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Laminate Flooring Lifecycle

The lifecycle of laminate flooring includes some elements that are eco–friendly, such as the ability to be made with recycled content and/or Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified content and other elements that are not entirely green, such as the common use of formaldehyde and petroleum–based products and energy–intensive manufacturing processes. Other factors about laminate flooring's lifecycle that should be taken into account include the harvesting and manufacturing processes, transportation of the finished laminate product, installation materials and methods, as well as care and maintenance products used on your floors.

You can use this section to learn more about the complete lifecycle of laminate floors and learn about when laminate flooring is an eco–friendly green floor covering and when it is not.

Featured Laminate Products

Acquiring Resources for Laminate Flooring

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

Green laminate floors are often made using a large percentage of recycled materials (generally post–industrial wood products such as wood saw dust and trimmings, paper, and agricultural materials). This minimizes the need for new raw materials, whose harvesting often depletes our natural resources.

When new resources are harvested, many environmentally conscious laminate manufacturers do so using sustainable and responsible methods. For example, they often create "forest management plans" in which they do not clear entire forests; instead they selectively harvest only a portion of trees, do not use pesticides, and also replant new trees to replace what is harvested. For more information on responsibly managed forests, visit the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), an organization dedicated to sustainable forestry.

Manufacturing of Laminate Flooring

Factory illustration representing the manufacturing process

When it comes to manufacturing laminate flooring, there are several factors that can make or break the eco–friendliness, or greenness, of a particular floor. For floors to be considered green, the manufacturing process should have no negative environmental impacts or negative impacts on one's health. This can be a very difficult objective to master as there are many factors to consider.

For example, the manufacturing of a laminate floor should not emit large amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), not contribute to ozone depletion or global warming, and not create unrecyclable waste. Additionally, water, energy, and resources should be used resourcefully (i.e. collecting rainwater and using wind–power or waste–to energy) and used in a sustainable and responsible manner.

When laminate manufacturers have taken these steps to make their flooring "greener", they are often eager to tell the world about it, as they should be, and will list this information on their website and in product literature. Spend some time researching manufacturers and what steps they have taken towards promoting environmental responsibility before making your green laminate purchase.

Transportation of Laminate Flooring

Truck illustration representing the regional transportation of product

Laminate floors were introduced to the market in 1984 by a Swedish company called Pergo. Much of the laminate flooring used in the world is still produced in Europe resulting in lengthy shipping when sold in the U.S. Longer transportation distances result in more fuel usage, which not only increases our dependence on petroleum, but contributes to pollution and global warming.

There are several laminate flooring manufacturers that use locally sourced materials and manufacturer their products here in the U.S. as well as other areas worldwide. For the most eco–friendly laminate floors, choose those that are sourced and manufactured locally.

Installation of Laminate Flooring

Illustration
of tools representing installation of floor product

Laminate floors are installed over an underlayment, commonly made of foam, rubber, or cork, and are installed by either a glueless, glued or pre–glued installation method. There are also laminate flooring installations that come with an underlayment pre–attached which reduces the installation time. Laminate floors are not attached to the subfloor but allowed to "float" above it, expanding and contracting with climate conditions. Some products are glued together, while others are glueless and simply snap or click together.

When it comes to eco–friendly laminate installations, a glueless installation is preferred for two main reasons: It is easier to install and requires shorter labor times than a glue–down installation, and also because it eliminates the need for glues, which are often urethane based, contain latex, and can off–gas harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs). When a glueless installation is not possible for your green laminate floor, you can sometimes choose eco–friendly glues such as those that meet E1 or E0 standards (European standards for formaldehyde content) for those deemed to emit low VOCs.

Care and Maintenance of Laminate Flooring

Earth
image representing the Care and Maintenance of the environment

Laminate floor care is pretty basic. Daily sweeping and damp mopping with a little water will often keep your floors looking fresh and clean. When using additional products to clean laminates or maintain their beauty, many of these products can emit harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs). To avoid endangering your health chose products that do not have negative effects on indoor air quality (IAQ) or the environment. This includes laminate cleaning products that are deemed low volatile organic compounds (low VOCs) and those that are biodegradable. For information on how to properly clean and maintain laminate floors, visit FindAnyFloor's section on Laminate Floor Care.

Disposal, Reuse, or Recycling of Laminate Flooring

Green Recycle Symbol
representing reuse and recycling

At the end of a laminate floor's lifetime, it can be disposed of in a landfill, where some of the layers may biodegrade and others will not, or it can be reused or recycled. Recycled laminate is often burned as waste–to–energy, depending on whether or not it contains materials that are environmentally safe for incineration. Some local recycling facilities may be able to recycle your old flooring, though you may have to pay a fee to do so.

Laminate floors that are in decent condition with no water damage and no structural issues can often be safely removed and reused. Local thrift shops or second chance stores, community centers, and other local organizations are often grateful for donations of usable flooring. In addition, you may be able to sell laminate flooring that is in good condition to an architectural salvage warehouse or online using websites such as eBay or craigslist. Or, better yet, you can use your old planks and tiles for a variety of crafty DIY projects. Visit this article titled Recycle Your Laminate Flooring at Home for creative ideas on recycling leftover planks and tiles into other usable items.

For more information and for help buying eco–friendly green laminate floors, visit FindAnyFloor's section on Green Laminate Flooring – Buying Questions.


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