One cannot consider flooring without acknowledging the presence of dust mites.  They are a problem in every home and are impossible to eliminate completely.  However, preventative measures will help to reduce their populations.  Wall to wall carpeting is best avoided because it cannot be rolled up and washed.  If your client insists on wall to wall carpeting in the bedroom to insulate a cold floor or to muffle noise make sure to suggest they vacuum often using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter.  Optimally natural carpeting made of pure wool or sisal that is certified to have low VOC emissions should be specified.   Make sure all floor covering is installed without adhesives and specify that the dealer to roll out the carpet and pad in a ventilated area for a day or two before installation.  Installing carpeting in mild weather so the windows can be kept open both during installation and for several days thereafter is a good alternative if the clients are occupying the home.  If clients are highly sensitive to the fumes, it should be suggested that they stay away from home for several days after the carpet is installed. It may also be helpful to suggest treating carpets once a year with a sealant solution designed to reduce VOC emissions.

As previously stated, wall to wall carpeting should be avoided if possible.    A better alternative is to lay easy to wash natural fiber area rugs on wood floors coated with low-VOC urethane or paint.  Elegant and durable bamboo is a great alternative to hard wood flooring.  It is easy to maintain and represents considerable ecological savings in addition to minimal environmental impact.  It can be harvested after 3 years of growth in controlled forests, is available in various forms and grains in several pre-finished colors and accepts stains easily.  Some bamboo flooring companies however, use formaldehyde as a binder or adhesive so informed choices must be made.  Natural linoleum or cork floors are also good options as long as they have been installed with low-VOC adhesives.  Warm and quiet underfoot, cork is an attractive alternative to vinyl flooring which is made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC).  Cork is harvested form the outer bark of cork trees which regenerate their bark and can be re-harvested in about ten years.


By:  Melissa W. Cooper

Interior and Architectural Design in Connecticut and New York