Sustainable Flooring

When dreaming up a remodel or new build, flooring may not be as sexy or Pinterest-worthy as say, wallpaper, paint colors, kitchens or bathrooms. However, nothing supports the life coursing through a home each day quite like our floors. We play with our children and/or pets on them, stand on them for hours cooking and walk the same traffic pattern from room to room. The floor really anchors the entire home, and now homeowners are more conscientious than ever about remodeling or building with flooring that reflects their values and concerns for the environment.

We spoke with interior-design experts Shannon Eddings of Shannon Eddings Interiors, Mark Evans, project designer at CG&S Design-Build and Sarah Malek Barney, owner and principal designer at Bandd Design, to get their thoughts on the new wave of sustainable flooring options. Listed here—from most budget-friendly to most splurge-worthy—are seven of the sustainable flooring trends that our experts are seeing. Prices per square foot are approximate and do not include installation costs. Keep in mind these are starting prices, as products can range in quality and selection.

1. Marmoleum: $5/square foot

This product is made from natural ingredients, such as flaxseed oil and wood flour, and is finished with a jute backing, making the floor comfortable to walk on. It’s available in squares or sheets in a wide variety of colors, allowing for a monotone look or an intricate pattern. It can be used in wet areas like kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms, has antibacterial properties and helps reduce dust mites and allergens. Our experts warn that Marmoleum can stain and dent easily, though, and—as with any type of flooring—you’ll want to make sure it’s installed by a contractor who has experience with the product.

2. Cork: $5–$10/square foot

“Cork is softer on feet, durable, can even be used in the kitchen,” Evans notes. It’s also thermal and helps with acoustics, which is a plus in common areas. However, it can become scratched in a home with pets, and may damage easily. “But that’s just patina,” Evans says. “I’ve even damaged my concrete floor—it happens with flooring.”

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3. Rubber: $5–$10/square foot

Great for laundry rooms, mudrooms and even busy kitchens, rubber flooring is available in a wide range of colors. Our experts note that some may be turned off by its industrial look but advise to view the options before ruling it out, as you may be surprised. Ask for rubber flooring made from recycled tires for an extra-sustainable option.

4. Stained/Polished Concrete: $10/square foot

This price reflects the amount it costs to float a new, thin concrete layer over an existing rough one and polish it. Staining is another $5–$10/square foot. “It’s budget-friendly because your slab is already there,” Malek Barney says. “It can be inexpensive to polish, and it’s indestructible.” Those are the pros. The cons are that polished concrete can be tough on your feet and body day after day, especially if you’re on your feet much of the time you’re at home. Also, it’s not very forgiving; it may not be a good choice for people who are prone to falling or dropping items.

5. Bamboo: $10/square foot

This is one of the most popular sustainable options because bamboo grows quickly and it’s aesthetically pleasing. Evans warns homeowners to “be sure to get a good quality bamboo because the cheaper ones damage easily.”

6. Cement Tile: $15/square foot

If the goal is to use a sustainable flooring material and have your home reflect the Austin vibe you see in many of your favorite commercial spaces, then cement tile may be what you’re looking for. “Cement tile is very Austin,” says Eddings. “It’s handmade and doesn’t require a lot of energy to produce. You can find it on floors, walls, bar fronts—it’s everywhere and it’s colorful and eye-catching.”

7. Reclaimed Wood: $10–$30/square foot

“There’s a ton of oak in Texas, but this option can get pricey unless you’re doing the reclaiming yourself,” says Malek Barney. Evans warns homeowners to check reclaimed wood for pesticides, dust or lead that may be present. Still, if you’re mindful of your sourcing and choice of contractor, reclaimed wood can bring an iconic look to your home. “I love anything reclaimed or salvaged and think that the old wood flooring is something that seems authentically Austin,” says Eddings.

By Jen Hamilton Hernandez