NTE Podcast: New Flooring Options and Trends

On today’s episode, Jay and I talk about flooring options for your home.  We break down the “green” and human friendly attributes of various floors like cork, bamboo and wood, we discuss colors and trends, then we top it off with a quick guide to pricing so you can know what to expect as you start your research.  So if you’re designing a new home or remodeling your existing space, this is definitely an episode you don’t want to miss!

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New Flooring Options and Trends


Andrew Pace: Past episodes have dealt with items that you should not use in your home because of human health issues or other environmental concerns. Today’s episode, we’re actually going to start a new trend of telling you what you should use or what you can use in your home, starting with the floors that we walk on; today on Non Toxic Environments.

Welcome back to Non Toxic Environments. Jay, we’ve got an interesting topic this week, don’t you think?

Jay Watts: I think we do is something that we all kind of walk on every day, day in and day out. We’re going to talk about flooring today folks.

Andy: Nice. You know, when Jay and I were putting together our show notes and as you all know, we put to put together exhausting notes that consist of maybe three or four bullet points and we say, all right, we’re going to talk about this for half an hour.

Jay: Yeah, that’s exhaustive, all right.

Andy: But we know each other so well. We kind of know what we’re going to talk about even before we utter the words, right? But the question comes up all the time… For those of you who know, sort of the history of me and my company years and years ago when I developed what’s called the Degree of Green rating system, Degree of Green was born out of the necessity to educate my own staff about the nuances of green building materials. But in a way that answered the question which product is more green? I mean, that’s an impossible question to answer. We know this.

Jay: We’ve talked about this before and it’s really the idea that there’s green and there’s eco and there’s sustainability and there’s all these words that are buzz words. The one that we’ve always centered on is health. What is the health metric? Andy, the Degree of Green rating system is really genius because it prioritized that at the very top of the rating system and then everything else comes in behind that. And folks, we really believe that’s the right order of things. Some of the other metrics out there they’ve kind of flip flopped. Some of this stuff and some of the LEED, for example, I think LEED has moved the health quotient up a little bit in the list, but everything started with like energy efficiency. That was the number one thing, right? Kind of resource management and then indoor air quality kind of fell down in the list. Andy and I have always believed that that indoor air quality stuff should be moving up.

We’ve believe it should be at the top of the pyramid, not at the middle of the pyramid or down at the bottom of the pyramid. And I think thankfully people are recognizing that now in our industry and are starting to move it up. I still believe it doesn’t have the hierarchy that it should, but it’s getting close.

Andy: You know, what I’ve always said is that healthy building is, or actually we used to say green building back in the day, it’s not a left issue or a right issue. It’s a front. It should be the front issue. Yeah.

Jay: It’s neutral. Politically neutral.

Andy: Exactly. But when it comes to that question, what is more green than something else? It boils down to, well, what do you think green means to you? And so as you said, Jay, we believe that the human health component of the Degree of Green is the most important because without that there is nothing else.

Well you set that as the pinnacle of your research, and then everything else can come in behind right behind that. And we don’t want to discount the idea that we want to try to use sustainable materials when we can. Resource management as a part of that equation, but the idea that, as has been said over and over again, we spend almost of our time indoors. So absolutely want to have the best quality air we can for our own personal health.

Andy: Excellent. So we’re going to kind of use that Degree of Green today to talk about flooring trends. We want to kind of set the table with what the direction we’re coming from here because we’re going to talk about several materials that are for sale today, in our store, other stores across the country, flooring stores that are out there. And we may discuss an idea of green from a standpoint of energy efficiency or where it’s made or how healthy it is. But just understand that these are all generalities. And I say this because if you are designing a home and you live in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and you have five kids and three dogs, we’re gonna want to talk to you about your specifics, about what is going to be good for your family and for your home. What we talk about today is more generalities. And so we’re not saying these in any order. We’re not saying these that one’s better than the other. We’re just gonna give you an idea of what’s available and just kind of see where the discussion goes.

Jay: I think there’s a lot of regional input here in terms of where you are in the country and what’s popular. And then of course, design trends. Here on the coast, on the West coast and East coast, there is a fairly strong, a modern, quote unquote modern or postmodern movement. So you have a lot of… how do I describe it? The traditional idea of flooring, what’s the traditional idea? Hardwood is a traditional idea, tile, right? Are the kind of the traditional ideas. On the coast where we have this new modern aesthetic and we’re gonna talk about this, one of the flooring that’s popular is this concrete.

