Green Flooring – Eco Friendly Flooring

Our millions of regular self sufficient readers (well, all 200 of you) will know (if you have been paying attention), that we live in Spain. It is the tradition here in nearly all homes to have tiled floors.

Wooden floors are not really the norm and carpets are quite the exception to the rule. This is partly because of the heat during the summer, the number of bugs and woodworm that seem to be present, especially in the countryside, but I think it is mainly down to the fact that little consideration is made for protecting interiors from the rain (when it comes). This makes tiles the perfect choice.

When it comes to green flooring I always thought that tiles were a great eco flooring option.

Today for some unknown reason I actually began to think about this and now I am unsure. I guess I should be used to the fact that much Spanish construction seems to involve a competition  to see who can use the most bags of cement in any given square metre but for some reason I always thought tiled floors meant a green flooring success.

I realized today that I have absolutely no real idea how tiles like ceramic or porcelain floor tiles are really made. I know that carpets are full of nasties and are not the most “eco” of flooring products unless you specifically buy environmentally friendly carpets. But what is used in the process of making tiles?

Anyone who has a thorough knowledge feel free to tell us the tale. What I am sure about is that tiled floors must be better from a health point of view for those living with them. They beat carpets hands down. They are easier to clean, they are a more eco friendly flooring from the point of view that you do not need to use a vacuum to clean them. A simple broom does the job and this saves on using electricity.

Tiled floors can be seen as green flooring from that point of view and the bonus is that for allergy sufferers like me ( I get terrible hayfever) they do not harbor any nasties that can set you off.

But as to the actual process of making them I do not know how green or otherwise the process is. I am assuming it is full of giant machines and nasty commercial processes that would make your average Eco missionary have a small fit and dive for cover but what would be the best alternative?

What really is a green flooring option?

From actually sitting down and thinking about it today I would say it would have to be wooden and untreated or naturally treated flooring from a sustainable resource.

Anyone like to give their feelings on the subject?

Or are you all too busy hoovering the carpets with your big energy consuming shiny Dyson?

Actually I would love a Dyson as it is one of the best carpet cleaning machineson the market. It would also be great to have some carpet, just to make it feel like the old days and walk around bare foot in the winter.

. Shame on me I know.

14 Responses to “Green Flooring – Eco Friendly Flooring”

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  1. Jef says:

    Hello Mr. Dirty Boots,

    This is what I came up with for how Ceramic Tiles are manufactured.

    Ceramic tile is made from clay that’s been formed, glazed and baked. The same ingredients are still used, and the process is still basically the same, though it has been highly automated throughout the ages because of demand.

    Ceramic tiles were once made by hand. Wet clay was put a wooden mold, and then left to dry in the sun or fired in a small brick kiln. There are still handmade tiles produced by artisans but modern tile making goes through a process known as dry pressing or dust pressing.

    Clay is usually mixed with sand, feldspar, quartz and water. These ingredients are ground up in a ball mill to create what’s known as the body slip. Very similar in concept to a modern concrete block plant which I have personally been in. Body slip is used for the main backing and the other component is of course the glaze that is applied to the surface.
    At this point, the body slip contains roughly 30 percent water.
    Next the body slip is put into a dryer and heated; the moisture content is reduced to about 6 percent. BIG energy user here!

    After being in the dryer, the body slip is now a powder, or dust. Remember dust pressing from above? The dust is put into a large press, run by electricity or hydraulics. The press pushes the dust at at up to 100,000 pounds per square inch. That pressure is what gives the tile its tensile strength. The final shaped body is called the “bisque”. After the bisque is formed, it’s dried out even further to remove all remaining traces of moisture.

    Next it’s off to the glazing process which is commonly sprayed or silk screened.(Tee Shirts?) Not every tile has to be glazed to be considered “ceramic”. They just need to be baked in a kiln traditionally for several hours.(More energy!) Modern high speed automation requires the use of a tunnel kiln with a continuous conveyor belt running the tiles through it non stop. The temps are controlled very precisely and are somewhere around 2500 degrees F. or for our european friends 1371.111 degrees C. This process usually takes under an hour to complete and then the tiles have to cool down slowly. Then they are sorted, checked for imperfections, packaged and shipped. That’s the basics. So although it takes quite a bit of energy to manufacture, it should last indefinitely and that should account for some kind of green savings.

    • Jef,

      Wow. You can’t get more thorough than that. Quite an interesting process. I guess the point you make is a good one in that at least they should last for ever so it is only a change in consumer tastes that would lead to a replacement any time soon. That at least is god from an ecological point of view.

