Selecting Products for Your Home: “All Natural” or “Processed”?

Are you someone who seeks out organic foods when you shop? Do you try to avoid additives in food and chemicals in cleaning products? Then you might also think that less-processed, natural building products (such as wood or stone) are what you should also incorporate into your home maintenance and remodeling projects.

There are, however, lots of new “engineered” choices available that actually involve more processing but are energy-efficient, cost-efficient, and healthy for the planet, your family, and your wallet.

Engineered hardwood floor by Armstrong

Engineered hardwood floor photo courtesy Armstrong Flooring

“Engineered” products can also be “green”

Many building products today are “engineered” which means they go through a certain amount of processing. But that’s not bad in terms of being environmentally friendly, because most of these products are made from natural materials in ways that actually preserve resources. They combine elements to make the most of the positive features of each. Many engineered products are alternatives to wood and so they help prevent the widespread clearing of trees for building purposes.

An important factor to consider when selecting materials for a remodeling project is energy efficiency and its subsequent cost savings. Other considerations include the use of environmentally friendly materials that may be renewable, biodegradable when disposed, locally sourced to reduce transportation requirements, non-endangered, or non-toxic (and therefore healthier for people with allergy or chemical sensitivity issues). Engineered building products could be just what you need.

Engineered hardwood flooring by Armstrong

Engineered hardwood floor photo courtesy Armstrong Flooring

Flooring

We love our hardwood floors, but solid plank wood flooring must be harvested from trees with long growth cycles: red and white oak, maple, and sometimes ash or birch. Bamboo and cork are highly renewable choices, but most bamboo flooring comes from the Asia Pacific region and cork comes from the Mediterranean. The energy requirements for transporting them here are significant.

Engineered wood flooring is not fake wood. It is made of several layers of plywood with a veneer of natural wood on top. This makes it a more sustainable option than solid planks, especially if you’re thinking of choosing an exotic wood like Rosewood. Choose carefully, though, because quality can vary widely depending on the veneer thickness. A high-quality engineered wood floor with a thicker veneer – between 2mm and 6mm – is very durable and can even be refinished. One really great feature of engineered wood floors is that they allow you to enjoy the beauty of hardwood in your finished basement. They can be installed in moisture and humidity-prone areas, such as a basement or over a concrete slab, where solid plank floors aren’t appropriate.

Quartz counter surface by Silestone

Quartz counter surface photo courtesy Silestone

Counter surfaces

Granite is a beautiful, strong surface for counters, and there aren’t many downsides to selecting it for your kitchen. There is one big environmental downside, however, and that is the fact that granite is a product of mining operations and needs to be shipped, usually from Brazil, as large slabs. An alternative material, quartz, is an engineered stone that starts with about 93% crushed natural stone and combines it with 7% pigments and resins to make a surface that rivals a granite slab in performance. Quartz is non-porous, and resistant to stains, acid spills, mold, bacteria, and heat. Engineered stone, like granite, is mined, but it can be shipped as smaller chips and then fabricated into slabs at a manufacturing facility closer to its distributors.

If you’re thinking about remodeling your home and are concerned about the cost efficiency and environmental impact of the products used in the process, talk to us! We can help you make decisions that are both smart and beautiful for your home and family.

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