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How to Choose and Safely Install Wood Flooring

How to Choose and Safely Install Wood Flooring

One of our readers recently asked us about how to choose safe wood flooring and how to install it safely.

“We are considering changing the flooring to hardwood instead of carpet. From the little research I did, the cork floor might be more eco-friendly, but I do not like the look and colors of cork. So I have opted for engineered hardwood from an eco-friendly company like Kahr’s or Green building supply. Is that a good choice? Any brands you would recommend?

Also, what should I look for in a safe brand (which would be formaldehyde free?) Some green standard?? For installation of the wood floor, I was considering getting water based glue which has low VOC’s. Is that good? Any safe brand adhesive you suggest?”

We know how difficult it can be during a remodeling project to find safe and healthy materials. Below are our recommendations for purchasing safe wood flooring as well as how to install wood flooring without creating indoor air quality problems.

Safe Wood Flooring

Before we talk about engineered wood flooring, I just want to cover a few topics about cork and laminate wood floors.

Although cork floors are eco-friendly, they do have some drawbacks. Many require glue down applications, and the glues can be a problem. Also, cork is not as durable and can’t be refinished. Based on these considerations and the fact that you didn’t like the look, you’re probably better off with engineered wood floors.

It appears that you are not considering laminate wood floors. As you’re probably aware, some laminate wood floors can be very toxic, but not all are bad. This article gives good advice on how to find safer laminate wood flooring

What to Look for When Buying Engineered Wood Flooring

Here’s what to look for in engineered wood flooring.

Engineered floors are a combination of a solid hardwood top glued to a plywood base. The thicker the hardwood top, the more time the floor can be sanded and refinished. A thicker hardwood top increases the longevity of the floor.

  • Check a cross section of the engineered floor to ensure that you are getting at least ¼” of solid wood and not a laminated floor
  • Find out what type of glue was used. Water-based, non-toxic glues are best. Kahrs, EcoTimber, and other companies use non-toxic glues
  • Look for the Green Guard certification which ensures that the flooring passes indoor air quality requirements
    • Shaw & Armstrong have some Green Guard certified engineered wood floors 

How to Safely Install Engineered Wood Floors

Ideally, you should use nails rather than glue because as you know, glue can release dangerous toxins. If you have to use glue, use Zero VOC adhesives like Bostick’s TKO or EcoTimber Healthy Bond.

If you are installing the floor over concrete, you can float the floor to avoid glue. Check to see if your floor is designed for a floating application.

Always cut the wood floor outside!

Why? Because wood dust can be a carcinogen.

If you need to fill floor cracks, try one of these products:

  • Custom Brand Non-Sanded Grout
  • AFM Brand Caulk
  • Plaster of Paris (100% gypsum)
  • Murco Joint Compound (made of starch)
  • Portland Cement

When installing baseboards and quarter rounds, use nails only without adhesives. If you’re using pine, then paint or seal all sides prior to installation using no VOC paint or no VOC sealant. Using oil based paint? Then you’ll have to use a low VOC paint

Armed with the facts, you can now purchase safe wood flooring. And, you can install it without worries.

Send Us Your Questions – Ask Pure Living Space

Do you have any questions about creating a pure living space in your home? Send them to Ask Pure Living Space. We’ll do the research for you!