Walk This Way
a Beautiful Floor That Isn’t
Wood? Try Bamboo,
or Recycled Rubber.
By WENDY ANN LARSON
Wendy Ann Larson, a former managing editor of Remodeling magazine,
is now an editor with the Magazine Group in downtown DC.
Homeowners with an environmental bent no longer have to worry
about treading on Mother Earth when they choose flooring.
“Green” or sustainable
flooring options now extend beyond stone and ceramic. Palm and
bamboo have become popular substitutes for hardwood. Cork, reclaimed
lumber, even recycled rubber and coffee bags offer yet more choices.
An old favorite, linoleum, has rolled back into the hearts of
architects and consumers.
What these materials have in common is that they are nontoxic
(or at least less toxic) and long-lasting and are either recyclable
or made from recycled products.
Whereas once you may have sacrificed stylishness to be green,
new eco-conscious materials come in a wide range of colors, textures,
“Resilient” flooring such as linoleum, vinyl, cork,
and rubber—so-called because they are flexible—comes
in both sheets and tiles. Sheets create a near-seamless appearance
and can be custom cut for medallions and inlays but require professional
installation. Easier-to-install tiles lend themselves to checkerboard
patterns, borders, and random splashes of color.
The materials aren’t all that’s green: You’ll
no doubt spend a little—or even a lot—more on a politically
What follows is a rundown of eco-friendly flooring choices, as
well as the Web sites of leading manufacturers. Though by no means
comprehensive, these sites feature good photographs and contact
information to help you find area suppliers and installers.
For the first 80 years, the coconut does fall close to the tree.
But in time, a palm stops producing fruit and must be replaced.
The plantation’s loss has become the homeowner’s gain.
Palm makes an ideal flooring material: It’s 50 percent more
stable than red oak because it doesn’t contract and expand
as much. It’s harder than maple. It’s as resistant
to water, scuffs, and stains as the average hardwood, and it offers
the look and feel of traditional wood floor.
Available in finished or unfinished
tongue-and-groove planks, palm doesn’t emit VOC emissions
or require formaldehyde adhesives common to other hardwoods.
In dramatic medium- to dark-mahogany colors, the flooring works
great in almost any room, even porches, and will likely last
Bamboo offers the look and fell of hardwood—without sacrificing
your tree-hugging ideals. It’s a grass, not a tree.
Known for its fast growth, bamboo has a hardy root system that
regenerates after harvest, sending up another shoot from the same
plant. Available in two colors, natural and carbonated (steamed
to a honey-brown hue), tongue-and-groove flooring planks can be
specified with either a vertical or horizontal grain and come finished
Think bamboo is soft? This flooring is harder than oak and more
than twice as stable as maple. Bamboo trim molding and plyboard
for cabinets, shelves, and built-ins are also available, as are
bamboo engineered planks in bright colors such as China Red and
Deep Ocean Blue.
Want to know more? These Web sites offer practical advice on going
Copyright ©2003 by Washington Magazine Inc.