Creating a Sustainable Home Right Down to the Floor

September 26, 2019

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Green building and green building materials have been steadily growing in popularity for the last decade or more. Savvy homeowners are beginning to realize that the materials they choose to put into their homes impact more than their function and style; they also impact the environment and sometimes even the health of those who live there.

Sustainable Flooring Materials

Sustainable building materials can be a difficult topic to truly grasp, however. Some materials can be recycled, for example, but produce a lot of VOCs and other harmful toxins when being manufactured. Other materials are organic, but may not be harvested in the most responsible ways. So, for the homeowner truly trying to create a sustainable home, choosing the right materials can feel like a futile activity.

Thankfully, there are materials that are beautiful, durable, and truly eco-friendly and sustainable all at once. One of these is reclaimed hardwood flooring – real wood floors that have no impact on today’s environment.

What Is Reclaimed Wood Flooring?

Reclaimed wood is real wood that has been taken from old buildings. Typically, the buildings are more than 100 years old and may include farmhouses, outbuildings, or old factories. The wood is cleaned, de-nailed, rough milled, and sorted. It can then be given new life as flooring, wall panels, mantels, ceiling beams, tabletops, and countless other new items.

Despite already having been in use for decades, the wood still has years of life left and will last just as long as a new cut wood floor. Some reclaimed wood floors may also look similar to a new cut wood floor, while others will have saw marks, nail holes, and patina that help show its original use, character, history, and age. 

The wood may be all taken from one source or wood species, or you can find blends that are made up of different species of wood taken from many different sources. The result is a wood floor with a depth and beauty that can’t be replicated with new wood. 

Why Is Reclaimed Wood Sustainable?

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Most wood floors that are being harvested today are cut from hardwood forests. Hardwood is very slow-growing, so even when companies plant trees to replace those that they cut, it can still make a big impact on the forest and the environment. Softwoods, which grow more quickly, were once more popular as flooring, but have fallen out of favor for more durable and exotic woods. 

Replacement materials, such as laminate and vinyl, meant to look like wood are problematic for other reasons. They use plastics and chemicals that can release harmful VOCs into the environment when manufactured and for up to 5 years after manufacture as well. They also don’t last as long as real wood, so within just a couple of decades, they’re being pulled up and discarded. It’s very difficult to find recycling plants that will take these materials, so they end up in landfills where they harm the environment even more.

Reclaimed wood is different. The trees that went into producing it were harvested more than 100 years ago. Any impact their cutting may have had on the environment has diminished by now.

By taking the existing wood and giving it a new life, you lessen the impact that the original harvesting had even more. The wood is getting use and purpose, without requiring new trees to be cut and without harmful manufacturing processes. And because reclaimed wood is real wood, your new reclaimed wood floor will still last just as long as a new cut wood floor, so you won’t be tearing it up and replacing it in a short time, the way that you would need to with some other materials. This makes the flooring far more sustainable than anything else that’s currently on the market. 

Designing with Reclaimed Wood

Reclaimed wood floors are available in many of the same species, styles, and colors that you love in new cut wood floors. They may have some added character and patina that enrich their appearance, or they may be nearly indistinguishable. Depending on your personal style and needs, it’s possible to find a reclaimed wood floor that will be the perfect match for your home.

And if you have a rustic home or a historic home that you’re trying to match materials and finishes for, reclaimed wood is able to effortlessly meet your needs. You can find wood that already has a rustic finish or that has a patina and finish that will make it look like it was installed in your home decades ago. 

In many ways, using a reclaimed wood floor is a lot like a new cut wood floor. You’ll choose the wood species, grain, color, and finish that you want to match the rest of your interior design. The floor will perform beautifully year after year, enhancing your home without harming the environment. 

Get a Sustainable Wood Floor for Your Home

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If you’re building an environmentally friendly home, be sure to include a sustainable floor in the design. Reclaimed wood can give you the look you want, while meeting your goals at the same time. Visit Elmwood Reclaimed Timber for more information, and get a more sustainable home with reclaimed wood.

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