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Hardwood Flooring Lifecycle

The lifecycle of hardwood flooring may or may not be eco–friendly, depending on a number of different factors. This includes every environmental impact or impact on human health from the day the tree used to make the floor is born until the end of the hardwood flooring's lifecycle.

Throughout this section we will help you understand the potential environmental and health impacts of the lifecycle of hardwood flooring, giving you the facts you need to understand what makes a floor green, and what does not. When manufacturers have taken steps to produce environmentally friendly floor products they will usually take steps to ensure that consumers are aware of this on their websites and product literature. Use this information while researching hardwood flooring manufacturers to help you choose products from manufacturers that care about not only our environment, but also your health.

Featured Hardwood Flooring Products

The Effects of a Harwood Floor's Lifecycle

An illustration representing the carbon footprint of hardwood flooring

First, let's discuss why hardwood flooring's lifecycle is important.

In part, looking at the lifecycle helps determine a floor's carbon footprint: In other words, the volume of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere as a result of the harvesting, manufacturing, transporting, and installing the final hardwood product. All floors have a carbon footprint, but there are many steps that manufacturers can take to reduce this.

One must also consider other environmental effects of harvesting new wood used to make hardwood flooring, especially those from irresponsibly and unsustainably managed forests. This includes deforestation, potential impacts on wildlife, and so on. Additionally, a hardwood floor can also have potential negative health impacts when constructed, finished, or installed with materials that emit high VOC's (volatile organic compounds) often including urea–formaldehyde.

Throughout this section you will find tons of great information on the lifecycle of hardwood flooring that will help in understanding the potential environmental impacts of this floor covering. Using this section, you will learn what you need to know in order to help you make green hardwood floor choices that will promote a healthy indoor air quality (IAQ) and also protect our planet.

Acquiring Resources for Hardwood Flooring

Frieghter illustration representing shipment of raw materials from it's origin

The eco–friendliness of a hardwood floor's lifecycle depends largely upon where the flooring materials are sourced from. Eco–friendly hardwood floors are often made with wood from responsibly and sustainable managed forests (i.e. hardwood floors made with Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified or Sustainable Flooring Initiative (SFI) labeled content).

Green hardwood flooring can also come from salvaged or reclaimed wood. Common sources for salvaged or reclaimed hardwood floors include wood reclaimed from structures of old warehouses and factories, flooring reclaimed from old buildings, salvaged forest deadwood, and salvaged sunken logs from rivers and lakes. These floors are often FSC or SmartWood certified for their reclaimed content.

*SmartWood is a program of the Rainforest Alliance and a sister organization to the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

Manufacturing Hardwood Flooring

Factory illustration representing the manufacturing process

There are several potential environmental impacts that manufacturing hardwood flooring can have on the environment which work for or against a floor's green qualities. To be considered eco–friendly, the manufacturing of a hardwood floor should not contribute to the creation of unrecyclable waste, global warming, ozone depletion, pollution, and other environmental problems, and should not have any negative health impacts on the workers involved in the manufacturing process. This is a very difficult task to take on.

Because of how they are constructed, there are concerns with some engineered hardwood flooring manufacturers using adhesives, which contain high levels of VOCs including formaldehyde and urea–formaldehyde, to adhere the piles and different layers together. However, one must understand that formaldehyde is a naturally occurring substance in all wood products, so it cannot be avoided altogether. However, irresponsible engineered wood manufacturers use adhesives which increase formaldehyde levels, which is not necessary with today's innovative green flooring binders. Responsible manufacturers use products that meet or exceed industry recognized formaldehyde emission standards such as the California Air Resources Board (CARB) standards and E1 or E0 European standards.

Both solid and engineered hardwood floors may be finished with products that emit high levels of VOCs especially during and immediately after installation. You can also find finishing products that are certified for low VOCs such as those that are GREENGUARD certified.

How Hardwood Flooring is Transported

Truck illustration representing the regional transportation of product

About 30% of the world's total land area is covered by forests. Two thirds of the world's forests are located in only 10 countries: Angola, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, Peru, the Russian Federation, and the United States. Imported hardwoods, especially exotic woods, are transported over long distances, by boat and truck. Native, or domestic, hardwood that is sourced in North America is transported by truck, and sometimes by train. Hardwood flooring made with exotic wood often has a larger carbon footprint than domestic hardwood as its shipped greater distances.

When choosing eco–friendly green hardwood floors, choose flooring made by local manufacturers using locally sourced materials to reduce shipping distances.

A Note on the U.S. Lacey Act: The U.S. International Trade Commission estimates that as much as 30% of the hardwood products imported into the United States come from trees that were harvested in violation of local, national, or international laws. In order to reduce this statistic and to pose harsh penalties for those in violation of wood import and commerce laws, the U.S. Lacey Act ban on illegally sourced wood was created.

How Hardwood Flooring is Installed

of tools representing installation of floor product

When it comes to installing hardwood flooring, most hardwood floors use some type of tongue and groove installation. There are three main methods to choose from: Nail or staple down, glue–down, and floating (commonly called the click–and lock installation method).

When installing green hardwood flooring, avoid glue–down installations that require the use of glues urethane or latex based glues which often contain high levels of VOCs. When a glue–down method is chosen, opt for "green" glues that meet or exceed E1 or E0 standards and adhesives marked low or no VOCs.

Note: E1 and E0 standards are European requirements for low formaldehyde content.

For step–by–step instructions on installing hardwood, check out's™ Complete Hardwood Installation Guide.

Care and Maintenance of Hardwood Flooring

image representing the Care and Maintenance of the environment

Maintaining properly installed hardwood flooring can be pretty simple. Sweep frequently to remove dirt and debris, and damp mop with water or a manufacturer recommended hardwood cleaning solution (never allowing floors to become overly wet). Many manufacturers recommend the Bona Hardwood Flooring Cleaner and Mop, which requires no batteries, has re–washable mop pads, and uses a pH neutral GREENGUARD eco–certified cleaning solution.

For more information, on cleaning and maintaining the beauty of hardwood, visit FindAnyFloor's section on Hardwood Flooring Care and Maintenance.

Disposal, Reuse, and Recycling of Hardwood Flooring

Green Recycle Symbol
representing reuse and recycling

Hardwood flooring may be biodegradable, depending on what materials it is made of. Some products used to finish solid hardwood and engineered hardwood flooring are not biodegradable, and will not decompose if sent to a landfill. Additionally, some components used to manufacture engineered hardwood flooring, such as the binders, are often not biodegradable. Rather than disposing of these products, you may be able to consider recycling hardwood floors or reusing them.

Some local recycling facilities may recycle old hardwood floors for you, though they may charge a fee to do so. Recycled hardwood may be ground and used in particleboard or for other wood products, or burned as waste–to–energy.

Rather than recycling your hardwood flooring, you may be able to find ways to reuse it. If the floors are in good structural condition you may be able to safely remove them and reinstall in another area. You can also reuse hardwood floors for a variety of other DIY wood projects (i.e. create a kitchen table top or cut into drink coasters). Additionally, you may be able to find someone willing to pay for your used hardwood floors. Good venues for selling hardwood include craigslist, eBay, architectural warehouses, hardwood reclamation centers, and consignment stores. If you can't find a way to reuse or sell your hardwood floors, check into donating them to a local community center or other local organizations. Now that's green hardwood floor recycling – Not only are you saving your floors from going to a landfill but you could be helping someone else in need.

Find More Green Hardwood Flooring Information

For a green eco–friendly hardwood buying guide, check out the Green Hardwood Buying Questions provided by™.