Solid Wood Choices (Pre-finished & Unfinished)
“Solid wood” means that it’s made of genuine hardwood lumber and nothing else. When you choose solid wood flooring you’re making a choice that will last a lifetime – and maybe two or three. Solid wood flooring is authentic, not synthetic. Solid wood flooring is available in unfinished and pre-finished. Solid wood flooring is produced in: Strip ~ in thickness’ of 1/2″ or 3/4″ (tongue & groove) or 5/16” (top nailed) in widths of 2″ to 8″ Plank ~ in thickness’ of 1/2″ or 3/4″ (tongue & groove) or 5/16” (top nailed) and widths of 3″ to 8″ Parquet ~ geometrical patterns composed of individual wood slats held in place by mechanical fastening or an adhesive. Many various sizes and patterns available.
The appearance of the wood determines how it is "graded." All grades are equally strong and serviceable, yet afford the consumer different looks. Oak and ash have four basic grades, most other varieties have only one or two. Clear ~ Clear is free of defects though it may have minor imperfections. Select ~ Select is almost clear, but contains more natural characteristics such as knots and color variations. Common ~ Common grades (No. 1 and No. 2) have more markings than either clear or select and are often chosen because of these natural features and the character they bring to a room. No. 1 Common has a variegated appearance, light and dark colors, knots, flags and wormholes. No 2 Common is rustic in appearance and allows all wood characteristics of the species.
The angle at which a board is cut makes a big difference in how the finished product looks. Wood flooring is either plainsawn, quartersawn or riftsawn. Plainsawn ~ Plainsawn is the most common cut. The board contains more variation than the other two cuts because figure patterns resulting from the growth rings are more conspicuous. Quartersawn ~ Quartersawn produces less board feet per log than plainsawn and is therefore more expensive. Quartersawn wood twists and cups less and wears more evenly. Riftsawn ~ Riftsawn is similar to quartersawn, but the cut is made at a slightly different angle.
Species of Solid Wood Flooring
There are various domestic and imported wood species used for solid wood flooring. The most common of these are Red Oak, White Oak and Maple. Following are the most common domestic and imported woods used for flooring. The various hardwood species differ in their degrees of hardness, but most are suitably durable for use in the average home. See galleher.com/flooring for color photos of species, and galleher.com/green-products for green choices.
- Ash Beech
- Cherry (Black)
- Douglas Fir
- Heart Pine (Antique)
- Maple (Hard) Mesquite
- Oak (Red)
- Oak (White)
- Pine (Southern Yellow)
- Walnut (American Black)
- Brazilian Cherry
- Cypress (Australian)
- Mahogany (Santos)
- Padauk (African)
- Teak (Thai/Burmese)
What are the advantages of solid wood flooring?
Although every hardwood board will predictably share the characteristics of its species such as - oak, ash, alder, maple, cherry, hickory and poplar- each board displays a face which is uniquely its own, having been formed over the long lifetime of the individual tree from which it came. In addition, another great advantage of solid wood flooring over engineered is that the solid planks almost always have a thicker wear surface (the wood above the toungue & groove), allowing for additional sanding and refinishing. 3/4” solid wood has about 1/4” of wood above the T&G, which in most cases will allow for 3 to 5 sandings. Most engineered wood floors will allow for 2 to 3 sandings, depending on the thickness of the wear layer, the hardness of the wood and the skill of the craftsman.
Engineered Wood Flooring Choices (Pre-finished & Unfinished)
Engineered wood flooring is factory sanded and finished flooring that only needs installation. Engineered wood flooring should only be sanded once, or twice in its lifetime, at the very most. Engineered wood flooring is produced in:
Strip – in thickness’ of 3/8” and 5/8” (tongue & groove) in widths of 2-1/4” and 3”
Parquet – geometrical patterns composed of individual wood slats held in place by mechanical fastening or an adhesive. Many various sizes and patterns available.
This wood flooring product consists of layers of wood pressed together, with the grains running in different directions. It is available in 3 and 5 ply. Engineered flooring is perfect for those areas of the house where solid wood flooring may not be suitable, such as basements, kitchens, powder rooms, and utility rooms. Because the grains run in different directions, it is more dimensionally stable than solid wood.
