3 Reasons to Choose Sustainable Hardwood Flooring

When you’re thinking about redoing your floors you have a lot of options to choose from. From bamboo to vinyl there are many different materials available that can be used for flooring. Here are 3 reasons to choose our  hardwood for your flooring needs.

Hardwood is Healthy

3 Reasons to Choose Hardwood Flooring - blog.ecotimber.comCarpet is notorious for releasing unhealthy Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs, into the air. Exposure to these VOCs can have any number of long-term health effects. With hardwood flooring most if not all of the danger of VOCs is eliminated. Factory finished hardwood is sealed and UV-cured which means that it does not emit VOCs. If you’re finishing the wood on-site look for a water-based finish to minimize the VOCs. In addition, look for a low VOC glue to use when installing a hardwood floor to further minimize the risk of long-term health effects.

Hardwood is Sustainable

3 Reasons to Choose Hardwood Flooring - blog.ecotimber.com

These bluegrass planks were collected from fences that were being replaced and will be made into flooring.

Trees are a renewable resource. Responsible harvesters plant new trees to replace those that they cut down. Wood is also recyclable. Sawdust, a byproduct of manufacturing wood flooring, is the primary material used to make particle board. Hardwood can be reclaimed. When old buildings are torn down there is frequently wood in them that can be reused in other buildings.

The Forest Stewardship Council certifies wood that is harvested from well-managed forests. They ensure that these forests are not damaged and that the local ecosystems are unharmed. When you purchase wood that carries the Forest Stewardship Council seal you’re helping to support the Earth’s forests.

Hardwood is Eco-Friendly

3 Reasons to Choose Hardwood Flooring - blog.ecotimber.comAs trees grow they take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. The carbon dioxide is converted into carbon and oxygen.  The carbon is stored in the tree and the oxygen is released back into the air.

Forests around the world provide habitats for numerous species. They also help to prevent soil erosion and flooding. In addition, turning trees into flooring requires less energy and produces less waste than many other methods of manufacturing flooring.

The next time you’re shopping for new flooring remember these 3 reasons to choose hardwood flooring.

Benefits of Cork – One of Nature’s Great Resources

Benefits of Cork – One of Nature’s Great RESOURCES

Check out this video in which Candace Olson talks about why she likes cork flooring.

Cork, used for everything from wine bottle stoppers to bulletin boards, has become very popular among designers. But what makes cork flooring such a good fit for your home or business? Read on to discover some of the many benefits of cork.

Renewable

Cork comes from the bark of Cork Oak trees. These trees are native to the Mediterranean region where they can live over 200 years. The bark from the trees is first harvested when the trees are about 25 years old and after that it is harvested every 9-12 years.

Sustainable

Cork Oak trees are not harmed when their bark is removed and will in fact continue to grow. In many Mediterranean countries Cork Oak trees are protected by law and can only be cut down with government permission. In addition, the Cork Oak forests provide homes for a number of endangered species.

WEZP-PA-Beja-CAFF_Vignette_1Recyclable

Cork is recyclable and there is very little waste in the process of turning cork bark into consumer goods.  Some cork flooring is created from the remnants left from making cork bottle stoppers.

Healthy

Cork is naturally hypoallergenic and it resists dust mites and mold. In addition it repels some insects.

Easy Care

Due to its nature cork both repels water and resists fire.  It also retains its shape even when heavy furniture has been sitting on it and it resists wear and tear.

Insulating

Cork provides thermal insulation, aiding in the regulation of temperatures, and it helps to absorb ambient sound.

Comfortable

Cork flooring feels warm and, because of its elasticity, cushioning.  As a result it is easier to stand on for long periods of time than harder floors.

100% Cork Candice Olson Discusses Benefits of Real Cork.wmv from EcoTimber onVimeo.

Orchard Walnut – A Unique Collection

Do you know the story behind the flooring in your home? What was it before it was made into flooring? EcoTimber only offers FSC certified sustainable products. And that means that every piece of wood we sell has a story.

