- In the tradition of "less is more," beautiful floors without rugs are an elegant option. As a bonus, making use of an existing bare floor is inherently ecologically sound. The more often we continue to use what we have, the less wear, tear, stress, and carbon footprint we leave on the environment. What can you do when your floors can no longer even be called passable?
The simplest, cheapest thing to do is paint the floor. Pull a color from your existing color scheme or create a new color scheme using the new floor color as a reference. You can be bold here: dark green, Chinese red, or even black. Just be sure to reference your color elsewhere in the room, and check that the furnishings and draperies have enough presence to hold their own. Strike a strength balance to avoid overwhelming the space. While you don't want the furniture and draperies to look anemic, with a strong floor color, you also don't want every item in the room competing with the floor for attention.
Want a little more dash for your painted floor? Paint a pattern on the floor. Horizontal
stripes will make a room seem wider. Vertical stripes lengthen.
Photo by Robbie Caponetto
Want a little more dash for your paint? Paint a pattern on the floor. Horizontal stripes will make a room seem wider. Vertical stripes lengthen. An overall pattern can lend a cohesive look and add tremendous charm to small room. Here's an inspired idea: Paint a rug under your dining table instead of using the real thing. You will never fear a sloshed glass of red wine again.
Painting a floor isn't hard to do, but you do have to plot out the design carefully. Work out your pattern on graph paper. One square equals one foot. Now draw a grid on the floor you want to paint in one foot squares using chalk or charcoal. It's a big help if you number the squares on both the paper and the floor. Transfer your design square by square. Paint one color at a time to minimize confusion and placement mistakes. When all the colors have been applied to your satisfaction, let it dry completely before the final step. You'll need to apply at least two coats of polyurethane to protect and seal the finish.
You probably already know about low VOC paint, but not only is water based polyurethane available, but there is a soy based green polyurethane that's said to be even better for the environment. It's called Poly Soy Eco Procote polyurethane. Check it out.
A beautiful hardwood floor enhances any decor unless of course your wood floor however, is tired, scuffed and needs serious attention.
If you are up for a new idea, wood floors need not be stained brown. There are colored wood stains available. Another interesting idea is to stain the floors in a pattern using different colors, even if you do choose a palette from an array of more traditional brown tones. You might consider a stripe or even a subtle plaid, believe it or not.
Refinishing involves stripping, sanding, in some cases bleaching, then staining and sealing. It's a big job. Consider calling in the professionals. East Coast Hardwoods Ltd. (37 Columbia Avenue, Westhampton, 631-288-9886, www.eastcoasthardwoodsltd.com) specializes in the sanding and finishing of all species of woods, including staining with acrylic coating systems. An acrylic coating system is more durable than oil based finishes, dries faster, and is non-toxic. Says Randy Baltar of East Coast Hardwoods, "The key to the best, longest lasting and most beautiful floor finishes is in the quality of the products you use. This is one case where you get what you pay for."
Sustainable And Recycled Flooring Alternatives
Let's say your floor is beyond redemption. The surface is too damaged for refinishing or painting. There is no way around it - you need a new floor. Here are a few great green products that you may not have considered.
What goes around comes around. Linoleum (shown here in a stone motif) is back and
in styles, patterns, and colors to match any setting.
New, these days, is a relative term. Reclaimed wood is a terrific choice if you love beautiful wood floors. The finished look is actually enhanced by the age and use acquired in its previous incarnation. Otherwise, choose wood that is sustainable certified. It's one of the most ecologically sound building materials available today.
Cork grows on trees, literally - it's the bark of Cork Oak Trees. The tree is unharmed when the bark is shaved off and can be harvested repeatedly without affecting the life of the tree. This makes using cork impeccably green. Cork holds up as well as hardwood with the added bonus that the surface is cushiony. This is a wonderful feature in a kitchen for those who cook often, though it can be used anywhere, including high traffic areas. It comes in a range of warm tones from a kind of golden yellow to medium brown. This is a great material for allergy sufferers, as it resists mold, mildew, and bacteria.
Cork tiles come with a tongue-in-groove construction. No glue down is needed and can be applied over any surface. Some cork comes pre-sealed, but otherwise; after the installation has "settled in" for three days, use a water-based polyurethane.
What goes around comes around. Linoleum is back. Its use was ubiquitous in the 1950s and now it's earned a second look because its always been ecologically sound. The major element is linseed oil (hence the name) mixed with wood flour, resin, limestone dust, and pigments. Like cork, linoleum is great for asthma and allergy sufferers because it resists bacteria and mold. It's also anti-static, so it doesn't attract dust and pollen. The fiber-backed tiles have a tongue-in-groove construction and can be installed over any surface. It comes in sheets as well. Use low VOC, water-based and formaldehyde free adhesive.
For a super-renewable material, it's hard to beat bamboo. Bamboo is a grass that in some species, can grow nearly three feet in one day. Given a deep stain finish, it's a great substitute for hardwood floors. The application of these long wide planks varies with the type of surface, but can be stapled, nailed, or glued accordingly. One interesting perk is that bamboo resists cracking and buckling when used over radiant-floor heating systems. The same can't be said of hardwood.
These are but a few of the ever-growing options available for upgrading your environment and most are budget-friendly. With so many creative, viable, and green options available today, it may be harder to have an unattractive result than otherwise. You can be confident, as you proceed on your "renewed floor project," that you will be happy and satisfied with the results.