Species of Engineered Wood Flooring
Engineered wood flooring comes in most of the following species, however manufactures may vary in the specific species they offer;
- American Cherry
- American Walnut
- Red Oak
- White Ash
- Yellow Birch
Engineered long-strip ~ Engineered long-strip may be floated, glued, or stapled down over almost any sound, flat and dry sub-floor above, on or below ground level. Generous single board surface widths are particularly suited to large, open spaces, while triple board surface widths complement any décor.
Engineered plank ~ Engineered plank may be floated, glued, nailed down or stapled down above, on or below ground level over an OSB board, plywood or concrete sub-floor. Once installed, the single board surface width gives the appearance of a solid wood floor.
What are the advantages of Engineered Wood Flooring?
The installation process of Engineered wood flooring is several days faster than the installation of Solid wood flooring since there is no sanding involved. There is no dust created during the installation of Engineered wood flooring. There are seven thin coats of polyurethane (applied at the factory) vs. the three coats applied to solid, unfinished wood flooring at the job site.
Engineered wood flooring is generally less expensive to install than solid wood flooring, especially when it is installed directly over concrete sub-floor s. Solid wood requires a plywood sub-floor , as it generally has to be nailed down. If a jobsite has concrete sub-floor s, then purchasing and installing plywood on top of the concrete in order to accept solid wood floors adds significantly to costs and uses extra resources. Because of its layered construction, engineered flooring expands and contracts less than solid wood flooring. Engineered wood flooring can be floated over and glued to concrete and other non-wood sub-floor s as well as nailed or stapled down to wood sub-floor s, making it more versatile.
The other benefits of engineered wood flooring include their efficient use of resources. Engineered flooring uses high quality wood only where it counts, which is in the visible wear surface of the floor. The raw material yield is far superior. In the substrate, engineered wood flooring generally uses relatively abundant grades and fast-growing species of wood. Solid wood flooring is generally all higher grades of a desirable species, which are a precious and limited resource. From the tongue & groove down, which is usually about 2/3rds of the product, this precious wood is essentially wasted.
Laminated Flooring Choices (Pre-finished)
Artificial laminate surfaces of plastic, foil or paper often are printed with photographs of wood grain patterns and bonded to composite board. Remember the terms “oak, maple and cherry finish” may simply refer to the color or the photographic reproduction of the wood’s grain, it does not necessarily mean it is the authentic, natural hardwood.
Laminate wood flooring is produced in:
Strip ~ Strip - thickness’ of 5/16", 3/8", 1/2" or 5/8" and in widths of 2 1/4" and 3”
Plank ~ Plank - thickness’ of 5/16", 3/8", 1/2" or 5/8" and in widths of 3” to 8”
Parquet ~ Parquet geometrical patterns composed of individual wood slats held in place by mechanical fastening or an adhesive. Many various sizes and patterns available.
Varieties of Laminated Flooring
Laminated wood flooring products are finished at the factory, and several finish options are available.
What are the advantages of Laminated Flooring?
Laminated flooring is more dimensionally stable and is ideal for glue-down installation or float-in installation above grade, on grade or below grade, including basements and humid climates. Laminated flooring is used for areas where solid wood flooring may not be appropriate, such as basements or utility room.
In general, laminate flooring is NOT healthy, as it uses adhesives that release VOCs.
Your choice of flooring can reflect both your style and your values, encapsulating the personality of your entire home. Wood can be a truly sustainable resource, but to realize that potential it must be sourced and produced responsibly. Eco friendly wood can come from sustainably harvested wood, reclaimed/salvaged wood, pre-consumer recycled wood, bamboo, palm, or cork – making it easy to find a floor that suits your needs and your convictions.
As a material, wood is inherently "green," especially in comparison to non-renewable resources such as steel and concrete. The manufacturing of a non-renewable building material such as steel studs requires 25x more water, causes 2x the water pollution, and creates 3x more CO2 in the atmosphere. Besides being renewable, wood is non-toxic, energy-efficient to grow and manufacture, as well as recyclable and biodegradable. Wood is the only major building material whose production yields life-sustaining oxygen and absorbs the main agent of global warming, carbon dioxide.
