and other public health and environmental organizations view indoor air pollution as one of the greatest risks to human health. Water-based polyurethanes have significantly reduced the health and environmental hazards of hardwood floor refinishing and finishing. If you are concerned about your homes indoor air quality, then choosing either an Low or Zero VOC finish is very important.
Safer for your Enviroment
Choosing greener flooring products for your home, not only helps your enviroment but also everyone else’s. Go Green Floors can help you choose the right flooring or finish for your home. Please contact us today for a free consultation.
Some customers prefer oil-based finishes because they can give hardwood an added depth and appearance that is not as evident with waterborne finishes. Oil-based can be more glossier and thicker than water-based finishes. If you are set on using an oil-based finish for your project, we still provide this option for
our customers and would be happy to give you an estimate.
Helping Clients 'Go Green' With Wood Flooring
By Kim M. Wahlgren
The last time the green movement was this hot, you might have been
wearing bell-bottoms and a peace symbol around your neck.Today, concern
for the environment is back at the forefront. Global warming is a daily
topic on the news. Major corporations, even Wal-Mart,are rolling out
their own green initiatives.Green building has become more prevalent,
including a high-profile green overhaul of the entire U.S. Capitol
complex. Many federal,state and local municipalities are mandating green
building for publicly funded new construction.
Whether or not you are concerned about environmental issues,one thing
is certain: some of your potential customers are. To satisfy them, you
must be green-savvy and able to source green products. Keep in mind that
"green" means different things to different people; following is an
overview of some aspects that can come into play when discussing
environmental wood flooring products.
A Good Start
A first step in discussing wood flooring as a green product is to
turn conventional logic on its head. That logic says that cutting down
trees is bad and destroys the forest. Actually, the majority of
professionally managed hardwood forests in the U.S. and Canada today are
sustainably harvested, meaning foresters analyze each area of the
forest tree by tree and designate a percentage to be removed, leaving
the majority to grow and also leaving the ecosystem intact (see "Forest
Facts" in the August/September 2005 issue of Hardwood Floors). In
reality, most forest destruction in the U.S. and Canada is caused by
development, not the need for timber. Giving economic value to the
forest creates an incentive to maintain the area as forest, as opposed
to a subdivision, strip mall or parking lot. Trees are the ultimate
renewable resource, helping reduce globalwarming-causing carbon dioxide
in the process.
The green story continues past the forest into the wood flooring
mill. The latest floor manufacturing equipment scans each piece of
lumber for its most efficient use, and oftentimes, the wood dust created
in the milling process is then used to power the mill or the dry kilns.
Engineered flooring, by its nature, uses the raw material even more
efficiently than solid wood flooring.
To give sound scientific footing to facts such as these, the NWFA's
Industry Research Foundation has contracted with the University of
Wisconsin to conduct an environmental impact study on the Life Cycle
Assessment (LCA) of solid wood flooring versus non-wood flooring
alternatives. LCA (also referred to as Life Cycle Analysis or
"cradle-to-grave" analysis) is defined by the ISO as a "systematic set
of procedures for compiling and examining the inputs and outputs of
materials and energy and the associated environmental impacts directly
attributable to the functioning of a product or service system
throughout its life cycle." In this specific study, wood flooring's
impact in terms of energy consumption, air pollution, water pollution,
solid-waste pollution and climate change will be examined relative to
competing non-wood products. The results are scheduled for release in
October, and an LCA for engineered wood flooring is slated to be done
Wood Flooring Choices
Given what we already know about wood flooring, it seems likely that
the LCA study will reveal wood to be an especially green product when
compared with other types of floor coverings. But many environmentally
minded customers need to know more than that; they will ask: Which wood
floor is the most green of all?
While people in the industry would debate the answer, certain wood
flooring products have impeccable environmental credentials. Reclaimed
flooring, whether recovered from the bottom of a river or milled from an
old factory floor, is one of them. Cork flooring, made from the bark of
a type of oak tree that grows in Spain, Portugal and Morocco, is
another; the bark is harvested and grows back without harming the tree.
Because of its ability to rapidly regenerate, many people also consider
bamboo (which is actually a type of grass) to be green, although
discriminating environmental customers take care to avoid bamboo
products constructed with ureaformaldehyde-based adhesives (and others
would argue that rapid regeneration doesn't make a product any greener
than wood products from a sustainably managed hardwood forest).
