Ask the Flooring Expert at iFLOOR: How to Avoid "Eco-Myths" When it Comes to Flooring Choices

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iFLOOR advises environmentally conscious remodelers to consider the source of their flooring materials when buying, proposes alternatives such as mesquite hardwood; more tips for buying green flooring products and a range of other flooring topics available on iFLOOR's "Ask the Flooring Expert" blog

iFLOOR, the leading online and retail flooring company, is advising environmentally conscious remodelers to do their homework when it comes to flooring choices: not all flooring products are created equally. To avoid being influenced by "eco-myths" iFLOOR recommends that shoppers take into account the source of their flooring materials when buying and also suggests that remodelers consider alternative materials such as mesquite hardwood.

According to the experts at iFLOOR, top tips for environmentally conscious remodelers include:

1) Bamboo floors are only as green as the supplier.
Most environmentally conscious consumers are attracted to bamboo flooring because bamboo is an abundant natural grass that grows to 125 feet or more and regenerates itself without replanting. But bamboo flooring is only as green as the supplier - one must also consider what happens in the factories (mostly in China and Southeast Asia) after the bamboo is harvested. For example, it is currently standard practice for bamboo to be "naturalized" in a large vat of chlorine, so it is important to know how factories are disposing of chlorine and other chemicals. Many factories operating in countries with lower environmental oversight simply drain used chemicals into creeks and other natural water streams. Shoppers should ask vendors about their bamboo sources before buying.

2) Cork can be a sustainable flooring choice, if it comes from the right place.
Cork comes from the bark of Mediterranean oak trees and is harvested every 8-10 years over the total life span of the tree that is typically 150-200 years. These trees, which are mainly found in Portugal, Spain and parts of North Africa, provide a very sustainable supply of flooring and other cork-based products. In fact, cork used for flooring is often made from material that is not suitable for cork stoppers and would therefore otherwise be discarded.

But when it comes to the production of flooring from cork, not all sources work in an eco-friendly manner. For example, there is a major difference between the cork made in the EU versus the cork made in China. Every aspect of the process is far superior in the EU - from raw material, components, glues and core boards, to the techniques, oversight, waste management and chemical handling, quality control and ISO utilization. In fact, iFLOOR has determined that none of the factories in China produces cork at an acceptable formaldehyde level of E1 or E0. Any cork from China is E2 or higher (which is why iFLOOR does not source cork flooring from China). Remodelers seeking a true eco advantage with cork should focus on products from the EU.

3) Consider lesser-known materials such as mesquite hardwood.
One of the most compelling, yet nearly unknown, flooring options on the market today is mesquite hardwood flooring. Besides the fact that it is beautiful flooring, mesquite is a highly sustainable source of wood. Mesquite is actually a bush rather than a tree (in fact, ranchers in Texas often think of it as an annoyance). Ranchers have found that in spite of cutting, shredding, grinding, pulling and even burning this material, the mesquite is so resilient that it comes back stronger and thicker than before, which is what makes the flooring so sustainable. Throughout Texas as well as many parts of Central and South America, there are supplies of mesquite to last thousands of years even without any new growth.

4) Cars are not the only items that require emission checks.
Many shoppers are unaware that flooring can give off harmful emissions in their homes, including formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. Some flooring actually emits formaldehyde naturally, so it's not enough just to ask for formaldehyde-free products. However, buyers can make smart decisions about which products are most likely to have lower levels of emissions by making sure that their flooring has been tested by a reputable laboratory that substantiates its emissions ratings.

"We're often asked by customers about which flooring products are the most sustainable and which are the best choices for the environment, so iFLOOR wanted to share our expertise with a broader audience," said Steve Simonson, CEO of iFLOOR. "While consumers can do their part to protect the environment by keeping informed, iFLOOR is doing our part by only working with suppliers that uphold the highest environmental standards."

About iFLOOR.com's "Ask the Expert"

"Ask the Flooring Expert" is iFLOOR's new online resource for DIY projects. This interactive blog allows iFLOOR customers to post questions about any flooring topic and receive useful advice from the flooring experts at iFLOOR. Updated multiple times throughout the week with new questions, the searchable "Ask the Flooring Expert" knowledge base is expanding rapidly and fast becoming a valuable online flooring resource for DIYers.

About iFLOOR.com

Since 1998, iFLOOR.com has been the leading online and retail flooring company, with 32 local retail stores nationwide offering more than 70,000 products, including hardwood, laminate, bamboo and cork. iFLOOR.com is the largest online flooring retailer according to Internet Retailer Magazine, and was named by Inc. Magazine as one of the fastest growing private companies in the United States for the past two years. Committed to quality customer service, superior selection and friendly expert advice, iFLOOR.com enables customers to buy flooring both online and in its retail stores at a substantial savings over traditional retailers. For more information about iFLOOR.com, please visit http://www.iFLOOR.com.

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Kari Moe Straley
iFLOOR
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