How to Choose and Safely Install Wood Flooring

Remodeling? Learn how to choose and safely install wood flooring. Avoid issues with formaldehyde and other indoor air pollutants.

One of our readers recently asked us about how to choose safe wood flooring and how to install it safely.

“We are considering changing the flooring to hardwood instead of carpet. From the little research I did, the cork floor might be more eco-friendly, but I do not like the look and colors of cork. So I have opted for engineered hardwood from an eco-friendly company like Kahr’s or Green building supply. Is that a good choice? Any brands you would recommend?

Also, what should I look for in a safe brand (which would be formaldehyde free?) Some green standard?? For installation of the wood floor, I was considering getting water based glue which has low VOC’s. Is that good? Any safe brand adhesive you suggest?”

We know how difficult it can be during a remodeling project to find safe and healthy materials. Below are our recommendations for purchasing safe wood flooring as well as how to install wood flooring without creating indoor air quality problems.

Safe Wood Flooring

Before we talk about engineered wood flooring, I just want to cover a few topics about cork and laminate wood floors.

Although cork floors are eco-friendly, they do have some drawbacks. Many require glue down applications, and the glues can be a problem. Also, cork is not as durable and can’t be refinished. Based on these considerations and the fact that you didn’t like the look, you’re probably better off with engineered wood floors.

It appears that you are not considering laminate wood floors. As you’re probably aware, some laminate wood floors can be very toxic, but not all are bad. This article gives good advice on how to find safer laminate wood flooring.


What to Look for When Buying Engineered Wood Flooring

Here’s what to look for in engineered wood flooring.

Engineered floors are a combination of a solid hardwood top glued to a plywood base. The thicker the hardwood top, the more time the floor can be sanded and refinished. A thicker hardwood top increases the longevity of the floor.

  • Check a cross section of the engineered floor to ensure that you are getting at least ¼” of solid wood and not a laminated floor
  • Find out what type of glue was used. Water-based, non-toxic glues are best. Kahrs, EcoTimber, and other companies use non-toxic glues
  • Look for the Green Guard certification which ensures that the flooring passes indoor air quality requirements
    • Shaw & Armstrong have some Green Guard certified engineered wood floors


How to Safely Install Engineered Wood Floors

Ideally, you should use nails rather than glue because as you know, glue can release dangerous toxins. If you have to use glue, use Zero VOC adhesives like Bostick’s TKO or EcoTimber Healthy Bond.

If you are installing the floor over concrete, you can float the floor to avoid glue. Check to see if your floor is designed for a floating application.

Always cut the wood floor outside!

Why? Because wood dust can be a carcinogen.

If you need to fill floor cracks, try one of these products:

  • Custom Brand Non-Sanded Grout
  • AFM Brand Caulk
  • Plaster of Paris (100% gypsum)
  • Murco Joint Compound (made of starch)
  • Portland Cement

When installing baseboards and quarter rounds, use nails only without adhesives. If you’re using pine, then paint or seal all sides prior to installation using no VOC paint or no VOC sealant. Using oil based paint? Then you’ll have to use a low VOC paint.


Armed with the facts, you can now purchase safe wood flooring. And, you can install it without worries.

Send Us Your Questions – Ask Pure Living Space

Do you have any questions about creating a pure living space in your home? Send them to Ask Pure Living Space. We’ll do the research for you!

How to Choose Whole House Water Filters

Do you have questions about buying a whole house water filtration system? Get the info you need to make the right decision. Click to read the full article or PIN to save for later.

One of our Dallas readers sent us this question about how to choose Whole House Water Filters.

“I want to install a whole house water filtration system but not crazy expensive. Are there one of two companies you could recommend? There are tons listed in the area and I’ve heard there are a lot of flaky companies out there.”

Our response – Here’s How to Choose Whole House Water Filters

We know what you mean about purchasing a whole house filter and not knowing who you can trust. Many companies make claims that just aren’t backed up with facts and third-party lab results. These are the steps we recommend to choose whole house water filters.

Do Some Background Reading

If you haven’t yet, please consider reading our article on Whole House Filters – Confused about Whole House Filters? This will give you a good start. In this article, you’ll discover three critical things you should know before purchasing a filter.

Confused About Whole House Water Filters?

Know Your Water Department’s Chemical Disinfectants

You should start by understanding which chemical disinfectant your water department uses. Why? Because it will determine which type of whole house filter you need. You wouldn’t want to purchase a filter that is primarily geared to removing Chlorine if your water department uses Chloramines as a disinfectant.

Since you’re in the Dallas area, I think you probably get your water from Dallas County Park Cities Municipal Utility District and they use Chloramines and not Chlorine as a water disinfectant.

How do you find this information?

Simply google the name of your city including the term “water department” or “water quality”. You should easily be able to find your city’s water quality report. When you read the report, it will be obvious which disinfectant they are using.

We Recommend Austin Springs Whole House Filters

We recommend the Austin Springs Whole House Filter which is third-party tested and NSF certified (#42 & #53) to remove certain water contaminants. Aquasana, a well-known name in water filtration, makes the Austin Springs filters in the USA and supports them with a 3-year warranty.

Whole House Water Filter Austin Springs

Any licensed plumber can install this whole house filter. After installation, you can change the filters without tools or help from a plumber.

