Keep it Green Is Douglas fir flooring eco-friendly

Keep it Green: Is Douglas fir flooring eco-friendly?

March 9, 2011 by | nell | There have been 0 comments

Dilemma: you love the look of Douglas fir flooring. but you want to be sure you’re picking a product that’s not harmful to the environment. Do Douglas fir floors fit the bill? Isn’t cutting down trees bad for the planet?

In truth, there are a lot of factors that go into determining how environmentally-friendly any product is. There are a few things to consider regarding flooring. To start, where does the flooring come from? Carpet, vinyl flooring or engineered wood products might be made of components produced in various locations, shipped to China, assembled in a factory, and then shipped back across the ocean to the U.S. There are a lot of miles built into that product.

Douglas-fir is native to the Pacific Northwest, where it’s the state tree of Oregon. If you’ve hiked a trail anywhere west of the Rockies, chances are you’ve seen Douglas-fir growing in its native environment.

Douglas-fir trees in a native forest.

Knowing where your wood comes from is important—according to the Forestry Stewardship Council. wood that comes from certain regions—especially Eastern Europe, Latin America, China and Southeast Asia—is often logged illegally, then processed and exported to North America as products like plywood and decking.

Bamboo and cork, often praised as eco-friendly choices because the plants they come from replenish much more quickly than trees used for other wood floors, lose out to Douglas fir flooring when it comes to the energy used to transport them from their tropical origins to the homes of U.S. consumers.

Douglas fir flooring sold on this site comes from trees grown in the Northwest, then processed and milled near Portland. There’s very little shipping and manufacturing involved in creating Douglas fir floors—during the whole process, from tree to log to plank, the wood stays within the same region where it was grown.

When you’re weighing out the environmental pros and cons of a purchase, you also need to think about how long what you’re buying is going to last. You don’t have to be an environmental scientist to realize that a floor that endures for a lifetime is a more sustainable choice than one that needs to be replaced every 1 or 2 decades. Every time a floor is replaced, resources are used in manufacturing, shipping and installation. The average synthetic-fiber carpet will last about 15 years, while a higher-quality wool carpet could last 20-30. A vinyl floor, depending on the quality, can last anywhere from 10-30 years. A Douglas fir floor will last up to 100 years, sometimes more.

When you buy wood flooring, you know you’ve got a product that will most likely last the lifetime of your house. That one-time purchase is a more economical buy, both for your pocketbook and the environment.

If at some point a homeowner decides to replace their wood flooring, those boards can then be recycled and used again, sold as reclaimed wood flooring, where they’ll find new life in a new home. Reclaimed wood has seen a huge surge in popularity in recent years, both from folks who love the unique patina of aged wood, and for people who enjoy purchasing wood knowing that no new trees were cut down. Reclaimed Douglas fir floors and timbers are available for homeowners looking for that blend of history and green living that comes with reclaimed wood.

And if, someday, the boards of a wood floor are simply too worn out to serve any more useful purpose, they will break down naturally over time. If stripped of chemical finishes, boards can be turned into wood chips and toss them into your compost pile.

Keep it Green Is Douglas fir flooring eco-friendly

Indoor Air Quality

Many household products contain volatile organic compounds, commonly known as VOCs. A VOC is any substance that contains carbon and readily “off-gases”—or turns into a vapor—at room temperature. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, VOCs can have both long and short-term health effects, and VOC levels are often two to five times higher indoors than outdoors. Carpets, vinyl flooring, and other building materials are among the many substances that emit VOCs. Carpet fibers are often coated in chemicals to repel stains or moisture, and the carpet pads they rest on and the adhesives used during installation emit VOCs as well.

While wood does naturally emit small amounts of formaldehyde, it does so at very low levels. Environmentally-friendly, low-VOC stains and finishes are available for your wood floor, to further reduce the amount of indoor air pollution.

Carpets are also known to trap dust, dirt, and allergens within their fibers—with a wood floor, a quick sweeping and cleaning removes the dust and allergens from the home. For people with allergies or asthma, having a floor that you know isn’t emitting chemicals or storing pollutants is a literal breath of fresh air.

Wood, by its very nature, is a green material. It’s non-toxic, recyclable, grows naturally, and it doesn’t take any extra energy to manufacture. While illegal logging and deforestation is a concern worldwide, Douglas fir flooring comes from legally-logged forests that are managed for long-term forest renewability.

So if making the perfect choice for a green home is weighing on your mind, fret no more. You can have beautiful Douglas fir floors and peace of mind too: they are a responsible choice for maintaining a healthy planet.

- Jennifer Rouse


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