An installer works with MAPEI’s new Ultrabond ECO 995 wood flooring adhesive.

The rise of greener flooring products has also meant more scrutiny in the adhesives, mortars and grouts used to install them. To reduce volatile organic compounds (VOCs), manufacturers are incorporating sustainable materials or adding post-consumer recycled content to their products. The goal is to create greener products that offer safer living environments, without sacrificing performance.

Custom’s new EBM-Lite Epoxy Bonding Mortar.

“Many advanced adhesives, mortars and grouts are using lightweight recycled materials to better the performance, handling characteristics and product consistencies,” explained Chris Eichert, Custom Building Products’ product manager. His company’s new EBM-Lite mortar and CEG-Lite grout feature recycled material that not only makes the products more green, but helps enhance their performance. These product improvements help to create “an epoxy mortar that handles like a lightweight cement-based mortar, and an epoxy grout that handles like a cement-based grout,” according to Eichert.

Sometimes creating a greener adhesive means changing the chemistry of the product itself, according to Frank Potter, Stauf Adhesives USA’s director of operations. His company’s new PUM-950 Power-Mastic is a urethane product made without isocyanates.

Spray Smart adhesive from Tarkett.

“Stauf’s research and development team completed several years of work on this new adhesive late last year,” he noted. “Isocyanates were the critical ingredient in all urethane adhesives.”

Jeff Johnson, MAPEI’s floor covering installation systems product manager, said new chemistries are a necessity due to the different constructions of green flooring products. “In carpet, for example, we’re seeing a lot of materials with backing structures that can be recycled more easily. That does create some issues for us in the adhesives world, because it gives us a different type of substrate to stick to.”

His company recently unveiled Ultrabond ECO 995, a wood flooring adhesive that is the first in a line of products from MAPEI that will include plant-based raw material. “We wish the whole thing could be plant-based but we’re not there yet,” Johnson noted. “It’s a first step in a long process. Any way that we can be less reliant on the petrochemical feedstock is a good thing.”

Phil Pitts, Bostik’s hardwood installation products marketing manager, added adhesive makers are creating greener products by reducing solvent content, using VOC-exempt solvents and changing the adhesive systems themselves to cure or harden chemically.

An installer spreads Bostik adhesive for a hardwood flooring installation.

“The primary importance is compliance with Southern California Air Quality Management District VOC requirements, which are the benchmark for LEED Indoor Air Quality credits.”

According to Mihir Gandhi, W.F Taylor’s creative design manager, his company offers an entire line of solvent-free GREENGUARD-certified adhesives. “These ensure not only meeting all indoor air quality standards, but exceeding them with very low VOC content,” he said.

Other green certifications are also widely visible in the adhesives segment, including Green Seal and the Resilient Floor Covering Institute’s FloorScore program, noted Diane Martel, Tarkett Commercial’s vp environmental planning and strategy.

“These certifications are very important in having a competitive product in today’s market,” she said. Other ways adhesive makers can make their products greener include “reducing the impact on the water table, reducing the weight of the product to reduce fuel needed and carbon dioxide emissions in transport, and the dematerialization of the job [so] less adhesive is needed to provide equivalent or better results,” she noted.

Brian Saker, BASF Construction Chemicals flooring surfaces marketing manager, said manufacturers are looking at creating products from three standpoints: offering low VOC, solvent-free and low-odor products; using sustainable raw materials whenever possible; and ensuring a high level of performance.

An installer working with BASF’s CHEMREX CX-1000 adhesive.

“We all need to deliver performance that ensures the flooring system will be functional, durable and sustainable,” he said. “This helps reduce repairs and replacements, which lowers the lifecycle cost and extends the life of the flooring system.”

David Fabyonic, the W.W. Henry Co.’s adhesives market segment manager, said his company’s Henry solvent-free adhesives using GreenLine Environmental Technology are designed for low amounts of VOCs and odor. “This allows for the installation of floor coverings in a safe environment, and potentially allows use of the area shortly after flooring is installed without concern for odor or harmful emissions.”

Mark Cooke, Merkrete brand manager, added that his company’s Dust Less powder technology is aimed at ensuring a virtually dust-free installation, which can help with indoor air quality. “[It] is the perfect solution for controlling air quality, and especially for remodels that still have inhabitants such as hospitals and hotels,” he noted.

Looking to the future of adhesives, MAPEI’s Johnson said while he sees products becoming greener, eventually new technologies may run up against the cost of using them. “We can work as hard as we want to create an adhesive with virtually no VOCs, but the question is whether the retailer/contractor, the installer and the customer will be willing to pay for it.”