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Green Laminate Flooring

Did you know?
  • Laminate floor tiles can give you the look and feel of ceramic or stone tile for less cost and can be eco–friendly, making them an eco–effective choice.
  • Formaldehyde, which is listed as a human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (part of the World Health Organization) is naturally occurring in all wood products.
  • High–pressure laminate (HPL) is one of the hardest floors on the market made with wood materials.
  • Laminate floors are classified according to their Abrasion Class (AC) Rating on a scale of AC1–AC5 with an AC5 rating being the most durable and long–lasting.
Want to know more?
Visit our FAQ's & Glossary.

Laminate flooring has many faces. It can imitate wood, stone, and tile floors, among other things. Laminates are often reasonably priced, easy to maintain, and easy enough to install for most do–it–yourselfers. However, when it comes to green eco–friendly laminate, the rest of the story is not quite as simple or clear cut. That's why we've created this section on green laminate flooring – to help those shopping for environmentally responsible flooring choices which will create a healthy indoor environment for their home or business.

Our goal is to provide you with the tools and information you need to make your flooring purchase as green as it can be. Throughout these sections, you will find tons of helpful information in order to help you choose and install environmentally friendly laminate flooring that is healthy for your family. If you don't find the information you are looking for here, we invite you to visit our Green Eco–Friendly Flooring Forums.

First let's look at how laminate floor tiles and planks are made in order to identify some of the positive and negative environmental attributes of the different materials used in the construction of laminate floors.

How Laminate Floors Are Made

Laminate flooring is composed of layers of materials fused through heat and pressure. Each layer is made from different materials, with different characteristics and purposes. From top to bottom, laminate's layers usually include a wear layer, a décor layer, a wood core, and a backing layer.

  • The wear layer provides a tough, durable surface. Though this layer often (but not always) is made with melamine that contains formaldehyde or urea–formaldehyde, it is permanently affixed to the resins, and therefore, emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs*) are often well below permissible levels. Some manufactures have also begun developing formaldehyde–free wear layers.
  • The décor layer presents the pattern and colors. The laminate floor's design is usually printed on craft paper. Many manufacturers use post–consumer recycled paper for this layer. Additionally, innovations in laminate flooring manufacturing allow some manufacturers to print directly onto the core, eliminating the need for this paper altogether.
  • The wood core gives the flooring its shape and substance. The wood fibers for this layer can come from recycled waste wood, which is definitely a green mark in laminate's favor. When new wood materials are used, they can come from Forest Stewardship Council certified wood products, meaning the forests were responsibly and sustainably managed. In some products the wood fibers are mixed with binders that contain formaldehyde or urea–formaldehyde. Other eco–friendly laminate flooring products are made with formaldehyde–free or low–formaldehyde binders, which are considered greener alternatives.
  • The melamine backing layer provides a moisture barrier and structural integrity. Again, melamine may contain formaldehyde though there are several emerging manufacturers producing laminate flooring with formaldehyde levels well below most emissions standards. This includes E1 and E0 (European standards) and even Japanese standards, which are some of the most strict formaldehyde emission standards available.

Sample photo of
Laminate Flooring

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

There are two main types of laminate flooring:

  • Direct–pressure laminate (DPL) is constructed by pressing all four layers together at high pressure (300 to 600 lb/inch) and temperatures of around 300 to 400° F.
  • High–pressure laminate (HPL) is constructed in a similar process, but the wear, décor, and backing layers are treated separately and then fused directly to the core. HPL layers are pressed together at more than 1000lb/inch. Typically HPL is more expensive and more durable than DPL therefore, they usually have longer lifetimes which mean fewer replacement materials will be needed over time.

If you have a feeling laminate might be the right green flooring for you, there's a lot to think about. Throughout these green laminate flooring sections, we will evaluate laminate's lifecycle to make sure you understand the environmental impact of obtaining its materials as well as the impacts of manufacturing, installing, and cleaning laminate flooring. In addition, we will address what can be done with these floors at the end of their lifecycle, whether they are disposed of, reused, or recycled. To continue learning about green laminate flooring, navigate through this section using the links at the bottom of this page.

Alternatives to Laminate Flooring – Other Green Flooring Options

If you need durable, smooth–surface flooring and have decided laminate is not the one for you, take a look at these green flooring alternatives:

Linoleum and
Bamboo flooring are two alrenates to Laminate

  • Linoleum: True linoleum is made from all natural materials, such as linseed oil (pressed from flax seeds), pine rosin, and wood and cork flours. Linoleum is available in a wide range of patterns and styles, easy to maintain, and extremely durable.
  • Bamboo: Made from one of Earth's most rapidly renewable resources, bamboo can be harvested every 5 to 7 years and can be grown with no fertilizers or pesticides. Additionally, bamboo flooring is durable and has a long lifetime.
Laminate Flooring Information | Help
  • Questions – Use these green laminate buying questions when shopping for laminate flooring.
  • Lifeycle – Everything you wanted to know about the lifecycle of laminate flooring.
  • Laminate and LEED – Learn how green laminate flooring can help you earn LEED points.
  • Buying Guides – Prepare to shop for laminate by reviewing our buying guides.
  • Flooring Estimator Tools – How much flooring do you need? Our estimator tools can help you calculate flooring space.
  • Installation Guide – Let our pros guide you through installing your laminate floor.
  • FAQs – Learn the answers to frequently asked questions about laminate flooring.
  • Glossary – Learn the basic definitions of common laminate flooring terms.