You really like the look and feel of hardwood flooring but you want to do your bit for the environment too. What’s the solution? Choose sustainable hardwood flooring – that is, flooring made of wood that has been certified to be harvested from sustainably-managed forests and is therefore an environmentally-friendly, renewable resource.
I’m always hearing about the dangers and terrible consequences of deforestation – how can wood be an environmentally-friendly flooring material?
Wood is actually the only natural resource that is truly renewable. If it is grown and harvested correctly and managed in the appropriate fashion, it can be a sustainable resource and an environmentally-friendly material to use for flooring.
What kind of wood is sustainable?
Wood that comes from fast-growing tree species tend to be more sustainable than slow-growing ones. Thus, pine for example, would be generally more sustainable than oak. However, slow-growing species, if managed properly, can still be a sustainable resource.
Is wood from certain countries safer than others?
Forests in Europe are now protected by legislation so wood that is certified to be derived from European sources is usually a safe choice. The legislation ensures that any harvested trees are replaced, at the very least, and also enforces a limit on the annual harvest. Together with sustainable forestry management practices, these measures have encouraged European timber sources to regenerate and maintain healthy volume.
Wood from countries outside Europe, such as Africa, Asia and South America, can be more cause for concern. However, there are now international organizations which provide ongoing assessment of these forests and woodlands and offer a certification which gives purchasers of non-European wood the peace of mind that they are making an ecologically-sound choice. The best known certification scheme is run by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) – so look out for the FSC logo when considering wood from non-European sources. In addition, be especially careful about endangered timber species such as Murbau, Sapelee, Wenge, Ebony, Brazilian Mahogany and Teak, especially Burmese Teak. An up-to-date list of these can be found on the United Nations website and the Friends of the Earth website.
What should I look for when choosing sustainable hardwood flooring?
Always look for the official certification of sustainability, regardless of where the wood is derived from. Even timber derived from Europe has come from a few questionable sources so always be careful. There is supposedly illegal logging in the Siberian and Russian Far Eastern forests, for example.
Look for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo, followed by the PEFC logo, which stands for the Programme for the Endorsement of Forestry Certification. Not only do these two logos guarantee to the consumer that the timber came from sustainable sources and was replaced after it was harvested but it also guarantees that the environment and surrounding ecosystem, and the native way of life, was not harmed in the logging process.
How do I care for sustainable wood flooring?
Just like traditional hardwood flooring, sustainable wood flooring can require a bit more attention to care and maintenance. These floors have to be protected from scratching and denting, and from moisture, by specially-applied varnishes and finishes. Be careful that these do not contain high levels of VOC’s and other toxic chemicals as this would lower the environmentally-friendly status of your flooring! Be careful also that toxic adhesives are not used in installation – you may wish to consider alternative methods such as nailing wood planks down.