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hardwood flooring – questions to consider

Photo of hardwood
flooring in a home environment

What makes one hardwood floor greener than another? How can you ensure that the hardwood flooring you buy today is actually eco–friendly with so many different factors to consider? Don't fret! This section helps prepare you to shop for green friendly hardwood floors by providing you with buying questions to ask your local floor store. In addition, the flooring professionals at® have included additional information with each question to assist you in understanding the answers you may receive. We recommend using these green buying questions in conjunction with our Hardwood Flooring Buyer's Guide, which will help you choose hardwood floors that are not only right for your area of installation, but are also eco–friendly and safe for your health.

Finding the right eco–friendly hardwood floor has never been easier using these green hardwood flooring buying questions. If you need any more help shopping for green environmentally friendly hardwood flooring, simply use our Live Chat feature located at the top of the page.

Hardwood Flooring Products

Hardwood Floor Buying Questions to Ask Your Floor Store

Is this hardwood floor engineered or solid wood?

Solid hardwood planks are made from solid hardwood lumber and topped with a protective finish, or left unfinished to be sanded and finished on site. Engineered hardwood planks are made from a hardwood veneer laminated onto a core, often made of plywood or fiberboards. Engineered hardwood floors may be constructed with binders which use urea–formaldehyde or have high levels of other volatile organic compounds (VOCs). This can be avoiding by choosing engineered flooring made with eco–friendly formaldehyde–free adhesives. Look for those that meet or exceed the California Air Resource Board (CARB) requirements, or European Standards E1 or E0 for acceptable formaldehyde emissions.

On the other hand, with solid hardwood floors, no binders are required; however, there are still environmental concerns with some of the finish layers commonly used on both engineered and solid hardwoods, which is addressed later in this section.

What is the species of this wood flooring and where does its Janka Hardness Rating fall on the Janka scale?

Each species of wood has its own characteristics, colors, and grain patterns. Different species also have different levels of hardness, measured by the Janka Hardness Rating. The Janka Hardness Scale is an indicator of how hard a wood species is and how well it stands up to dents. The higher the number, the harder the wood and the more resistant it is to dents.

For greener floors, choose eco–friendly hardwood flooring species that have a high Janka Hardness Rating as more durable floors have a longer lifetime. Floor coverings with longer lifetimes require fewer replacement materials over a long period of time, making them more eco–friendly green hardwood floor types.

Is this wood certified by the FSC or SFI? Does it carry any other certifications that indicate its eco–friendliness?

Green certifications certify different aspects of a floor's eco–friendliness. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) provides the "Chain of Custody" certification that allows products to be identified as having come from FSC–certified forests. These forests are managed according to strict standards of sustainability. FSC certified wood products are usually more expensive than others, but they bring with them the assurance of sustainability. The Sustainable Flooring Initiative (SFI) and the Appalachian Hardwood Manufacturers Inc. (AHMI) are two other green organizations that put their stamp of approval on eco–friendly hardwood flooring that comes from sustainably and responsibly managed forests.

There are also other programs that certify low VOC hardwood floors and supporting products which create a healthy indoor air quality, such as the GREENGUARD Certification, and the FloorScore program created by the Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) in conjunction with the Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI).

Do you offer hardwood made from eco–friendly certified salvaged or reclaimed wood?

Eco–friendly hardwood flooring materials made of salvaged and reclaimed wood (often called recycled hardwood) is not available everywhere, and it can be expensive, but often has unique characteristics and is worth the price. Plus, using salvaged and reclaimed hardwoods stops these woods from ending up in a landfill, helping to reduce the waste stream. Reclaimed wood is often taken from old buildings, homes and barns, and salvaged wood is recycled from forest deadwood or the bottoms of lakes and rivers. It is then re–milled into flooring that has unique markings and characteristics. Wood that has been salvaged or reclaimed responsibly is often certified by the FSC Certified Reclaimed Wood Program, SmartWood Rediscovered Wood Certification program, and other green certifications.

Where was this flooring harvested and constructed?

Some woods used to make hardwood flooring are grown in regional forests while others are transported long distances from exotic locales. To make your hardwood flooring purchase greener, choose hardwood flooring that comes from local manufactures that use locally sourced materials. This decreases your floor's carbon footprint while reducing our dependence on petroleum and decreasing pollution.

What finishes are used in this product?

Solid hardwood is available both finished and unfinished. Engineered hardwood virtually always comes finished. If choosing an eco friendly hardwood floor, make sure it is finished with a low VOC* finishing product (such as one that is water–based).

*VOCs (short for volatile organic compounds) are carbon–based chemical compounds that can be found in certain flooring materials, adhesives and cleaners.

You'll find these common finishes:

  • UV–cured: Factory finishes that are cured with ultra–violet lights rather than heat.
  • Polyurethane: A tough, durable finish. May be oil based. Oil–based polyurethane gives wood somewhat of an amber glow, but it contains VOCs.
  • Acrylic–urethane: Clear, durable water–based urethane. Most are low–VOC.
  • Other eco–friendly finishes: There are other innovative green hardwood floor finishes being introduced to the market including but not limited to: Beeswax, Tung Oil (from a Chinese seed–bearing tree), and Carnauba (from a palm tree with wax covered leaves).

Note: Aluminum oxide is added to the finish of some engineered flooring to increase its resistance to abrasion. In others, acrylic monomers are injected into the wood to make it harder before it is finished. Aluminum oxide finishes are more durable but can be difficult to refinish when the need arises.

Make sure your green hardwood floors are finished with low VOC eco–friendly hardwood finishes, such as those that are GREENGUARD certified, to help make your purchase as green as it can be.

How is this flooring installed?

Generally, solid hardwood fits together with tongues and grooves and is usually nailed or glued together. Engineered hardwood is sometimes nailed or glued, but, more commonly is being installed as a floating floor, which fits together and "floats" between the walls without being attached to the subfloor. When it comes to eco–friendly hardwood installations, glueless methods are preferred when possible, to avoid adhesives which often have high VOC emissions during and immediately after installation. When glues are used for installation, choose hardwood from manufacturers that offer low or no VOC emitting eco–friendly hardwood adhesives. FindAnyFloor always recommends using manufacturer approved installation products.

For more information on choosing green hardwood flooring, visit's™ section on the Lifecycle of Hardwood Flooring.