Andy: Yup, exactly. Yup. No, I totally agree with that. Matter of fact, we just jump right in there because as soon as you said the word modern, and I’ll say this too, even here in the Midwest where we’re kind of sheltered from the coasts and the trends, we’re doing an awful lot of projects now where concrete is becoming the finished floor. And what I love about it is,  it’s what you can do with it, given the right talent of contractors, doing something like a topical stain and acid stain, and then even doing some more exotic type of metallic finishes. It’s really an inexpensive way compared to other flooring materials. To put some absolute style into the house.

Jay: You know, when people are thinking of materials… I forgot to say carpeting, but, is that a word we want to use?

Andy: We’ll talk about it.

Jay: Yeah, of course. But when I’m thinking is when people are considering the flooring, part of the equation for them is comfort. What’s the comfort factor, right? When you think of when people, some people think of concrete, they think, it’s really hard and it’s going to be cold.

People are using radiant floors these days and it’s certainly possible to put a radiant floor in that slab and have that baby just cook and feel so comfortable, even though it’s a solid concrete floor. And you’re right on with this idea that there’s so many decorative approaches with concrete.

Andy: Right? And you know, and think about the fact that the Colosseum in Rome was built 2000 years ago out of concrete. If concrete is done correctly, the house will fall down around it.

Jay: I know, it’s funny about that. I walk around my near, I live in an old neighborhood, folks here in San Diego, and what I really love is in around my neighborhood on the concrete sidewalks the contractor that was hired actually puts their stamp in the concrete. So I’m walking around and I’m looking at Joe blow 1908. Bill’s concrete, 1915. I’m thinking let’s 15 and 50. And that’s a hundred and another four. There’s 104 years and the concrete looks beautiful. It looks great. Of course it’s not smooth trowel like you would an interior of a home. But in terms of what it’s, it looks probably just exactly like it looked when he poured it, except it’s a little dirtier.

Andy: Right. And that is so cool. That’s the thing about a product like that, the history of it, the longevity of it. That’s just a hundred years ago there was no, the technology was not there. It was just contractors who had the knowledge, they did things the hard way, but it was the right way. Today one of the problems that we have, and we did say at the beginning, we’re going to talk about kind of the pros and cons of these things. One of the cons of concrete of course is the fact that concrete that is provided today a lot of times contains an ad mixture that’s called Fly Ash. We’ve talked about this before and I’ll just mention it again for those who may have not heard those previous episodes. Fly Ash is the sludge that they scraped from the smokestacks of the coal fired energy plants. So from an environmental standpoint, it’s fantastic because it’s recycled material that is normally hard to dispose of. And years ago they decided that they could mix it in with concrete and it actually adds to the performance of concrete. And nowadays it’s just a way to get some LEED points. It’s a way to get rid of this problem product. And I’ve got a client right now I’m working with and in mid central United States and they’re building a new home and she’s gotten two bids on the home so far for concrete work. One contractor wanted $1,500 more to pour all the concrete without Fly Ash. The other contractor wanted $8,000 more. And that’s because it’s becoming harder to find concrete plants that will not use Fly Ash,

Jay: If you’ve listened to us long enough, this is Andy setting us up for a big BUT right here.

Andy: In addition to so far, all right, Fly Ash. The reason why we don’t like it folks is because Fly Ash releases mercury. That’s the bad news there. BUT, if there’s no option to do concrete without Fly Ash, you can always seal up the surface. And if you’re going to be doing a decorative concrete floor, something like a Kemiko acid stain or some of these other things that are out there, you can use the AFM Mexeseal over the top. And it’ll not only seal the stained concrete, but it will seal up the Fly Ash.

Jay: There you go. And I think that the thing, any comment on this, the other thing about concrete is, if you wanna change your flooring in the future, it’s not necessarily this huge deal like maybe in some other situations. So are you thinking that that’s true, that if you’ve got a concrete floor and in the future, go, hey I want to carpet it, or hey I want to do this. I mean, obviously there’s some issues that take into consideration when doing that, but seems to me like I having a basic concrete floor. And we know we get people to call us and go, hey I don’t have enough money for my other floor. I’m going to do concrete, I’ve got a slab, I’m just going to do the concrete. We can talk about that and give him ideas like we’re doing right now and sure. And then in the future, they’re good to go if they want to do another flooring and we can obviously help them figure out what the best way to handle that is. But I kinda like it as kind of a foundational idea.

Andy: Well, and that’s the thing, you can treat it such as just a foundation. You sell the home, the next home owner can put down a floating floor, right. Carpeting, tile, you name it. It just gives them options. Right. Now contrary to a wood sub floor…

Jay: Let me interrupt you, just one last thing and I don’t want to forget it. One of the other things about concrete is very easy to clean.

Andy: It is very easy.

Jay: The maintenance on this idea is really good because there’s not a lot to do.

