Planet Hardwood
PlanetHardwood

Why “Zero VOC’s” can still shorten your life

“Zero VOC’s” has become a the tipping point between products judged “good” or “bad”. This is misleading. Volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) describes a molecular relationship, not a material. There are VOC’s that are harmful to the environment because they react photochemically and contribute to smog. Additionally there are VOC’s that have no evidence or history of being deleterious to human health.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) mandate is about what happens outdoors. Indoor air pollution is not addressed by the EPA (or any other government agency). The following is a list the EPA excludes from being defined as a “harmful” VOC because (quoted directly from their intro to this list) “This includes any such organic compound other than the following, which have been determined to have negligible photochemical reactivity”… in other words, not contributing to smog.

So “Zero VOC, or VOC-free” can include the following:

  • methane
  • ethane
  • methylene chloride (dichloromethane)
  • 1,1,1-trichloroethane (methyl chloroform)
  • 1,1,2-trichloro-1,2,2-trifluoroethane (CFC-113)
  • trichlorofluoromethane (CFC-11)
  • dichlorodifluoromethane (CFC-12)
  • chlorodifluoromethane (HCFC-22)
  • trifluoromethane (HFC-23)
  • 1,2-dichloro 1,1,2,2-tetrafluoroethane (CFC-114)
  • chloropentafluoroethane (CFC-115)
  • 1,1,1-trifluoro 2,2-dichloroethane (HCFC-123)
  • 1,1,1,2-tetrafluoroethane (HFC-134a)
  • 1,1-dichloro 1-fluoroethane (HCFC-141b)
  • 1-chloro 1,1-difluoroethane (HCFC-142b)
  • 2-chloro-1,1,1,2-tetrafluoroethane (HCFC-124)
  • pentafluoroethane (HFC-125)
  • 1,1,2,2-tetrafluoroethane (HFC-134)
  • 1,1,1-trifluoroethane (HFC-143a)
  • 1,1-difluoroethane (HFC-152a)
  • parachlorobenzotrifluoride (PCBTF)
  • cyclic, branched, or linear completely methylated siloxanes
  • acetone
  • perchloroethylene (tetrachloroethylene)
  • 3,3-dichloro-1,1,1,2,2-pentafluoropropane (HCFC-225ca)
  • 1,3-dichloro-1,1,2,2,3-pentafluoropropane (HCFC-225cb)
  • 1,1,1,2,3,4,4,5,5,5-decafluoropentane (HFC 43-10mee)
  • difluoromethane (HFC-32)
  • ethylfluoride (HFC-161)
  • 1,1,1,3,3,3-hexafluoropropane (HFC-236fa)
  • 1,1,2,2,3-pentafluoropropane (HFC-245ca)
  • 1,1,2,3,3-pentafluoropropane (HFC-245ea)
  • 1,1,1,2,3-pentafluoropropane (HFC-245eb)
  • 1,1,1,3,3-pentafluoropropane (HFC-245fa)
  • 1,1,1,2,3,3-hexafluoropropane (HFC-236ea)
  • 1,1,1,3,3-pentafluorobutane (HFC-365mfc)
  • chlorofluoromethane (HCFC-31)
  • 1-chloro-1-fluoroethane (HCFC-151a)
  • 1,2-dichloro-1,1,2-trifluoroethane (HCFC-123a)
  • 1,1,1,2,2,3,3,4,4-nonafluoro-4-methoxy-butane (C4F9OCH3 or HFE-7100)
  • 2-(difluoromethoxymethyl)-1,1,1,2,3,3,3-heptafluoropropane ((CF3)2CFCF2OCH3)
  • 1-ethoxy-1,1,2,2,3,3,4,4,4-nonafluorobutane (C4F9OC2H5 or HFE-7200)
  • 2-(ethoxydifluoromethyl)-1,1,1,2,3,3,3-heptafluoropropane ((CF3)2CFCF2OC2H5)
  • methyl acetate
  • 1,1,1,2,2,3,3-heptafluoro-3-methoxy-propane (n-C3F7OCH3 or HFE-7000)
  • 3-ethoxy-1,1,1,2,3,4,4,5,5,6,6,6-dodecafluoro-2-(trifluoromethyl) hexane (HFE-7500)
  • 1,1,1,2,3,3,3-heptafluoropropane (HFC 227ea)
  • methyl formate (HCOOCH3)
  • 1,1,1,2,2,3,4,5,5,5-decafluoro-3-methoxy-4-trifluoromethyl-pentane (HFE-7300)
  • dimethyl carbonate
  • propylene carbonate

and perfluorocarbon compounds which fall into these classes:

  1. cyclic, branched, or linear, completely fluorinated alkanes,
  2. cyclic, branched, or linear, completely fluorinated ethers with no unsaturations,
  3. cyclic, branched, or linear, completely fluorinated tertiary amines with no unsaturations, and
  4. sulfur containing perfluorocarbons with no unsaturations and with sulfur bonds only to carbon and fluorine.

