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3/24/2015

carpet

I'm a clean freak, but with a husband who works on heavy equipment, a Great Dane, and two children, plenty of dirt gets tracked into my home (plus sand, snow, gravel, and grease).

This is why I use outdoor rugs to catch dirt before it comes into my house. That's the idea, anyhow! I ask my family to wipe their feet and take off their shoes before entering the house. Most of the time, they listen.

The outdoor rugs that line my garage and mud room, in turn, get filthy and need a good cleaning every now and again-a cleaning that usually goes beyond just vacuuming. Whether or not you need to hire a professional carpet cleaner depends on what your outdoor rug is made of; some are wool, cotton or natural fibers that can easily be discolored or damaged. Always check to see what your rug is made of and spot test a small area.

I clean my outdoor rugs (after sweeping and vacuuming) with a combination of eco-friendly dish soap, white vinegar and baking soda. I spot clean stains with the dish soap and then sprinkle with baking soda, spray some vinegar and then scrub with an outdoor broom.

Some stains require more scrubbing than others! When the weather is nice, I hose off my outdoor rugs, after spot cleaning, and let them dry in the sunlight. Often times, the sunlight will bleach out any stains. This is how I've always cleaned my outdoor rug, as well as those we use for car camping in the summer.

I've had great luck, but I was curious what a professional carpet cleaner would advise, so I reached out to Jeff Voorhies of Voorhies Cleaning and Restoration. Jeff's a go-to guy for all carpet cleaning and stains and he had some excellent advice for naturally cleaning outdoor rugs. He reminded me that most outdoor rugs are made of synthetic fibers, like olefin or polypropylene. And like your indoor rugs, they can be professionally cleaned or cleaned using a carpet cleaner, but if you want to go the natural route, Jeff suggests a couple of recipes and procedures:

Stain Treatment

For stains on carpet or rugs, sprinkle dry baking soda followed by vinegar and let bubble. Then, agitate this stain solution lightly with a brush. After this stain treatment has been given 15 minutes to work, it can be vacuumed out (use a Shop-Vac) or wiped away with rags.

General Carpet Cleaning

Mix 1/8 cup of baking soda per gallon of hot water. Stir well to dilute baking soda. Add this solution to a carpet cleaning machine and follow directions for cleaning and drying. This solution will act as a natural cleaner and deodorizer for your carpet.

So there you have it-an easy solution for cleaning your outdoor carpets. If you're like me and you have dirty outdoor rugs, the first days of spring are a great time to give them a good cleaning. You'll be amazed at the dirt they've collected!

Sommer Poquette, the Green and Clean Mom, writes all sorts of cleaning tips for The Home Depot. Sommer's advice for outdoor rug cleaning will come in handy as the warmer days of spring begin to settle in. View outdoor rugs available from Home Depot's Home Decorators collection.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



3/20/2015

A home must be insulated for several reasons. But speaking for efficiency, insulation helps reduce energy consumption. Even green homes must be insulated in some way, but most insulating foams are composed of petroleum – a material that's not at all eco-friendly. This creates a contradiction of sorts because it shows that even a green home can still be detrimental to the environment.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research in Germany have developed a new type of insulating foam that is much greener. The foam is actually made from wood, meaning it's much more eco-friendly in many ways, including how it’s disposed of.

How Wood Foam is Made

In order to create the foam, wood is ground into tiny particles that are so small they actually form a viscous-like base. A special type of gas is pumped into the solution, which gives it a frothy consistency. Then, the solution is allowed to harden, which researchers claim is sped up and "aided by natural substances contained in the wood."

This leaves a dry wood foam, which can be shaped to make the proper materials. The researchers have successfully turned it into rigid foam boards for use in walls and vertical positions, or flexible mats better suited for floor or ceiling use.

Professor Volker Thole of Fraunhofer, explains that the team was able to uphold industry standards with the resulting wood foam:

"We analyzed our foam products in accordance with the applicable standards for insulation materials. Results were very promising; our products scored highly in terms of their thermo-insulating and mechanical properties as well as their hygric, or moisture-related, characteristics."

