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Flooring

Eco-friendly flooring – everything you need to know about sustainable floors

Go green from the ground up, with flooring options that are as sustainable as they are stylishly good-looking. With more of a focus on ‘green’ living than ever before, many companies are improving the eco credentials of their flooring, making changes to the materials used as well as their provenance.

The gap in the market for eco-friendly flooring is filling up – not with anything that we haven’t seen before, but with a more varied array of designs, so we can make sustainable choices without sacrificing on style.

What is eco-friendly flooring?

The primary consideration is sustainability. In other words, do the materials come from a renewable source? For example, a carpet that’s made entirely of wool is sustainable – sheep annually regrow their fluffy coats with zero impact on the environment, so it’s a resource that’s easily replenished.

It’s also important to consider whether it can be recycled at the end of its lifespan and the chemical treatments involved in the manufacturing process – the fewer the better. Durability is also a factor; short-lived flooring might look lovely, but in a few years it will be contributing to landfills.

Eco-friendly flooring ideas to try

1. Try an FSC-certified wood flooring in your kitchen

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Wood flooring doesn’t have to be reclaimed to be eco-friendly. Generally speaking, the rarer the tree species, the less sustainable it is, which means that commonly grown oak and pine are good eco options. Choose a supplier that sources timber from managed forests carrying the FSC logo, such as The Natural Wood Floor Company. ‘We also operate a 0% waste policy throughout our manufacturing process, so the end product is beautiful and good for the environment,’ says director, Peter Keane.

2. Give with retro flooring material another go with all-natural lino in your hallway

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Image credit: Michael Sinclair

Made from natural linseed oil and woodflour, this retro floor covering is undergoing a revival. As well as its green attributes, its no-fuss functionality and soft feel underfoot make it a practical choice for family homes. Sinclair Till offers a bespoke service, hand-cutting linoleum to any pattern or design. In addition to solid and multicolour options, its range also includes marble, stone-look and flecked patterns.

3. Warm cork is both recyclable and soundproof perfect for noisy families

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Biodegradable and recyclable, cork has amazing eco credentials. ‘Warm, soundproof and super-soft underfoot, cork floors are surprisingly hard wearing,’ says Paulo Rocha, product and development manager at Granorte. ‘They’re great for busy homes.’

4. Create a floor that is unique to your home with reclaimed tiles

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Why buy new when you could reuse? Whether you’re after simple plains or ornate encaustic designs, Bert & May has a large collection of antique tiles. Terracotta is another popular pre-used option. It’s available at most reclamation yards, but you’ll probably need to clean the tiles before fitting.

5. Brighten up any room with colourful rubber materials

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Rubber comes in a variety of bold colours and is naturally water- and slip-resistant, so it’s great for busy homes. Avoid synthetic versions, which can be slow to degrade. We’d recommend The Colour Flooring Company. ‘Our rubber flooring is made out of natural materials and has been awarded eco certifications,’ says Lena Corner, director at The Colour Flooring Company.

6. Try a woven fibre floor in the hallway or kitchen

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Natural flooring offers a rustic look that’s resilient and good at hiding dirt. Made from plant fibres, the textures vary – some are soft, others rough, such as coir. ‘Its strong fibres make it perfect for high-traffic rooms, but less good in humid areas like bathrooms,’ says Guy Gibbon, Sisal & Seagrass’ managing director.

Pair natural flooring with weathered wood and earthy tones for a country-style dinning room.

7. Country-style concrete isn’t just for kitchens and bathrooms

eco-friendly flooring

Image credit: Dominic Blackmore

With its industrial looks and easy-to-clean qualities, polished concrete is a sustainable flooring choice that is gaining in popularity.  While the super sleek finishes are more suited to contemporary dwellings, more rustic, matt options are also available. The obvious choice for kitchens and bathrooms,

it works surprisingly well in living and dining rooms, too. Natural blemishes give it fantastic texture, bringing a warm cosy feel when paired with soft furnishings and accessories. Lazenby makes concrete using recycled materials and local suppliers to further reduce its carbon footprint.

Eco-flooring – everything you need to know

What kind of flooring is best for bedrooms and other rooms?

In any room think about what’s going to work in both your interior scheme and for day-to-day living. If warmth is key, consider natural heat insulators, such as cork or wool – you’ll reduce your energy costs, and it’s better for the environment than underfloor heating. If you want natural wood, why not look into reclaimed options? Or choose companies that sport the FSC logo, a guarantee that their timber comes from sustainable forests.

For the bedroom, warmth and comfort are probably going to be high on the list, making a 100 per cent wool carpet the best option. Go for a striped carpet to create a classic look in your room, or try something more unique with a subtle herringbone style in a neutral shade.

How do you maintain your sustainable flooring?

After your flooring has been laid, be sure to keep up the good work by using eco-friendly cleaning products. Ecover or method are both eco-friendly products that are available at more supermarkets. Alternatively, make your own natural wood floor cleaner with a equal parts hot water and vinegar, or give it an extra boost of shine with a mixture of hot water, olive oil and lemon juice.

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