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.


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The Ultimate Guide to Safe Paints

The Ultimate Guide to Safe Paints

Did you know that even after paint dries, it can continue to emit VOCs? That’s right. According to the CPSC, formaldehyde can be detected 1-3 months after painting. So, it makes sense to use safe paints and stains that don’t emit harmful VOCs.

Get a new perspective on safe paints and learn why paint fumes are dangerous and how to shop for the safest alternatives. You may be surprised to learn that many of these safe paints are available at your local hardware store.

Let’s start with the basics about paint fumes.


Are Paint Fumes Dangerous?


Paints can release chemicals that are carcinogens, reproductive toxins, or ozone depleting compounds.

Conventional paints give off volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These VOCs released into the air can cause immediate problems like eye and throat or lung irritation, headaches, dizziness, and vision problems.

And, the chemicals can cause longer term problems. Some chemicals cause cancer or reproductive and developmental effects in laboratory animals.

It’s a troubling thought, isn’t it?


Are Safe Paints Available?


Safe paints are available. You just need to know which ones to buy.

You can find safe interior and exterior paints, primers, and stains without too much effort. But, first, you should understand some facts about paint and VOCs.


Three Quick Facts About Paint & VOCs


It’s pretty simple.

You only need to know three facts to keep yourself safe.

1. Low VOC paints actually have a lot of VOCs.

<<< Don’t buy low VOC paints.>>>

2. Zero VOC paints have 5 grams/liter or less of VOCs, but these paints may include other chemicals that simply aren’t good for you.

<<< Look for Zero VOC and the Green Seal 11 -2008 certification.>>>

3. It’s not just about the odor.

<<< Paint releases VOCs long after the paint is dry and you can no longer smell the odor.>>>

What’s so important about the Green Seal 11 certification?

The Green Seal certification will make sure that your paint has none of the following bad guys that can still be found in some Zero VOC paints.

  • carcinogens
  • reproductive toxins
  • mutagens
  • hazardous air pollutants
  • ozone depleting compounds

The Best Zero VOC Paints


If you want to buy Zero VOC paint locally, you’re in luck. Many hardware stores carry Benjamin Moore Natura™ and Aura™. These paints are Zero VOC as well as Green Seal 11 certified. If you need to do touch up painting over conventional paints, it isn’t a problem to match the color.

Another option is to use paints made from natural raw ingredients like water, plant oils, plant dyes, clay, milk protein, bees’ wax, earth and mineral dyes. These types of paints are some of the safest you can use. Try the websites listed below to order these paints.

Look into ECOS Paints – ecospaints.net. While not green seal certified, they publish their testing documents on their website, and they are a leader in VOC-free, organic paints.


What if you Need an Oil-Based Paint?


If you need to paint over oil-based or alkyd paint, you’ll have to opt for a Low VOC paint. Try Benjamin Moore  ADVANCE® Waterborne Interior Alkyd line of waterborne alkyd paints. While it is not a Zero VOC paint, it is Low VOC (less than 50 g/l  compared to Zero VOC of 5 g/l).

Unfortunately, you cannot find Zero VOC alkyd paints, so if you must paint over oil-based enamel paint, then you’ll have to focus on good ventilation or the use of an air purifier equipped with a carbon filter.


Zero VOC Stains & Polyurethane


Conventional wood stains and polyurethane should also be avoided when possible. Ecos Paints offers Zero VOC wood stains as well as non-toxic polyurethane.

One last tip!

Remember to opt for Zero VOC primer.


So, now you’re informed with the facts about safe paints. You can paint your nursery, children’s rooms or any room in your house confidently knowing that you’re using the best non-toxic, zero VOC paints.

 

How to be a Smart Shopper and Avoid Toxic Upholstered Furniture

How to be Smart and Avoid Toxic Upholstered Furniture

How to Avoid Toxic Upholstered Furniture

Upholstered furniture has several issues you’re trying to avoid – formaldehyde, chemical flame retardants, and synthetic cushion off-gassing.

