When building a new home or remodeling, new flooring can define any room. Below you’ll find a brief rundown of the different floor options out there and their impact.

Bamboo is a beautiful, remarkably strong, and widely available flooring material. Newer strand-woven styles have extremely hard surfaces and varied grain patterns that hide marks and scratches. Though a considerable amount of energy is used to transport it from China, where it’s grown, bamboo is considered a green material because it grows as fast as forty inches in twenty-four hours and does not require pesticides, fertilizers, or replanting after harvesting. Look for products made with bamboo harvested from mature stocks, produced with fair labor practices, and constructed without urea formaldehyde glues.

Certified Hardwood
“Certified hardwood” refers to a wide range of wood species that are harvested in a way that preserves forest ecosystems an enables fragile communities around the globe to manage their forests for longterm economic benefit—reversing the pressure to clear-cut forests in favor of soybean, corn, and other agricultural commodities. Certification is administered by two nonprofit third-party organizations: the international Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the regionally-based Healthy Forests Healthy Communities (HFHC).

Engineered Wood
Sustainably harvested engineered wood is constructed similarly to plywood, using thin layers of laminated wood. Often, the visible face of engineered-wood flooring is made from a rare or exotic species of wood. The factory finish applied to engineered-wood floors, in addition to being highly durable, makes for a quick and easy installation.

Reclaimed Hardwood
Reclaimed-wood flooring is salvaged from demolished buildings and other structures. Though expensive, due to the labor involved in salvaging, reclaimed wood is beautiful, highly ecologically responsible, and unparalleled in quality: often derived from old-growth trees, it offers stability and grain intensity that can no longer be found in newly milled wood.

Though large amounts of energy are consumed in its production and transport, cement is considered an ecologically friendly flooring material because it can be used for both structure (a slab foundation) and finish (a polished concrete floor). Easy to maintain and impervious to dust, dust mites, mold, and other allergens, concrete can be stained any color and even stamped to look like stone.

Cork flooring is a low-maintenance, environmentally friendly, durable byproduct of the cork-stopper industry, made by grinding up leftover cork-oak bark into small pieces that are coated with a nontoxic resin binder. Filled with small pockets of air, cork has excellent shock-absorption and acoustic- and thermal-insulating properties. A great choice for kitchens, cork flooring has a smooth, pebbled appearance.

Linoleum is a durable flooring whose jute-backed surface is made primarily of natural materials including wood flour, linseed oil, cork, and pine resins. Highly resistant to foot traffic and exhibiting inherently antimicrobial and antistatic properties, this predecessor to vinyl is re-emerging as a practical and sustainable flooring option.