Sustainable and Economic Flooring for Free: A Case Study

In the quest to live a sustainable life the three key words are reduce, reuse and recycle and flooring, whether it’s carpet or solid flooring like wood, tiles or laminate, should be a prime candidate for reuse and recycling at least. We spoke to Jim Derry in North Yorkshire who has managed to replace almost all of the flooring in their house by reusing flooring and the best part is that it’s usually free.

Difficulty Staying Comfortable

“We have three main problems in this house,” he said. “The first is that it’s very cold, largely because it’s an old house and the insulation and draught-proofing is very poor. The second is that most of the flooring is damaged, stained or frayed. And the third problem makes it very difficult for us to do anything about it all.”

So what is that third problem? “We are tenants, we don’t own the house,” Jim explained. “The landlords will replace or repair things that are broken, but they won’t do it until things are absolutely on their last legs. As an example, they don’t consider two cigarette burns in the middle of the bathroom lino as good enough reason to replace it.”

Investing in Someone Else’s’ Property

As the house isn’t their’s, the Derry family are reluctant to invest much money on the house, but it was very run down, dirty and untidy when they moved in. Initially they restricted themselves to painting and decorating, spending a couple of hundred pounds on cheap curtains and blinds.

“It is crazy spending any money on someone else’s house, to be honest,” said Jim, “but we’re not prepared to live with curtains that are dirty and won’t come clean so we’ve just replaced them as cheaply as possible. And we accept that if we want different colours on the walls, ceilings and woodwork, then that’s down to us, even if it’s more because the paint is peeling and filthy rather than not liking the colour.”

Flooring Hassles

“But carpets and flooring are just too expensive for us to replace,” he continued. “Every single room apart from the lounge and dining room, which was carpeted by one of the last tenants, and the large bedroom at the top of the house, has flooring that is just revolting.”

“The carpet in other rooms is frayed, not stuck down properly and has stains that won’t come out no matter how hard we scrub. The hard flooring is all old lino that is torn and cut. To hide the cigarette burns in the bathroom we just put the bath mat over them.”

Rather than do nothing about it the Derry family decided to look for sources of old or unwanted flooring that they could use in their house. They had already joined freecycle, the email group where local people offer unwanted items to keep them out of the landfill, and they found other sources too.

Carpet Fitter Helped Out

“I happened to already know the previous tenant who put the carpet in the lounge and dining room, he’s a carpet fitter so that’s why he’d done it. He is now charged if he takes old carpet to the landfill and has to pass that charge onto his customers.”

Jim gave him a list of what they were looking for and every time he was replacing carpet that was still in good condition, he bought it to the Derry’s rather than taking it to the tip. This also meant he could avoid the landfill charges, allowing him to offer lower prices to his customers.

Freecycle Delivers the Goods

Freecycle was a better source for hard flooring though it requires patience and somewhere to store the items you get until you have everything you need.

“Lino’s no good on freecycle,” Jim said, “as it gets damaged coming up, but laminate flooring comes on every now and then. It will have some damage or wear, that’s why people are offering it, but they don’t offer rubbish, that’s pointless, there always some good bits in it.

They got some beech laminate that was flood damaged, but it had only affected one corner of the room, which was 4×3 metres. That delivered more than enough to pick out the good bits and use it for the bathroom, which is just over half that size. The real prize was the kitchen flooring.

Quality Kitchen Flooring

“This bloke in a nearby village was offering nine pieces of oak flooring, which I thought wouldn’t be enough for any of our rooms. But he put the dimensions in the email and I worked out there’d be just enough for the kitchen.”

“Thing is,” Jim said, “he put the brand name down as well, so I looked it up on the internet and nearly fell off my chair. It was over £500 worth!”

So the kitchen now looks pretty good. “It’s solid oak flooring strips,” Jim said, “not laminate, so it will last well and look good as it ages. I can’t believe it, and it really shows the value of freecycle.”