7 Eco-Friendly Flooring Options For Your Apartment

Reclaimed Oak Flooring in a Formal Dining RoomDoes your apartment have really old floors that you want to replace?

If in addition to comfort and style, you also care about the environmental footprint of your floors, there are a number of great materials to choose from.

We review 7 of the most eco-friendly flooring materials that are ideal for apartments, along with their costs, pros & cons and room placement suggestions.

Lets take a look at: 1. FSC Certified Hardwood Floors 2. Tile Flooring 3. Reclaimed Wood Floors 4. Bamboo Flooring 5. Cork Flooring 6. Ceramic Wood Floors 7. Cement Flooring

1. FSC Certified Hardwood Floors

Hardwood Flooring in a Modern Apartment

Do you love the charming beauty and warm feel of classic hardwood flooring, but worry about purchasing cut down trees and contributing to deforestation problems in US and abroad? You are not alone! Precisely because of growing consumer awareness and resentment, many wood flooring manufacturers have been working on ways to deliver more sustainably grown hardwoods.

Now, you can safely purchase a number of wood species that have been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a none-profit organization that sets standards for responsible forest management in order to preserve forests across the globe for future generations. The volume of certified wood flooring is growing rapidly, as more and more landowners adapt sustainable practices and receive the appropriate certification. A number of exotic species is also becoming more available as manufacturers in Asia and South America choose to step up their practices, in order to retain their market share and stay competitive. Among the popular species which are FSC certified are: white and red oak, cherry, maple, red birch, hickory, tigerwood, teak, rosewood, and cumaru.

How Much Does Hardwood Flooring Cost?

You can expect to pay $5/sq/ft and up for domestic species and $8/sq.ft and up for exotic woods.

Also, keep in mind these additional installation charges, when you plan your remodel budget:

1. Stapled or Nailed $3.00 – 3.50
2. Floating $3.60 – 4.65
3. Glued Direct $3.90 – 4.75
REPLACE OLD/BROKEN SUBFLOORING (REQUIRES HIRING A CARPENTER) $90 – 135 (for around three hours of labor billed at a rate of $30 – 45 / hr

Classic Hardwood Flooring in a Contemporary Dining Room

Highly durable and long lasting (50+years) Needs to be refinished every 5-10 years
Classic look that fits any interior design style Vulnerable to moisture and humidity
Warm to the touch Sharp objects or pet claws can leave dents and scratches
Neutral color allow for limitless decor and furniture choices Can be noisy
Great insulator that retains heat  
Easy to clean spills and stains  
Can be sanded and refinished multiple times, as opposed to replaced  
Don’t trap dust and irritants; maintain good air quality  
Great ROI/Highly appealing to prospective buyers

Best Room Placement

Hardwood floors can elevate the look of any room in your apartment, from a living room to a kid’s bedroom. It is best to avoid installing it in a bathroom, as excessive moisture can cause the wood to warp and rot. Also, if you have spaces with heavy foot traffic, be sure to select a hard wood species, such as oak, as it is more durable than softer species, such as pine.

2. Tile Flooring

Ceramic Tile Flooring in a Modern Living Room

Tile is one of the most versatile and functional flooring materials you can have installed in your apartment. Because tile can be manufactured from such a wide range of materials, from natural to man-made, not all of it is eco-friendly. Green options include tile that contains a high percentage of recycled content and or materials that are readily available and abundant. For example Fireclay tile is ceramic tile that is handmade in California from about 70% locally sourced recycled materials. Other options are recycled clay tile, which can be made from clay salvaged from mining operations, or porcelain tile, made from over 50% of post-consumer recycled content.

How Much Does Tile Flooring Cost?

You can expect to pay $6+/sq.ft.installed. Here are some additional installation charges for tile flooring that you should keep in mind.

Demolition of existing floor tile $0.95 – $1.45 / Sq. Ft.
Replace old/broken subflooring (requires hiring a carpenter) $90 – 135 (for around three hours of labor billed at a rate of $30 – 45 / hr
Purchase thin-set or mortar and grout materials $0.9 – $1.9 / Sq. Ft.
Remove bathroom fixtures (sink, toilet, shelving, etc) $250 – 350
Remove waste material (dumpster fee) $150

Small Modern Kitchen With Dark Tile Floor

Easy to clean and maintain Brittle items like glass will break if dropped on the floor
Versatile style that fits any room Can crack upon heavy impact
Multitude of colors and patterns Grout lines will need to be cleaned every few years
Well suited for radiant flooring installation Rigid and hard underfoot
Stain resistant  
Imperfections are hard to detect  
Can be installed DIY  
Easy to replace sections if chipped or cracked  
Does not need be resealed like natural stone tile

Best Room Placement

The greatest advantage of tile flooring is that it can be used literally in any room of your apartment. Bathroom and kitchen are the most obvious spaces for tile installation, but your living room, dining room and hallway can also look beautiful with the right tile color and design. For the bedroom, though, you might want to choose a warmer and softer material. Tile tends to get cold, so consider installing radiant heat flooring with it, especially in the bathroom.

