Allergies are unpleasant to say the least, and your home can either be your safe haven or a major enemy in the fight against symptoms. While it may not be possible to eliminate every allergen from your home, you can certainly make some decent headway with some allergy-friendly home improvements; your choice of flooring can be a big factor and here are some options to consider.
Considerations for Carpet
If you have carpet, you should seriously consider getting rid of it—not only is it a favorite hiding space of allergens of all sorts, it absorbs all the chemicals that are constantly being emitted in your home from household items like furniture and cleaning products. Whether you prefer carpet or do not have the funds to get new flooring, at the very least, you should wash your carpets regularly and get a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter. Ideally, you will put down carpeting that is manufactured to be mold and mildew resistant.
Cork and Bamboo
Cork is a great option—it naturally contains a substance that fights the growth of bacteria, mold, mildew and other allergy-triggers; it is naturally porous but the finish covers any pockets where these invaders may take up residence. Bamboo is another good choice—not only is it as hard as many traditional wood flooring materials, it is better at resisting moisture, which can give rise to the growth of allergens. Some bamboo products, however, may contain glues and other substances that emit VOCs—harmful gases that can trigger allergies, either immediately or over the long-term as they seep into the air. Make sure to inquire about the manufacturing process.
These two choices are more eco-friendly options than traditional hardwood floors. Cork is actually harvested right from the bark of the tree and does not even need to be cut down; it regenerates very quickly as well. Bamboo is actually a grass that grows abundantly and quickly; furthermore, it does not require the use of chemical-laden pesticides, fertilizers and other agents.
Laminate may another good option, but, like bamboo, check about manufacturing processes to be sure the product you are buying is not with laden with glues and other substances that emit VOCs. Your best options include products that are CARB compliant; this is a designation set by the California Air Resource Board, which has strict criteria for determining whether a product negatively impacts air quality or not. Another good indicator is a formaldehyde rating of E1 or E0.
Stone may be another good option; if your main motivator for purchasing stone flooring is to reduce the build- up of allergens, certain types may be a better choice than others. Opt for smooth stone over porous stone with rough edges, which is an easier hiding spot for allergens. Good choices include granite and marble that have been highly polished. Consider cork or foam rubber for an moisture barrier underlayment to discourage the growth of mold.
Other Flooring Options
Tile is another good choice, either porcelain or ceramic; if you are interested in being more eco-friendly, there are options such as tiles made from recycled materials. To discourage mold growth beneath the flooring, make sure the grout is always in tip-top shape. Vinyl is another good option, and like cork, the sealing will prevent allergens from getting into pockets. But, if allergies are the main motivator, quality is important since lower end products will be loaded with VOCs.
Kelli Cooper, writing for Accent Building Products, is a freelance writer who enjoys writing about home improvements that can also improve your health.