Of course, the wood foam produced by the Fraunhofer team is not the only kind in existence. There are other wood- and wool-based insulation materials, but they're not what you'd call ideal. You see, these other materials can be messy, shedding fibers long after installation. Over time, they also tend to settle, decreasing in size and becoming less effective.

The Fraunhofer wood foam is explained to be more efficient, more eco-friendly and devoid of the common issues found in similar materials.

What's Next for the Fraunhofer Team?

Now that the team has perfected the creation of their foam, they’re experimenting with different types of wood to determine which is the most ideal. In addition, they're researching ways to manufacture it in larger quantities, which would allow the production process to be increased on a commercial scale.

As eco-friendly as this new material might be, it will largely depend on one thing: where the wood actually comes from. It's no secret that harvesting trees for any kind of resource is bad for the environment. If a great deal of trees must be harvested and ground to create the foam, it’s counterproductive because it renders the green aspect of the raw material null and void.

Imagine, however, if they could discern a solution that uses recycled wood or existing wood waste. It's worth noting that there are such materials currently being developed at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the University of Freiburg.

In just a few years’ time, this wood foam could become an industry standard, bringing us one step closer to a zero footprint in our green homes.

Wood foam picture by Fraunhofer.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



3/11/2015

I always become a little on edge as the winter snow pack melts and the rains transition us into spring. Although spring is one of my favorite times of year and collecting and boiling down sap to make maple syrup occupies most of my time, spring is also a worrisome time of year if you are into building earth shelter, berm, and/or underground homes. The extra water from the melting snow can pose major problems to underground and bermed structures.

Ideally, one would build a subterranean structure at the perfect time of year, which would be when everything is dry and there is no freeze-thaw scenario to deal with. Because we do not live in a perfect world, instances do happen where builders and homeowners are not able to complete the final grade of a project site before the ground freezes solid. Experience is the key to knowing when and how to redirect the spring runoff so that the water does not flood out the house.

The biggest issue with spring run-off, or melting of the snowpack as it is also known as, is that the melting snow is not able to soak into the ground because of the hard frost. The water will flow to the lowest point, which in some instances could be the front door of an earth shelter if the winter weather closed in and prevented a site from being final graded.

seeping water

I had to deal with a water issue recently, and it took some serious thought to figure out how to redirect the water without being able to use heavy equipment to break through the thick, extremely hard frost. The water was flowing slowly and had not had a chance to pool up yet. I had our homeowners send me pictures multiple times per day so that I could monitor the melting snow. In one picture, I noticed that there was water flowing in one particular corner of the project, so I cooked up an idea to redirect the water and got ready to put the plan into motion. (If you are an earth shelter builder, you should have multiple water pumps in your arsenal of tools. We are capable of pumping large amounts of water fast if we need to, in this instance, I needed to stop the water from flowing toward the front of the house, so a smaller pump is all I needed.)

After shutting down the sugar shack, loading up the truck, and packing a couple of cheese sam-bees (as our 2-1/2-year-old- calls a sandwich), I headed down to the jobsite to put my plan into motion. This is what I did:

I knew that the frost was hard and very deep into the ground. I decided that I would use a five gallon bucket and a small pump with a float switch to pump the trickling water out from that corner of the house. I basically created an outside sump pump.

bucket 1

The first real challenge was to cut a hole into the ground so that I could get most of the bucket below the surface of the ground. I had to use our hammer drill with a large concrete drill bit to drill multiple holes into the hard ground. I then switched over to a chisel bit and chiseled out the frozen ground until I could get the bucket to a depth that would allow the water to drain into it. I spent almost 2 hours and only got down to a depth of about 10 inches, so I decided to stop there. I drilled multiple holes in the bucket to allow the water to drain into the bucket. I had to pull the bucket out and drill a few holes toward the bottom of the bucket to prevent the bucket from ‘floating’ out of the hole. These lower holes allowed the water to flow into the bucket sooner and offset the pressure caused by the water that was getting under the bucket.

