Sunday, October 14, 2007

Keep your house clean & green with flooring, products

Yet another fabulous shopping weekend looking at eco-friendly products for the house. We discovered the Eco-wise store, which got the Best of Austin 2007 award for the most eco-friendly, green store. Good for them!

We met a very animated, yet friendly sales guy giving us the scoop on eco-friendly/sustainable flooring, countertops and rainwater collection.

Basically, there are several types of flooring that are "in" nowadays:
  • Bamboo flooring, which is a fast growing type of grass that is easily grown and harvested, but shipped from China. Bamboo is hard, resilient and can be made into many different beautiful patterns. There's a variety of quality, so be careful what you pay for!
  • Cork flooring, which is made from the bark of cork oak trees, and when stripped, does not destroy the tree. Advantages are that they are softer on the feet, especially in an area where you stand a lot (i.e., kitchen), and are recycled and have no VOCs (volatile organic compounds).
  • Linoleum flooring, which is an all natural, non-toxic flooring made of linseed oil, produced by pressing seeds from flax, an easy to cultivate and abundant plant. They are usually warm and softer on the feet than cold tile flooring and come in a variety of colors. The problem is the look of it, in my opinion, as it has that 70s retro look that doesn't evoke beauty to me, but hey, beauty is the eye of the beholder :-).
  • Local or reclaimed wood, specific to your area. Check out wood that has been taken from buildings that were demolished. You can sometimes find great deals in reusing it for your flooring, banisters, ceiling beams, etc! We are checking out using hickory, which is a near diamond hard wood that is found in Arkansas and milled locally in the Hill Country. It is a beautiful wood that can be stained to your desired color and will last decades.
  • Stained concrete with fly ash, which is basically the mineral residue resulting from coal plants and when mixed your concrete, greatly reduces cement production and therefore eliminating much of the carbon emissions. They are quite fashionable in homes nowadays, as it can make your home look very modern by staining or creating patterns in the concrete. It also provide a large thermal mass for your home. A thermal mass is some sort of structure (i.e. stone) that keeps a constant temperature and thereby positively affects the temperature in your home. Concrete floors are relatively cheap, as they can be part of your foundation, and you can then stain it, and then instantly have your floor ready. You can easily repair them if they crack and are durable, but the only problem is that concrete can be hard on the feet and unforgiving if you drop something on the floor.

We also looked into concrete countertops with varying degrees of recycled glass in them or using sorghum or bamboo as a countertop as opposed to concrete. There are even countertops made of recycled paper that are even stain, scratch and heat resistant! You have a lot of options to create the look you desire.

Then you must also remember to keep your sealants and paints healthy and VOC free. Off-gasing is the culprit, and you don't often see or smell these toxins anymore, as people forget that they are even around, but unfortunately always attack you. Ever wonder about mysterious allergies or the seemingly healthy/athletes that get cancer?? I personally believe that a lot of it is in your house environment. The Eco-wise salesguy mentioned that if you're on a budget and are ever going to "green" anything, you should start with your bedroom and work your way to every room in your house. That includes paint, adhesives, light bulbs, cleaning products, flooring, sheets, mattresses, etc!

We also looked at smaller barrels for rainwater collection for the roof garden of our house. A 55 gallon rain barrel costs about $55 and is terrific for watering your plants. These are some of the things you can add to an existing home that will help you start conserving without investing huge amounts of money. If only everyone can do something, even no matter how little it is, things can change drastically overall.


evadne_marva said...

Cork Flooring? I never would have thought about cork flooring to help make our homes more eco-friendly. Your tips for flooring in your home are fascinating.

It's also wonderful to see people thinking also thinking about water conservation and catchments. At we actually sell child safe and animal safe rain barrels. Our website, though, also has information on other ways to conserve water and other products to help reduce waste emissions into the environment. Good Luck in all your endeavors.

Jan & Myleen said...

Cork flooring, yes, I know! But I recently saw an application where they stained it a beautiful sage green and it really is beautiful and soft on the feet. It does get worn out if it's a high traffic area, but easy to replace and a very sustainable material.

Thanks for the link, I'll check you out. We are looking for rain barrels too :-).

Anonymous said...

A local wood to your area that I think is one of the most beautiful exotic woods around is mesquite. It has a rich lively grain pattern, and is an extremely hard and durable wood as well. I would guess hardwood floors were not really your style, but maybe a mesquite entry door? Living Elements specializes in mesquite, is headquartered somewhere in Ausin, and they also have a website.


Jan & Myleen said...

Thanks again for your tip Bob! We will look into that. By the way, how is your house project coming? Did you start yet? I'd love to hear about your project too. Feel free to contact me through the blog.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your interest in our project. The plans are complete, and we're in the process of getting estimates. It's a pueblo style home, with many nichos, a built-in bed, mesquite and saltillo tile flooring, two large covered patios (to stay out of the desert sun), and an interior window between the kitchen and great room. It's sited to take advantage of some great views of the Organ mountains.

I enjoy reading your adventures. Although your style is completely different from ours, I still enjoy and appreciate your choices.


Jan & Myleen said...

I appreciate different styles, and I didn't mention, I love New Mexico! That place is magical, and I love that Old New Mexican charm. It's very cozy. We used to go to Santa Fe and Taos a lot, and there's just something so tranquil about NM. I also love perusing those art galleries, Native jewelry, ceramics, etc... your house sounds like its got a lot of charm. Is this a retirement or vacation home or is this a fulltime residence? I'd love to see pics, love the pueblo style. Ours is sort of a modern rendition of it.

I've said that it's hard to find a good builder, but if you've found one that has your same mindset, than I'm happy for you! I'll post anything advice, and thanks for keeping up with my blog. You've been a good second eye.

Anonymous said...

The New Mexico home will start as a second home for two or three years, but we anticipate being there full-time before long. We're still a ways from retirement, so we will continue to work for many years.

Our builder is a couple who build one home at a time. They are on-site every day and do much of the detail work themselves. They have a website with a gallery:

Although our plan is conventional stick-built with blown-in insuation, the walls are up to 18" thick, providing a super-insulated shell. The thick walls provide a lot of character at the windows, and provide lots of space for creative interior nichos.

Flex said...

I also suggest engineered hardwood floors. It is an exciting alternative to solid hardwood flooring.