From one flooring professional to another, you know there are different techniques to lay down a new wood floor, as well as several finish applications available.

In this article, I want to share with you some eco-friendly suggestions for getting the job done.

Flooring options. Sustainable wood flooring is from trees specifically grown in a manner that reduces demands on ecosystems during its life cycle. This includes harvest, production, use and disposal.

Bamboo and cork are considered to be the leaders in eco-friendly flooring, and between these two, I would say cork is the more eco-friendly. Cork comes from the bark of the cork (oak) tree. It is peeled away yet the tree continues to live and regenerate more cork—bark—for another day. Bamboo however is not a wood, but fast growing grass that gets harvested, stripped and glued together to create a plank. Planks are then available in two grain patterns known as vertical and horizontal.

Engineered floors can be considered green as they use a manufactured sub-base topped off by hardwood. Invented in the 1960s, engineered floors have dramatically improved in appearance and performance over the years. It is your best option, should you not like the look of cork or bamboo.

Engineered flooring is also available in just about every specie imaginable.

Flooring applications. Your customers want what’s best for their family and the environment and, fortunately, the two go hand-in-hand quite well.

The best choice is installations that don’t involve adhesives that release fumes into the work area affecting the air quality of your client’s home. Today there are numerous glues that do not have any of these volatile organic compounds (VOCs). I’ll explain what VOCs are a little later.

There are also a number of glue-free methods. These types of installations include the floating floor and the nail down applications.

Floating floors are the more DIY friendly type as the product is typically assembled using a click-together method with no nailing. The floor simply folds into a channel and locks in place. Usually a moisture barrier or foam pad is first placed down then the planks are laid on top.

The final step is the installation of a baseboard or shoe molding installed around the perimeter to complete the project. This will hide your cuts and leave expansion room at every wall, usually about ½-inch—but read the instructions for specific manufacturer requirements.

Keep in mind, a board installed is considered a board accepted by the manufacturer, so it’s important to check the material prior to installation. Manufacturers are always able to provide you with a replacement product before the board is installed, not so much after that.

The installation method known as nail down is a little more difficult but if you are proficient with a hammer and saw it should work out well. Given the cost of equipment, renting a nailer tool is probably the best avenue. I suggest laying out the floor before heading out to rent the equipment as the layout will take up half your time, and you’ll save money this way. Remember to follow the rules during installation: Put a nail every 6- to 8 inches and within 1- to 3 inches of all end joints with a minimum of two nails on a short board.

Floor finishes. There are several floor finish options on the market such as oil soap, vegetable oil base, various waxes that are effective, but slippery, and water base that is the most well-known eco-friendly finish.

The primary consideration to look for in any of these is low VOCs. These are considered organic chemicals that have a high vapor pressure at ordinary room temperature. Their high vapor pressure results from a low boiling point, which causes large numbers of molecules to evaporate from the liquid and enter the surrounding air.

As previously mentioned, using adhesives can cause fumes to off gas, or become airborn, but there are a number of adhesives with low (or no) VOCs.

When considering all the eco-friendly options for finishes, as a wood flooring professional I use only one in my business. If the choice is up to me, I go with a water base finish, usually at a commercial level. Keep in mind that a quality water base finish is going to be more expensive than other options, usually costing approximately 65 cents to 75 cents per foot.

When it was initially brought to market, water based finishes had their fair share of issues with durability. But over time with improved technological advances, the flooring industry now has some excellent choices. Top brands in the market include Bona Traffic HD as well as Basic Coatings Street Shoe, but you can look online and make your own decision.

When thinking about technology and how far the wood finish industry has advanced, just remember computers used to be the size of a room and now they are small enough to fit in a pocket. Have faith in the technology and do some research to find the best green products that will work for your flooring project.

For additional tips on successfully doing a wood flooring installation, visit the National Wood Flooring Association’s (NWFA) web site at  


Chris Zizza is the president of Wood Flooring Inspectors and C&R Flooring. He founded Wood Flooring Inspectors of New England in 2004, and is a certified professional and on the NWFA board. With C&R Flooring, he has sold, installed and refinished millions of feet of wood flooring for homeowners and contractors over the past 25 years. Additionally, Zizza is a 2013 recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. Contact him at (781) 326-4099 or