The 5 gallon bucket was large enough for a small submersible pump and a float switch, which is what turned the pump on and off when the water level changed inside of the bucket. It took a few tries to get the float switch adjusted properly.

meow

While I was digging the hole, I had to stopped the flowing water so that I didn’t have to battle the water that was filling up my hole that I was chipping out. I stopped the water by using bentonite clay, which is a miracle water stopper for us underground builders. Bentonite clay is the key ingredient in most cat litters. I looked for a cat litter that was all clay and baking soda with no dyes, or other ingredients. I dumped the clumping cat litter along the road where the water was flowing onto the property and it immediately stopped the flowing water and made the area smell fresh. I also lined the house’s side walk with the cat litter to help direct the water to the ‘sump pump’ in case the water level rose.

cat litter on sidewalk

The smaller pump uses a garden hose to pump the water through. The garden hose attaches to the pump and can be run wherever you want the water to go. You can only run a certain length of garden hose to get full pressure from the pump, so check the box that the pump came in and that will tell you what length hose you can run. I decided to zip strip the garden hose to the gutters on the house and run the hose to an area in the yard which was graded properly and that could hold lots of run-off water and let it seep into our French drain.

hose

The mini-sump pump idea worked like a charm! The bucket gradually fills up and the water  pumps to the back yard as planned. This sump pump will run off and on until all of the snow is melted and we can grade the front yard properly.

In the future, we may try to install a sump crock and pump before the ground freezes, but that is not a sure bet, as the pump could freeze with that set up. Most times, we have to handle the issues as we are presented with them, and if the time comes to fire up the big pumps and push lots of water, we will do that.

For now, the trickling water is handled and I am back at the farm eating cheese sam-bees and boiling down maple sap.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



3/5/2015

patio collage

(Pinterest Ready) Photo Collage by Sommer Poquette.

It's a balmy -13 degrees Fahrenheit where I am in Michigan right now, and I'm dreaming of sitting outside on my patio in warm weather with lots of sunshine. (I'm certainly dreaming, because my patio is covered in snow and ice).

To get me through the cold and very long winter months, I like to make plans for spring and begin thinking of ideas for my garden, my yard and how I will decorate and make my patio into the perfect outdoor living space. I spend so much time during the winter cooped up that when spring finally hits, I like to be outside as much as possible, soaking up the sunshine.

My first priority this spring is to decorate my patio and make it even homier. I like to sit outside and read or have a glass of wine at night, watch my children play in the yard and even work from outside and enjoy the fresh air. I have so many items in my garage, attic or basement that could be upcycled and used to decorate, which will save me money but also give me the charming look I'm going for.

For example, I have an old wheelbarrow that I could use to plant flowers in, or maybe my daughter could use it for a fairy garden. She could play and I could sip my wine and enjoy watching her use her imagination. That sounds blissful to me! I have several old or broken birdfeeders that just need some TLC. I could easily give these a new coat of paint and spruce them up, versus buying new ones. And there's always pallets — we have a few of those at my husband's work that I could use for creating outdoor furniture, tables, planters and a dozen other projects from.

When it comes to patio décor, the sky's the limit. There are several unique ways to reuse old items from around the house, or something that you find at a flea market or garage sale. If you're looking for eco-friendly patio décor, here are some of my favorite ideas that I'm looking to utilize for my own patio this year. If only the snow would melt and the warm weather would come my way!

1. Coffee Can Lanterns from Design Sponge
2. Rhubarb Leaf Stepping Stone from Garden Web
3. Terracotta Pot Table from Dukes & Duchesses
4. Use an Old Rake to Hang Garden Tools
5. Upcycled Tire Planters from Mr. Kate
6. Rain Boot Planters from Rosy Posy
7. Colander Planters from Bonnie Plants
8. Envirotile from Home Depot
9. Recycled Bottle Bird Feeder from Centsational Girl
10. Cast iron bathtub to Chic Outdoor Sofa from One Kreiger Chick
11. DIY Pallet Table from Far Out Flora
12. Stools from Planters from Adventures in Creating
13. Repurposed Crate Storage Table from Simplicity in the South
14. Upcylced Wheelbarrow Fire Pit from Miss Effie's Diary
15. Upcylced Tea Cup Bird Feeders from Jerzi Mom
16. DIY Outdoor Chandelier from Oh So Lovely
17. Paint Can Planters from HGTV
18. Trex Outdoor Patio Swing from The Home Depot
19. Repurposed Fire Pit from Top This Top That
20. Stacked Stone Bird Baths from Home Talk
21. Mosaic Tile Bird Bath Using Recycled DVDs from Me and My DIY
22. Seashell Wind Chime from Thrifty Fun
23. Outdoor Tuna Can Lantern from In My Own Style