Think a greener floor means a budget in the red? Not anymore. Today's eco-flooring choices boast competitive prices, rich colors, and varied surfaces -- and all of them spell good news for your health.
With home construction materials, the greenest product is one that not only has minimal impact on the environment but also minimal impact on your health. That certainly holds true for flooring.
Responsible Forestry & Harvesting
Logging does not need to harm or destroy the world’s forests. Natural forests can be managed carefully in ways that preserve their diversity and the services they provide. Wood can also be grown efficiently in plantations or tree farms. But because forest ecosystems are valuable, tree farms should complement natural forests rather than replace them.
A managed natural forest that is logged can still maintain a healthy and diverse ecosystem. Wood has the potential to be a very sustainable product, but we need to harvest it responsibly from forests, thus allowing them to continue to produce clean water, air and healthy soil.
Impacts of Clear-cutting
Some of the impacts of the large-scale clear-cutting of natural forests include the loss of wildlife habitat, soil erosion, and siltation of rivers and lakes.
Ancient or Frontier Forests
The most controversial logging is in forests that have been around for a long time. These ancient or “old-growth” forests are likely to contain rare species and the most vital ecosystems on the earth. In most parts of the world these forests only remain in remote areas, so they are also occasionally referred to as "frontier forests". If the remaining old-growth forests continue to be harvested, the effects will be devastating. When they are cut down it causes extreme habitat damage and reduces biodiversity (the range of organisms present in a given ecological community or system), while also releasing carbon into the atmosphere. The world’s frontier forests have dwindled dramatically since people began logging them about 8,000 years ago.
“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”
~Native American Proverb
Some of the most destructive logging that takes place in the world is illegal cut-and-run logging where there is no attempt at forest management. Illegal logging is most widespread in the tropics, but it is also a big problem in the Russian Far East and parts of Eastern Europe. Illegal wood is sometimes consumed in the country of origin, but it is often laundered through international trade and manufacturing and imported into Europe and North America as finished products like decking, flooring, plywood, and furniture.
Illegal Wood Trade
Today, about a third of the world’s illegal wood is processed in China. From 1997 to 2006, exports of manufactured wood products from China to the U.S. increased by 1000%. Much of China’s imported wood comes from Russia, Southeast Asia, and Africa. According to researchers, China’s increased wood imports are “worsening the problems of deforestation, unsustainable harvesting practices, illegal logging, marginalization of the indigenous and other poor communities…”
Currently, deforestation and the burning of tropical forests is the second leading cause of climate change. These two devastating practices are responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than all cars, trucks, ships, trains and other forms of transportation combined. When forests are cleared for agriculture and other uses they release enormous amounts of carbon into the air, adding to rising global temperatures.
Roads that are cut into tropical forests by illegal loggers, miners and oil companies open the way for subsistence farming. Millions of people, each clearing a few acres of forest every few years adds up to an ecological catastrophe. One primary method of clearing the land is to use the slash and burn technique, which can be extremely destructive, especially when done on such a large scale.
Health Factors & Indoor Air Quality
We all know that certain types of flooring are better for the environment, but what about our air quality? What about the air that we ingest inside, where we spend 90 percent of our time? Next time you’re picking a floor take into account what the flooring does to the air you breath.
Conventional floors aren’t just bad for the environment; they can pose harm to you and your family. Wall-to-wall synthetic carpet and vinyl flooring commonly used in kitchens can ramp up a room’s toxicity through outgassing, a process in which adhesives and other chemicals release unhealthy vapors. Chief among these are volatile organic compounds (VOCs), a broad class of chemicals that includes some linked to nausea, nerve damage, and even cancer. Ecologically, VOCs foster ground-level ozone, a culprit in global warming. Synthetic floors also draw on oil resources, and their manufacture creates dioxins — compounds that take decades to degrade and have been linked to reproductive problems. Even wood floors can pollute indoor air when treated with toxic finishes and preservatives. And since they’re often harvested faster than they regenerate, popular hardwoods compromise one of our best defenses against climate change: oxygen-producing, carbon-neutralizing forests.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are chemicals that can become a gas at room temperature, some of which have short and long term health risks. One of the most common and dangerous VOCs is formaldehyde, which is used as an adhesive, bonding agent and solvent. Sources of VOCs are primarily industrial processes that emit 58%, motor vehicles that emit 37%, and consumer solvents that emit 5%.