General wood flooring installation instructions

Job site conditions

Outside

Check the jobsite for conditions that will result in excess moisture or high humidity.
Surface drainage should be away from the house. The slope should be minimum 6″ in 10′. Gutters, drains and downspouts should be unclogged and functional, draining water away from the house. Eave overhangs should be sufficient to prevent rain from flooding the foundation.

If there is a crawlspace, it must be cross-ventilated with a total ventilating area exceeding 1 1/2% of the first floor area, with no dead air spaces. For example, a 2,000 sq. ft. crawl space must have 30 sq. ft. of year-round open venting area.

If the ground under the house feels damp, or is giving off excess moisture, lay a 6mil. polyfilm vapor barrier on the ground in the crawlspace below the installation area.
Remember to take into account seasonal changes in relative humidity which might affect jobsite suitability. (more…)

Wood flooring care & maintenance

Wood floors are beautiful, unique, and with the proper care and common sense will last for as long as the building is standing. Most wood flooring problems occur due to abrasive material scratching the finish, excessive water or moisture exposure, or subjecting the wood to an extremely dry environment. The following suggestions will help take the guesswork out of proper maintenance. (more…)

Wood hardness

Different woods have different degrees of hardness and density which will affect how they look over time. Eastern White Pine, the softest wood used for flooring, has in many cases withstood over 200 years of use and abuse. You’ll never “walk through” a wood floor.

Hardness and response to moisture are individual to each species, and these properties are important considerations when choosing a wood floor.

The hardness of wood is measured scientifically by the “Janka” test. This test measures the pressure it takes to sink a .444 inch steel ball one half its diameter into the surface of the wood. A higher number denotes a harder wood. Woods that are naturally harder than others will show less dents and evidence of traffic, but this relative standard is mostly for cosmetic reasons as all wood floors will last hundreds of years before they are worn through.

Some reasons to choose wood flooring

Wood flooring is an investment rather than an expense, increasing the value of any property. Count how many times wood flooring is mentioned as a selling point for houses on the market. It will last for the life of the building, and can always be refinished to “brand new” condition … even after centuries of use. It contributes to a healthy living environment because it will not harbor dust mites or molds. Wood is the only building material that is both bio-degradable and renewable, two cornerstones of environmental friendliness. The “cradle-to-grave” environmental impact of wood production, transportation and installation, is far less than that of any competing construction material. Wood flooring production is very efficient and generates nearly no waste … every part of the tree is used. Considering its lifespan, wood flooring is the most cost-effective floor covering.

Most importantly, wood flooring is just plain beautiful. Each piece is as unique to the entire world and all of history as you are. We think it transforms a space like no other home improvement and is one of the most rewarding do-it-yourself projects.

Dogs and wood floors

Every wood flooring manufacturer mentions pets in their maintenance instructions (we do too). The recommendation is to keep their nails clipped so as not to leave any potential scratches or gouging in the floor. Our 55-pound poodle can leave occasional evidence in our American Cherry, which is the softest hardwood we carry. It only happens when the neighborhood kids come over and throw the ball down the winding Cherry staircase, and the dog slips. Our Maple floors, which are substantially harder than Cherry, survive anything she can dish out. The real big and heavy dogs (i.e. Saint Bernards, Newfoundlands) usually don’t move around fast enough to leave marks.

Wood flooring in the bathroom & kitchen

The only difference between these two rooms, and the rest of the house, is that there is more moisture generated in these two rooms. If spills are cleaned up when they happen, and water is not left standing, then wood floors are as good as any other flooring material. If you leave puddles of water to dry on their own, then an inorganic inert flooring material may be a better choice. The biggest danger is not any surface abuse, but in trapping water between the finish floor and the subfloor, which could occur with any material. The trapped moisture cannot dry out, and this leads to an environment that promotes mold and mildew growth. Cork floors and floating floors offer slight cushioning underfoot, and are recommended for kitchens, exercise rooms, or any room where you’re on your feet most of the time.

Using wood flooring with radiant heat

Radiant Heat refers to a heating system that raises the temperature of a floor or wall surface. Radiant heat in the floor creates a macroclimate of dry air that can put undue stress on a wood floor if not properly designed and regulated. Engineered flooring is routinely warranteed for radiant heat as long as correct installation procedures are followed. Before installation, the system should be slowly brought to operating temperature (3-4 days), and then turned off. This is designed to drive any latent moisture out of the subfloor. After installation, the same procedure is repeated, taking care to ramp up to operating temperature slowly (so as not to “shock” the wood). (more…)

Wood floor installation in brief

In most cases, the installation of wood flooring is well within the average do-it-yourselfer’s ability, and is a very satisfying job because it results in such a dramatic transformation. Job-site sanding and finishing, which is only required for unfinished wood flooring, is a job we think best left to the professionals. If the room is ready for installation, and all materials and tools are present, one can expect to lay about 200 square feet in a day. Professional installers, working as a team, can often accomplish three times that amount.

There are three common ways to install a wood floor: (more…)

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.