The Orchard Collection

A Californian Walnut Orchard - blog.ecotimber.com

A walnut orchard in California

What happens to commercial orchards that have aged and can no longer bear fruit? They are cut down and replanted to insure a future harvest. The trees that are cut down are often used as biomass fuel in generating electricity. We save the best of these trees to be recycled into flooring.

Traditional Walnut Flooring

Most of the walnut flooring created in North America comes from the American Black Walnut tree. This tree grows in the Eastern US but is not ideal for commercial walnut harvesting. At EcoTimber our Orchard Walnut collection is different.

Our Orchard Walnut Collection

Orchard Walnut collection - blog.ecotimber.comThere are over 200,000 acres of commercial walnut orchards in Central California. These orchards are the source of 98% of the annual US walnut crop. When these orchards are about 40 years old the walnut production drops significantly. The trees are then cut down and replanted. In about 4 years the orchard once again begins producing. Approximately 7000 acres of walnut orchards are cut down every year. We take the best of the cut trees and turn them into flooring.

Grafting – The Secret to Spectacular Flooring

Grafting step 4 - blog.ecotimber.comGrafting step 2 - blog.ecotimber.comGrafting Step 1 - blog.ecotimber.com

Commercial walnut growers know that they get the best harvest when they combine a tree that is hardy and resistant to the local diseases with a tree that gives a high yield. They do this with a process called grafting. As a result of grafting the walnut trees develop highly variegated grain patterns. These grain patterns make this wood highly sought after for certain luxury items like car interiors.

Features of Our Orchard Walnut Flooring

Grain Graft Closeup - blog.ecotimber.com

A closeup view of the grain graft.

When you buy EcoTimber’s orchard walnut flooring you know you’re getting an eco-friendly product. The thick walnut wear layer is entirely made from recycled walnut. The pine backing comes from FSC certified well-managed forests.

Our Orchard Walnut Flooring has beautiful variegated grain patterns - blog.ecotimber.com

Our Orchard Walnut Flooring has beautiful variegated grain patterns.

This flooring has exquisite color and grain variation. The factory-applied clear stain offers superior durability without releasing dangerous VOCs into your home. A thick wear layer that can be sanded down and refinished to look like new means this floor will last a lifetime. The cross-ply construction means that it will resist cupping and warping.

Do you know what story your floors tell? What type of story would you like it to be?

Unfurled Bamboo – The Newest Bamboo Flooring Trend

Bamboo flooring has undergone a number of changes since it was first introduced in the early 1990s.  The “third coming” in bamboo flooring is now unfurled bamboo, which was introduced around 2011-2012.

Unfurled Bamboo

Unfurled Bamboo FlooringThis format takes the round stalk of bamboo and runs a single slit up the length of the stalk. The round stalk is then carefully “unfurled” and flattened into a sheet.  The width of this sheet is the same as the circumference of the round stalk – approximately 6” to 8”.

The thickness of the sheet equals the thickness of the stalk’s wall, which is approximately 1/4” thick. Now, for the first time ever, bamboo has a wide, single piece (6”-8”) face, with the knuckle running across its full width.  This sheet can be used as is as a wear layer or three pieces may be laminated together in thickness prior to running it into flooring, yielding the standard U.S. 3/4” wood flooring thickness.

Unfurled Bamboo Flooring

Even more unique, unfurled bamboo allows you to leave the natural skin on – just as it comes from the bamboo grove – and use this skin as the flooring’s natural finish without the need for topcoating with man-made finishes. Alternatively, you can partially remove the natural skin and tint/topcoat with traditional UV finishes.

Unique to unfurled bamboo being finished with UV finishes is the one-piece face with the knuckles running fully across the face.  Given bamboo’s unique cellular and fiber structure, whereby the outer skin is by far the hardest and most impact resistant part of the bamboo stalk, initial ball drop impact tests on the natural skinned, unfurled bamboo (which better replicate walking in high heels on the flooring than a lab Janka hardness test) amazingly show less denting than even on the densified strand woven format!

