Four ways to go green with oak flooring

Oak floors are unrivalled in their appeal and popularity. They look great and they are extremely versatile, going with a wide range of styles. Not only that, they can also be very environmentally friendly. But whereas some companies have excellent sustainability policies, others won’t have thought it through so carefully. Before you buy, here are some points to check.

1. Are their woodlands managed?

This comes down to the question of whether the trees that are felled to make your oak flooring are being adequately and appropriately replaced, or whether the practices amount to deforestation and the loss of natural habitats. Managed woodland is forest where the ecosystem is carefully tended to ensure that trees are replanted when mature ones are cut. But it goes far beyond this: it’s not just a question of making up the numbers. It’s also about the wider habitat, biodiversity and water management, amongst many other things. It’s a holistic approach, rather than a simplistic one-for-one replacement of trees removed for flooring and other uses. The company should be able to give you details about their approach, and it’s worth looking out for FSC or other similar accreditation.

2. When are trees removed?

This is an extension of the above point. It’s not just about whether trees are replaced, but about the protection of the environment of which they form one critical part. So, for example, trees are typically felled in winter, when the sap is down. This means the wood cures faster and is of higher quality – after all, the wood used for typical oak flooring has to be dried for upwards of a year, so it makes sense that it is as dry as possible to start with.

However, winter isn’t always the best time to remove trees, since that requires heavy machinery which can damage the wet woodland ground. Ideally, trees should be felled up to a year in advance of moving them to pick the right time, and not every company is willing to wait that long.

3. Where are they coming from?

Depending on the company’s re-planting policy, the whole operation could be something close to carbon neutral. Transport is one major factor, so check where the trees are coming from. Much of the wood will be sourced in the UK, with a good proportion coming from Europe. Some may come from further afield. If so, make sure that the forests are appropriately managed. Worst case scenario, they could be the result of illegal logging or blatant deforestation.

4. What kind of oak flooring?

Different forms of flooring will have greater or lesser proportions of wood, as well as other chemicals. Solid oak flooring is about as simple as it gets: it’s just planks of dried oak. But the more complicated you get, the more processes and other materials are involved, and the more adhesives, solvents and other chemicals are used. These all have a cost to the environment. Sometimes the difference might be fairly small and the benefits substantial; some people swear by engineered oak flooring, for example, which is a veneer of oak bonded to a plywood base. This tends to be more stable and reacts less to changes in temperature and humidity than solid oak. Whatever your choice, though, make sure you know about the ‘total production factors’ – all the different aspects of manufacture which have a cumulative bearing on its environmental impact.

This article was supplied by Sutton Timber oak flooring suppliers. Sutton Timber source hardwoods from privately owned woodlands and government forests across the UK and Europe.

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