shutterstock_72630901If you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about or working with building materials, you may never have heard the term Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) before. But chances are, you have been affected by them whether you know it or not. Volatile organic compounds are chemicals released from building materials which can cause irritation to people with allergies or other sensitivities, and there are many flooring materials out there which off-gas VOCs. But don’t let that scare you! As long as you have experts like the design team at Floor Coverings International of Vancouver and Portland on your side, you’ll be an informed consumer who knows what to consider when thinking about VOCs and your floors.


Cork Flooring


When it comes to flooring options that emit little to no VOCs, natural is the name of the game. Most chemicals that off-gas volatile organic compounds are those that are used in the manufacture of synthetic materials such as nylon or laminate, and include substances such as formaldehyde, acetone, and fossil fuels like petroleum. Cork is an excellent floor covering which has very low levels of off-gassing. Cork flooring is made from the bark of the cork oak, which is sustainably harvested throughout the Mediterranean, although primarily in Portugal. The manufacturing process of cork flooring also uses fairly low levels of chemicals and VOCs, as opposed to other ecofriendly flooring options such as bamboo, which often sees manufacturers using formaldehyde in the fusion part of manufacturing.


Wool Carpeting


Wool is another excellent, natural floor covering. While it is pricier than some synthetic carpet materials such as nylon or olefin, wool carpeting is one of the greenest floor coverings. Wool is a renewable resource, and the manufacturing process by which it is turned into carpet uses very few chemicals. In fact, it takes only a third of the energy needed to manufacture synthetic carpet materials in order to manufacture wool carpeting. Wool carpeting has other advantages as well. Wool is very absorbent so it acts as a natural humidifier, regulating the moisture levels in your room. Wool is also a natural flame retardant, and is completely hypoallergenic. This means that wool carpeting is the ideal floor covering for people who struggle with allergies.


Ceramic Tile Flooring


Ceramic tile flooring is another excellent, natural material which is low in VOC emissions. Ceramic is inert, and is an incredibly durable flooring material; you only have to look to ancient mosaics from the classical era to know that your ceramic tile flooring will last a lifetime, while being easy on your air quality. Ceramic tile flooring is an excellent choice for rooms such as bathrooms or kitchens since it is water resistant and easy to clean, unlike more temperamental flooring options such as hardwood flooring. You have plenty of versatility available with ceramic tile, which offers a huge array of colors and patterns that are sure to match any design aesthetic.


Linoleum Flooring


Linoleum isn’t typically the first floor covering that comes to mind when one thinks of ecofriendly flooring options, but that’s only because generally what people are thinking of is vinyl flooring. Vinyl and linoleum are very different though. Whereas Vinyl is a synthetic material that has high levels of VOC emissions, Linoleum is a natural material that is clinically nontoxic. Linoleum is made from solidified linseed oil mixed with natural materials such as cork dust and pine resin. Linseed oil is derived from flax, which is a renewable resource harvested throughout Canada. Linoleum is inexpensive, and will last nearly twice as long as vinyl flooring.


Now that you know which floor coverings are likely to bring the best air quality to your home, be sure to call Floor Coverings International of Vancouver and Portland for a free, in-home consultation today!


Photo: Paul Maguire