Smart Design With Suzette: Flooring – Part 2

Smart Design with Suzette
Flooring – Part 2

Locally, regionally and nationally, builders and homeowners are building or remodeling homes that are green and environmentally friendly. They have discovered how easy it is to attain the benefits of sustainable construction without sacrificing aesthetics or breaking the budget. In fact, going green often saves money, especially over time, while being kinder to planet Earth.

Last Sunday I talked about tile, bamboo, cork and wood floors. Today I’ll finish out the conversation with linoleum (not vinyl), terrazzo, stained concrete and carpet.

Linoleum is made from renewable sources like linseed oil, cork and wood dust. It is not vinyl flooring. Natural linoleum is bio-based, non-toxic, anti-microbial, easy to maintain and lasts thirty to forty years.  For those of you with dogs, cats or children, it will wear well and is making a comeback. However, it is still at the bottom of the list with homebuyers who want to purchase a home.

Terrazzo tile. Photo by Suzette Fox

Terrazzo is a highly versatile solid surface material invented by Venetian mosaic workers in the 15th century. Modern terrazzo is made from recycled glass, non-toxic, zero VOC’s and stain resistant. Terrazzo is long-lasting and comes in fun colors—just don’t slip. This flooring is slippery and can cause falls, so it may not be a good choice for families with young or elderly members.

Stained concrete. Photo by Suzette Fox

Stained concrete is by far my favorite choice. Decorative concrete flooring is a perfect blend of beauty, sustainability and economy, giving you a durable, low-maintenance floor that will last a lifetime.

Concrete floors conserve resources by functioning both as a foundation slab and finished floor. This eliminates the need for carpeting and other floor coverings that would eventually require replacement.

The benefits listed below are the most compelling reasons to go green with concrete. Can you tell I’m trying to persuade you?

Example of stained concrete flooring. Photo by Suzette Fox

  • Design Versatility. Decorative techniques such as coloring, staining and polishing give you unlimited design versatility that’s totally unique.
  • Air quality. Products today are available in low-odor, nontoxic versions that won’t affect indoor air quality.
  • Durability. When properly installed and sealed, a decorative concrete floor should last a lifetime and will never need replacement. If you stick with a neutral color palette for your concrete floor, it will easily transition to any future changes in your décor.
  • Energy Efficiency. Because of their thermal mass and ability to retain heat, concrete floors are ideal for passive solar homes. Passive solar design takes advantage of a building’s site, climate, and materials to minimize energy use.
  • Concrete floors will absorb heat from direct sunlight and release it at night. Conversely in the summer and in hot climates, concrete floors shielded from the sun will stay cool and help lower air-conditioning costs.
  • Concrete floors also are ideal for use with energy-efficient radiant in-floor heating systems. The Healthy House Institute says that with radiant heating, people can be comfortable at lower temperatures, reducing utility bills.

Carpet is honestly the last flooring I recommend. Really, where does it come from? Where does it go? Most carpets are made from synthetic material and cannot be recycled. Carpets make up 1 percent of landfills. It off-gases VOC’s, not just when it’s new, but for up to 12 years after installation. It causes breathing problems to those who suffer from respiratory issues like asthma and those who are sensitive to chemicals or have allergies.

If your family insists on carpeting, look for the Green Label Plus seal. The Green Label program tests substances in carpet, padding and adhesives, and meets strict guidelines for low VOC’s. Only carpeting that emits either no VOC or low VOC’s get to carry the Green Label Plus seal.

I hope this information helps you sort out some of the pros and cons of different flooring options. I will continue to campaign for the ‘greenest’ options, not just for my family, but for my clients as well.

Happy New Year!

Feel free to contact Los Alamos Interior Designer Suzette Fox to suggest specific design topics or for help with your home. For more information, find her on Facebook at and on her website