Andy: Sealed concrete is about the easiest service in the home to take care of.

Jay: Oh my God. And if folks, guess what, what if the washer overflows? No biggie. You know, it’s like get the big squeegee out. Okay, and a bucket. It’s not like, Oh my God, my carpet, my hardwood floor, everything’s ruined. Okay.

Andy: Now, there’s a lot of benefit to it now. Areas where it’s not going to work, would be areas where, let’s say you live in a part of the country where you have a basement or a crawl space. Because now you have a wood sub floor and then to pour concrete on top of that wood sub floor, it’s actually adding to the cost of the construction. So generally speaking of areas where we’re doing slab on grade construction. Although I get a job in Seattle right now where they’re doing I think two or three floors of concrete because they just liked that look. So it is possible.

Jay: Is it a high rise?

Andy: It’s a three story home. They’re doing wood sub floors, but then they’re going to their pour two inch topping, concrete on top because they want insular heat. And they want the look. So let’s say you like the idea of concrete, but maybe you have a wood sub floor or maybe you just want something a little more finished and that’s going to be a tile floor. And when I say tile, I’m talking about either a ceramic or a porcelain tile.

The difference between the two folks, all porcelain tile is considered ceramic, but not all ceramic is porcelain. The difference is porcelain tile meets a higher standard when it comes to moisture absorption and movement and so forth. It just a better product. So typically speaking, porcelain is used on floors. It’s used for exterior applications. You can even use porcelain for large slab countertops. Ceramic is normally used for walls, right? Some ceramics can be used for floors and light traffic areas, but usually that’s going to be a porcelain. Here’s the beauty of these tiles. They are inert, the materials are fired at about 2,500 – 2,600 degrees. Anything that is in there that could be problematic is out. And I don’t mean baked out in the form of like off gassing I mean like burned out, right?

Jay: When you get it, it’s gone.

Andy: It’s gone. It still has to be installed using thin set mortars, grouts sometimes adhesive, sometimes different subfloors so on and so forth. So there are some caveats here. If you are chemically sensitive, you’d need to work with us to make sure that we’re providing the right products for your situation. But this is an option. And I will say even with our most chemical sensitive clients, historically speaking, porcelain tile has been their go-to. Yes, yes. Because they know there’s going to be no issue with the material itself. It’s an inert, right? The trends when it comes to porcelain tile right now is most tile manufacturers are making material that looks like hardwood. It’s absolutely gorgeous. And we’ve done whole houses with it.

Jay: I’ve seen it. It would fool the most dyed in the wool hardwood floor man, for sure, for sure.

Andy: And the beauty of it is unlike hardwood, that dense easy that warps that you talk about a leak in a dishwasher… tile, there’s no problem with that stuff. It’s hard on the joints.

Jay: Is Cali Bamboo doing something with that? With this kind of material?

Andy: Well, they’re doing something kind of in a hybrid and we’ll talk about that in a bit.

Jay: I didn’t want to distract, but it just popped into my mind.

Andy: That’s a good thought because they’re kind of taking the best of both worlds in that regard. There are some brands that utilize a coating that’s called an active coating. It raises, it actually has a high level of titanium dioxide in the surface so that it’ll kill mold spores and viruses and so forth on contact. That’s kind of cool. But for the most part folks, tile is tile. You do have to be concerned. Some of the tiles made in China and other overseas countries can have lead in the glaze. So ask your supplier, is this a tile that has lead an or not? They have to disclose that. But beyond that, it’s going to be a very safe floor from a human health standpoint. It’s just not very comfortable yet.

Jay: We haven’t factored in and we’ll do it later. I think folks, just the cost analysis side of this because there are variances in the cost. The nice thing about tile, obviously everyone knows about tile, color and pattern and shape, color, pattern and shape. I mean there’s just so much variety and it’s just a boy. I know my wife is a designer and when she gets into the tile world, oh my God, we’re gone for weeks looking at tile catalogs and looking at what’s what’s available and what people have done with tile. Obviously there’s a huge, huge, huge, wonderful, beautiful history of tile that goes back centuries.

Andy: Well, and that’s the thing too with the hand painted tiles and hand glazed. They are pieces of art really. Yes. And so I like to incorporate tile into every project we do, whether it’s a little or a lot to just kind of depends on the project.

So let’s go to something else that we also recommend quite often. I guess I’m doing this from a standpoint of hard to soft. Okay. To give everybody an idea of what I’m using as our guideline here. So concrete obviously very hard. Tile very hard. So what’s really hard but not quite as hard. That would be like a wood or a bamboo? Alright, so wood or bamboo?

