Are you a go-getter that takes charge of their health? Are you working on transforming your house into a healthy home, one that’s organic and chemical-free? Then, this article is for you.
One of the areas of our home that affects health is flooring. Installing flooring that has harmful chemicals (in the floor itself, fasteners, and installation methods) can cause a bunch of medical conditions, see the (modest) list of 140+ medical conditions.
Therefore, it’s strategic to install non-toxic flooring when you’re updating your home.
In this guide, we’ll outline the key things you can look for and require of your subcontractors when picking out non-toxic flooring.
The Go-Getter’s Guide to Non-Toxic Flooring:
Some home structures require the strengthening of the floor support system in order to stabilize the ceramic tiles so that they don’t crack over the years. Your builder will know how to do this best, based on your specific flooring design (the existing structure). Sometimes you can simply add 2×6 boards (joists) and other times you’ll need plywood.
If you need joists, look for kiln-dried and non-treated lumber whenever possible, as allowable by building code (check with your builder about this).
If you need plywood, look for one that’s made of hardwood and NAF (No Added Formaldehyde). It’s important to note that formaldehyde is only one of several chemicals used in plywood, but it’s only partly better but might still be the best option at this time.
Ceramic Tile (100%)
One hundred percent ceramic tile is the healthiest material to use. This is a non-contested fact. Whenever you can use ceramic tile, do it. Here’s what you’ll need.
In addition to the sub-floor described above, you’ll need a cement board under the tile.
The materials you’ll need for a healthy install are cement board, installed with screws, plus the same thin-set that you’ll use to install the ceramic tile. To tape the seams (where the boards meet), use fiberglass tape (since it’s the only option at this time).
You’ll also need 100% ceramic tile that’s lead-free (or conforms with US lead requirements). Install with a “non-modified” thin-set. Make your own grout. See the recipe below from Carolyn Gorman’s book, “Less-Toxic Alternatives.”
- Joints 1/8 or less: one part each Portland sand and cement
- Joints up to ½ inch: two parts Portland sand and one-part cement
- Joints over ½ inch: three parts Portland sand and one-part cement
Wood is warmer than ceramic while also being a healthy material when installed correctly. For bedrooms, living rooms, and family rooms get solid hardwood flooring, installed with non-toxic glues, and finish it with non-toxic stain and topcoat.
When I say non-toxic finishes, I mean those that are zero-VOC and don’t have Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) in them.
Straight out of the gate we need to be clear about what linoleum is, there is a lot of confusion about this. Real linoleum is made of flax and other natural ingredients and does NOT have vinyl (aka, polyvinyl chloride, PVC) in it.
Here’s a definition from the Flax Council:
“Linoleum is a flooring that is manufactured by oxidizing linseed oil to form a thick mixture called linoleum cement. The cement is cooled and mixed with pine resin, and wood flour to form sheets on a jute backing. The term, linoleum is often used incorrectly to describe any sheet flooring, when in fact flooring can be made from other materials such as polyvinyl chloride.”
Linoleum comes in ‘click flooring’ and as a sheet good (a big long sheet rolled up). Linoleum click flooring has a layer of composite wood with a sheet of linoleum glued on top of it. Since composite wood off-gasses, go with the linoleum sheet product.
I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of carpet at all. It holds dirt, mold, dust, plastic bits, and chemicals. Having said that, I get a lot of requests for carpet. It’s warm and comforting. People often want at least one room with carpet. Understandable.
Here are the guidelines for choosing healthier carpeting:
- Look for a wool carpet with jute back installed with nails or tack strips.
You can use this guide to pick out non-toxic flooring materials yourself or to give to your subcontractor.
Want links to specific products and information on installation practices? We encourage you to enroll in our online non-toxic flooring class.
Are you ready to transform your house into a healthy home? Get started today.
All my best,
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Angela Cummings is a writer, organic lifestyle coach, and presenter with a passion for helping people live their best organic chemical-free lifestyle. Since 2014, Angela has been a professional freelance writer and consultant for individuals and companies internationally.