Consumers buying domestic species can be reasonably confident that
the wood came from a sustainably harvested forest. With regards to the
multitude of exotic species from around the globe, however, it is often
difficult to know exactly where the wood came from, and given recent
widespread media attention paid to illegal logging overseas, consumers
are increasingly concerned about the source of their tropical wood (see
the "Answers for Exotics" sidebar below).
Those who would like a guarantee that their wood flooring came from a
sustainably managed forest, whether in North America or abroad, must
turn to one of the certification systems currently in place. Those
• Forest Stewardship Council (FSC): The most
wellknown certification program, FSC is international in scope and has
the backing of most environmental groups. The program tracks wood from
the forest to the end product.
• Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI): This
certification is overseen by the Sustainable Forest Board and was
developed by the American Forest & Paper Association.
• Canadian Standards Association (CSA): CSA offers
the National Standard for Sustainable Forest Management, a
chain-of-custody program designed to track forest products from the
forest to the consumer.
It's increasingly likely that you'll find yourself working on a
green-certified construction project. If so, you need to know what the
green construction certification programs are and which wood flooring
certifications they accept.
The most well-known of the certification programs in the U.S. is LEED
(Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), which was developed by
the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The best-known LEED
certification is LEED-New Construction, which is for new commercial and
institutional buildings. With LEED-New Construction, wood flooring can
earn credits for being rapidly renewable (cork and bamboo), and also for
being FSC-certified material. The rapidly renewable criteria and the
FSC-only criteria are both being re-examined by the USGBC's Materials
and Resources Technical Advisory Group with support from both the Yale
School of Forestry and Sylvatica, a consulting company specializing in
LCA analysis. The rapidly renewable credit may be changed to a broader
credit taking wood's LCA into account, and the possibility of including
SFI and CSA certifications is being examined, as well (revised language
is expected to be out for public comment by this November).
A LEED for Homes certification is expected to be released by the end
of this year. The residential certification parallels much of the
existing LEED-New Construction certification guidelines. One significant
difference, however, is that the pilot LEED for Homes certification
requires that any tropical wood used be FSC-certified ("tropical" woods
are determined by country of origin). This is a departure from typical
LEED standards, which usually reward good environmental choices as
opposed to punishing practices viewed as negative. Another difference is
that LEED for Homes rewards using wood materials sourced from within
500 miles of the building site.
Since 2005, the National Association for Home Builders (NAHB) has
offered its NAHB Model Green Home Building Guidelines. This voluntary
program was designed with broad guidelines that can be adapted for
different regions of NAHB membership; local home builder associations
adapt the guidelines for their geographic area (there are currently 24
local programs and more than 100 in development). The NAHB guidelines
recognize FSC, SFI and CSA certifications equally and also reward the
use of any biobased material, such as wood, and recycled materials, such
as reclaimed flooring.
In June, the NAHB board of directors also approved the creation of a
national green building program based on the ANSI-certified National
Green Building Standard, a model for residential construction and
renovation scheduled for release in early 2008. It will be based on the
existing NAHB Model Green Home Building Guidelines. The national program
will give builders an NAHB-backed option for green home certification
even if they don't have a local green building program in their area.
For commercial projects, there is also Green Globes certification,
which is better-known in Canada and is relatively new in the United
States. Green Globes also recognizes FSC, SFI and CSA certifications for
wood flooring, rewards use of bio-based products that are LCA-assessed
using approved software and also rewards use of recycled products. Green
Globes is offered by the Green Building Initiative.
Of course, an eco-friendly wood floor also may involve other
products; customers are concerned that their finishes and adhesives be
green, as well.
There is no easy definition for an "environmentally responsible"
finish or adhesive. Some consumers may want to avoid products containing
petroleum; others may focus on "natural" ingredients. Some may consider
the safety involved when using the product; yet others may take
proximity of manufacturing into account. Still others may try to
consider the entire LCA of those products, although formal LCA is not
yet readily available for most finishes and adhesives. Independent green
product certification systems such as Greenguard or Green Seal exist
but aren't widely used in the wood flooring industry.
Given that, the easiest aspect to focus on is VOC content, but just
because a solvent doesn't emit VOCs as defined by the EPA doesn't
necessarily mean it's harmless. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) considers VOCs, or Volatile Organic Compounds, to be organic
compounds that react with nitrogen oxide in heat and sunlight to create
ground-level smog. The solvents used in finishes and adhesives are what
determine VOC contents, which are usually measured in grams per liter
(g/L). According to the EPA, architectural coatings (including wood
floor finishes) are second only to automobiles among consumer and
commercial products as producers of VOC emissions.