      Thanks for the great information.

  2. H.S. says:

    You mentioned wood floors being greener. I’d venture to suggest that bamboo would be greener than wood – more sustainable and I believe would last a little longer too.

    • H.S good point,

      I have actually seen quite a lot of bamboo products advertised of late.


      Lino? That brings back memories. Mostly of getting stuck to it in student houses 😉

  3. Ayesha says:

    Although it is pretty expensive I think that old-fashioned linoleum is making a comeback. It uses linseed oil amongst other things is very long lasting and hardwearing and these days comes in some very funky colurs and designs. We have a large floor area in our house in Slovenia and have gone for tiles over underfloor heating. They will be forever so they are very neutral!

  4. The dining room floor of my house consists of 100 year old terracotta/clay tiles laid directly onto the foundations (well, bare earth) of the house. In summer they’re lovely and cool, but as summer only comes but once a year, for a great deal of the year it makes the house much colder than I’d like. We also think we may have some damp creeping in.

    Usually, I love terracotta tiled flooring, but I’m surprised to admit that I want to rip these beggars up. To polish them up and make them look nice and neat would mean using harsh chemicals (we’ve tried every other trick in the book and this is our last option). Not particularly eco-friendly. But when I’ve said that I would rather replace them with carpet, I get shrieked at. Just because it’s an original feature of the house, doesn’t mean it’s a “good thing”. And besides, I wouldn’t just rip them up, I’d try and preserve them and ‘recycle’ them by selling them to someone else, who can deal with them in whichever way they choose.

    We have original floorboards, which are nice, but draughty too. Since we carpeted over our spare room (small room, creaky floorboards, carpeted with discounted end of roll remnant that could have gone to landfill), we’ve noticed how much *warmer* the house is, how less dusty it is (less vacuuming with our DYSON), and how we can turn the heating down more on cold days.

    I guess, as ever, it’s about weighing up the pros and cons.

  5. Goo says:

    Our house originally had quarry tiles and some rooms still do-makes getting rid of dog hairs easier. But we’ve carpeted because otherwise it’s just too cold. Our house, and our canal would never have existed if it wasn’t for the pottery industry, so I’m afraid we’re losing some big, kiln-burning eco-points here!

  6. Elisha says:

    I own a dyson. I bought it because my dog sheds all year and I thought that at the time it would be the best way to get up his hair, which sticks to every thing and is impossible to get out of fabric. I actually bought the pet version of the vacuum. It’s awful. It always loses suction, the customer service people were awful and tried to get me to fix it myself (for the 3rd attempt) after I hauled it across the city to their one certified repair shop in Chicago and I was standing in the store. I will never buy another dyson. I would much rather have bamboo flooring that I can sweep with a broom (or any flooring I can sweep with a floor, but a lady can dream.)

  7. My favorite green flooring option would have to be cork. Not only is cork a sustainable product, but I just love the look and feel of it.

  8. Vacuum Guy says:

    My choice would be minimally treated or untreated bamboo. This is such a pretty hardwood floor choice. Plus bamboo grows so quickly, it’s one of the most easily replaceable woods (or grass rather).

  9. LJ says:

    I LOVE my cork floor! It is beautiful, quiet, and easily cleaned. I read that “the cork oak tree is not destroyed and then replanted but rather the bark is trimmed from the tree every 9 years, leaving the tree and the forest undamaged. Its not unusual to have a 200 year old tree still producing cork bark. Cork flooring is actually made from the waste of the cork wine stopper manufacturing process so cork flooring is a recycled product.”

    • LJ

      Thanks for the info, that sounds like a great option. I have been hearing more about it lately. And we certainly drink the wine to provide plenty of supplies!

  10. Patrick Morton says:

    Good day, my personal preference is a combination of suspended wood flooring and quarry tiles. The tiles for the wet areas (bathroom. kitchen) and wood for the rest.
    As a kid (on a smallholding) we had cow dung flooring in the outbuildings, in the kitchen, and on the verhandas… using a weathered cow dung slurry, laid and skimmed with a floater and sealed with wax. Sets like concrete and great insulation!

  11. Jeff says:

    Having just returned from Africa last month I was very excited to learn about a trial program being initiated to recycle millions(billions?) of plastic bags that are discarded annually and turning them into some type of flooring. I’m not sure of the process involved but knowing there is very sporadic electricity someone must have found a way to do it at least for a testing phase.