Choosing Wood Flooring: Sustainable Options Underfoot

Portland Interior Designer, Pangaea, shares tips on choosing sustainable wood flooring for your home.

Whether you love the rich reds of mahogany and cherry, the pale brightness of maple, hickory and birch, or the deep and dark loveliness of walnut, there is a wood floor for you!

Hardwood flooring in deep cherry tones. Hardwood flooring in light natural tones.

photos courtesy of US Floors

Yesterday I attended the monthly meeting of the Interior Design Society, Portland chapter. We were hosted by Tualatin’s Treadline Construction, specializing in hardwood flooring. I’d like to share just a few tips on choosing hardwood flooring and some very nice sustainable options.

1. The color, grain, size of planks, and character of wood can set the tone for the look of your home just as effectively as your furnishings. So, choose a look that will work with the style of your home’s architecture and furnishings. Wide planks of reclaimed wood with the patina of years of use fit beautifully in a casual style, traditional home. In a contemporary space, I love the look of narrow strips of palest birch or maple, or the deepest color of “ebonized” ash. Rich mahogany or cherry seem to evoke a feel of rich elegance.

pecan-clear-decorative reclaimed-barn-wood-floorash-clear-decorative walnut-clear-decorative

photos courtesy of Stone River Hardwoods

2. Select wood not only by it’s color and grain, but by the area and use for which it is intended. All trees are not created equal. Some are much harder than others. If you have a high traffic area, children or pets, you’ll be better off with a wood which has a higher rating for “hardness”. They will all scratch & scuff with enough abuse … high heels and dog’s claws are no friends of wood …  but the harder the wood, the better it will hold up. Brazilian Cherry is one of the hardest woods which is readily available in flooring. The experts at Treadline have a chart that compares all the types of wood and can give great advice on the most suitable wood for your application.

3. Wood is generally considered to be a “green” option because it is renewable. To be sustainable though, be sure the wood you are buying is certified as being sustainably harvested. There are a number of certifications out there, but at the moment, the only one that will get you LEED points (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification. Other sustainable practices include harvesting dead or dying trees, sunken logs, or using reclaimed or recycled wood from old buildings.

A couple of particularly notable options in sustainable wood flooring are:

Cork: Cork flooring is made by taking bark from trees without killing the tree. The bark grows back and can be harvested repeatedly … a little bit like shearing a sheep for wool. Aside from being a wonderful sustainable option, cork is beautiful and is extra cushiony under your feet. It comes in quite an array of colors and with a range of looks from very fine grains to large inlaid pieces which are very striking.

Cork exotic style flooring. Cork exotic style flooring. Light fine grained cork flooring.

photos courtesy of US Floors

Bamboo: If it has been awhile since you looked at Bamboo flooring, check it out again. There are several new looks on the market including very narrow strips which look quite contemporary and also an end-cut mosaic pattern of tiny rectangles. Bamboo is rapidly renewable, but some manufacturers use formaldehyde in the process, so look for bamboo flooring that is formaldehyde free.

bamboo_midnight bamboo_horizontal_natural_solidbamboo_endgrain_natural bamboo_mosaic_carbonized

photos courtesy of Allwood Imports

Wood is a beautiful flooring option that feels great under your feet and adds value to your home. With proper care it will last a very long time. For help with choosing flooring or anything else for your home, please contact me at 503.816.4394, or email me at You can see my portfolio online at

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