We believe this is the result of both the hardness of the natural bamboo skin coupled with the bamboo stringy fibers, which are largely concentrated in the bamboo stalk’s wall just under the skin, acting much like steel rebar used for tensioning and reinforcing concrete for strength. Or simply think of skin and underlying fibers in unfurled bamboo’s outer surface as a trampoline, whereby high-heel impact/ball-drop impact springs back as a result of the skin/fiber tension, producing little to no denting.

Unfurled Bamboo

Benefits and Characteristics of Bamboo Flooring

Bamboo has become a very popular building material in recent years. It has been used in homes and businesses all over the world. What are some of the benefits and characteristics of bamboo flooring that make it such a good choice?

The benefits and characteristics of bamboo flooring.

Characteristics of Bamboo

Bamboo is a fast growing grass and is highly renewable.  It reaches its full height in just one growing season. It is ready for harvest in only 4-7 years. In contrast, hardwoods typically require several decades in which to grow before they can be harvested. Bamboo is also sustainable. When a bamboo shoot is harvested the root system is left intact.  The root system then sends out new shoots. Bamboo is also very environmentally friendly. It is grown with a minimum of fertilizers and pesticides and it provides habitats for many different species.

Each bamboo stalk is comprised of a soft inner layer and a very strong outer layer. It is this strong outer layer that is used to make bamboo flooring. Like most grasses bamboo is very flexible. As a result of this strength and flexibility bamboo flooring is both resilient and durable.  A bamboo floor that is properly taken care of will last for a long time.

The benefits and characteristics of bamboo flooring.

Benefits of Bamboo Flooring

Bamboo is healthy. Flooring made out of bamboo resists both mildew and insects. It also resists water and so is less susceptible to water damage than typical hardwood flooring. Bamboo flooring is easy to clean.  It just needs to be swept or vacuumed periodically to remove dirt and grit.  Spills can be cleaned up with a damp mop.  Bamboo flooring comes in a variety of colors and finishes and is easy to install.

Hardwood Flooring Review – EcoTimber

If you’ve been shopping for hardwood flooring lately, you’ve probably found that there are a lot of choices out there. And while all hardwood flooring is certainly made to be beautiful, the fact is – not all hardwoods are suitable for every home, or for every use.

Purchasing hardwood flooring is a significant investment in your home – and a fairly permanent one. So you want to be sure the flooring you select is one you’ll be happy with for many years to come. To help you make the best hardwood flooring choice for your needs, we’ve put together this hardwood flooring review.

Solid vs. Engineered Hardwoods

In selecting hardwood flooring, one of the most important decisions you will make is whether to go with a solid hardwood or an engineered hardwood.

Solid

Solid

Solid hardwood is made from one piece of solid wood – from top to bottom the entire plank is 100% natural wood.  Available in various widths and lengths, most planks are ¾” thick with a tongue and groove fit. Solid wood can be stained and finished at the factory during the manufacturing process, or it can be sanded and finished after installation. And, if a high-traffic area becomes worn, or if the floor becomes scratched, solid hardwood floors can be sanded and refinished multiple times to restore the flooring to its original beauty. For installation, solid hardwood flooring requires nailing or stapling planks to an approved wooden subfloor, and installations over concrete slabs are not recommended.

One drawback of solid wood is that it can be highly susceptible to the effects of moisture. When exposed to extreme temperature changes, humidity, or excessive dampness, solid hardwood floors will expand and contract, resulting in gaps between the planks called cupping. So if you live in a coastal area where there is a lot of moisture in the air, if the flooring will be installed in a room that is exposed to extreme temperature changes, or if your home is built on a concrete slab or the room being covered is below grade level – solid hardwoods are generally not the best choice for you.

multi

Engineered

Engineered hardwood is also 100% wood. The difference is that engineered planks are manufactured by permanently bonding together multiple thin layers of wood, called plies. Each ply is arranged in the opposing direction of the ply above it, so that grains run in opposite directions. This cross-ply construction prevents the planks from growing and shrinking with changes in moisture and humidity levels, effectively avoiding the issues found with solid wood flooring. This makes engineered wood flooring the better choice for homes where humidity and moisture are a top concern.

