Question

Is Quick Step laminate a good green choice for flooring? I prefer Marmoleum but it is too expensive.

Asked by Liz
Williamstown, NJ

All the healthy flooring is so expensive. Do you have any suggesions.

Answer

Kirsten Flynn

Answered by Kirsten Flynn

Palo Alto, CA

Sustainable Home

September 5, 2012

Hi Liz,

I think there are healthy floors in most price ranges, but you have to know what you are looking for.

Or to be more accurate, you need to know what you want to avoid. I often find it is useful to break a selected material down into its component parts, and then assure myself that there are no health issues.

Layered like a sandwich

So a laminate floor is made up of layers, like a sandwich. 

  • The layer you see is an image of wood. It is usually paper, protected with a resin.
  • This layer is mounted on a substrate of either MDF or HDF (Medium density fiber board or High density fiber board) These structural boards are made to click together at the ends and sides.
  • When fully installed the floor is a floating floor, meaning that the individual boards are all linked to each other, but not glued or nailed to the sub floor.
  • Base boards, installed above the floating floor around the perimeter, help create a finished edge to the room, and anchor the floor in place.
  • These click installation floating floors have the advantage of avoiding adhesives for installation.

Floating floors don't require adhesives

Sheet products, such as Marmoleum or sheet rubber flooring are glued to the sub floor. The adhesives used for this can contain as much as 150 grams per liter of VOC's (Volatile organic compounds), and still be low VOC according to the Green Seal standard.

An installation method that does not use adhesives eliminates one source of VOCs in your home.

Looking at the layers in Quick Step

In the image layer of your flooring, my primary concern would be that the top not be a vinyl layer protecting the wood image. Resin coatings cure into an inert hard layer, while vinyl tends to have plasticizers that are biologically available to the home's occupants. I would avoid vinyl.

The MDF board that is under the image layer could contain Formaldehydes, or other Aldehydes chemicals in the glues that hold the wood fiber together in a plank. This class of chemicals have strong health concerns and should be avoided. The business where you are purchasing your flooring should be able to tell you if your selected product contains no added Formaldehyde.

  • The QuickStep web site had information about their fiber sources, and they use post industrial recycled fiber content. This means that they use wood that was waste from another manufacturing process.
  • They also comply with the CARB (California Air Resources Board) regulations on the amount of formaldehyde allowed in board products.
  • However this regulation only applies to the MDF board, not to the completed flooring assembly.
  • So the board might be compliant, but the laminate could be attached to the board with adhesives containing formaldehyde or other VOC's.

Check GreenGuard

For this reason, I would tend to favor products that are GreenGuard certified. This certification tests products for their effect on indoor air quality, and many floorings are currently GreenGuard certified.

The VOCs, such as formaldehyde, that might be brought into your home when you install new flooring can seriously affect your health. To quote the EPA, "Eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches, loss of coordination, nausea; damage to liver, kidney, and central nervous system. Some organics can cause cancer in animals; some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans." 

For this reason, I consider a moderate additional cost, perhaps $1-2 dollars a square foot for flooring, to be a very reasonable investment in my clients health and future. Because of the increased demand for green products, you might find that there is no additional cost. However, it is good to do your research, and to be informed on what the issues are with the material you are considering. 

Good luck with your search for flooring! 

 

Kirsten Flynn

Designer, Sustainable Home

Sustainablehome.com 

Tagged In: linoleum

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