Formaldehyde is an important chemical used widely by many industries to manufacture adhesives that are used in various building materials including engineered wood products, carpeting, paints and wood finishes. Building materials that contain high levels of formaldehyde are a major concern because they can off-gas into building interiors and affect interior air quality long after the products are installed.
Formaldehyde is a colorless, strong-smelling gas that can cause watery eyes, burning in the eyes and throat, nausea, fatigue, and difficulty breathing in some humans exposed at levels above 0.1 parts per million.
Some people are very sensitive to formaldehyde, while others have no reaction to the same level of exposure. High concentrations may trigger attacks in people with asthma. It has also been shown to cause cancer in animals and is now believed to cause cancer in humans
According to the California Air Resources Board:
“In 1992, formaldehyde was formally listed by the Air Resources Board as a Toxic Air Contaminant in California with no safe level of exposure. Health risks from total daily average formaldehyde exposures in California from all sources are estimated to range from 86 to 231 excess cancer cases per million for adults, and from 23 to 63 excess cancer cases per million for children” (http://www.arb.ca.gov/toxics/compwood/factsheet.pdf).
Here are the limits to formaldehyde emissions required by a number of agencies:
World Health Organization: Below 0.10 ppm European E1 Standard: Below 0.10 ppm OSHA Hazard Communication Standard: Hazard warning labels on any manufactured product that may emit 0.10 ppm or greater GreenGuard® Environmental Institute Certification: Below 0.05 ppm State of California: Below 0.05 ppm
Sources of Formaldehyde
In residential and commercial construction, the most significant sources of formaldehyde are likely to be pressed wood products that are made using adhesives that contain urea-formaldehyde (UF) resins. Engineered wood flooring is one example of a pressed wood product that often uses adhesives containing urea-formaldehyde. Other pressed wood products that are made for indoor use includes particleboard, hardwood plywood, medium density fiberboard (MDF), and high-density fiberboard (HDF). MDF and HDF contain a higher resin-to-wood ratio than any other UF pressed wood products, and are generally recognized as being the highest formaldehyde-emitting wood products. MDF and HDF are often used as substrates for laminate and some engineered wood flooring. Other engineered wood products, such as softwood plywood and oriented strand board (OSB) are produced for use in exterior construction and contain the dark-colored phenol-formaldehyde (PF) resin. Although formaldehyde gas is emitted from both types of resins, pressed woods that contain PF resin generally emit formaldehyde at considerably lower rates than those containing UF resin.
Eco Friendly Flooring Using Zero Formaldehyde Adhesives
To avoid formaldehyde off-gassing, high quality eco friendly engineered flooring is made with a non-formaldehyde glue called EPI. Once EPI adhesives have cured, they are inert (no off-gassing whatsoever). EPI glues are also superior in performance as they are stronger and more flexible than the urea-formaldehyde glues traditionally used in the wood flooring industry.
To Carpet or not to Carpet?
That cushioned step and cozy feel that carpet provides comes with a number of significant health risks. Chemical by-product emissions from carpet fibers, backing material and adhesives, including something called 4-phenylcyclohexene (4-PC) constitute the main ingredients in that familiar “new carpet smell.” With as many as 120 neurotoxic chemicals in a typical sample of carpet, there’s unquestionable cause for concern. Toxic chemicals can be found in the fiber bonding material, dyes, backing glues, fire retardants, latex binder, fungicides, and anti static and stain resistant treatments. A list of these include; formaldehyde, toluene, xylene, the potent carcinogen benzene and a long chain of any other tongue twisters.