What ideas do you have for upcycling old items for your outdoor space?

Sommer Poquette is a green-and-clean mom blogger who writes about her outdoor design ideas for The Home Depot. Sommer's enthusiasm for being outdoors inspires her DIY patio ideas. For Home Depot's wide selection of patio furniture that might be of interest for your home, you can visit the company's website.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



2/25/2015

Living in Michigan, I'm used to the cold. I'm prepared each October when it's time to turn the heat back on. Still, we avoid it for as long as possible, because the cost of heating a home is not cheap. In fact, propane is more than $2.00 a gallon and unless you use alternative methods to heat your home, you'll spend thousands each year to stay warm.

Cost is a primary reason we strive to lower our heating bill and save energy, however possible. One way to do this is through installing the right window treatments. Considering that windows can be responsible for up to 40 percent of heat loss in a home, it's smart to fully consider the ways to cut that percentage and not waste heat that reaches the outdoors.

Before actually choosing window treatments, do an energy audit to access where you have the most air leaking from; this helps to determine which windows will need the most attention. We purchased an energy audit IR thermometer and were able to quickly see the temperature rating and then compare our efforts in winterizing our home. It helped for us to see the difference that keeping blinds closed and adding thermal drapes.

Next, make sure you've caulked and winterized your windows. This is the most important step in avoiding any loss of heat. Make sure you've installed storm windows, inspected for leaks and caulked where necessary.

Now that you've taken these steps, here are some tips and ideas for choosing window treatments specifically for saving energy in your home:

1. Consider adding a clear winterizing film on the interior of your window. This helps to avoid any loss of heat, and you can still see through your window if installed correctly. It's a budget-friendly way to conserve energy without spending money for new windows.

solar shades 

2. If you choose window drapes, consider drapes that are made to block out the sunlight and trap heat indoors. These are often made of a heavy fabric, with an edging or tab that goes beyond the window frame to block air from leaving the side of the window. They're specifically made to insulate your home and protect from heat loss during the winter and heat gain during the hot summer months. You'll find a variety of colors and styles, including thermal drapes, which are often more expensive but well worth the cost to save you money in the long run. They're typically machine-washable for easy cleaning, which is a bonus, too!

3. Consider making your own quilted window drapes. If you're the type of person that likes to take on a project, making your own heavy quilted window coverings is a fun project with huge dividends. Here's another DIY option for making thermal curtains. The bonus to making your own is that you can reuse quilts and fabric that you have at home, or pick out fabric and material that matches your home décor.

wooden blinds 

4. Choose heavy wooden blinds. Heavy wooden blinds are harder to clean but they do a good job (when kept closed) at keeping your heat indoors. When paired with clear winterizing film and/or thermal drapes, you have an even better energy saving option. We like the look of wood blinds and use them in our own home.

5. Consider foam board insulation for the exterior of infrequently used windows. If you have a window that you don't necessarily look out of often, foam board on outside can form a strong protective barrier to keep cold out and heat in.

We do this at our own home, using R-7.5 foam board that is 1-1/2 inches think. The board is not pretty, but when we used our IR thermometer we noticed a 10-degree Fahrenheit increase in temperature. It's worth the ugly board on windows we don't look out of often. I don't recommend doing this on the road-facing side of your home, as it certainly doesn't have curb appeal.

New windows aren't cheap, so if you don't have the budget to replace old windows, definitely consider window treatments that will help insulate your home during the winter and summer months. Hopefully these tips will help you choose the right window treatments for your home to save energy and cut costs. Stay warm this winter!

