Archive for the ‘carpet’ Tag

Two Years After Installing Flooring   1 comment

Two years ago we installed new flooring before moving into our house. I blogged about our three choices, carpet, Marmoleum, and cork back then. At the time we left one room undone, the nursery. It was convenient, as it gave us an extra place to pile stuff while the flooring was being installed in the rest of the house so that we could overlapping the cleaning/prepping phase and the moving phase. It was also convenient to put off paying for the flooring and installation in a room that wouldn’t be used for a while. Fast forward to today, when we need the nursery carpeted. This got me thinking that this would be a good time to write about our experience with our flooring choices.

I’ll actually start with the one choice that we didn’t make: tile. About a third of the house (kitchen/dining room/entry, and both bathrooms) was already tiled, and we didn’t left it in place. The tile in the bathrooms is just fine; except that the grout wasn’t sealed. It’s easy to care for, and would really be perfect, except that the grout isn’t sealed so it doesn’t get clean. The rest of the tile was really nice, and really poorly installed. It is the kind of tile that is meant to be installed edge to edge without grout spacing between; instead there’s variable spacing between tiles and they aren’t flat.  It makes cleaning difficult since the edges scrape stuff off the mop or broom and into the crevasse between tiles. Plus, the tile wasn’t sealed. Break a bottle of margarita mix on the floor? The spill will be visible forever, or at least until we get around to refinishing and sealing the tile. But for all the problems cleaning it and the weird feeling of the edges underfoot, in summer the cool tile is really nice in a place like Sacramento. Our first winter here I was afraid that our heating bill was going to be crazy since a third of the house is tile, but the tile didn’t seem to act as a heat sink. Maybe when we eventually seal the tile and have the cracks filled in I’ll really like it.

Our favorite of the flooring choices we made is definitely the carpet. It is an undyed wool carpet with cotton/hemp, jute, and rubber backing. Since there are no adhesives or synthetic materials, there’s no offgassing to create “new carpet” smell or cause headaches. Why do we love it? Well for starters it is sooooo soft! There’s a good thick wool carpet pad underneath, so it feels so comforting underfoot. It also feel soft against skin, not scratchy. The color is a beautiful mottled dark brown (wool from a black sheep) that does a good job of hiding any debris between vacuuming. The only drawback is in the care. The beater brush of the vacuum shouldn’t be used on wool carpet. Something about the fibers being shorter than synthetic fibers. We’re not really consistent about using/not using the beater brush, partly because vacuum cleaners just don’t seem to work very well without it. As a result I can tell the difference in the surface where there’s more traffic and vacuuming relative to areas that are rarely vacuumed. But overall, I give wool carpeting two thumbs up. It’s awesome!

We also like the Marmoleum that was installed in the outer part of the master bathroom. Marmoleum is a brand of true linoleum (made from linseed oil instead of the modern vinyl stuff). It’s easy to clean and hides dirt well. The pattern may actually be too good at hiding things, since water drops visually disappear immediately. Unfortunately it’s a little slippery when wet, or when the foot stepping on it is wet. But otherwise, again, I give true linoleum two thumbs up!

Now we come to our problem child: the cork. We installed a floating cork floor in the living room, hallway, and office. It is has a layer of cork under a paperboard core, with a layer of cork on top and then a decorative cork veneer on top. There are what I see as “design flaws” that are compounded by less-than-ideal conditions. The veneer is really really really thin, and the edges crumble, so a portion of every box cannot be used. The veneer is also easily damaged, say, by the feet of a sofa, leaving black scars in the floor. The edges of the tiles are unfinished, and have to be perfectly snug against the adjacent tile. Since I helped install it I know that we made sure that there were absolutely no gaps between tiles, but a year down the line and there are very small but visible gaps between the edges. Unfortunately if water gets between the tiles the paperboard can expand and cause the boards to deform. That’s probably also why the instructions say to put down a moisture barrier when installing on slab-on-grade concrete. Neither of the contractors that we got quotes from included moisture barrier in the quotes, and when I asked our contractor I was told that he’d never done it before and never had a problem. Well, we have had major problems with buckling and cupping of the individual tiles. Unfortunately, I mopped the floor for the first month or so, so I can’t pin the blame solely on the installer. Before choosing this flooring we didn’t do our full due diligence and read the care instructions, which say no wet mopping or damp mopping. After almost two years of dry mopping only, I so desperately want to damp mop to get rid of the buildup and smudges. We’re working with the contractor finally, after way too long procrastinating, to figure out what can be done. This brand of cork was expensive, so replacing it is not an option. Final verdict: pretty and feels good underfoot, but be careful about how it is installed and how to maintain. I’d recommend something with beveled edges, not straight edges. Glued-down might be a better choice than floating planks, and be careful about veneers. If you don’t keep your house at a constant temperature, don’t even bother with cork. This is definitely the one flooring choice that has been a disappointment (and a learning experience).

