Take steps to make hardwood floors an eco-friendly choice

Homebuyers often say hardwood floors are a must-have, whether they’re making their first purchase, downsizing or moving into a bigger home.

By choosing hardwood, they’re selecting the most abundantly renewable flooring material available, according to the National Wood Flooring Association.

But whether picking out sleek hardwood floors for a new home or replacing the floors in an existing one, there are environmentally friendly aspects to consider, from the types of floors and finish to the installation process.

Sustainable flooring includes popular species like white and red oak, maple and walnut, as well as exotics like Brazilian cherry, said Dan Cox with Kennesaw-based Peach State Lumber Products, a wholesale and retail distributor. The trick is to choose wood that bears the seal from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which certifies the wood comes from a forest that is managed responsibly and not over-harvested.

Michael Purser, owner of Atlanta-based wood floor finishing and restoration company The Rosebud Co., recommends pre-finished floors such as reclaimed oak or pine because they are sanded, stained and finished at the manufacturing plant. As a result, dust and vapors are not brought into the home.

“You install it. That’s it,” he said.

When it comes to finishes, the most environmentally friendly option is water-based polyurethane, which at $55-$100 per gallon is more costly than a traditional oil-based finish, which costs about $25 per gallon. But the labor costs may be less expensive because a water-based polyurethane finish dries faster -- typically in two to three hours compared to eight hours for oil-based finishes.

Kevin and Chris Talmant chose a water-based polyurethane to refinish the floors in their LaVista Park home in DeKalb County, where the previous owners had painted the floor white in the master bedroom. They spent about $4,000, in a couple of phases, to update the floors in the kitchen, living room, dining room and hallway. The couple immediately noticed the water-based polyurethane’s low odor, which made them feel as if they had made a healthier, greener choice for themselves and their pet parrot, Picasso.

“When you come home, you don’t have this horrible oil-based smell in the air,” Kevin said.

Finally, if you are having your floors refinished or installing new floors that are finished onsite, be sure the contractor is using a dust containment system to minimize the dust particles in the air.

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