VOC laws for most finishes have gotten tougher in recent years,
especially in California and the Northeast. This caused some
oil-modified polyurethane manufacturers to reformulate their products to
have lower VOC contents. Nationwide, current regulations mandate that
VOC levels for most wood floor finishes be less than 450 g/L; tougher
regulations exist in the Northeast and in California. In the Northeast,
the Ozone Transport Commission (OTC) has a VOC limit of 350 g/L. The
State of California has a limit set by the California Air Resources
Board (CARB) of 350 g/L; a lower limit of 275 g/L in the Los Angeles
area is set by the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD).
In general, waterborne finishes tend to have the lowest VOC levels,
and some waterborne products have extremely low levels—check with the
manufacturer and the product's MSDS. Some products, such as shellac, wax
or natural oils seem like they would be environmentally friendly
(shellac, for example, is created by secretions from the lac bug), but
when considering them, take into account the added solvents that enable
the products to be applied to a wood floor. The bottom line for any
product, regardless of type, is that contractors should check the MSDS
and directions; they give insight into the actual solvents used and can
also offer red flags, such as suggestions to turn off all sources of
ignition when using the product (a good indication that a powerful
solvent is involved).
Adhesives have also undergone major changes due to VOC laws and the
demand for green products. It's a common joke among veteran wood
flooring contractors that years ago they didn't have to do drugs—their
wood flooring adhesives were enough. Fortunately for environmentally
concerned consumers (and installers), adhesives have come a long way
since those days. Today, the CARB limit is 15 percent by weight, and the
SCAQMD limit is 100 g/L. The CARB limit will change to 7 percent by
weight on January 1, 2009. There currently are no EPA limits for wood
flooring adhesives, but the EPA is expected to adopt the CARB limits.
Several manufacturers now offer no-VOC, solvent-free wood floor
adhesives. There are no hard-and-fast rules for which types of adhesives
offer which VOC levels, but in general, water-based adhesives typically
have relatively low or no VOCs. There are several high-solids,
polymeric resin adhesives and at least one moisture-cure adhesive on the
market that are no-VOC or trace-VOC and solvent-free. For details on
VOC levels and solvents, contractors should check with the manufacturer,
and also make sure the adhesive works with the flooring they've chosen.
Again, MSDS and product directions are a good source for insight on the
solvents in the product.
The building certification programs vary on how they treat finishes and adhesives:
LEED-New Construction and LEED for Homes: Adhesives
and finishes must comply with the VOC limits of the SCAQMD rules (275
g/L for wood floor finish and 100 g/L for wood flooring adhesives).
NAHB Model Green Building Guidelines: Wood flooring finishes and adhesives are not specifically addressed.
Green Globes: Credit is given under Indoor
Environment rules for "low emitting, chemically inert and non-toxic"
chemicals, adhesives and sealants (including floor finishes).
Here to Stay
This time around, the green movement isn't just a fad. Low-VOC
products are required by law, and green building is increasingly being
chosen and even mandated. For wood flooring professionals, being fluent
in the green aspects of the industry isn't only environmentally
responsible, it's good business.