Photos by Sommer Poquette

Sommer Poquette is a popular mom blogger who focuses on green home DIY for The Home Depot. Sommer's energy-saving window treatment tips are designed to help you cut down on energy costs with the current windows you have installed. For a broad selection of window treatments, including those discussed by Sommer, you can visit Home Depot's website.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



2/25/2015

ice

Thank you for coming back for the conclusion of Icicles! In Part 1, I mentioned that I had found the source of the heat that was causing the massive ice buildup on this house in Michigan. I also presented three options to fix this problem. If you have not guessed yet, option three was the best fit for this project.

Not many people know about nail based panels, which are available through our structural insulated panel (SIP) supplier. Nail based panels are designed to be installed on the top of an existing roof deck and are available in a number of thicknesses. Because the house that we were fixing already had good insulation and ventilation, we chose a 5½-inch thick foam nail based panels to stop the heat loss through the existing roof deck.

panel 1

There was quite a difference in costs for the three different scenarios that I had come up with to stop the ice build up on the roof. When we sat down and went over the pricing, the path of least resistance and damage to the existing finishes inside the house was the deciding factor. With a nail based panel, the only labor cost we would have is installing the panels. There would be no need for a massive cleanup effort like there would be if we attacked this issue from the inside of the house. The cost of the nail based panels are about $2.65 per square foot which is more expensive than spray foam but required minimal effort versus what we would have to do to prep the attic area for spray foam. The SIP company wanted $450 to deliver the panels to the jobsite, but The Rev opted to go get the panels with his trailer to cut down on costs on this project. The panels are 4 feet by 8 feet, just like a sheet of plywood.

Remember, that the original goal was to put a metal roof on this house, so the nail based panels gave us a great setup for the new metal roof! It was a no brainer to us; all we had to do was figure out how we were going to do the work four stories above the ground.

The Process, The Fix

I am going to tell you how we fixed this house. This should not be attempted by anyone unless they know what they are doing and have proper fall protection and safety gear. The height of this project was staggering and all necessary safety precautions were taken.

The first step in any project is to make sure everything that you are going to use is staged properly. Moving product around takes time and if you have built up the nerve to work ‘in the clouds’, you want to make sure that you are spending that time working and not digging product out of the snow.

I really wanted to do this fix in the dead of our Michigan winter so that we could see the results immediately, normally, it would be nicer to do roof work during any other time of the year than winter. We started the install of the nail based panels by first cutting the existing drip edge off the roof so that we could have a flush roof edge to flush the nail based panels off of. We left the existing shingles on the roof and any flashing in place because the foam of the panels presses nicely around all the shingles and flashing when we screw the panels down.

When you order the nail based panels, a decent drawing of the exact size of the roof is required so that you end up with the correct amount of panels. They normally do not send out an entire roof layout, just a layout of how a panel should be set. For us, we determined that we would have 3-inch strips left once we laid the panels over the entire roof surface. From experience, we knew that we would put those “rippers” in between full panels and not at the edge of the roof. We need the support of the entire panel for when we put the 2x6 sub-fascia boards into the edges of the nail based panels.

panel 2

We started on the lower edge of the roof with our first panel. Like anything else, we have to make sure that this panel is set properly because the rest of the roof layout depends on it. This also happens to be the toughest panel to set, because you are hanging over the edge of the roof. We take the extra time to make sure that this first panel is true to the roof lines, and once that panel is in place, we screw it down with the long screws and washers that come with the panels.

We foam between each panel and have found through experience that there is no need to offset the panels. There is the exact same amount of ‘exposure’ whether you offset the panels or not. This exposure is basically where the panels come together. The panels go down quickly and we had the entire roof of panels installed in just a few hours.