If you decide to go with a different system, we recommend only buying filters that are third-party tested and certified by NSF. You’ll want to look for NSF certification #42 & #53 for your whole house filter.

PLUS, you need to ask for the lab report.

Why? Because even certified filters perform at different levels. For instance, the Austin Springs Whole House Filter reduces 90% of chloramines and other filters may only remove 50% of chloramines.

Don’t Buy it without Third-Party Lab Report

We advise people to only buy water filters with a third-party lab report. Trustworthy water filter manufacturers hire a certified third-party lab to test their filters and they publish the results.


Want a Custom Whole House Filtration System?

If you want a custom system (perhaps with a reverse osmosis tank, etc.), then look for certified professionals:

  • Certified Water Specialist (CWS) 
    This designation is best suited for professionals who provide solutions to “problem water” issues and health-related contaminants.
  • Certified Installer (CI) 
    This designation is ideal for professionals who specialize in installing water quality improvement products.

Don’t settle for uncertified businesses because you only want to hire certified professionals.

Armed with the facts, you don’t have to feel overwhelmed when choosing a home water filtration system.

Send Us Your Questions – Ask Pure Living Space

Do you have any questions about creating a pure living space in your home? Send them to Ask Pure Living Space. We’ll do the research for you!

The Easy Way to Avoid Toxic Nail Polish

Toxic Nail Polish - How to Find Safer Alternatives

Who doesn’t love a manicure or pedicure especially at a nail salon? A salon manicure can be so relaxing. Unfortunately, nail products typically contain harmful substances that are unregulated.

If you’ve spent any time at all in a nail salon, you’ve smelled the fumes of polish removers, polish, and gel nail products. And, I’m sure you’ve wondered about what you are breathing. So, how do you avoid toxic nail polish?

You can enjoy a safe manicure using these tips.

How to Avoid Toxic Nail Polish

First, you must understand the limitations of FDA regulations.

You probably think that the FDA has programs for testing products.

Well, it doesn’t.

The FDA cannot and does not require companies to do product safety tests. And, the FDA does not review or approve the majority of personal care products.

In fact, the FDA has prohibited only a handful of substances in your personal care products. This explains why your products can contain toxins like formaldehyde, phthalates, parabens, toluene, and flame retardants.

So, this places the burden on you to find safe products.

Is 3-Free the Answer?

Recently, companies started labeling their nail polishes as 3-Free meaning that their polish did not contain the formaldehyde, toluene, or dibutyl phthalate. This is welcome because you really don’t want these toxins in your nail polish. Here’s why:

Dibutyl Phthalate – Used to make polish last longer and make it more flexible; however, it is increasingly linked to brain, behavioral changes, cancer and reproductive system harm. Dibutyl Phthalate is banned in Europe and listed as a developmental toxin in California.

Formaldehyde – Used as a nail hardener even though it’s a known carcinogen, asthmagen, and neurotoxin

Toluene – Used to make polish smooth; however, it’s linked to developmental and reproductive toxicity, organ system toxicity, irritation

Other nail polishes are labeled 5-Free meaning that the polish doesn’t contain any formaldehyde resin or camphor. Formaldehyde resin shares the same harmful qualities as formaldehyde.

But, is 3-Free or 5-Free good enough? Should you feel good about your manicure if you opt for these 3/5-Free brands?

Probably not. Here’s why.

Safety of Dibutyl Phthalate Substitute Questioned

A lot of these 3-Free and 5-Free polishes substituted Triphenyl Phosphate (TPHP) for Dibutyl Phthalate. TPHP makes polish flexible and durable, and it is also used as a chemical flame retardant.

Sometimes substitutes for harmful substances may not really be safe either.

Over the last decade, Dibutyl Phthalate has been replaced with TPHP. Many nail polishes now contain this new substance. A recent study by Duke University and the Environmental Working Group suggests that TPHP is absorbed through the skin and found evidence of exposure in all 26 participants.

Animal studies indicate it is an endocrine disruptor and another study linked exposure to fertility problems. As a further red flag, the EPA added TPHP to its list of chemicals requiring in-depth reviews because of its widespread use.

What’s the bottom line?

Since 3-Free and 5-Free polishes may contain TPHP, you can’t be certain that these polishes are safe.

What is a safe polish?

List of Safe, Water-Based Nail Polishes

Safer nail polish is available. Most nail polishes are solvent-based, but several personal care product companies have developed water-based polishes free of acetate.

These polishes are free from harsh chemical odors. Water-based polishes won’t harden as fast as solvent-based, so there is a drawback. However, most customer reviews were positive.

SOPHi Naturals

Suncoat Nail Polish

Piggy Paint (for children)

Honeybee Gardens Nail Polish

Keeki Pure & Simple

If you are a frequent user of nail polish, it’s probably a good idea to reduce your chronic exposure to these harmful chemicals and try these safer alternatives.

Learn more about how to avoid the worst things in personal care products because it’s important to your health. Making a simple change to a safer less toxic nail polish can make a difference in your toxic exposure.


“Triphenyl phosphate, found in ‘eco-friendly’ nail polish, spurs worries”, Chicago Tribune

“Nail polish as a source of exposure to triphenyl phosphate”, PubMed

Campaign for Safer Cosmetics

“Found Toxic Nail Polish in Women’s Bodies”,