Avoiding toxin exposures from your home: flooring

This sounds totally lame, but perhaps my favorite element of my new kitchen is the floor:

It is so soft.  And quiet.  And beautiful.  And it just makes me want to sit down right on the floor just like the little Swedish model children on the front of the packaging it came in.

These floors, from afar, certainly look like your run of the mill vinyl but they are actually a product called Marmoleum.  You see, back in the day, before vinyl was invented or in wide household use at least, floors of this type were linoleum.  Yes, you may be thinking, BUT MY KITCHEN FLOORS ARE LINOLEUM!  But they are probably not.  Linoleum is made from linseed oil, not vinyl.

Vinyl was a cheaper alternative that offered a greater array of colors and designs, but it’s otherwise hard to understand why natural linoleum ever went out of style.  I mean my floor is amazing, I must say.  Aside from their natural beauty, they are water resistant, anti-static and easy to clean, extremely durable and more forgiving to damage than tile or vinyl, and they are naturally bacteriostatic.

And, branded as Marmoleum, it is derived from natural, renewable materials with a minimal environmental footprint and no off-gassing pollutants your home.

PVC Vinyl, however, is a cause for legitimate concern.  The manufacturing of vinyl creates an enormous amount of hazardous byproducts that are discharged into the environment, and vinyl never breaks down —  when you’re done with it, it will be here, on this earth, in a landfill, forever.  It’s bad news for your health too:   the phthalates used to make the material flexible are a known endocrine disruptor and possible carcinogen.  One study even found an association between vinyl floors and autism. Vinyl is a cheap material to produce and much of it is made in China with less oversight of manufacturing practices.  Lead, anyone?

This is not meant to be alarmist.  To date there have not been any conclusive studies conducted on the impacts of vinyl on your health.  But I personally believe that when there’s smoke, there’s fire…and I’d rather err on the side of caution.

So Marmoleum it was for us, and I couldn’t be happier.  We installed it ourselves with great determination.  This caught us off guard as one of the more challenging DIY projects, which for some reason we hadn’t anticipated.  I mean, they just click together, right?  LOL.

I was also insistent on installing them diagonally.  At one point, I was googling to troubleshoot an issue we were having and I came across a search result that said “installing floors diagonally on your first try is like trying to drive the Daytona 500 when you don’t know how to drive.”  Oops.  Good thing you didn’t tell me that before.

But we did it.  I won’t detail the step-by-step instructions here, cause god knows our methods were likely a little unorthodox.  I will say, however, that if we can do it, anyone can, so you may as well give it a try and save yourself, oh, a thousand dollars.  As one family member, whose advice we kept repeating to ourselves said:  “the worst thing that can happen is you’ll [eff] it up and have to start over.”  Which we did, many times, but still managed to have two boxes of tile left over.

Marmoleum was more expensive than vinyl, and a bit harder to find — the big box stores do not sell it.  When we added together the underlayment, tools, shipping, etc we figure it worked out to about $7/square foot.  You can often find last year’s colors at a discount, and I’ve seen it advertised occasionally at our local reclaimed/recycled/thrift hardware warehouse.  Armstrong, which is a larger brand of flooring, also has a natural linoleum line, and there may be others I’m not aware of.  But our kitchen is pretty small, and even at that price it wasn’t something that was going to break the bank.

But truly, a healthy home is priceless, no?



2 thoughts on “Avoiding toxin exposures from your home: flooring

  1. Pingback: Kitchen REVEAL! | Bounteous

  2. Pingback: Windows and doors: soul of a building | Bounteous

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