3. Reclaimed Wood Flooring

Reclaimed Wood Flooring in a Modern living Room

If money is not an issue, and you want a truly special flooring material that is also green, consider reclaimed wood flooring. Masterfully crafted from salvaged lumber, sourced from a variety of buildings including old mills, churches, warehouses, barns, factories, etc. Often wood used to make these floors is over 100 years old, and carries a visible footprint of its history in a form of scratches, nail holes, dents and other unique markings. The most common species are pine, hickory, oak and maple.

Best of all, no new trees are being cut down and the manufacturing process uses a lot less energy and materials than one needed to make a brand new floor.

Note, that because of growing consumer interest in reclaimed wood floors, many companies have started to market and sell fakes that are made from virgin wood. To be sure that you are getting an authentic reclaimed wood floor, refer to the FSC list of properly certified manufacturers and suppliers.

How Much Does Reclaimed Wood Flooring Cost?

Reclaimed wood is one of the most expensive materials you can install. Expect to pay $10-14+/sq.ft. and up depending on the species, where it was sourced and the amount of custom/hand work that was required to make the floor. Also, note the installation prices quoted for regular hardwood, would apply here as well.

Reclaimed Wood Floors in a Modern Dining Room

Harder than virgin wood (40 points higher on the Janka scale) More expensive than virgin hardwood
Fits both rustic and ultra modern interior design styles May not be legitimate
Very high quality wood May use harmful toxins in the manufacturing process
Easy to clean and maintain Requires refinishing every 5-10 years
Unique look that is difficult to replicate Vulnerable to moisture

Best Room Placement

Reclaimed wood has a very unique and upscale look, that looks best in a formal living room, dining room, library/office. Similar to traditional hardwood, it should not be installed in any moisture prone areas, such as the bathroom.

4. Cork Floors

Cork flooring in a Modern Living Room

You will be hard pressed to find a flooring material that is more green and comfortable than cork. Usually, cork flooring is made from left over materials used in the production of bottle stoppers.

However, because its popularity in interior design continues to grow rapidly, there are now many floor brands that are made from virgin cork. The raw material comes from the cork oak tree, which is native to Spain and Portugal, and is only able to grow in that particular region of the Mediterranean. The bark is harvested every 9-10 years, while the trees themselves are a few hundred years old.

How Much Does Cork Flooring Cost?

Cork will not break your bank. You can expect to pay $4-9/sq.ft. installed. If you choose to buy a closeout color from one of your local suppliers, you can get the material itself for as low as $2/sq.ft.

Cork flooring in a Modern Bedroom

Warm and soft to the touch Vulnurable to moisture and leaks if improperly finished
Acts as a great sound insulator Sharp object and animal claws may scratch and carve out the surface
Stain and mildew resistant May become permanently dented if furniture pads are not used under heavy furniture
Durable material that springs back in high traffic areas Susceptible to direct sunlight/may fade and discolor as it ages
Available in a wide range of bright and neutral colors Spilled liquids need to be cleaned quickly to avoid absorption
Material’s cellular structure retains heat well  
Ideal cushioned play surface for small kids  
Shock absorbing, so glass and dishes are more likely not to break if dropped

Best Room Placement

Because of cork’s softness, warmth and great sound insulating properties, it is an ideal flooring option for bedrooms, kid’s room, playroom, etc. It is especially good for people who are older, or prone to falling, as cork will greatly minimize the potential injury from the fall.

5. Bamboo Flooring

Bamboo flooring in a modern living room

While similar in durability and other qualities to hardwood, bamboo is actually a grass! It is the fastest growing plant in the world (growing up to 4 feet a day), and this is precisely what makes it a green flooring material. Because of its fast growth and maturity rate, it is a rapidly renewable resource: it takes bamboo 3-6 years to reach maturity, as compared to 40-60 years needed for oak and cherry trees to mature enough to be suitable for flooring. Most bamboo is grown in China, and a number of other Asian countries.