Once all of the panels are set and securely screwed down to the existing roof, we install the 2-by-6 sub-fascia around the perimeter of the roof by insetting the board into the grooved edges of the nail based panels. We learned to rip about 1/4-inch off of the 2-by-6 so that we do not have to fight with the board while up in the air. The 5-1/4-inch ‘ripped’ boards slide in the slots without a fight and then we staple and nail them in securely.

snow blow

We finished this work on an evening that we got about 3 inches of snow. The first thing we noticed when we came in that next morning is that the panels were evenly covered in snow. The existing roof under the panels never had an even blanket of snow on it; the roof was losing so much heat, that it never gave snow a chance to build up on it. We knew that we had fixed the heat loss problem; now all we had to do was blow the snow off and finish the roof.

fascia

We bent our own fascia metal using a thick gauge 12 inch coil stock and a siding breaking. We bent the metal so that there was a 3/4-inch reveal on the bottom and 11-1/4-inch face. Once installed, this fascia not only made the edges of the old and new roof look great, it protected that edge from the elements. With the new, crisp fascia installed, we could then start installing the metal roof and metal roof trims.

metal panel

The metal roof panels were thirty two feet long and getting them up onto the upper roof was a real challenge. Piece by piece, we installed the metal roof panels and metal roof trims until we were done. The last metal roof panel and edge trim required extra help from a local tree service company who were able to reach the top corner of the roof.

equipment

We finished the roof just in time for a six inch snow fall. We were all excited to see that there was an even blanket of snow on the new roof and not one icicle! Mission accomplished!

 snow


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



2/23/2015

When choosing new flooring, watch your step. You'll often hear the phrase, “Kitchens and baths sell homes” and that's mostly true. But in my experience as a northern Virginia Realtor, it’s not the whole picture. Yes an ugly, outdated kitchen will be a turn off for many buyers. But so will flooring. When a buyer first walks up to a home, curb appeal is the first thing they see. But flooring is the second. Imagine you open up the door and you look down to watch your step coming into the home. What’s the first thing you see? Is it a beautiful wood floor or neutral colored carpet? Or is it a linoleum from the 1970s? Yikes! Before that buyer has even made it to the kitchen or bathroom, they’ve already started thinking about how much money, time, and effort it will take to replace the flooring that they cannot stand. The color and the type can be a turn off to potential buyers, so choose wisely. And when you are trying to remodel or build a sustainable home, choose even more wisely.

There are really two things to think about when choosing your floor: your home’s location (region) and your sustainable options.

Thinking regionally matters a whole lot. If your home is in the Northeast, a home with tile throughout is not common and will not appeal to the majority of buyers for instance. Instead, the buyers that see your home will be thinking about all the negatives of replacing all or most of the flooring in a home. If you don’t know what’s common in your region, then here’s a pretty quick homework assignment. Go to any one of the major real estate websites. Type in your city or state to see the homes that are currently on the market. Likely the second or third photo in, you will see the types of flooring used throughout the home and once you’ve seen a common theme of flooring choices; tile, carpet, or wood, you get the idea of what’s considered common in your location. But don’t discount the appeal of alternative choices like concrete, cork, or recycled tile. These choices could be close enough to the more common flooring options out there, but a much more sustainable option.

Thinking regionally also matters to the materials sourced. If material you choose is considered sustainable (recycled, reclaimed, easily renewable resource for example), but it is sourced and delivered from another part of the world, then you have to consider the products overall sustainability qualities. Does it have a large carbon foot because of where it was sourced, manufactured and then delivered? Or if it was sourced from another country, at least be sure that it was part of a sustainably managed forest. Does its packaging adhere to the overall sustainability of a product? Getting this detailed can take a lot of time and effort. So some companies are starting to use terms like “cradle to grave” sustainable.

In my home, I chose 2 sustainable flooring products; one I love and one that I am not so fond of. So here’s my review of those. I also want to mention that I have no brand affiliation and there are many companies with similar products.

One of my favorite companies trying to achieve a “cradle to grave” sustainable flooring product is FLOR, which produces carpet tiles. “At FLOR, environmental consciousness is built into every sourcing, design and production decision we make – like manufacturing over 95 percent of our product line in the USA; offering a Return & Recycle Program to turn old FLOR into new products; and, transitioning our entire collection to 100 percent recycled fiber.”

