Solid vs Engineered Flooring

Solid Wood Flooring is the term for individual pieces of wood milled to a tongue-and-groove profile, typically ¾” thick. It is available with a factory-applied finish, or as an unfinished floor (requiring jobsite sanding and finishing). The use of prefinished flooring is popular because it avoids the delays and mess of a sand-in-place floor, and because the new generation of factory-applied finishes is considered superior and longer-lasting. Solid wood flooring offers the most choices in specie, grade and dimension.

Engineered Wood Flooring is a sandwich of alternating wood layers designed to provide stability. It’s basically a solid wood top (or “wear”) layer that is permanently bonded to its own wood subfloor, thereby allowing it to be installed directly over concrete or below grade. An engineered floor will be subject to over 75% less seasonal movement than a solid wood floor of the same specie and width. It makes good use of the timber resource by concentrating the best wood on the wear layer. Planet Hardwood recommends engineered flooring for glue-down and floating installations, and for flooring wider than 6” in width. Many engineered floors can be nailed down also, and some offer a thick re-sandable wear layer comparable to a solid wood floor.

Learning about Bamboo

Although many characteristics of bamboo are similar to those of hardwoods, bamboo is not a wood but a grass, with remarkable characteristics of its own. Its tensile strength and weight-to-strength ratio make it the strongest growing woody plant on earth. There are over 1500 different varieties growing up to 60 feet tall, from sea level to12,000 feet, on every continent but the North and South poles. Three species are natural to the United States, thriving best in the cotton states and the valleys of Southern California. Some species grow over four feet a day! Most bamboo is found in China, and starting over 4,000 years ago Chinese people used bamboo, then silk, then paper to record history and spread culture.
All Bamboo regenerates naturally from its root system like a lawn and is the fastest growing canopy for the re-greening of degraded lands. The bamboo specie used for flooring is harvested every 4 – 8 years, is not a food source or habitat for pandas, and releases 35% more oxygen than the equivalent stands of trees. (more…)

Concerned about VOCs?

Since world war II, chemical use has grown by leaps and bounds. In 1945, annual production of synthetic chemical substances was 1 billion pounds. By 1987 it was 287 billion pounds, and growing every year. During that same period, doctors began noticing the phenomenon now recognized as multiple chemical sensitivity, a condition in which individuals become sensitized to chemicals by indoor air pollution and other exposures, and then suffer a variety of adverse reactions to low levels of chemicals from consumer and building products. In 1945 this phenomenon was unheard of. In 1987 it was estimated to affect up to 15% of the population. (more…)

Wood plantations, forestry, and the real causes of deforestation.

Nearly 25% of all industrial wood consumption is from plantation sources, and that number is expected to double over the next 50 years. Most of the Teak flooring sold in America is sourced from plantations in Central America, and just about all of our Southern Yellow Pine is plantation grown. Radiata Pine plantations occupy nearly 8% of New Zealand’s land area and Palm Oil and Rubberwood plantations occupy over 80% of Malaysia’s arable land.

Plantations are a mixed blessing. They remove pressure from the primary forests and can additionally reclaim degraded lands, halt soil erosion and sequester carbon. However, they can also replace a bio-diverse native forest with a mono-specie. Most woods do not lend themselves to plantation forestry and can only grow in a natural habitat. (more…)

It’s not easy being green, unless you’re a plant.

Let’s start with running a “green” business. Businesses are making marketing hay out of good standard business practices which qualify as “green”. Here’s the secret: reduce waste wherever you can and be more efficient and productive. For any good business, that’s an ongoing effort especially when impacted by a sudden increase in costs, like fuel. Consume less and steer your purchasing of operational necessities towards responsible products. This is stuff your mother told you: shut the door, turn off lights when not using them etc. etc. Anyone, like myself, who grew up with parents who lived through the Great Depression, started getting their “green” education early on.

As far as being in a “green” business, there are several challenges, beginning with the basic question: what is “green”? “Green” has replaced “natural” as the most abused word in the English language. Everything is “green” these days. (more…)

Wood: the greenest building material.

To identify the most environmentally responsible building material, the choice would logically rest on two fundamental principles:

  1. It is a renewable resource.
  2. It is a biodegradable resource.

Wood is the only common building material that satisfies those criteria. Measured against plastic, steel, aluminum, concrete, or cloth, wood is the most environmentally friendly in terms of low emissions, energy consumption and toxic by-products. Every part of the tree has a use.

Trees are mostly carbon. The carbon comes from the carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, and through the process of photosynthesis is converted to wood fiber. This carbon is “fixed” in the wood, and can only be released if the wood is burned or allowed to rot above ground. A young growing forest helps to balance the excess carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. This is an ongoing renewable natural process.

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