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Green flooring

Author: Marv Shidler
Last updated: Oct. 31, 2009

Kermit the frog is only speaking for frogs when he wails, “It isn't easy being green.” When it comes to building products, “green” is becoming an easier and easier choice. There are many types of flooring that are natural and/or renewable as well as beautiful, durable, and reasonably priced. Below you will find a description of the best earth-friendly flooring available.


Cork has been used as floor covering for the past century, but today's technology has improved its durability and maintenance. Cork flooring is made from the bark of the cork oak tree, which can be stripped of its bark every 9-14 years without ever damaging the tree.

Properties and Benefits

“Bounces back” - Cork gives under compression making it very comfortable underfoot and providing protection against marks from furniture. You can read more at the Cork Institute of America, about cork's cell structure that makes it light and flexible but strong.

Sound and heat insulator – The prism shaped cells of cork are filled with air, making it a natural insulator. Cork floors are warm and soft to the touch and will also inhibit the conduction of sound.

Hypoallergenic – Cork is a natural insect repellant, has natural anti microbial characteristics, and is resistant to mold and mildew.

Easy to maintain – Cork floors will last for decades if properly installed and maintained. Whether in the form of tiles or a floating floor installation, the cork is protected with 5 coats of cured acrylic finish. To seal the joints from dirt and moisture, after installation an additional coat of polyurethane is recommended. Regular maintenance requires only sweeping, damp mopping, and annual polishing.


Cork flooring is available in tile or planks with an approximate price of $5-$8/SF. It is an excellent choice for kitchens or bathrooms and can be installed over existing flooring.


Bamboo flooring is beautiful, durable and 2.5 times harder than maple.

Properties and Benefits

Renewable – Bamboo is a grass that matures in less than six years and can be harvested over and over again from the same plant. The type used for flooring is not a food source or habitat for pandas.

Durable – Bamboo is harder than oak and more dimensionally stable than maple, making it resistant to temperature and humidity changes.

Beautiful – The bamboo is split and milled into flat strips that are laminated under high pressure to produce planks. Vertical grain slats are laid on edge. Flat grain slats are laid face-up, 3-ply, which shows off the bamboo nodes.


Bamboo can be used where ever hardwood flooring would be appropriate. It can be purchased as solid strip, prefinished or site-finished flooring. It starts at $5 a square foot, on average.


To care for bamboo, sweep or vacuum regularly and protect high traffic areas with rugs or mats. Never damp mop but clean with a non-acidic hardwood cleaner.


If you remember real linoleum at all, it is probably in the context of the 1950's. By the 70's, it had been almost totally replaced by synthetic vinyl flooring, which was cheaper and easier to maintain. But linoleum is starting to catch on again. In fact, Armstrong has just reintroduced a line of linoleum called Marmorette in an exciting new range of colors.

Properties and Benefits

Earth-friendly – Linoleum is still made of the same materials as it was when Frederick Walton patented it in 1863: linseed oil (from flax), wood resins, cork, ground limestone, and mineral pigments.

Durable – Linoleum is extremely long-wearing because the color and construction go all the way through to the backing unlike vinyl flooring. Minor burns and scratches can be simply buffed out.

Hypoallergenic – There are no synthetic chemicals or fibers in linoleum that can aggravate allergies and it is anti static, repelling dust.


Linoleum is very good in high-traffic areas such as kitchens, playrooms, and halls. It has a clean, retro look that works well in many modern homes. Cost starts at $2 a square foot.


Linoleum is tough and durable but is more porous than vinyl, so it needs the protection of a good floor polish designed for linoleum floors. In between polishes, it can be mopped with a non-alkaline detergent specially formulated for such flooring.

Reclaimed Wood Flooring

Reclaimed wood comes from trees that have already been harvested and either used to build a structure or left at the bottom of lakes and rivers by logging operations. Much of it comes from “first growth” trees that are centuries old. Prices start from $7.50 per square foot, on average.

Properties and Benefits

Recycles an important resource – Reusing wood contributes to a sustainable society and preserves a rare resource for another generation to appreciate and use.

Stable – Reclaimed wood from old growth forests is exceptionally high quality, often from centuries old trees that produce the most clear, straight, and dense wood. If it has been used as structural timber, it has already been through many decades of seasonal expansion and contraction cycles.

Beautiful – Reclaimed woods are a source of rare, exceptionally beautiful lumber that often shows thinner growth layers and tighter grain than newly harvested wood. Old nail holes and other gouges only add visual interest to the wood. No one will ever mistake this flooring for something straight out of a factory.

Reclamation Process

Wood reclaimed from old buildings is already air-dried, but should also be kiln dried as a natural way to kill any dormant insects and to get a uniform and low moisture content. It is then milled and rated according to heartwood content, vertical grain and density.