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Green Hardwood Flooring


Sample photo of
installed Hardwood Flooring

Hardwood flooring is among the most popular floor types available today and has been for more than a century. Hardwood's beauty and lasting value creates a combination that's hard to beat.

Hardwood is a good choice for many situations, but is it a green flooring choice? The answer is an unqualified maybe. Don't worry. We're not going to leave you stranded in a forest of doubt. In this section,™ will lead you through the maze of information on green hardwood floors to help you identify the facts.

When is Hardwood Flooring an Eco–Friendly Choice?


Did you know?
  • Hardwood flooring can be an eco–friendly floor covering when it's made with wood from responsibly managed forest or from salvaged or reclaimed hardwood and emits low VOCs (including formaldehyde).
  • Formaldehyde is like sunlight in that it is naturally occurring and our bodies cannot live without it, however, also like sunlight, in high doses it is an irritant and possible carcinogen.
  • SmartWood Certification Systems estimates that reclaiming a million board feet of lumber preserves a thousand acres of old growth forest.
  • In a recent survey by the National Wood Flooring Association, real estate agents agreed that a house with hardwood floors would sell faster and for a higher price than the same house with carpet.
Want to know more?
Visit our FAQ's & Glossary.

Wood is a natural, renewable resource, and can be recycled or reused in some situations at the end of its lifecycle. That much is clear, but matters become more complicated from there. When determining the green value of a new wood product there are many different factors to take into consideration. Some say the easiest answer is to buy only flooring certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). While the FSC is the most recognized sustainable forestry certification program, this does not complete the equation to buying green hardwood flooring. There are many other factors to consider such as energy and other materials used for manufacturing, fuel used for transportation, methods and materials used for installation, the level of VOCs that the product emits, hardwood cleaning products used, and more.

When shopping for hardwood flooring you will see an array of different green certifications that certify green floors from a number of different environmental angles. If you aren't prepared it can be difficult to know what to look for, as some certifications are reputable as being greener than others. Our goal throughout these sections on green hardwood flooring is to give you the tools and information you need to make an educated choice when buying green hardwood floors that are not only environmentally responsible, but a health–friendly choice for your home or business.

First, let's look at the different kinds of hardwood floors – solid and engineered, which we will be covering further in these sections on eco–friendly hardwood flooring.

Solid or Engineered – What is Right For You?

When you first begin to consider if hardwood flooring is the right environmentally conscious choice for your home or business, you will need to determine if a solid or engineered construction is the best choice for your area of installation.

Solid hardwood – Solid hardwood strips and planks are made from solid pieces of wood. This wood can be sawn in a variety of different methods including plain sawn (the standard sawing method), quarter sawn (which create planks with superior stability), and rift sawn planks (which result in the most stable hardwood planks). Planks which are considered "stable" stand up better to changes in humidity and temperature that those that are not. See photo below for an example of the different methods of sawing.

Solid hardwood flooring is cut into usable pieces in
one the follow manners: Plain Sawn, Rift Sawn and Quarter Sawn

Engineered hardwood floors – Engineered hardwood flooring consists of layers of wood (called plies) which are adhered together and topped with a veneer. There are two major types of engineered hardwood constructions, multi–ply (which has a plywood core consisting of 5 to 11 plies topped by a layer of finished wood, called a veneer) and three–ply (which includes a balance sheet (layer of plywood) and a core layer (usually solid wood), topped with a veneer layer.

There are some concerns about engineered hardwood floors being made with adhesives that contain formaldehyde (including urea–formaldehyde) which is a possible carcinogen. Responsible flooring manufactures are now using formaldehyde–free adhesives with low or no VOC's (volatile organic compounds).

Note: Formaldehyde is naturally occurring in all living organisms, including wood. It is in the air we breathe, and the foods we eat, and is actually important to the metabolic process. However, in high doses it becomes an irritant and a possible carcinogen, though studies are very conflicting on this matter. There are no formaldehyde–free wood products, but there are manufacturers that take steps to ensure against adding additional formaldehyde to their products, in order to avoid increasing formaldehyde levels to where they become an irritant or a health hazard.

Choosing the Right Hardwood Floor

There are times when engineered hardwood flooring is best, and other times when solid hardwood floors are preferred, depending on the area of installation and one's lifestyle needs. Because wood is a natural product that can contract and expand with changes in humidity and temperature, you have to be careful about not only controlling your indoor climate, but also choosing the right hardwood flooring for your installation. For example, due to their multi–ply or three–ply construction methods engineered hardwood flooring and floors made from stable wood species are more resistant to expansion and contraction than others. For this reason, they may be safer for installation areas such as basements, which may experience humidity from concrete moisture emissions, though proper moisture control measures must be taken according to the manufacturer's recommendations (i.e. testing concrete floors for acceptable moisture emissions and using a moisture barrier).

For more information on where hardwood floors can be installed as well as complete installation instructions, visit FindAnyFloor's Guide on Installing Prefinished Hardwood. You will also find other links below that will help you understand the impacts of the lifecycle of hardwood as well as how you can use green hardwood flooring to contribute towards earning LEED certification for your home or building and questions to ask when shopping for green hardwood floors.

If you have additional questions, you are always welcome to ask a green flooring professional in our flooring forums or via our live chat by clicking the "Got Questions?" Live Chat button at the top of this page.

Alternatives to Hardwood Flooring – Other Green Flooring Options

Hardwood flooring is easy to maintain, can last for decades, and in many cases, only gets more beautiful after time. If, for some reason, you have decided that hardwood flooring is not the right green flooring choice for you, check out these other green floor covering options:

Alternates to hardwood flooring: Cork and Bamboo Flooring

  • Cork: Durable, resilient cork flooring is made from the bark of cork oak trees. The cork is harvested every 9 or 10 years without harming the trees, which can live as long as 150 to 200 years, making cork a green sustainable floor choice.
  • Bamboo: Made from one of Earth's most rapidly renewable resources, bamboo can be harvested every 5 to 7 years and begins growing again immediately, without cultivation. Eco–friendly bamboo requires very little in the way of fertilizer or pesticides, and is very efficient at absorbing nitrogen and carbon–dioxide and producing oxygen, making it a very green floor choice.
Hardwood Flooring Information | Help
  • Questions – Here you will find questions to ask your local retailer when buying green hardwood floors.
  • Lifecycle – Learn about the lifecycle of hardwood flooring and its potential environmental impacts.
  • LEED – Use this section to learn about earning LEED points with eco–friendly hardwoods.
  • Species – Discover the look of different hardwoods species, from ash to zebrawood. Includes Janka Scale Ratings.
  • Buying Guide – Consult our buyers guide for all you need to know before you shop for hardwood floors.
  • Flooring Estimator Tools – Use this floor material estimation tool to get an idea of how much flooring you'll need.
  • Installation Guide – Installing that hardwood floor yourself? We'll show you how with these DIY installation guides.
  • FAQs – Find answers to some of the most frequently asked hardwood flooring questions.
  • Glossary – Consult our flooring glossary for definitions to common floor related terms.