Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Green is Good, but Don’t be Fooled by the Wood

Every second, a slice of rainforest the size of a football field is mowed down. That’s unsustainable, particularly when you consider that rainforests help regulate temperature and weather patterns, and are critical in maintaining the Earth's limited supply of drinking and fresh water.

Growing public awareness of these environmental concerns coupled with the fact that wood floors remain a top flooring choice is creating a green building movement that has people looking for sustainable flooring alternatives. Because Manomin is in the business of resawn and reclaimed wood, this blog is going to compare reclaimed wood to the green flooring alternative bamboo.

Bamboo flooring is a very popular green choice today because it is highly renewable. The bamboo plant (technically a grass) grows faster than most of the trees used for wood flooring. It also requires less water and grows in easily managed groves. What’s more, harvesting bamboo does not kill the plant. This is all very positive for our environment. Bamboo flooring can be found at reasonable prices, too, which is a positive for homeowners’ budgets.

But bamboo flooring has a number of negatives. For one thing, there is not a Fair Trade certification for bamboo, and while the Forest Stewardship Council can certify other woods, most bamboo products have no certification. Another issue is that bamboo can't be locally sourced, so most of it is grown in China, with some bamboo plantations having displaced natural forests. Shipping bamboo from China to the United States creates a considerable amount of carbon emissions due to the product. Another environmental concern is the tilling, pesticides and chemical fertilizers used to increase bamboo yields. They contribute to soil loss and increased toxicity, resulting in a loss of native plants and animals due to the changes in habitat. Once converted into flooring, the majority of bamboo floors have formaldehyde binders in the adhesives. And bamboo floors are hard to keep looking good. It can bleach in areas that receive direct sunlight and will stain easily if not sealed properly. Plus, it can be easily scratched, dented and chipped. This may mean you have to replace your floor sooner.

Now let’s consider reclaimed wood flooring. Reclaimed lumber is rescued from old buildings and recycled, refined, resawn and refinished for use as flooring, furniture and other home and commercial building uses. The original trees were cut down years ago. Reclaimed species include Douglas fir, yellow pine, white pine, hickory, salty fir, black walnut, oak and elm. People like the character and look of reclaimed wood because it usually has a story to it, coming from an old barn, warehouse or home. There’s distress in the boards with saw marks, nail holes, wormholes and dents that when sanded and varnished create an art-like effect. It also has a warmer feeling, with rich, deep patena.

Another advantage is that reclaimed wood has been dried naturally over 100+ years verses kiln-dried new wood that is forced to dry. This makes new wood less stable. Also, newly logged wood is not as dense as old growth, making the reclaimed wood that comes from old growth stronger, harder and more durable.

Whether you are restoring a vintage house or constructing a new residence, there are many good reasons not to buy new-growth wood flooring. Hopefully this article has taught you a few things about two of your sustainable flooring options. We’d be happy to discuss them with you! Contact us today.

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