Four Tips for Eco-Friendly Carpeting Installation
Install wall-to-wall carpeting without taking a toll on the environment.
By Fran J. Donegan
If you like the look and enjoy the feel of wall-to-wall carpeting, but you’re concerned about the environmental impact, don’t worry. You can make environmentally friendly choices so your carpeting is safer for you and the planet. Just follow these four tips for choosing eco-friendly carpeting.
Wool and sisal carpets are made from natural, renewable resources. Although area rugs made from a variety of natural materials are common, when it comes to broadlooms—carpeting produced on 12- to 15-foot-wide rolls for wall-to-wall carpeting—you may have difficulty finding natural-fiber carpets other than wool.
Wool carpets offer a luxurious feel and stain resistance. They’re also naturally flame retardant. Many people feel wool is the standard against which other carpeting materials are compared. But those qualities come with a price. Wool carpets can cost two to three times more than nylon or synthetic carpets.
Wool is naturally stain resistant, but most wool carpets are chemically treated to increase their durability. However, you can find wool carpets and carpet backing that do not contain synthetic dyes or chemical treatments of any kind.
Clear the Air
One reservation about getting new carpeting is the “new carpet smell,” especially just after it’s installed. The smell can be attributed to the off gassing of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), chemicals used in manufacturing the carpet and its backing. The majority of VOCs are harmless and evaporate at room temperature, but some individuals are extremely sensitive to them.
If you’re concerned about VOCs, you’ll want to look for carpets, adhesives, and carpet padding with the Green Label Plus standard. This standard is reserved for products that have the lowest level of emissions of any products on the market. In fact, the Green Label Plus standard actually exceeds California's indoor air quality standards for low-emitting products, the highest in the nation.
Once the carpet is installed, be sure to keep the area well ventilated and any smell should dissipate in about 72 hours.
Try Recycled Materials
While most carpeting is composed of synthetic fibers, some manufacturers have started incorporating recycled materials into their products. Plastic water bottles are an important source of the recycled material: The bottles can be turned into strong polyester yarn that produces a soft carpet. As more carpets are produced this way, fewer plastic bottles end up in landfills. (Currently, only about 37 percent of plastic beverage bottles are recycled.)
Polyester fiber carpets are available in a variety of styles and colors, and they do a good job of resisting stains. Polyester carpets are generally not as durable as nylon. They last longest when used in low- to moderate-traffic areas.
Recycle Your Old Carpet
If you’re replacing an existing carpet, it may be possible to recycle the old one. The practice isn’t as common as recycling other materials, and it isn’t available everywhere, but it’s easy to find out if your old carpet is a candidate for recycling.
Start by asking your carpet retailer or installer if they participate in a recycling program. Some carpet manufacturers sponsor programs for their retailers. Check with your state or county recycling authority to determine if there are carpet recyclers in your area. You can also check the Carpet™ America Recovery Effort website, which features a carpet recycler locator. This is an industry-wide effort to promote carpet recycling by turning old carpets into useful products including composite lumber, roofing shingles, and automotive parts.
Home improvement author Fran Donegan draws on his years of expertise to write about everything from renovating an old kitchen to finding the most eco-friendly carpet for The Home Depot. If you’re thinking about adding carpet to your home, view options from The Home Depot here.
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