To get the healthiest upholstered furniture, you’ll need to understand three components – the frame, cushions, and California’s latest flammability standards.


Frame – Opt for solid wood:


A lot of lower cost furniture is made with plywood, particle board or MDF. These engineered wood products are manufactured using adhesives that release formaldehyde.

Formaldehyde is a substance you’d rather not have in your home. Learn more about the dangers of formaldehyde.

Instead of engineered wood products, look for a frame made from solid hardwood like ash, maple, poplar or oak. Pine is a softer wood and is less desirable. Investing in a solid wood frame means your furniture will last, and it’s healthier without the formaldehyde.

If it’s not practical to buy solid wood upholstered furniture, then check out the article for how to reduce formaldehyde.


Cushions – Your best bet is to choose 100% natural latex:


Your best bet is to choose furniture with 100% natural latex cushions.

Why? Because natural latex is long-lasting and mold, mildew, and dust-mite resistant. And, the cushions do not off-gas like synthetic latex or polyurethane foam cushions.

100% natural latex is also naturally flame resistant. What does this mean? It has never required chemical flame retardants to meet earlier or current flammability standards, so it’s always a safe option.


Cushions – How to find cushions untreated by chemical flame retardants:


If purchasing 100% natural latex isn’t practical, then look for cushions made without chemical flame retardants. Most cushions are made with polyurethane or soy foam. These cushions can emit hazardous compounds and may also be treated with harmful flame retardants.

So, how do you know if the cushions have been treated with flame retardants?

It’s a long story. Here are the highlights.

In 1975, California passed laws requiring upholstered furniture to withstand an open flame. As a result, manufacturers started using large amounts of toxic flame retardants to meet the standards.

Since California is such a large market, the manufacturers used the same standards for the other 49 states. Luckily, effective Jan 1, 2015, the law was changed to require only smolder resistance.

This changed everything! Now, many fabrics and materials can pass the new standards without the use of chemical flame retardants.

Here’s how to decode the new labels.

You need to check the labels carefully. Look for the new flammability label. Flammability TagAs of January 1, 2015, the law requires all manufacturers to add the label. People in the other 49 states, as well as Canada, should start seeing these labels as well.

Since the only furniture built after January requires the label, you probably won’t find it on the majority of pieces you see in the stores. Look for labels with a check mark that the upholstery materials in the product “Contain No Added Flame Retardant Chemicals”. See the new label on the right.

To sum up, opt for 100% natural latex for long-lasting cushions without chemical flame retardants and nasty cushion off-gassing.

If natural latex is not practical, then look for furniture with the new flammability label that proves it has not been treated with flame retardants.


Buying New Furniture Not an Option?


Buying new furniture may not be an option for you. So, what can you do about flame retardants in your upholstered furniture?

You can replace your foam cushions with chemical flame retardant-free foam cushions. This will remove the bulk of the flame retardants from your furniture.

Here’s a list of places from the Green Science Policy Institute where you can get foam cushions without added flame retardants.

Cushion Works

Foam Order

House of Foam

Kay Chesterfield

Michael’s Custom Upholstery


Just Curious


How much of this was news to you? Some? or most of it?

If so, sign up for Zen of Pure Living 12 Week Email Series. You’ll learn how to create a toxic-free home easily and without the hassle. Subscribers call it a “must read”.  Sign up!

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How to Be Smart and Avoid Toxic Upholstered Furniture

Eight Healthy Remodeling Secrets Every Homeowner Should Know

Eight Healthy Remodeling Secrets Every Homeowner Should Know

Who doesn’t love to remodel a room or even a whole house? A fresh coat of paint, new kitchen cabinets, replacing carpet, or new furniture are all part of the redecorating excitement. When you’ve completed the remodel, you can’t get enough of your new space.

But did you know that your remodeling choices can have an impact on your health?

