Conserving natural resources, such as forests, has long been a green-building tenet, but that doesn’t preclude hardwood flooring from being called green. In fact, sustainability efforts have made materials such as engineered hardwood flooring arguably more eco-friendly than materials like bamboo.

While the hardwood industry continues to work toward recognition in green-building programs, Dan Natkin, director of hardwoods for Mannington Mills, offers several reasons why engineered hardwood is ideal for eco-friendly homes.

Less waste: “In a solid wood floor, only 20% to 30% of the log makes it into the flooring, while the remainder ends up as sawdust, cuttings, and shrinkage from drying,” Natkin estimates. “Engineered [flooring] is a much more efficient use of raw materials where 70% to 80% of the log is used. We peel the wood from the log, and whatever isn’t used to make up the floor can be used for inner or back plies; the remainder feeds the steam systems used to peel the veneer.” Natkin says that waste from bamboo product manufacturing is often burned and that clear-cut bamboo harvesting can damage growth areas.

Reforestation: A common misperception about hardwood is that harvesting trees depletes forests. “One thing often not recognized is that the U.S. has the most sustainable hardwood forests in the world right now,” Natkin says. According to the U.S. Forest Service, which regularly surveys 33 states where hardwood is grown in commercial quantities, more wood volume is being grown nationally today than is being removed. “On average,” he says, “there has been a 20% annual surplus for the last 50 years, and forest growth is positive in all 33 states.” He adds that in many states with a hardwood logging industry, the renewability factor is almost 2, meaning twice as much new material is growing than is being taken out.

Performance & refinishing: Though engineered hardwood and solid wood flooring are often manufactured to the same thicknesses, multilayered engineered flooring offers more stability than solid wood, Natkin says. Solid wood is hydroscopic (water-loving), he points out, and can expand 12% to 14% for every 1% it gains in moisture, compared with less than 1% expansion for engineered materials. Additionally, when wear and tear ultimately affect wood flooring, solid wood requires a more dramatic refinishing process than engineered wood. “Lightly abrading the surface in a screening and recoating process means engineered hardwood can be refinished repeatedly, extending its life.”

—Lauren Hunter, associate editor, REMODELING.