By selecting recycled materials for flooring or reusing flooring materials, you conserve natural resources, reduce the toll that manufacturing from virgin materials takes on the environment, keep useful items out of the landfill and reduce pollution. Several types of flooring may outlast the original installation, and you can remove it to reuse in another place. Manufacturers also recycle materials to make flooring for home and commercial settings.
Reclaimed Wood Flooring
Wood flooring is made from hard woods such as oak and softer woods such as pine. Different wood varieties may wear better than others, but even if your reclaimed wood flooring has suffered damage, you can have the planks milled to smooth out the dings and remove scratched finishes before installation. Solid wood flooring ranges from 5/16 to 3/4 inch in thickness, enough to endure repeated sanding and refinishing over the years to keep older floors looking new (see References 1).
Recycled Natural Stone Flooring
Granite is one of the hardest types of construction stone, durable and resistant to abrasion, making it a good choice for recycling. While granite flooring may be heavy and require careful handling during removal and reinstallation, once in place it will endure plenty of additional use. Marble flooring also has the durability to be recycled, and any color variations or "marbling" will not wear away, since this is present throughout the thickness of the stone. (See References 2)
Recycled Cork Flooring
A natural, renewable material harvested from the cork oak tree, cork's cellular structure gives it thermal insulating qualities, resilience and sound-absorbing properties (see References 3). Old wine corks and cork manufacturing waste are recycled into flooring that comes in tiles or sheets; however, some types of cork flooring prove less harmful to the environment in the manufacturing process (see References 4). A report by the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science rates cork flooring manufactured without polyvinyl chloride laminate the lowest among all cork flooring products for environmental impact; nonlaminated products include raw cork, cork veneer and glued cork flooring.
Recycled Rubber Flooring
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, flooring and mat products are among the fastest-growing applications for rubber recycled from old tires (see References 6). Recycled rubber flooring has shock-absorbent and non-slip properties good for kitchens, bathrooms and athletic settings, and it comes in different colors to coordinate with various decorating schemes. Recycling tires into products like flooring reduces air and water pollution caused by tire incineration, though there is some concern about organic compounds released from the tire material (see References 5).
- WoodFloors.org: Types of Wood Floors
- Marble Institute of America: Common Descriptions and Uses of Natural Stone
- Build It Green; "Flooring"; Green Affordable Housing Coalition; December 2005
- Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science; "Life Cycle Analysis of Different Cork Floorings"; Hans-Jörg Althaus & Klaus Richter; 2001
- California Integrated Waste Management Board; Designing Building Products Made With Recycled Tires; June 2004
- Environmental Protection Agency; Scrap Tires FAQs; February 2010
- Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images