Because of the growing demand and popularity of bamboo flooring, many unscrupulous companies, particularly in China, have been using unsustainable practices to grow more bamboo and make higher profit. As a result of these practices, many natural habitats have been destroyed and their inhabitants (pandas) endangered. Moreover, a lot of bamboo is being cut down before it properly matures, which makes for less durable, poor quality material.

The best quality bamboo flooring is made from Moso or “Mau Zhu” bamboo that has matured 5-6 years before harvesting. Its stocks have grown up to 8 inches in diameter and up to 75 feet high. Also, make sure that you only work with a reputable company that has been in business for at least 10 years and has a proven commitment to sustainable growth and harvesting practices. You can refer to FSC certified companies to make sure you find the right one.

How Much Does Bamboo Flooring Cost?

Bamboo is a budget friendly alternative to many of the natural wood species. You can expect to pay $4-7/sq.ft installed for mature and sustainably harvested bamboo flooring. Avoid any company that advertises bamboo for around $2/sq.ft., it is most likely very poor quality, and you will not be happy with this product in the long run.

Bamboo flooring in a small white kitchen

Durability compatible with most natural wood species Susceptible to moisture
Can re finished multiple times, instead of replaced Many brands offer substandard quality
Easy maintenance and clean up Vulnerable to sunlight and may fade overtime
Hypoallergenic Prone to scratches
Chic exotic look, and typically blondish color Splitting may occur in overly humid or dry environment
Available in a wide range of styles and colors Darker bamboo is weaker and softer than light colored varieties
Budget friendly alternative to hardwood

Best Room Placement

Similar to hardwood, bamboo floors will look beautiful in any room of your home. Because the material fades when exposed to direct sunlight, avoid putting it in rooms that have too much sun exposure. Bathrooms and other moisture prone areas of your apartment are also not the best environment for bamboo floors.

6. Ceramic Wood Floors

Ceramic Wood Tile Flooring in a Modern Dining Room

If you want the look of wood without the hassle of regular maintenance, porcelain tile that is made to replicate hardwood is an ideal alternative. Known as ceramic wood this tile is crafted using cutting edge technology to offer a wide range of wood grains and colors. Moreover, there are brands, committed to sustainability, that make this tile out of 50% or more recycled content.

How Much Does Ceramic Wood Flooring Cost?

Ceramic wood costs more than less fancy ceramic or porcelain tile, but it is still cheaper than many types of hardwood. You can expect to pay around $4-7/sq/ft. installed.

Ceramic Wood Floor in a Modern Living Room

Replicates the look of hardwood at a lower cost Brittle items like glass will break if dropped on the floor
Easy to clean and maintain Can crack upon heavy impact
Versatile style that fits any room Grout lines will need to be cleaned every few years
Multitude of wood grain colors and patterns Rigid and hard underfoot
Well suited for radiant flooring installation  
Stain resistant  
Can be installed DIY  
Does not need be resealed like natural stone tile

Best Room Placement

Ceramic wood will look beautiful in any room of your apartment, but it fits particularly well in the living room, dining room, kitchen and bathroom. You can also install radiant heat flooring under the tile.

7. Concrete Flooring

Concrete Flooring in a Modern Apartment
Once used only in commercial and industrial applications, concrete flooring is making its way into people’s homes. Many are starting to see its advantages, eco-friendliness and endless design possibilities. It is a green material, because no trees are cut down to make it, and it can be manufactured using recycled materials. Also, you will save money and other flooring materials, as you will not need to install anything on top of concrete, just the decorative finish. This floor will last forever, so no other material or energy waste will happen, even years down the line.

How Much Does Concrete Flooring Cost?

You can expect to pay $17/sq/ft installed, and this includes the decorative finish. While it may see like a significant initial investment, it is actually one of the cheaper flooring options, because you will NEVER need to replace it.

Concrete Flooring in a Loft Apartment

Industrial grade durability Bottom and top surfaces need to be sealed to be impervious to moisture
Can not be dented or scratched by regular items, sharp objects, furniture etc. that would damage a hardwood Really hard surface/injury may occur if a or an elderly person falls
Will never need to get replaced, unless you are tired of the look There is an echo sound and in general more noise than with other materials
Feels cool in the summer months Will need to resealed every 3-5 years
Does not contain any harmful VOCs  
Virtually endless variety of textures and colors

Best Room Placement

In general, concrete flooring is a good fit in a modern style apartment. It will look great in a loft space, a living room, office, etc. This is not the best material for bedrooms, or any room intended for children. Because concrete is so hard, some people may not find it as comfortable to walk on. Also, there is a higher risk of injury in case of a fall.

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