It’s true. Your choice of paint, flooring, furniture, and bedding matters to your health.

Be honest.

You think being green and healthy during a remodel is difficult. But, it’s really not if you have the right information. Non-toxic home remodeling is possible.

Learn eight healthy remodeling secrets that everyone should know.

Healthy Remodeling


1. Choose VOC-Absorbing Drywall


When you remodel, chances are the materials you’re using release VOCs like formaldehyde and benzene. This off-gassing creates unhealthy indoor air.

What type of materials and items release these harmful VOCs?

Plywood, particle board, fabric, carpet, mattresses, paint, solvents, lacquers, upholstered furniture, foam insulation, adhesives

It’s a long list. Just imagine a new master bedroom or family room and think about the volume of VOCs from paint, carpet, particle board furniture, plywood sub-flooring, adhesives, and insulation. Wood alone releases significant amounts of formaldehyde. Industry estimates show that 85% of wood materials have adhesives containing formaldehyde.

Now imagine that you can remove those VOCs by installing VOC-absorbing drywall.

Sounds like a good solution, right?

Here’s how it works. The drywall absorbs VOCs for 75 years even when finished and painted with most paints up to 25 coats. It captures VOCs, converts them into inert compounds and safely stores the inert material within the board. It also provides enhanced moisture and mold resistance.

You might be skeptical, but there’s proof. Greenguard Indoor Air Quality and UL Environment have cetified the AirRenew product. Both are worthwhile certifications. For more information go to www.airrenew.com.

 


2. Pick Your Vinyl Flooring Carefully or Opt for Safer Alternatives


A recent study by Healthy Stuff, highlighted issues with vinyl flooring and the release of phthalates. Human and animal studies have linked phthalates to serious health issues.

If you choose vinyl flooring, pick your brand carefully. Choosing Armstrong or Designer’s Image flooring is a good choice because the study results revealed no phthalates with these brands. Check out the report for more details.

What are better alternatives?

You might want to consider non-vinyl flooring alternatives. Look into bio-based linoleum, natural rubber or ceramic tile. These are healthier alternatives.

 


3. Opt for All Natural/Organic Mattresses


Due to strict fire safety standards, conventional mattress makers use large quantities of flame retardants to meet safety regulations. While it is generally accepted that these fire-retardant chemicals are toxic at a certain level, the debate continues to wage about safe levels.

Prefer to skip the debate? Then, choose an all-natural mattress.

All natural/organic mattresses use naturally flame retardant wool coverings and not chemical flame retardants to comply with safety regulations. So when you opt for an all natural mattress, you don’t have to worry about inhaling or absorbing harmful chemicals.

To learn more, read 10 Reasons to Buy an All Natural/Organic Mattress.

What else do you need to know about mattress shopping? When shopping for an all natural mattress, look for 100% all natural latex. Why? Because man-made latex can release harmful chemicals.

Watch out for some misleading ads. Some mattress manufacturers advertise all natural latex, but what they’re really selling is a blend of natural and man-made. The key is to look for 100% all natural latex.

Not ready to ditch your current conventional mattress? You can opt for an All Natural/Organic Mattress topper. It’s a great way to put some distance between you and your conventional mattress. Plus, it’s a great way to improve the comfort of your current mattress.

 


4. Install a Second Sink or Faucet with Under Counter Water Filtration System


If you’re remodeling your kitchen, now is the perfect time to add a water filtration system. Consider adding a second sink with purified water to avoid a queue at your main sink. You’ll love the convenience.

If a second sink isn’t an option, then add a second faucet to your sink with purified water.

Are you still drinking unfiltered tap water?

Consider reading Seven Undeniably Good Reasons to Drink Filtered Water. It may just change your mind.

Not sure which water filtration system is the best? Check out the three highest rated, certified water filter systems.

 


5. Use Zero VOC Paints and Stains


Here are a few facts you need to know about paint.