Engineered planks range from about 3/8” to 3/4” thick. Planks with at least a 1/8” thick top wood layer can generally be sanded down and refinished, if needed. Most engineered wood floors can be glued, stapled, or floated over a variety of sub-floors, and they can be installed over concrete slabs and even over radiant heating systems. In fact, engineered wood floors work well in just about any room of your home – whether on grade, above grade, or below grade level.

Species

The species of wood will greatly affect your floor’s appearance as well as its durability. Species can include woods grown domestically, such as EcoTimber’sAmerican Woods Collection, which offers five of North America’s most popular hardwood flooring options: American Red Oak, American White Oak, Maple, Cherry, and Walnut.  Or for those looking to add the “wow factor” to a room, exotic woods such as those found in EcoTimber’s World Woods Collection  feature the rich beauty and distinct graining of unique woods harvested from remote FCC-certified forests of the world.

When comparing species, you may see references to “Janka” numbers.  These numbers refer to the Janka Scale, which is used to rate the unique hardness of a wood species. Generally, the harder the species, the more naturally resistant it will be to dents and scratches – and the higher it will rank on the Janka Hardness Scale. For example, Oak is a very hard wood, ranking 1360, while yellow pine, a much softer wood, comes in at a low 690 on the scale. If you are looking for durability, the most popular “hard” woods continue to be Red Oak, White Oak, Hickory, Maple, Ash, Birch, and Walnut.

Graining patterns within a species will also greatly impact the floor’s aesthetic. For example, woods with color variations and pronounced graining patterns, such as the White Oak found in EcoTimber’s Vintage Gatehouse Collection, can add more visual interest and rustic character to a room. While woods with smoother grains, such as Cherry wood can provide a clean understated look.

Reclaimed Woods

Reclaimed Wood

Reclaimed wood planks

Looking for flooring that is truly one-of-a-kind? Many of today’s eco-conscious consumers are realizing the beauty and unique charm found in flooring made from reclaimed woods. Reclaimed hardwood flooring may include solid wood sourced from old barns, farmhouses, beams, and wood barrels, as well as logs salvaged from rivers and lakes. For example, Eco-Timber’s Antique Heart Pine Collection is sourced from the deconstruction of industrial buildings built in the Eastern United States during the heart of this county’s Industrial Age. Variations in board lengths (typically longer and wider planks), knots, heavy graining, original nail markings, and color differences all add to the charm of this eco-friendly flooring.

The Orchard Collection literally transforms the unwanted into something extraordinary. When post-agricultural trees out-age their ability to produce fruit and nuts, these trees are traditionally removed from orchards and chipped, mulched, or burned. EcoTimber turns these discarded trees into FSC-certified, environmentally-friendly hardwood flooring with a look that matches no other.

Factory-Finished vs. Finished Onsite

High-quality urethane finishes help protect hardwoods from scratches and stains and can add many years of lasting beauty to your flooring.  Hardwoods can be finished at the factory – known as factory-finished or pre-finished. Or unfinished woods can be finished onsite following installation.

One of the major advantages in choosing factory-finished products is that there is no wait time for the finish to dry, and there are no dangerous fumes that you’ll have to live with while they dissipate from your home. Additionally, pre-finished flooring can be far more durable than site-finished floors. Typically, the pre-finishing process includes very tiny aluminum particles (aluminum oxide) that are added to finish layers to better fill spaces within the wood’s grains. Finish layers are also dried under UV lights, producing extremely fast drying times that make the woods up to three times more durable than site-finished hardwood. If you are concerned about formaldehyde, look for products that include the no added urea-formaldehyde icon.

For those who prefer the customization of installing natural woods, and then staining them onsite to match a specific color, on-site finishing continues to be an available option. Eco-friendly natural finishes made with plant oils and waxes, can offer easy application and excellent durability.

