How flooring choice can impact on indoor air quality

4 Sep 2023

When we think of interior design, it's easy to let our minds drift to thoughts of colour schemes, furniture, and stylish accents. But have you considered the role your flooring plays in your home's overall environment? Flooring can have a substantial impact on the indoor air quality of your space, which is vital to the health and comfort of everyone in your household. And as Australians, we have unique considerations, such as our diverse regional climates and local flooring options. Read more to discover the impact choice of flooring can have on your indoor air quality.

Understanding indoor air quality

Indoor air quality, in simple terms, is the measure of air purity inside our homes and buildings. It is affected by pollutants such as dust mites, allergens, and chemicals that can have adverse effects on our health, causing symptoms like headaches, fatigue, skin irritation and even long-term respiratory issues. Many of these pollutants can be found in everyday items in your home such as: air vents, sheets and bedding, curtains and flooring.

Havwoods HW2130 Allevard PurePlank hardwood flooring | Sunday Homes Newport, NSW

The Influence of flooring on indoor air quality

Your floor is more than a surface you walk on. Different flooring materials can substantially affect the quality of your indoor air and because air takes up the most real estate in your home, it’s important to understand how different types of flooring can heavily influence it.

Carpets and Rugs

Carpets and rugs, while cosy and plush underfoot, can trap allergens and dust mites, acting as a reservoir for these irritants. Carpets and rugs also trap smells from cooking as well as mould and mildew in unventilated living spaces. Carpets and rugs are also prone to ‘off-gas’ into the surrounding air particularly when they are new. This is also known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which are chemicals that contain carbon that slowly evaporate into the air. You will find VOCs in products like new carpets and rugs.

Laminate and Vinyl Flooring

Options such as laminate and vinyl can seem like a better choice because there are no fibres for the dust mites and allergens to get trapped. However while they may harbour fewer allergens they can still introduce VOCs.

Laminate or vinyl flooring can vary in their levels of VOCs. The VOC content in laminate or vinyl flooring largely depends on the specific brand, manufacturing process, and materials used. Some laminate and vinyl flooring products can have relatively high levels of VOCs, especially if they are made with lower-quality adhesives, coatings, or cores. Cheaper laminate or vinyl flooring may use adhesives and coatings that emit more VOCs, contributing to indoor air pollution.

However, many manufacturers have recognised the concerns about VOC emissions and have taken steps to reduce them. Low-VOC laminate and vinyl flooring options are now available. These products typically use water-based adhesives and finishes that release fewer VOCs into the indoor air.

Hardwood Flooring

An option such as hardwood engineered timber flooring can be a good choice because there are no fibres for the dust mites and allergens to get trapped. Hardwood flooring also generally has lower VOC emissions compared to some laminate or vinyl flooring products. As engineered hardwood flooring is made from natural, genuine timber, it does not require the same level of adhesives and chemical treatments as some other types of flooring.

Hardwood flooring can vary in its VOC emissions depending on the materials and finishes used in its construction. The VOC levels in hardwood timber flooring can be influenced by factors such as the adhesives used to bond the layers, the finishes applied to the surface, and the quality of the materials.

Here are some considerations to keep in mind regarding VOC emissions and hardwood flooring:

Adhesives: The adhesives used to bond the layers of engineered timber flooring can contribute to VOC emissions. Some manufacturers use low-VOC or water-based adhesives, while others may use adhesives with higher VOC levels. It's a good idea to inquire about the adhesives used in the flooring you're considering.

Finishes: The finishes applied to the surface of hardwood flooring can contain VOCs. Some finishes are low-VOC or water-based, which can help reduce emissions. Look for products that offer low-VOC finishes or inquire about the VOC content of the finishes.

Certifications: As mentioned earlier, certifications such as FloorScore can indicate that a flooring product has been tested and certified for low VOC emissions. Check if the hardwood flooring you're considering has any of these certifications. Havwoods have a large range of products that carry FloorScore certification, along with clean air quality certification that we can provide. We understand the importance of indoor air quality and the role our products can play to ensure safe spaces for occupants.

