The first thing to think about when starting any building or renovations work, is the floor. It can’t be changed as easily as the colour of the walls, or the curtains, and it has a huge impact on the room, so it’s important to get it right.
Consider keeping the existing floor to avoid environmental impact and depleting resources. It will probably save you a lot of money too.
For some lucky people who have beautiful old floorboards, this is a no-brainer. A light sand and a few repairs will bring them back to life and what’s not to like about old wooden floorboards?
If there are damaged boards that need replacing, it’s usually possible to buy reclaimed floorboards to match if you sand and stain / varnish them all together. It’s worth doing a test first to make sure the replacement doesn’t stand out like a sore thumb. Look for eco friendly non-toxic products (there will be more info about this in a future blog).
Old floor tiles can also be cleaned and polished, and often it’s possible to find replacements to match any that are cracked. If you can’t find the same tiles, consider using complementary plain or patterned designs for a random effect. This can give a room heaps of character and save a lot of labour and money.
If, on the other hand, your floor has no hope for restoration and you need new flooring, then there are many sustainable options available. I will go into more detail in future blog posts, but here is a summary to give you the idea. Please sign up to my blog (below) to get an email when the next part is published.
2. Reclaimed floorboards
This is the obvious and probably easiest choice, as reclaimed boards are widely available now and old wood always has more character than new. Use a company that prepare the boards ready to lay and that give clear information about how to look after them.
If you decide you need new floorboards, make sure they are FSC approved (from sustainable sources).
3. Ceramic tiles
Ceramic stone, earthenware and porcelain are all natural materials, derived from the earth, and will biodegrade, so are a good sustainable choice. Where they lose points is in the heating process required to fire the kilns, but many ceramicists claim that in larger studios and in industrial pottery production, there are heat recovery systems in place which provide energy for hot water and heating in the building.
There are also chemicals used in the glazes, but gradually companies are moving towards less toxic options and there are now many non-toxic glazes available. So overall ceramic tiles are a good sustainable choice if these considerations are minimised. It’s worth asking the supplier about this before you buy.
Cork flooring is manufactured from the bark of cork oak trees and comes in a variety of styles. No trees are destroyed in the environmentally friendly manufacturing process. The cork bark can be harvested every 9 years, and the cork oak trees are known to live more than 300 years.
Cork is warm and comfortable to walk on, sound absorbing, waterproof, strong, long lasting, easy to clean, anti allergenic and a natural insect repellent! Sounds perfect!
5. Micro Concrete
Micro concrete is a thin 2mm layer of concrete that can be plastered over existing surfaces and is strong, heat resistant and crack resistant. It can give a new life to an old floor and is a very economical solution.
Micro concrete is more sustainable than ripping out floors and replacing them, and the amount of concrete used to cover them is very small, because it is only 2mm thick. You can cover an area of 6-8sqm with only 10kg of concrete. It comes in kit form with primer, pigment, sealer and wax. It is applied like plaster and there are a variety of colours. There are some handy videos showing you how to use it on design concrete's website.
Bamboo is a natural vegetation that grows to maturity in three to five years, (far less than the twenty years trees can take), without the need for fertilizers, pesticides or much water. Bamboo also spreads easily with little or no care. In addition, a bamboo grove releases some 35 percent more oxygen into the air than a similar-sized stand of trees, and it matures (and can be replanted) within seven years (compared to 30-50 years for a stand of trees), helping to improve soil conditions and prevent erosion along the way.
It is as strong as wood, and is available in many colours and a variety of grains and finishes. However, the production process can make this a less sustainable choice if natural base adhesives are not used, so it’s important to buy from a company that can answer questions on this. But overall it is a good strong sustainable alternative to wood.
There is so much to write on this subject that I am dividing it into sections. Next week I will go into more detail about what is available under the various sections. Please subscribe to my blog below if you’d like to receive an email telling you when the next blog is published.