How to choose eco-friendly flooring: What you need to know about solid wood, engineered wood and more

If you're laying new flooring in your home, ensuring that it's environmentally-friendly is hugely important — and companies such as Stories Flooring can help.

Whether you’re renovating, extending, renewing or building a house from scratch, choosing flooring is one of the trickiest decisions you’ll make. Trying to imagine from samples, pictures and simulations how it’ll look in your house, with your lighting, is like trying to guess how a suit will feel purely from a square of fabric and a picture in a catalogue.

Then there are the environmental considerations. When you’re laying dozens, or even hundreds of square metres of flooring, making sure that it’s as sound environmentally as it is beneath your feet is a major consideration. The dark days of television programmes such as Changing Rooms left thousands of British homes with floors covered in cheap, poor-quality PVC or laminate flooring that is well past its sell-by date and destined for landfill, if it isn’t there already. We can’t make the same mistake again.

Companies such as Stories Flooring are all too well aware of this, and are making huge strides in ensuring that everything they source is as environmentally friendly as possible, and letting you select the greenest possible option for your floor. And right near the top of the list, as you might expect, is solid wood flooring.

By its very nature, wood effectively acts as a carbon sink when used in building, making it a perfect green building material. So as long as you’re sourcing the wood from FSC-approved timber yards — something that Stories Flooring’s suppliers are insistent upon — then you can rest assured knowing that you’re making a choice that will be as sustainable as it is beautiful. Flooring manufacturers such as Kährs — one of Stories Flooring’s main suppliers — go to great pains to source their wood from renewable forests which supply high-quality timber.

Then, of course, there are the intangible benefits of a wooden floor: nothing feels warmer or more elegant, or brings the feel of nature into your house more effectively. And it’s nothing like as difficult to maintain as you might think: for those worried about scratches or other damage, you should know that the latest protective coatings do a good job of keeping trouble at bay. And if the worst should happen? Well, we feel that the scratches and dents of the years only serve to add character, but if you don’t agree then it’s good to know that your floor can be sanded and refinished many times over a lifetime that can be measured in generations rather than years.

As much as we love solid wood, however, in some ways engineered wood can be even better for the environment. While solid floors are made entirely from slow-growing hardwood, in engineering flooring the hardwood element is used only for the veneer surface – it’s typically 3mm thick in decent quality, and frankly you’d be making a mistake to for anything less.

The remainder of the laminated material is made from layers of fast-growing, environmentally-friendly timber. Aside from the benefit of using wood from forests that can be more quickly replaced, it makes for far less wastage: around one third less timber is felled to create engineered wood than solid wood. The resulting flooring is also better at conducting heat, meaning that you can warm your home with an underfloor system.

For the ultimate in eco-friendly flooring, Kährs go to enormous lengths to make the process as green as possible: they use water-based wood treatments, for example, and ensure that all waste (from sawdust to offcuts) is used by a local energy company near their forests in Sweden. Over 6,000 homes are heated each year using the recycled wood. And even the laying process is good for the environment: engineered wood planks can be simply clicked together, meaning that the entire floor can be laid quickly and simply without any glue or other chemicals required. And that fitting should be smoother too: as the planks are more uniform, an engineered wood floor will be more stable and should last longer than solid wood.

But wood of any type is ideal for living spaces and hallways, it’s not the answer for bathrooms — and quite possibly not for your kitchen either, depending on how clumsy the members of your household are when holding cups of tea, bowls of water — or beakers of squash.


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Timber can absorb (and later breathe out) a fair amount of moisture, but too much can cause warping — and warping spells trouble for wood, whether solid or engineered. While the latter is more resistant to water damage, it’s still not ideal for this purpose, and will require care and maintenance. Traditional tiles are the one solution, but you want to continue the wood feel throughout your home then there are today some fine, environmentally-conscious artificial options too — and which you can buy with wood-effect patterns. Stories Flooring sell Kährs vinyl floors which are, unusually, completely free of phthalate, the rather nasty chemical plasticisers which have been red-flagged in several studies. This makes Kährs vinyl flooring extremely low in VOC, helping keep the air in your home as good as it can be.

You can find out more about Stories Flooring at

Stories Flooring
Unit 2 Wortley Business Park
Amberley Road
LS12 4BD
Find them here