Off-Gassing: After installation, providing adequate ventilation to the room can help accelerate the process of off-gassing, where any VOCs emitted by the flooring are released into the air and dissipate over time.

Quality Matters: Higher-quality hardwood flooring products tend to use better materials and finishes, which can result in lower VOC emissions. Investing in a reputable brand or manufacturer can be a wise choice.

Ultimately, the VOC emissions of hardwood flooring can vary widely, so it's important to do your research and ask questions about the specific product you're interested in. If indoor air quality is a concern for you, consider choosing products with low-VOC adhesives and finishes, and those that carry recognised certifications for low emissions.

Havwoods hardwood flooring products may be just what you are searching for. Book a showroom appointment or get in touch to speak with one of our experts who can guide you through our certified products that meet your specific requirements for indoor air quality and any other project needs.

Havwoods HW3676 Aspen Raw timber flooring | Graham Road Home, NSW/

Tile and Stone

Then there's tile and stone. Although these materials are typically low in allergens and VOCs, they may foster mould growth in our more humid and damp climates if they are not installed properly.

So what’s the best choice of flooring for you?

Here in Australia, we have a broad mix of flooring choices, largely influenced by our diverse climate and regional preferences. While many prefer the coolness of tiles in tropical Northern Queensland, others opt for the warmth of carpets in chillier Tasmania. With the advancement of manufacturing technologies and techniques making it possible to install hardwood floors over underfloor heating, hardwood is fast becoming a favourite flooring choice across Australia.

Design scheme and the desired atmosphere of a space play a large role in flooring choice. Consider a coastal Australian home. Here, hardwood planks not only embody the coastal aesthetic but, with fewer allergens trapped, they enhance indoor air quality, especially when complemented by regular cleaning and a well-ventilated space.

So depending on your preference, environmental climate and desired look and feel, selecting the right flooring for you really comes down to a combination of factors, one of which should be the quality of your indoor air that you breathe.

Havwoods HW3622 Blanco timber flooring | Forest Lodge Eco Home, UK

Improving indoor air quality

Choosing the right materials goes a long way in improving your indoor air quality. Opt for eco-friendly and low-VOC options wherever possible, and pay attention to the installation processes. Seek techniques that minimise pollutant exposure. A proper cleaning and maintenance schedule is essential, and it might be time to replace old flooring if it's negatively affecting your air quality.

Havwoods hardwood flooring products are all produced to meet the European standards, which are the strictest in the world. Our products are safe to install in your home, office or other space and we can provide trusted certification and datasheets to back up our claims and give you confidence in the quality and safety of your hardwood flooring choice.

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Choosing your perfect flooring partner

Picking a flooring provider that understands the relationship between flooring and indoor air quality is crucial. Look for credentials, such as eco-friendly certifications, to ensure that your provider meets stringent industry standards. Here at Havwoods, we pride ourselves on providing products that pass through a strict auditing process to ensure they are sourced and manufactured responsibly and sustainably. A large majority of our products also carry trusted 3rd party certification such as FSC Certified, Cradle to Cradle Certified and PEFC certified. This is another way that you can protect your indoor air quality with the quality of your flooring products.

So when it comes to selecting your perfect floor remember that it plays a bigger role in your home than just tying a room together aesthetically. It also plays a significant role in the air quality of your home. Keep in mind, an informed decision in choosing and maintaining your flooring can go a long way in ensuring a healthier, fresher home. Don't be afraid to evaluate your current flooring situation and consider a change if it will improve your living environment.

If you are in the market and ready to look at a sustainably sourced product that provides your home with the aesthetic appeal as well as minimal dust mites and allergens - look no further. At Havwoods we offer a huge range of hardwood flooring products that will keep your home looking beautiful and smelling fresh.

Visit one of our showrooms where you can see our products up close, or order a FREE sample and experience the Havwoods difference today.

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