What You Must Know About Green Bathroom Flooring

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    Eco-Friendly Flooring: Which Types Work Best in the Bathroom?

    Woman bending over side of bathtub, hand under tap
    John Dowland/PhotoAlto Agency RF Collections/Getty Images

    Of all the rooms in the average home, the bathroom is at the top of the list of environmental offenders. Aside from consuming boatloads of water, energy and paper products, the most commonly used surface material in many bathrooms—ceramic tile—is hardly the darling of eco-conscious designers.

    If you’re looking for a floor that’s tough in the bathroom yet gentle on the environment, here are three good options to consider:

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    Modern bath with bamboo floor designed by Jeff Rizzi, Reico Kitchen & Bath.

    1. Bamboo
    Bamboo is one of the most popular green flooring materials on the market today, and for good reason: In addition to its beauty, this prolific, fast-growing grass is tougher than many hardwoods, including maple and northern red oak.

    Bamboo is also inherently resistant to water and mildew, qualities that would seem to spell perfection in the bathroom. Even hardy bamboo can wilt under too much stress.

    Keep in Mind:

    Warping: Bamboo can swell and disfigure if water seeps into the planks, a…MORE problem that can result from an overflowing toilet or burst pipe. Over time, humidity can also take its toll.

    Mold: Should your bathroom suffer a full-on flood, there’s a good chance your bamboo floor’s natural antimicrobial properties could be snuffed out, causing a terminal case of mold. Should that happen, your only option is a new floor.

    Stains: Abrasive cleaners and soaps can wear down bamboo’s surface finish. Even the occasional water splash can leave a permanent mark if it is not quickly wiped away.

    Average Price: $2 to $8 per square foot

    Saving Grace: There are a number of engineered bamboo products that not only offer the look and feel of the real thing, but also come with built-in protection against water and stains. What’s more, an engineered bamboo tile or plank can be easily replaced if damaged.

    Bottom Line: A bamboo floor can be an excellent choice for a master bath or powder room where spills can be kept to a minimum.

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    Concrete master bath floor designed by Balance Associates. Photo by Steve Keating

    2. Concrete

    If you want an eco-friendly floor that resembles stone without its expense and upkeep,
    can be a great option. Concrete is considered to be a green material because it already exists beneath many bathroom floors. Uncovering and re-using this sub-layer means less impact on the environment.

    When restored and properly sealed, concrete flooring is both utilitarian and industrial-chic, requiring little more than a mop and occasional polishing to maintain its good looks. And because…MORE it is such a great heat conductor, concrete works extremely well over radiant heating systems.

    Keep in Mind:

    Coldness: Concrete tends to be cool to the touch. If you don’t install a radiant heat system, you may not enjoy stepping out of the shower on a cold winter morning.

    Texture: Concrete may be a bit rough for bare feet in its natural state, but after honing and polishing, the surface becomes quite smooth. This can lead to another potential problem…

    Slipperiness: Falling on a wet, hard concrete floor is something most of us want to avoid. Fortunately, you can treat your concrete floor with a sealing product that helps to prevent slips.

    Saving Grace: Concrete is an extremely durable, affordable and attractive green material that is impervious to moisture when properly sealed. With minimal maintenance, it will last for decades in the average bathroom.

    Average Price: $1 to $2 per square foot

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    Linoleum bathroom floor. Photo Courtesy of Forbo

    3. Linoleum

    is a flooring material that is making a comeback, not only for its retro style, but also its many eco-friendly properties. Composed of linseed oil, cork dust, wood flour and other natural materials, linoleum is hypoallergenic, easy to recycle and biodegradable. In fact, it’s one of the greenest flooring choices you can make.

    Linoleum is resilient, wears like iron, comes in a range of hip colors and requires minimal care. And because it is oil-based, linoleum is naturally water…MORE resistant. Thanks to these characteristics, it’s a great choice for a busy family bathroom.

    Keep in Mind:

    It’s Not Vinyl: Many retailers use the term “linoleum” when referring to vinyl flooring. However, the two products couldn’t be more different. Linoleum is made from natural materials, while vinyl is a synthetic mix of chlorinated petrochemicals that are linked to a number of environmental issues.

    Moisture: While linoleum is naturally resistant to water, excessive moisture can damage the surface and warp the subfloor. For this reason, seamless sheet linoleum is a better choice for a bathroom than linoleum tiles.

    Requires professional Installation: Installing a linoleum floor is not a simple DIY project; you’ll probably want to hire a pro for this job.

    Average Price: $2 to $5 per square foot

    Bottom Line: For resilience alone, linoleum remains one of the best all-around flooring materials. What’s more, new factory-applied sealers protect it against dirt and stains. When properly installed, it can last up to 40 years.

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