– Low VOC paints actually have a lot of VOCs, so don’t buy low VOC paints.

– Zero VOC paints only have 5 grams/liter or less of VOCs, but these paints may include other chemicals that simply aren’t good for you.

Look for Zero VOC and the Green Seal 11 -2008 certification.

– It’s not just about the odor.

Paint releases VOCs long after the paint is dry and you can no longer smell the odor. So, buying zero VOC paints is a healthy choice.

Finding paint without carcinogens, reproductive toxins or ozone depleting compounds was a chore. It’s easier now. Benjamin Moore Natura™ and Aura™ interior latex paints are good choices because the paints are Zero VOC as well as Green Seal certified. And, they are readily available.

Get information on other safe paint brands. And, remember to choose zero VOC primer.

 


6. Install Shower Filters


A bathroom remodel is the perfect opportunity to install a shower filter. Because the filter adds an inch or two to your shower drop, adding the filters while remodeling ensures your shower head is the right height.

Why use shower filters at all?

Shower filters remove chlorine and chloramine used to disinfect your water as well as other harmful contaminants. When water is heated and sprayed, it creates droplets that you can inhale. Some suggest that inhaling these chemicals is worse than actually drinking them. Regardless, it’s probably a good idea to filter out these water contaminants for a safer shower.

Want to know the highest rated and certified shower filters? Check out these highly rated shower filters.

 


7. Look for Wood Laminate Flooring That Meets Safety Standards


When buying wood laminate flooring, get the safest flooring by following the EPA recommendations. Buy products that are labeled or stamped in compliance with:

  • California Air Resources Board Air Toxics Control Measure (CARB ATCM)
  • American National Standards Institute (ANSI):
    • Particleboard should conform to A208.1-2009 or CARB ATCM
    • MDF should conform to A208.2-2009 or CARB ATCM
    • Hardwood Plywood should conform to ANSI/HPVA HP-1-2009 or CARB ATCM

If your wood laminate flooring meets these standards, you can feel confident that it will not release unhealthy amounts of formaldehyde.

Better yet, opt for solid wood flooring instead of laminate.

 


8. Shop for Solid Wood, Latex & Organic Upholstered Furniture 


Here’s the last secret. It’s the one you’re probably going to be the most excited about when you see the options for the safest furniture.

But first, the details on why you should care.

Most upholstered furniture has two issues you’re trying to avoid – chemical flame retardants and formaldehyde. To buy the best upholstered furniture, you’ll need to understand all three components – the frame, cushions, and fabrics.

Frame – opt for solid wood:

A lot of lower cost furniture is made with plywood, particle board or MDF. These engineered wood products are manufactured using adhesives that release formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a substance you’d rather not have in your home.

Instead of engineered wood products, look for a frame made from solid hardwood like ash, maple, poplar or oak. Pine is a softer wood and is less desirable. Investing in a solid wood frame means your furniture will last, and it’s healthier without the formaldehyde.

Cushions – choose 100% natural latex:

Most cushions are made with polyurethane or soy foam. Some manufacturers claim that soy foam is safer and “greener” than polyurethane. Don’t be misled. The soy component comprises less than 20% while the remaining 80% is a petroleum-based product often called “solid gasoline”. Hence, the need for chemical flame retardants.

The safest and longest lasting cushions are made from latex. It’s a good idea to opt for 100% natural latex and not synthetic latex.

Why?

Natural latex is mold, mildew, and dust mite resistant and is not highly flammable. Since it is naturally flame retardant, it does not need chemical flame retardants to meet safety regulations. Other good news, the 100% natural latex cushions do not off-gas.

To sum up, opt for 100% natural latex to avoid chemical flame retardants and nasty cushion off-gassing.

Fabric – choose organic fabric and avoid synthetics

Choose an organic fabric made from natural fibers like hemp, linen or cotton duck for casual sofas and chairs and wool or silk for fancy pieces. Generally, a tighter weave leads to a more dense fabric which means greater durability.