FLOR
Photo by FLOR

But not only does FlOR promote a cradle to grave product, in place of regular carpet, carpet tiles can drastically reduce the amount of carpet waste that ends up in landfills. And, not to mention, they’ve been a lifesaver in my home. Shortly after buying my home, DC had one of its all-to-common floods. The basement carpet that was installed prior to my purchasing the home — trashed. To the street and into the landfill the large roll of carpet went. Instead of replacing the flooring with traditional carpet again, I choose carpet tiles. A few years later another storm came through and the few carpet tiles that got wet were quickly removed, set outside to dry, and repositioned, as good as new. These carpet tiles have lasted for over a decade with many storms, some water leaks, and lots of muddy footprints and are still in great shape, especially since it was a breeze to replace just a few carpet tiles for new ones. For me, the up-front cost was actually cheaper than replacing what could have been repeated carpet installation because of water or regular wear and tear.

On the other hand, not all sustainable flooring options are a home run. One of the hardest decisions I had to make in my sustainable remodel was the flooring in the living areas of the house. Because the home is located in the northeast, wood flooring was the most obvious choice, although I considered alternatives like cork too. But nonetheless I insisted on a sustainable option and finally found a perfect match with pre-finished walnut engineered wood floors. Engineered wood floors are a regionally common flooring choice (wood), a sustainable product (uses less wood per square foot than traditional hardwood flooring) and aesthetically pleasing for my colonial style home. So, you might think that I would use this product again for my future home… Nope. Even though engineered wood floors were touted as very durable when I went to the showroom to browse the options, they have been the biggest cause of stress in my entire home.

flooring 

We live in our home, it’s not a showroom. So what does that mean? That means my small dogs like to run and play with their toys in the home. After gardening or running, I come inside with my shoes to grab a quick drink from the fridge. And if you read my last blog, you’ll know that we enjoy entertaining (my husband makes a very good craft cocktail), which means I have some very nice parties where high-heeled shoes make an appearance. My floors definitely look like they’ve been through it all. Even sliding my bar stool back created scratches in the floor that really stand out. Well how are you supposed to sit in a chair without moving it first? These floors are beautiful, but the stress I’ve had since the first day of owning them and seeing that first scratch across the floor has made me think, “I’ll never use these again.” Engineered floors can be refinished, but only a couple of times since the top wood layer is very thin. And to be fair, I think that engineered floors, depending on the type of wood used, brands and so on, can have varying strengths and durability. So, just do some homework and read reviews before falling in love with this product.

But no matter what flooring you choose, choose wisely and choose sustainably.

The below are additional suggestions to help give you more information and options on sustainable flooring.

Sustainable Wood Flooring:

Reclaimed wood flooring.

Bamboo: This product tends to be sourced in China, which should be considered in its overall sustainability.

EcoTimber can bring positive change to the management of forest ecosystems worldwide by offering wood products from 3rd party independently audited sustainably managed forests and recycled and rapidly renewable bamboo and cork products.

cork 

Cork: Comes now in many designs and colors.

Lumber Liquidators: Naturally cushioned, cork floors are produced by peeling away the bark without destroying the tree. Better yet, cork is also a great sound and thermal insulator.

Sustainable Carpet:

Mohawk Flooring: Recycles Bottles into Beautiful Carpet

Mohawk 

FLOR carpet tiles: uses recycled and renewable materials in the carpet and has a recycling program for used tiles, and the product itself is uniquely designed to have less waste by allowing homeowners to replace worn or stained tiles individually, instead of replacing a whole room. Carpet tiles are more costly than regular carpet, for sure. But they are inherently longer lasting. Replace one or a few tiles and not the whole room.

Sustainable Tile:

Glass Tile from Fireclay

Bedrock Industries Floor Tiles

Terra Green Ceramics

Sustainable Laminate:

Two Armstrong Commercial Laminate collections – Armstrong Premium and Premium Lustre – contain 14 percent rapidly renewable resources in the form of eucalyptus and contribute to the MR4.0 LEED rating system.

laminate
Photo by Armstrong


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