First of all bamboo is not wood. It’s grass. It’s grass. It’s fabricated, very similar to wood. It cuts sort of like wood. It finishes sorta like wood. So in the grand scheme of things, when we refer to bamboo, we usually refer to it as a wood floor. Just I want to say that because sometimes it causes confusion

Jay: When people hear grass and they think grass is not going to hold up.

Andy: Well, they think of like sea grass, sisal and things like that. The softer materials. Right. So here’s the thing about bamboo. Bamboo has gone through quite a bit of change over the last 10 years.

Jay: It’s evolved.

Andy: It has evolved and materials that are available now are much more durable, much more dense. I love the look of it for a lot of applications. What’s coming out lately is just stunning stuff. But one of the misnomers about bamboo is that people bought it originally because they thought it was a very healthy green floor. Well here’s that discussion we had earlier. Is it green from a standpoint of sustainability? Yes. It grows very fast. It grows very tall. The harvest is a much more bountiful than it would be from wood in that same time period. And so from that standpoint, it’s great. It’s all grown in China, all foreign material. Our bamboo that’s used for flooring has grown either China or Vietnam or that part of the world. It used to be… I shouldn’t say used to be, you still be kind of careful. Some bamboo products out there are made using urea formaldehyde in the adhesives. So that is something to be concerned about. So from a health standpoint, I can’t just blanket say that all bamboo is healthy cause it’s not, the same way that all would, is not healthy.

Jay: It kind of puts the onus on the user to do some research and take a deeper look into it, into exactly what’s going on with the manufacturing.

Andy: Exactly right. And so there are good products out there. Refer to your local dealers, the ones you trust and they’ll refer you to the right product. But bamboo products that we see nowadays are twice as hard as Red Oak, if not three times as hard, very durable, long lasting, great finishes. It’s an option with wood and bamboo, they give you a warmth to the floor that you don’t get with concrete and tile. Downsides, well, bamboo wood products, they’re more susceptible to moisture issues as you talked about with that leaky dishwasher. Well, a wood or a bamboo floor is going to cup or curl or warp with that type of water. So you’ve got to be careful. All right. Beyond that, the nice thing about wooden bamboo is that they’re refinishable. So that’s something to think about longterm. A stained concrete floor, you can’t really refinish very easily. Tile. You certainly can’t refinish, you crack a tile, you got to replace it. With wood, any type of wood flooring product, you can actually fix it like a piece of furniture. So there’s some resiliency there. Beyond that it certainly gives you a certain look that you’re trying to achieve. There are some more contemporary styles. I think there’s a style of wood for really any person.

Jay: Oh yeah, yeah. There’s no limitation in terms of what’s available out there. There’s Virgin material and there’s also a whole world of reclaimed wood that’s out there that’s can be incredibly beautiful. It’s a big, big wide world. And in the wood flooring category for sure.

Andy: And so the question we get all the time is, what do you recommend pre-finished or unfinished? Well, there’s pros and cons for each. Pre-finished flooring is nice because you cut it, install it, and you can walk on at the same day. Other issues with pre-finished flooring, generally speaking, the finish is going to be much more harder than an on site finish. It’s going to be more durable, longer lasting. You’ll get long warranties. But there’s a trade off for that. You need to understand that most pre-finished wood is going to have a little bevel between the pieces because you can’t sand it down smooth. It has to account for some inconsistency in the sub floor. And so you’ll have to understand that you’ll see the wood pieces more than if you did a site finish where it’s sanded smooth.

Jay: The other thing I think just crossing my mind, talking about prefinished I think you get the question I get the question is, well, what about that pre-finished coating that’s on there? Do I need to be worried about that?

Andy: Right. That’s a good question. Generally speaking, the finishes that are UV cured in a factory, the UV curing process will completely catalyze the finish. Those no free monomers left. There is no off gassing. However, if that pre-finished wood is glued together using urea formaldehyde, it’s going to register as containing formaldehyde. Yeah, it’s not the finish. It’s the glue. Again, trust your source, trust the company. Get this from ask the questions, do the work. Make sure you’re getting the right product right. But you know, understand that the pre-finished products, generally speaking for people with extreme chemical sensitivity, I go towards the pre-finished because you don’t have to deal with the dust.

Jay: I agree with that 100%. The other thing folks is when you’re actually talking to companies, make sure that you get the answers you want. Don’t get put off by someone who just gives you kind of a general answer. If you don’t feel like the answer is detailed enough for you, then find someone who will give you that answer. You deserve it. You’re the consumer. You’re the buyer and you don’t want to come away from a conversation thinking, Hey, am I feeling comfortable about that? Do I know everything I need to know? Right? You need to know everything you need to know.