Try to avoid synthetic fabrics like polyester and acrylic as well as stain resistant finishes. While stain resistance seems like a good thing, the finishes contain dangerous and harmful chemicals. And since polyester and acrylic fabrics are flammable, they are coated with chemical flame retardants you’re trying to avoid.

Want to know where you can find upholstered furniture that ticks all the boxes?EKLA sofa

You can find solid wood, natural latex cushions, and organic fabric furniture that is stunningly beautiful at Eklahome.com.

EKLA has many organic fabric choices and solid wood frame styles available. It’s the best non-toxic furniture without chemical flame retardants. Made in the USA.

 

 

What’s next?

Now you know eight ways to pull off healthy remodeling. And, you realize it’s not as tough as you thought. All it takes is a bit of information.

With these tips, your next remodel will be extraordinary. You’ll be able to enjoy your remodeling genius without unhealthy consequences.

Just curious.

How many of these healthy remodeling secrets did you know?

Almost none? A few?

Then, check out a killer resource that will help you get up-to-speed on what’s healthy for your home. It’s a 12-week email series called The Zen of Pure Living. You’ll get the best tips in an easy format. Sign up!

The Zen of Pure Living Health Home Series

 

 

 

Healthy Remodeling Secrets

How To Be Smart In a World of Uninformed Painters

How to be Smart in a World of Uninformed Painters

You’ve been looking forward to painting for a while now. It took some work, but you found the perfect hue for the room. Then, there was the hassle of painting preparation.

Finally, you’re done with all the hard work, and it looks great, but you’ve got a problem.

The paint fumes are awful. You wonder if the fumes are dangerous.


Are Paint Fumes Dangerous?


Yes, paints can release chemicals that are carcinogens, reproductive toxins or ozone depleting compounds.

Standard paints give off volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These VOCs released into the air can cause immediate problems like eye and throat or lung irritation, headaches, dizziness, and vision problems.

And, the chemicals can cause longer term problems. Some chemicals cause cancer or reproductive and developmental effects in laboratory animals.

It’s a troubling thought, isn’t it?


Are Safe Paints Available?


Yes! You just need to know which ones to buy.

You can find safe interior and exterior paints and primers.


Three Quick Facts About Paint & VOCs


It’s pretty simple.

You only need to know three facts to keep yourself safe.

1. Low VOC paints actually have a lot of VOCs.

<<< Don’t buy low VOC paints.>>>

2. Zero VOC paints have 5 grams/liter or less of VOCs, but these paints may include other chemicals that simply aren’t good for you.

<<< Look for Zero VOC and the Green Seal 11 -2008 certification.>>>

3. It’s not just about the odor.

<<< Paint releases VOCs long after the paint is dry and you can no longer smell the odor.>>>


The Best Zero VOC Paints


Try paints made from natural raw ingredients like water, plant oils, plant dyes, clay, milk protein, bees’ wax, earth and mineral dyes. These are some of the safest products you can use.

Look into ECOS Paints – ecospaints.net. While not green seal certified, they publish their testing documents on their website, and they are a leader in VOC-free, organic paints and will ship to you.

You can buy safe paints locally if you shop smart. Look for Zero VOC as well as the Green Seal 11 2008 Certification.

It’ll take some label reading, but it’s worth it.

Here’s a good head start for you:

Benjamin Moore Natura™ and Aura™ interior latex paints are both good choices because the paints are Zero VOC as well as Green Seal certified.

The Green Seal certification will make sure that your paint has none of the following bad guys:

  • carcinogens
  • reproductive toxins
  • mutagens
  • hazardous air pollutants
  • ozone depleting compounds

One last tip!

Remember to opt for Zero VOC primer.


So, now you’re informed with the facts about safe paints. You can paint your nursery, children’s rooms or any room in your house confidently knowing that you’re using the best non-toxic, zero VOC paints.

Good job.

Zero VOC Paints

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