Question

Can you recommend a green concrete sealant and an adhesive for bamboo flooring?

Asked by Tracy
Scottsdale, AZ

I need to seal the concrete slab before I install bamboo flooring. I want to know if they even make a "green" sealant? Additionally, what does a green adhesive look like for bamboo?

Answer

Mary Cordaro

Answered by Mary Cordaro

Southern California Areas, CA

Mary Cordaro, Inc.

July 8, 2010

It’s not often that an excellent, green and healthy wood floor adhesive shows up on the market that is formaldehyde-free, isocyanate-free, glycol-free, and almost no-VOC, but I’m happy to report that for your application, 
Taylor's MS Plus Wood Floor Adhesive may be a great option.

When applied to slab on grade, it acts as a moisture inhibitor as well, so you don’t need a separate sealer. It’s also easier to apply than urethane glues. For tech support and local distributors, call 800-397-4583 or go to wftaylor.com.

First, check perimeter drainage and moisture-test the slab.

It’s imperative for any wood flooring installation, even if the slab is sealed, that the slab is dry and stays dry. So be sure to have your floor installer test your slab first for moisture vapor, per the adhesive manufacturer’s instructions on the link above, to make sure it meets the requirements for this adhesive. Given that you are in Scottsdale, AZ, the water table in your local area is probably low, but it’s still best to check.

As you are in a desert environment, and a green-minded person, you probably are not irrigating much, but in general, for slab-on-grade wood floor applications, it’s prudent to make sure you also have excellent perimeter drainage from rain and irrigation. Sealing the top side of an existing slab only goes so far, because moisture next to a slab can wick into the concrete horizontally as well. For other areas of the country or on properties where rain or irrigation is not possible to completely divert, or the water table is too high, a wood floor is not a good option overall.

Finally, if your concrete slab is new, moisture testing is also imperative, to make sure enough moisture vapor has cured out of the concrete before installing wood flooring. For tips on concrete slab and moisture prevention, including for other areas of the country where moisture in slabs may be a greater concern, the Building Science Corporation provides free articles for both homeowners and professionals.

Make sure to ventilate well during and after installation.

Bamboo can be a good green flooring option, but ventilate well with as much fresh air exchange as possible for the first few months after installation, particularly if you are chemically sensitive or have small children.

I’ve been hard-pressed to find bamboo flooring that is guaranteed to be 100% phenol and urea-formaldehyde-free, and even the best-rated bamboo floors may still emit very low levels of phenol formaldehyde when new. For the lowest formaldehyde levels, look for bamboo flooring that meets the CARB 2009 and 2012 regulations, and Europe's E1 standard, is urea-formaldehyde-free and FSC certified.

If you are chemically sensitive or have small children, it would also be prudent to ask the manufacturer if the finish is biocide-free and has a no-VOC, UV-cured, baked-on finish, so that potentially toxic glycol chemicals in the finish (which are exempt from being classified as VOCs) will have completely outgassed prior to installation.

If you are sensitive to odors, call the flooring manufacturer for a new sample before you make your final decision. Keep in mind that although aluminum oxide finishes are generally healthy, if the floor is refinished in the future, the aluminum particles from sanding may release potentially toxic levels of aluminum into the indoor environment, and so special deep-cleaning, equivalent to lead-paint remediation, may be necessary after refinishing.

 

For more information:

Read Mary Cordaro's Ask A Pro Q&A, "Is bamboo flooring with aluminum oxide finish considered a green choice?"

Tagged In: bamboo flooring, home air quality, subfloor

Do you have a question about greening your home? GreenHomeGuide invites you to Ask A Pro. Let our network of experienced green building professionals – architects, designers, contractors, electricians, energy experts, landscapers, tile & stone specialists, and more – help you find the right solution.