Andy: That’s a great point, Jay. I think in today’s day and age, unfortunately, we get a lot of salespeople, just want to get you off the phone and they also don’t know. I’ve always have always been in the mindset that if I don’t know an answer to a question, I’ll find out and I’ll call you back.

Jay: That’s the right answer.

Andy: Exactly. Now beyond would would be a product called cork flooring. Yeah. Cork is the bark of the Cork Oak tree. All Cork Oak trees are grown in Spain, Portugal and parts of Italy. So all the flooring you get that it contains cork it’s partially coming or all coming from that location in the world.

Jay: Good flooring, good wine, good food. You got it.

Andy: You got it. And very, very resilient. Very warm, very quiet. Cork flooring is awesome if you like a soft, warm floor, but you don’t want carpet. Cork is generally sold as a floating floor product these days. There are a couple of fabricators of what’s called glue down homogenous cork. It’s harder to find. It’s actually even harder to install. But floating is what we normally see and that’s going to be an eighth inch thick veneer of cork over an MDF and then a very top veneer of the actual color and style of cork that you’re choosing.

Jay: So, Andy, for our listeners, a floating floor is basically literally really floating on the sub floor.

Andy: Exactly.

Jay: It’s not mechanically attached to the floor. Right?

Andy: Yeah. And so what happens is it clicks and locks together or it gets glued at the tongue together, but it doesn’t get fastened or glued to the floor itself. And it has then the ability as a whole to move with the seasons, moisture and dryness and so forth. These are usually easier to install, the accept a wider range of preparation of the subfloor that doesn’t have to be as perfect as a glue down situation. Generally these are the floors that most people are looking for these days because they want ease of installation. And so a lot of the materials we talk about today are available in a floating version. Cork kind of runs hot and cold. Trend wise right now we’re kind of in the cold season for cork. People are looking more towards tile and some other products we’ll talk about in a bit, it’ll come back. It’ll come back because cork has been around for, in our country for over a hundred years. And some of the oldest buildings in downtown Chicago, in New York will have the original cork floors down. They last a long time.

Jay: Yeah. The whole second floor of our arts museum here in San Diego. The whole second floor is all cork.

Andy: Oh, beautiful. It’s beautiful. Just fantastic. I mean, it’s a shock absorbing. It’s an insulative product, so it’s warmer. Cork stays warm to the touch. So here in Wisconsin in the middle of winter, the cork floor will be the warmest floor of your house. It’s just beautiful. Alright. Onto natural linoleum, we deal with a product called Forbo Marmoleum. It’s been around for 145 years. I mean, it’s made the same way. It’s a combination of linseed oil, pine resin, wood flour, mineral pigments spread onto a jute backing. It’s the original resilience sheet flooring. My grandmother used to tell me about the linoleum that she had in her house growing up and she said that she would be able to pick up the flooring sweep underneath and put the flooring back down again. And so that just goes to show back then the adhesives weren’t really that good.

Jay: Well, actually she had a little safe under the floor too. And so she had to make deposits, say she had to get through her safe.

Andy: That’s the way she kept all the rolls of quarters, I guess. But you know, folks, linoleum flooring used to be called battleship flooring for a reason. And that’s because a lot of the old Naval ships had linoleum as the flooring material. It gets harder with age because linoleum has linseed oil in it. As linseed oil evaporates, the flooring starts to harden. That’s also what gives it the antibacterial and anti-static properties. So far you’ve heard a lot of good things about linoleum, haven’t you?

Jay: Yeah, I mean, it’s a great product. Again, you’ve got color and you’ve got pattern. It’s come a long way from the original battleship linoleum.

Andy: It has.

Jay: Your design options are just a myriad. I mean, you’re just not limited here in any way.

Andy: Right? And so here’s the downsides of linoleum. Downsides of linoleum would be if you have chemical sensitivity, be very, very careful with this floor because it contains linseed oil and some pine resin. If you have extreme sensitivities, even if you have allergies, you gotta be careful with it because it has a smell that never goes away. Right? All right. I don’t mind it. I have it in my house. I absolutely love it. The smell of the linseed oil is what gives it that antibacterial and anti-static property. But you’ve got to understand that that smell will never go away. Every time you wash the floor, the water evaporating brings back more of the smell brings it. And a linoleum floor is designed to last 50 years in a commercial space, in a residential space the house will literally fall down around it. This is a glue down floor that we talked about folks. It’s also available in a floating version, like the cork, fewer colors, fewer design choices, won’t last as long because the installation is not designed to, it’s more of a 15 to 20 year floor. I love the glue down linoleum floor. I think that value-wise it’s one of the best values in a new home construction for flooring materials.

Jay: And what’s the word on contractor’s a comfort zone with these product?