Some of the more common reported complaints related to carpet exposure are; difficulty in concentrating, headaches, nervousness, chills and fever, nausea and burning in the eyes, nose and sinuses. Needless to say, most of us would prefer avoiding these health risks!
Also - carpeted floors harbor more microorganisms than any other type of floor despite the chlorinated hydrocarbons that the fibers are treated with to act as a pesticide. The fibers provide a safe haven for mold, bacteria and other allergy-causing organisms to flourish. And finally, yet another concern is the ability of carpet to trap and hold airborne VOC's, (Volatile Organic Compounds). This is known as the "sink effect." Walking across the floor with the same shoes that have been exposed to the numerous chemicals in daily life w ill distribute those chemicals into the carpet fibers, where they will remain - sometimes up to 7 years.
Outgassing from new carpeting can persist at significantly high levels for up to three years after installation. In general the most active stage of outgassing is 4 weeks to 3 months.
FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) Certified – Sustainable Wood
Not all timber is created equal: some is harvested with care and knowledge of valuable ecosystems, while some is the product of clear cuts and deforestation. Until recently there was no dependable way for the customer to tell the difference. Conservationists and conscientious landowners have developed a certification program that vouches for green forestry. Certification is a way to use the market to provide positive incentives for long-term, ecological, forest management.
In order to receive this certification seal, landowners must devise explicit management plans for maintaining ecological balance and log only within the limits of the forests ability to grow back. Certifying agencies conduct annual inspections and audits of timber shipments to ensure that these businesses honor the guidelines.
In fact there's even an accreditation program to ensure that certifiers are above board. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is considered to be the gold standard for this task. The FSC supports environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable management of the world forests by establishing sustainable forestry guidelines. Another role of FSC is the accreditation and monitoring of third-party certifiers. The FSC is endorsed by the World Wildlife Foundation, the Wilderness Society, The Natural Resource Defense Council, the Rainforest Alliance and the World Resources Institute. Since it's founding in 1993 by indigenous groups, timber companies and environmental organizations, the Forest Stewardship Council has authorized three European groups and two in the United States- SmartWood and Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) to dispense the FSC logo.
For landowners the environmental stamp of approval reassures neighbors, workers and the public that they are practicing good forestry. Some high profile certified wood users include Martin and Gibson (guitars), Char-Broil (grills) and smith and Hawken (outdoor furniture). Home Depot and Lowe's have pioneered a commitment to certified wood by assigning a phase out of conventional wood in exchange for FSC certified lumber.
As a consumer, the opportunity is yours to communicate that you are in support of forestry practice that protects habitats. When shopping look for the FSC logo (a check mark with a tree) stamped on the end of the lumber. By choosing products with this logo you can be assured that the wood you select comes from forests managed in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.
These terms are often used interchangeably. If there's a distinction between them, it's that "reclaimed" wood more often refers to already-manufactured wood products that are remanufactured into new ones -- examples include timbers from the deconstruction of old buildings that are remilled, and more unusual sources such as old crates and pallets. "Salvaged" wood more often refers to the straight reuse of wood products (salvaged doors) or logs that can be salvaged from a variety of sources: street trees, river and lake bottoms, orchards, and even forests (diseased and dead wood or small diameter trees that are thinned out as part of fire prevention measures).
An example of a reclaimed hardwood that is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council includes remanufactured railroad ties from Southeast Asia. Tropical hardwood railroad ties are being replaced with concrete ties in that region and the old ties are then milled into flooring and other products.
25% Pre-Consumer Recycled Content
Recycled content refers to the portion of materials used in a product that have been diverted from the solid waste stream. If those materials are diverted during the manufacturing process, they are referred to as pre-consumer recycled content (sometimes referred to as post-industrial). If they are diverted after consumer use, they are post-consumer.
Post-consumer content is generally viewed as offering greater environmental benefit than pre-consumer content. Although pre-consumer waste is much more vast, it is also more likely to be diverted from the waste stream. Post-consumer waste is more likely to fill limited space in municipal landfills and is typically mixed, making recovery more difficult.
To claim that it is using pre-consumer recycled content, a company must be able to substantiate that the material it is using would have become garbage, had they not purchased it from another company’s waste stream, for example. If a manufacturer routinely collects scraps and feeds them back into its own process, that material does not qualify as recycled.