Sources for this article included: Lisa DiMartino, Environmental
Home Center; Jason Grant and Bill Jopling, Wood Flooring International;
Dan Harrington, EcoTimber; Ed Korczak, NWFA; John Lio and Larry Scott,
DriTac Adhesive Group; Robert McNamara, Bostik; Michelle Moore, USGBC;
Donna Reichle, NAHB; Kevin A. Stover, PE, GBI; and Gerald Thompson,
Green Alphabet Soup
When you're talking green in the wood flooring industry, these
acronyms and initialisms, among many others, often come into play:
CARB: California Air Resources Board (arb.ca.gov)
CSA: Canadian Standards Association—offers the National Standard for Sustainable Forest Management (csa-international.org)
EIA: Environmental Investigation Agency (eia-global.org/forests.html)
FSC: Forest Stewardship Council (fsc.org)
GBI: Green Building Initiative—offers Green Globes certification and promotes NAHB Model Green Building Guidelines (www.thegbi.org)
LEED: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (usgbc.org/leed)
NAHB: National Association of Home Builders (nahb.org)
OTC: Ozone Transport Commission (otcair.org)
PEFC: Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (pefc.org)
SCS: Scientific Certification Systems—a certifying body for FSC (scscertified.org)
SFI: Sustainable Forestry Initiative (sfiprogram.org)
SCAQMD: South Coast Air Quality Management District (of California)(aqmd.gov)
TFF: Tropical Forest Foundation (tropicalforestfoundation.org)
TFT: Tropical Forest Trust (tropicalforesttrust.com)
USGBC: U.S. Green Building Council—offers the LEED program (usgbc.org)
VOC: Volatile Organic Compound
WWF: World Wildlife Fund—runs the Global Forest & Trade Network (www.panda.org)
Answers for Exotics
Increasing attention is being brought to the source of the imported
timber used for, among other things, wood flooring. Newspapers such as
the The Chicago Tribune and The Washington Post have run extensive
articles, even a Sunday cover story, with headlines such as "Corruption
Stains Timber Trade" (The Washington Post, April 1, 2007) and "The
Hidden Cost of Your Hardwood Floor" (The Chicago Tribune, December 18,
2006), and Nat ional Geographic's January 2007 issue featured a cover
story on the destruction of the rainforests in the Amazon basin. Merbau
in particular has been the focus of increased scrutiny, with several
major wood flooring suppliers accused in the media of using illegally
To answer concerns about illegal logging, a bipartisan bill was
introduced to the House of Representatives in March that would prohibit
trade in timber illegally harvested outside the United States. Dubbed
the Legal Timber Protection Act, it is an amendment to the 1981
amendments to the Lacey Act, which prohibits trade in wildlife or plants
that have been illegally taken, possessed, transported or sold.
Currently, the law only applies to plants (including trees) from the
United States or endangered foreign species, but the bill would extend
its protections to all plants from outside U.S. borders.
The bill aims to not only prevent illegal logging, but, as its name
implies, also to protect U.S. timber businesses from unfair competition
due to illegal logging. A 2004 U.S. Forest and Paper Association report
estimated that illegal logging costs U.S. companies as much as $1
billion a year in lost exports and reduced prices. (To that end, a U.S.
International Trade Commission investigation was launched last spring
to examine how logging practices by China and other countries may be
affecting U.S. markets for solid and engineered wood flooring, as well
as hardwood plywood. The results are expected in late 2008.) As of press
time, the bill was in a House subcommittee, and both environmental
organizations and wood industry groups are in favor.
NWFA has been lobbying on behalf of the bill through its
participation in the Hardwood Federation, a coalition of forest products
organizations. "We are all very much in favor of legal logging, and we
believe the Lacey Act is a good way to be able to protect that," says
NWFA Executive Director/CEO Ed Korczak. In addition, he says, it would
help eliminate the current perception that manufacturers are "guilty
until proven innocent." How "legal" would be determined is still
unclear. The Hardwood Federation has been lobbying for a
chain-of-custody system. "We need a chain-of-custody process that is
supported by not only our government, but also the exporting government
so that everything is clearly and properly documented," Korczak
explains, adding that it may take years for that to happen in some
countries—"but if we don't start, it will never happen."
In the meantime, wood flooring manufacturers importing exotic species
are left with the "guilty until proven innocent" assumption unless
they take steps to prove otherwise. Armstrong World Industries, the
largest wood flooring manufacturer in the world, has had a
long-standing requirement that all materials used in its products be
legally acquired, and this year it announced that it is partnering with
the Tropical Forest Foundation (TFF), a non-profit organization
focused on sustainable forestry throughout the world. As part of the
partnership, TFF is developing independent third-party verification to
further verify that Armstrong's suppliers obtain lumber legally. "It's a
very small percentage of what we do—tropical hardwoods are probably
less than 3 percent of our business—but at the same time, it's very
important that we understand where these materials are coming from,"
says Dick Quinlan, general manager of Armstrong's Bruce Hardwood
Meanwhile, wood flooring manufacturer Wood Flooring International
sells FSC-certified products, as it has for years, and more recently has
become a participant in the WWF's Global Forest & Trade Network,
which, among other things, aims to eliminate illegal logging by
implementing a stepwise approach to improve forest management around the
globe. Additionally, WFI is a supporter of the Legal Timber Protection
Act, although company CEO Bill Jopling, like many people, is
interested to see how the claims of "legally" imported lumber will be
verified. Tracking tropical timbers from forest to floor can be a
nightmare, he says, speaking from personal experience. Yet, "We decided
to support the bill, because at the highest level, we believe the
intention is good," he says. —K.M.W.
sustainable forestry environment green floors