Andy: I think it’s probably pretty good these days. It is these days. When people say the word linoleum, nine times out of 10, they’re actually referring to vinyl. So when a contractor says, Oh, I do a linoleum all the time, no- they do vinyl. Linoleum was a little different installation as specifically the seaming processes is little bit different. But folks, if you have a good quality installer who understands directions and follows them properly, they can make linoleum look beautiful. Beautiful.

Jay: Yeah. There’s really no excuse anymore, folks with all the YouTubes that are out there and all the videos that are done by the companies that sell the products. The good companies have really good training information in these kinds with these installations. And then of course, if you find a reputable dealer, that can also kind of help you through understanding some of this stuff and you’ve got a good contractor, you’re home free.

Andy: You got it. We can probably go on for an entire show on linoleum. And matter of fact, we probably will.

Jay: It’d be kind of fun to do a show on like each one of these and kinda dip in, really get deep into it and talk more if we can about it.

Andy: Well, and I think, we’ll see where the comments come back. We get every comments from every show. And so people tell us the good, bad and the ugly and we love to hear it all. Tell us which ones you want to actually hear a show on and we’ll definitely make that happen. So we’ve got two more products to talk about before we end today. One is carpet and I know carpet is… I have a love hate relationship with carpet. Yes, I’m sure you probably feel the same way. It’s comfortable under foot. What else can I say about it?

Jay: It’s pretty easy to get and it can be fairly inexpensive.

Andy: There you go, it’s, it heals a lot of wounds because it covers up some imperfections on subfloors. There’s two types of carpet, only two healthy carpet and the rest of it. And the problem is, is that the truly healthy carpets are expensive compared to regular carpets.

Jay: Give a reference point to that, Andy, give me some numbers.

Andy: If I were to furnish and install a chemical-free synthetic-free natural wool carpet with a pad, you’re probably looking at at minimum $60 to $70 per square yard. Plastic carpet, your nylons, your polyolefins, your PLA is all these other, you know, sustainable type solvent carpets that are out there now, the corn based stuff, you’re looking at half of that. So what do you get for that? Double the price. Well, you get a product that lasts three to five times longer. Wool carpet will last like linoleum. It’ll last as long as the house, in other parts of the world, linoleum or excuse me, a wool carpet is not installed as a wall to wall carpet. It’s put down as a large area rug. And when they ever move, they’ll roll it up and take it with them. Because that’s how long wool carpet lasts. Yeah.

Jay: So that’s a value. If you start to project that out, this is another thing, folks, there’s all those longterm cost analysis. It needs to be a part of your decision making where you look in your gulping because you see that big number, then you have to factor in the fact that, hey, I can put this in now. Bite the bullet now. Spend the money now. I won’t have to spend the money down the road. And guess what folks? Money spent down the road with inflation is going to be more expensive.

Andy: It’s sure will. And I will say too that because wool carpet lasts so long… I work a lot with the folks at Nature’s Carpet up in Canada, great company, great company, beautiful product. I’m just absolutely stunning stuff. A home that’s built with that product in it will actually have an easier time selling because wool, unlike a plastic fiber; plastic fibers are, if you look at it under a microscope, are relatively translucent and then the dye it to give it some color, but you can still see through it and at a microscopic level wool is totally opaque. That natural fiber is totally opaque. And so what that means to the homeowner is when the carpet gets dirty, you actually only see dirt on one side of the fiber. So with plastic carpeting, the same amount of traffic on both carpets, a plastic carpet will look dirtier, faster, you’ll see dirt on both sides of the fiber at the same time. Wool, unlike what you hear, wool is actually very easy to maintain. Very easy to clean. There’s just a process and the steps, what you take to clean every type of stain imaginable on wool. Truly synthetic free wall is nothing more than a natural fiber, with no chemical dyes, no pesticides, no flame retardants. The backing is hemp, jute, cotton or a combination thereof and natural latex right from the rubber tree. So it’s a very safe material unless you have a sensitivity to latex to natural latex or unless you have a sensitivity to lanolin. Lanolin is the oil that’s found in wool and most people know it as just a type of oil you can use in your skin for dry skin.  But some people have a sensitivity to it, so you gotta be careful. Okay.

Jay: I was going to ask about that and that you just answered it, so that’s good.

Andy: So beyond that, anybody who installs any other type of wall carpet can install a natural wall carpet. There’s no difference. I’s very warm. It’s very soft, very comfortable. So it’s like a softer version of cork like to say that.

Jay: Nice. Nice. So let’s, let’s move on. We’ve got one more category here. It’s the vinyl plank category.