Bamboo is actually in the “grass” family and is one of the fastest growing species on the planet. Bamboo rejuvenates quickly, growing to full maturity in 5 to 6 years and is truly sustainable (exploiting natural resources without destroying the ecological balance of a particular area). Carbonized color is achieved through a steam and heating process, not with any stains or dyes. Carbonizing gives Bamboo a richer, caramel color with brown graining.
Because it grows much faster than trees, bamboo is an excellent flooring choice for those looking for more sustainable flooring options. However, the idea that bamboo flooring is a more environmentally-friendly choice than wood is an over simplification. Buying sustainably-harvested wood pushes the timber industry in a more responsible direction, discourages illegal logging, and helps create economic value for a forest ecosystem that might otherwise be cleared for agriculture or development. For these reasons, sustainably-harvested wood is a more proactive environmental choice than agricultural products like bamboo.
Also, while bamboo resolves many sustainability issues, it has the same potential pitfalls as wood floor products, especially other laminates. In some cases, bamboo may need additional sealants or protective waxes, which are not always free of harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Types of Bamboo Flooring
Bamboo flooring comes in a variety of types. The three most common styles in the marketplace are solid, woven (strand) and engineered bamboo flooring.
- Solid bamboo flooring~ Solid bamboo flooring bears its name because it is made up of pieces of solid bamboo. This distinguishes it from engineered bamboo, which combines bamboo wear layers with wood cores and backs. It also differentiates the solid bamboo from woven or strand bamboo which is made of shredded bamboo fibers. In actuality, “solid” bamboo flooring is made up of small strips of bamboo that are glued together to form the finished product.
- Woven bamboo flooring ~ Woven bamboo flooring is also known as strand or strandwoven bamboo. Woven bamboo results from a fundamentally different manufacturing process than the one used for solid bamboo flooring. In this process, the timber bamboo is shredded into fibers, which are then mixed with resin and compressed into solid blocks that are then cut into planks to be milled to a standard flooring profile. Woven bamboo is much harder and denser than traditional bamboo flooring (about 3000 on the Janka scale), making it well suited for high-traffic areas. The hardness results from the resin that is used and the density achieved by pressing the fibers tightly together. The adhesives that are used are a critical factor in determining the quality of a finished product. Low quality adhesives, especially those containing urea-formaldehyde, can emit harmful chemicals in the home and should be avoided. Higher quality adhesives eliminate these problems.
- Engineered bamboo flooring ~ Engineered bamboo flooring faces some issues with reliability. Because it is laminated to a cross-ply backing, the top layer of an engineered bamboo floor does not have the ability to shrink when the floor is exposed to dry air, and this causes stresses develop within the plank. With most hardwoods, the natural material (lignen) that binds together the fibers is strong enough to withstand these stresses and resist cracking. With bamboo, the fibers are very strong, but the bonding material between them is weak, making engineered bamboo floors much more susceptible to surface checking (cracking) than most engineered hardwoods.Traditional solid and Woven Bamboo flooring, by contrast, have all of the fibers aligned in the same direction, so when the plank needs to shrink, it can do so without developing those internal stresses.
Bamboo Hardness: Fact & Fiction
The Janka test can give misleading information about bamboo’s durability as a flooring product. Because of the strength of the bamboo fibers, the floor resists impact with round objects like the steel balls used in Janka tests. The fibers act like a trampoline and bounce the steel ball out. However, as noted, the bonding material between the bamboo fibers is much weaker than the lignens in wood. If a sharp object such as a rock in someone’s shoe cuts the bamboo fibers, the bamboo scratches or gouges easily because the material between the fibers is relatively soft. Therefore, if a bamboo floor and a hardwood floor have identical Janka test ratings, in reality the hardwood floor will dent and scratch less than the bamboo. It is also important to note that some bamboo flooring companies report very misleading Janka test ratings. They get high ratings by performing the test on the ‘knuckle’ or node of the bamboo stalk, which occupies only a tiny portion of the floor’s surface area and is substantially harder than most of the floor. Traditional bamboo flooring has Janka ratings of 1300-1600 PSI for the Natural color, and 1100-1300 for the Carbonized (‘Amber’) color. The inherent hardness, combined with a tough finish (often acrylic), makes bamboo a durable choice for flooring, but the hardness of traditional Bamboo flooring has been greatly exaggerated by some manufacturers. Woven Bamboo, on the other hand, rivals the hardness of the most dense tropical hardwoods.
