I AM standing on top of a strip of maple flooring, poised like a surfer about to take on a giant wave. “Cover your ears” says Mr Green, wielding a small mallet and preparing to bash the neighbouring strip of flooring into place.
Just five minutes ago, he asked for my help, displaying a way with words that no girl could resist. “I need your bulk,” he shouted up the stairs. Be still my beating heart. So here we are, my bulk holding the floor in place and ensuring a successful installation.
Before Christmas, the open-plan kitchen diner was created, a triumph rising from the ashes of three months of plaster dust and general mayhem. A decision was made to “get some flooring in the January sales”, but bargain flooring is not always eco-friendly. Start the conversation at your local flooring warehouse with “I like this slate-effect vinyl but can you tell me about the volatile organic compound emissions it’s likely to give off?” and you’re not likely to get offered a complimentary cup of coffee.
Our kitchen floor is below ground level, so anything that can’t cope with a bit of moisture is off the list. The dream solid wood floor made from locally grown hardwood has therefore been cruelly cast aside, but better to be a realist than end up with a warped floor. Solid wood is a sustainable option, but do look beyond the supplier. I came across loads with ‘British’ in their name but punting woods like zebrano and wenge. If you want locally grown wood then make your first stop the Association of Scottish Hardwood Sawmillers (www.ashs.co.uk). If you don’t mind buying overseas-grown timber, the FSC logo is your best guarantee that it has been produced in a responsible manner.
For those with dodgy concrete sub-floors, laminate and engineered flooring are good options. With laminate, make sure it’s not glued with formaldehyde resins, and if it’s engineered (a top layer of hardwood with softwoods underneath), again check for the FSC logo and read up on the manufacturer. Kahrs, for instance, has a splendid environmental policy, sourcing almost 90 per cent of its timber from within a 124-mile radius of its Swedish factory and turning waste wood into biofuel. Cork is eco-friendly, and we should pause for a minute to consider reclaimed wood flooring – a commendable form of recycling.
With all of these types of flooring, it’s often the varnishes or other finishes that can make or break an eco-rating, so dig deep to find out these details.
Linoleum is apparently back in fashion and brands like Marmoleum can boast that their product is made from 97 per cent natural raw materials, including linseed oil, wood flour and jute. Beware ‘lino’ that is really vinyl in disguise. Vinyl, or PVC, is cheap and convenient but comes laced with volatile organic compounds and can’t be recycled. If stone has taken your fancy then find out where and by whom was it quarried.
I was initially excited by bamboo flooring, a fast-growing option, but became dubious because of the transportation required, a lack of FSC-style regulation and guilt that we’re depriving Edinburgh Zoo’s pandas of their dinner.
So how does my maple engineered floor look? The small area that has been laid looks lovely. When will it be finished? I don’t know, I just provide the bulk.