Andy: Vinyl plank category. So you started alluding to this earlier, Jay, when you’re talking about that new product that Cali’s got. You know folks, when vinyl was invented as a sheet flooring material, really back in the fifties is when it became really popular. It was a wall to wall glue down sheet of vinyl. Over the years it has morphed because of ease of installation because of durability, because of environmental regulations, because of health regulations. Several years ago a product came out called an LVT luxury vinyl tile. And what luxury vinyl tile is essentially a thicker, harder, plank of a tile maybe six inches by three feet that gets glued down and gets put together almost like a ceramic tile floor without the grout. Well, companies like Cali Bamboo and some others out there have taken that one step further and they turned it into a floating floor. And instead of using an a medium density fiberboard as the core, they’re using limestone. And this is super cool. If anybody wanted to know, what’s our number one selling floor nationwide right now? It’s this product.

Jay: I’ve seen it folks. I was in Wisconsin last spring and it is remarkable.

Andy: About a year and a half ago I was working with Ryan and Teddy Sternagel. They built a home to be a healthy home for their son Ryder who was going through cancer treatments. And they wanted to build an absolutely perfectly healthy home for him and their family. And they had me on what was called the Toxic Home Transformation show to talk about the things we did in their home. Well, this is the floor they chose for their house and just a remarkable product because it doesn’t off gas. The limestone core is a solid core, so that your durability factor is higher longevity factor. There’s no off gassing from it. You can use it in semi-wet areas. This past winter, I believe they even lost… their furnace stopped working. It got so cold they had to heat the house completely from a woodstove. And the cool thing is that because the limestone core, that floor remained a little warm. It’s just a really, really effective flooring material and a relatively low price point. We’re talking well less than any of the products we’ve talked about so far except for stained concrete.

Jay: Yeah. You know, right at the end of the show. I think before we close out, maybe what we could do is just real quickly and you can do this better than I, we’ll quickly go back through the floors and just kind of get a rough idea of square foot numbers just for our listeners. Go on. Go on.

Andy: Perfect. And so the next iteration of this floor Cali has a product called Geowood, Geowood Oak specifically. They actually take that limestone core, that geo core, and instead of a vinyl top on it, they put on a real wood veneer. So now it gives you a floating wood floor with the durability of limestone that’s completely moisture resistant. And every one of these floors, folks, I have tested personally with the FRAT system and they’re all zero formaldehyde off gassing. And this is what I find remarkable is that the industry of vinyl and floating floors using MDF and glues and all this stuff, the fact that these floors did not release any formaldehyde is truly remarkable. So you can see, I’m very excited about that product. I believe that manufacturers now will be following suit. We’re already seeing it. There’s some other manufacturers of product called Cortech and some others that are making these, limestone core floating floors. I think it’s one of the best technologies to come out and flooring in decades.

Beyond that, they’re there. I mean, there are some other materials that are out there that are used very infrequently and you know, recycled rubber floors is one of them. Or what’s called virgin rubber floors or virgin vinyl floors.

Jay: There’s earthen floors.

Andy: Yea rammed earth, definitely. So I think we’d covered the pretty much the basics today, Jay. So want to talk about pricing? Let’s run down to be with the product. You give me a product and I’ll give you a price.

Jay: Start at the top with stain concrete.

Andy: So stain concrete, the cost of the materials will be less than a dollar a foot. That’s going to be your stain and your sealer. The expensive stain concrete comes in the concrete itself. If you have to pour it, obviously the preparation requires a lot of scrubbing, rinsing and scrubbing, rinsing. Or if you have already something stuck to it, you have to blast it off and get it down to raw concrete. So the preparation could be more expensive.

Jay: But once that’s done and you’ve got your idea figured out, then then you’re home free because basically it’s going to be maintenance-free. It’s going to last a long, long time. So again, going back to this idea that you’re looking at your cost analysis, you’ve got to look long term as well as short term for for real.

Andy: Yeah. That’s a perfect way to say it. Yep.

Jay: Okay, so next wood and bamboo.

Andy: All right. Wood and bamboo… average folks just talking average, decent quality wood or bamboo floor, furnished and installed should run between eight to $10 a square foot.

Jay: Okay. Okay. That’s simple. Let’s go to cork.

Andy: Cork flooring, pretty much the same. Eight to $10 a square foot, maybe a little less because most of those floors are floating. If you’re in that $8 range for a budget purpose, you’ll be covered.

Jay: And installation costs on top of, that’s pretty much the same with those two?

Andy: Well, I’m figuring installation in those prices, Jay. I figure about between three and $4 a square foot for labor.

Jay: Okay. All right. All right, good. So tile.