Coconut palm wood, which is abundant in defunct coconut plantations in Southeast Asia and even in working plantations that need to have senile palms culled, has a stippled patterning and coloring as thrilling as endangered woods such as ebony and teak. This “new” sustainable wood is now commercially available as flooring.
Palm wood is considered greener than bamboo because it is harvested from already existing plantations, and unlike bamboo, it is not cultivated on land where nothing else is grown. In effect, coconut palm wood is a by-product of coconut production and therefore it has Forest Stewardship Council approval.
Although palm wood, like bamboo, has to be shipped across the Pacific from Southeast Asia, container-shipping, pound-for-pound, emits less carbon and uses much less energy than cross-country trucking. (Data is from the Network for Transport and the Environment (NTM), a nonprofit organization based in Sweden.)
Distinctive graining, which looks like flecks of thread floating in resin, gives coconut palm wood a beautiful quality seen more often in more expensive endangered hardwoods.
Palm wood may be plentiful in 100-year-old plantations that are no longer productive but it does not fare well in its natural, tropical habitat, where ants abound. Hence, the raw material is more expensive than bamboo. In raw form, it is also not available in large planks and joining this hard-as-maple wood is not easy. Its patterning is random and the color is difficult to match from board to board.
Cork flooring has been utilized since the 1920’s when Frank Lloyd Wright incorporated it into many of his designs, but currently it is growing in popularity due in large part to its sustainability (exploiting natural resources without destroying the ecological balance of a particular area): A harvest law of 8-9 years downtime for the recovery of the cork trees ensures that these trees will have time to recover. However, its versatility certainly plays a role as well. With a variety of colors and patterns to choose from, these floors can be designed to look like somber wood interiors or brightly colored tile squares. Cork floors, like many laminate products, float above the surface of the sub-floor without being glued down. The flooring adjusts and shifts as necessary, even on floors that are uneven, which makes it a good choice for older homes where the foundations have settled. Unlike hardwood, cork is impermeable to dampness and will not rot.
These physical properties provide cork all the famous advantages:
Buoyancy: Light weight: Due to the fact that more than 50 % of the cell volume of a cork piece consists of air, cork is one of the lightest solid substances, with a specific gravity of .25.
Compressibility: A cubic inch of cork can withstand as great a pressure as 14,000 lbs. per square inch without breaking, and retains 90% of its original form after the pressure is released. Less or more normal pressure increases return to original form from 97% to 100%.
Resiliency: Because heavy pressure does not break down or destroy the tiny air cells, but compresses the air within the cells, the cork begins to spring back when the pressure is removed. A roll or sheet of composition cork can be compressed in one direction without losing its dimensions in the other direction. This is of great importance for many applications of composition cork.
Resistance to moisture & liquid penetration: While cork is not completely impervious to moisture penetration, its cellular structure gives it a high resistance to penetration by water which with the addition of the proper binder can be proofed.
Frictional Quality: Cork is a highly frictional material, both in its natural form as well as in cork composition. Even when wet or coated with oil or grease, cork retains this quality which surpasses that of leather, rubber, and many other products used for frictional or non-skid purposes.
Low thermal conductivity: Next to a vacuum, a "dead" air space minutely divides one of the most efficient non-conductors of heat. The cell construction of cork provides this property for which cork is so famous.
Ability to absorb vibration: Cork, with its 200 million air cells per cubic inch; of which 50% is air, essentially acts as an "air cushion", absorbing vibrations and direct impacts.
Stability: Cork is a tough, durable substance with remarkable capacity for retaining its initial properties wherever recommended. The high degree of stability under varying conditions is paramount to the continuing success and use of cork in the world today.