Gloss Level

The finish coating is a top layer that adds extra durability to flooring. The type of gloss level you choose will not affect the overall durability of your flooring. So here the choice is strictly a matter of preference. Gloss level choices include:

  • Low gloss – This low-shine look produces more of a matte finish that helps hide signs of wear in high-traffic areas.
  • Medium gloss – This slightly shiny flooring also helps hide sign of wear and smudges.
  • High gloss – While this highly shiny flooring can create a sophisticated look, it will also highlight signs of wear and smudges.

Hardwood Flooring Ideas – Room by Room

ArtesianHandTooled_Birch_ArtesianBlackChocolateFamily Room

Plank width can help set the tone for family room décor. For a more traditional look, consider thin strips. Or go with longer, extra wide planks for a sleek, modern feel or to visually open up a small space. To highlight your style, woods can be stained in a variety of shades and colors – from light neutrals to deep browns and ebony tones for a bolder statement. In high-traffic family rooms, softer woods, such as American Cherry or Pine, are generally not the best choice, as these woods tend to scratch and dent more easily. Instead, consider harder woods such as Oak, Hickory, or Maple. Woods with smooth grain patterns will show more scratches, so they may not be the best choice if you have pets or young children. In this case, consider woods that include distressing techniques such as hand scraping, as these will better hide possible scuffs and scratches from daily wear – and can add rustic charm to this room. Reclaimed woods are also a great option. Remember, the higher the gloss level, the more the floors will reflect light and show more scratches. So satin finishes, may be a better option in well-lit family rooms.

Dining room hardwood furnitureDining Room

In formal dining rooms, the rich beauty of hardwood flooring can be a real show-stopper. To add depth and dimension to a dining room with light-colored walls and furnishings, consider a dark, rich hardwood with subtle variations in graining. Choosing a neutral gray-stained wood is also a great way to give your dining room a modern update. Or for something truly luxurious, you may want to go with a rich-toned exotic wood such as a World Woods Brazilian Cherry. Eco-Timber’s Pacific Northwest Collection offers two lesser-known species – Madrone and Pepperwood, which grow only in America’s Pacific Northwest and offer an unexpected look that is truly out of the ordinary.

Additionally, distressing techniques such as hand scraping can also add visual interest and help hide possible scuffs and scratches – a plus if your dining room gets daily wear. Adding an accent wood border is another great way to show off your design personality in this room.

Kitchen

Engineered wood floors may be a more practical choice for kitchens, as these floors are more dimensionally stable and better able to withstand moisture.  However, all wood flooring is susceptible to water damage – so you’ll need to stay on top of spills and use absorbent mats in areas where moisture is common. Mats with rubber backings are not recommended, as rubber prevents the floor from breathing. Generally, hardwood floors with the most durable finishes will hold up well in this room.

Bedrooms

Bedroom hardwood furnitureHardwood’s rich grains and color variations lend a unique character to bedrooms that is unmatched by most other flooring types. And since high-traffic is generally less of a concern in this room, your options are limitless. However, in master bedrooms with adjoining bathrooms, consider factory-finished engineered woods, as these are more dimensionally stable and will withstand bathroom moisture better than solid woods. Durability makes hardwood a great flooring  choice for children’s rooms or guest rooms. To add more texture, warmth, or softness underfoot, consider area rugs, which can be more easily replaced as tastes change.

Bathrooms

While solid wood is more susceptible to the effects of moisture and humidity, it can be successfully used in bathrooms, with a few precautions. Adding extra layers of water-resistant polyurethane, in addition to filling cracks between boards with wood putty, will help prevent water from seeping in between or under the boards. Spills or standing water should be wiped up immediately, and an efficient fan or vent system will help minimize bathroom humidity levels. However, the more practical choice for bathrooms is factory-finished engineered woods due to their dimensional stability and ability to stand up to moisture.

Selecting a Brand

There are literally 100s of hardwood flooring brands in the marketplace today – all ranging the spectrum of quality.  As with any other consumer product you choose, it’s always best to do a little research on the company you are planning to purchase your flooring from and check out what others are saying about the brand. Generally, companies who have been in the business a long time and stand behind their products with strong warranties are the most reputable.

Learn More

Want more information on hardwood flooring for your home? Ask for advice from the company’s hardwood flooring experts.