Andy: So tile is one that you can spend $20 a square foot and you can spend 99 cents a square foot. So it comes down to what you want. A labor is a little trickier too, because it really is dependent on how much preparation needs to be done. But again, I’m always in that mindset of that eight to $10 a square foot range. It’ll be pretty much covering just about anything you need.

Jay: I think that’s good. That’s nice. That kind of give it just a general sense of folks to them when they’re thinking about their decisions, they can go, okay, we can kind of use this number to kind of keep us in the comfort zone, relatively speaking in the comfort zone.  So they don’t like get a big surprise. Oh we like that floor, but Oh my God. Okay. And of course, excluding the idea of wool carpeting.

Andy: Yes, of course.

Jay: Because, because then we’re telling a bigger number, but we’re also talking longterm as well.

Andy: You got it. You got it.

Jay: How about, how about a linoleum? We already talked about the natural linoleum.

Andy: A natural and linoleum is, again material-wise I’ll separate this one to material wise. You’re looking in about the $4.50 to $5 square foot range. Labor can range anywhere from a dollar a square foot to $4 a square foot. Depends on the application, how much preparation needs to be done to the sub floor. So that one I got, I have to give you a bigger range on.

Jay: Yeah, sure. Okay. I guess last is the vinyl, the luxury vinyl tile.

Andy: Luxury vinyl plank, the floating stuff. Cali’s stuff. Yeah, folks it’s pretty remarkable. You’re looking at less than $4 a square foot for the basics really to up to about $5.50. For the top of the line. And then your install… you’re installing a floating floor, so three, four bucks a square foot or less if you do it yourself. And so honestly when I’m involved in new home construction, unless I know I have a customer who’s going to pick the most expensive things in my showroom, I usually tell them budgets somewhere around eight to $10 a square foot for just about any flooring material. You’ll be pleasantly surprised if you could decide to do concrete in the lower level and you budget $8 a square foot. And then in areas where you want to splurge, well maybe it’d be a little bit more that, but if you average eight to 10, you should be covered.

Jay: Yeah. You just touched on something, I think is important. You will find varieties of flooring in the same home. Yea definitely sure. Definitely going to see, maybe not with concrete, but you’re definitely gonna see tile and you’re going to see wood. And if you have the money you’re going to see wool. You may see linoleum. I mean it’s possible, right? Usually people kind of tone it down a little bit. They’ll have tile in the bathroom and in the kitchen. And then in the other rooms they’ll have wood, right? Or they’ll have wood and they’ll have carpet in some of the rooms in some of the rooms and tile in some of the rooms. So it’s always going to be kind of a mixed match kind.

Andy: It is. Especially nowadays people want to show their individuality and sometimes every bedroom will have a different color. And I mean that’s a nice thing. You can do what you’d like and there’s a healthier alternative for just about anything you can imagine. One of the last things I want to touch on or I think the last thing because we’re getting really long here folks and thanks for tuning in. Trends… right now the trend in flooring is, I think I briefly touched on this. Cork is not really one of the current trends, although it’s coming back a little bit. Current trends would be wood or a wood look like the wood look tile, muted browns and grays are really, really popular right now. The really super dark mocha colors have kind of gone away now. We’re getting to those muted tones, earth tones. But trends are also going to low maintenance, low maintenance. People don’t want to have to spend time cleaning their floors. They’d rather spend time going for a walk with the dog and teaching their kids how to ride a bike. They don’t want to have to worry about maintaining a floor.

Jay: No, they want to dance on it. Being West coast here, that that’s a big, big selling point for concrete because boy, once it’s down and it looks good, maintenance is really easy.

Andy: You got it, you got it. And so as always, folks, if you have questions about the episode today, please feel free to reach out. Go to the website degreeofgreen.com. Leave us a message right on the website. Then the top left is what’s called a SpeakPipe and right through your computer you can leave us a voicemail and every once in awhile those voicemails make it to a show. So hopefully we’ll hear your voice on an upcoming episode.

Jay: We’ve got some great interviews coming down the pipeline to folks, so stay tuned.

Andy: And as always, we encourage you to go to iTunes or wherever you listen to our show. And if you can, if it gives you the ability to leave us a review and a rating, we would be oh so happy. If you could leave us a five star review or a rating and give us a review, drop a few words in there. Why do you like the show? What have you learned from the show? Those little things go a long way in helping others find Non Toxic Environments because there’s a million podcasts right now, and we’re just one small fish in the big ocean, so we’d really appreciate it if you could help others find us.

Jay: Thanks everybody for listening in, Andy, it’s the weekend. Well maybe it’s not the weekend everywhere people, but it’s the weekend for us.

Andy: Weekend for us. Have a good one, folks. We’ll be both in next week. Sounds good.

Jay: Bye bye.


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