Posted July 25, 2012 by mayakey in home

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The Carpet Is Finally Gone!   1 comment

The old carpet that we removed first thing upon getting our house back in July is finally gone! The whole process of recycling the carpet and padding could have certainly gone better, but it was also not as bad as I had thought it could be.

The first issue was schedule. In the first week of July when I was ripping out the carpet, I just wanted it out of the house. I was focusing on getting the house clean and ready for move-in and just didn’t have time to take care of carpet recycling research. So we rolled up the carpet and padding and stacked them on the concrete in the backyard. The plan was to recycle them before the rains came. In early July, October looks far away. Obviously that plan failed. We ended up with a pile of slightly wet carpet. All of last week our cars were in the driveway and the garage was dedicated for rolling out the carpet to dry since the recycler specified that the carpet be dry.

The second issue was the lack of recyclers. With no carpet recyclers in the Sacramento area, a trip to the Bay Area had to be scheduled. I have used up all my time off at work and the recycler is not open on weekends. Luckily my husband had taken a half day off and was willing to spend it driving to Oakland to deliver the carpet. I have an awesome husband. The carpet pad recycler is also not open weekends, but at least they were local, so I just took a long lunch to haul that load.

The third issue was meeting the requirement of the carpet recycler. It was related to the wet carpet in that we had to take the time to re-roll all of the carpet (even the dry rolls) because the carpet recycler specified that the carpet needed to be rolled yarn side out and tied off with a strip of carpet, not string or tape. That was REALLY annoying! I do not understand that requirement.

The cost ended up working out ok for the recycling, but steep overall. There was no fee for the load of carpet padding, and the fee for the carpet was $10. Considering that the disposal fee at the landfill would have been either $40 or $45 (depending on whether truck bed and cab filled with carpet rolls would have been considered a load or an overload) for the two loads, that’s not bad at all. The problem was that since we had to do both loads on weekday mornings (before 3 pm), we had to rent a truck. And since we weren’t able to get both loads in one day due to the early closing times, we spent $225 on pickup truck rentals (plus gas and bridge toll).

Posted November 9, 2010 by mayakey in home

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The Quest to Recycle Carpet   1 comment

Back in early July when we closed on our house, the first order of business was to rip out the old carpet. Well, since I was focusing on getting the house cleaned and ready for move in, the old carpet just got rolled up and piled in the back yard. Recent rains (and a friend’s home renovation) have reminded me that I need to restart my search for a carpet recycler. Carpet recycling is the hip new thing, right? But Sacramento is also a very non-“green” town.

In early July I wanted to make sure that there was an option to recycle the carpet so I did a web search and found the CalRecycle website, which lists carpet recyclers in the state. There was one listed for northern Sacramento, so I called them. The receptionist at company A said they only recycle carpet that they remove, but she’d have the owner call me. He never did, and I got distracted by other things.

After the rain, I started looking for company A’s name and phone number but couldn’t find where I had written it down. Going back to the CalRecycle website, I found that they are no longer any listed for the Sacramento area, and only three in the Bay Area. One of the Bay Area listings is for Goodwill in San Jose, and I am kind of skeptical that they are recycling and not reusing the old carpet. Plus driving to San Jose might be too much even for me. Union Recovering located in Hayward only accepts carpet pads, not carpets. But before I committed to hauling my carpets to Oakland, I decided to do a bit more searching.

Another web search led me to the Sacramento County website listing two local companies for carpet recycling. But one of them, Habitat for Humanity, does not accept used carpet anymore. I called the second, G&B Carpet Recycling in Lincoln, which only just opened in July. I called, left a message, called, left a message, and waited.

The G&B Carpet Recycling website led me to Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE), which only lists the San Jose Goodwill as a Northern California reclamation partner. I was about to give up. By sheer chance, I found the Rancho Cordova Recycling Guide and Handbook, which lists a couple more local companies.

So I called L&N Pad and Foam Recycling and left a message. I tried Sunshine Padding and Foam Recycling where someone actually answered the phone! He told me that they only accept carpet pads, and are only open M-F 7-3:30. Ugh. At this point I tried G&B Carpet Recycling again, and got a hold of a live person. Who told me that they no longer accept carpets for recycling, even though “there is demand”. He told me that Oakland is the nearest carpet recycler currently. So I called Carpet Recyclers in Oakland. They are open M-F 7-4; but they don’t accept rolls that have been tied with string.

At this point there was a little voice that said re-rolling all of the carpet, renting a truck, and driving to Oakland (all while using what little vacation time I have left at work), and then possibly paying a fee to give my old carpet to someone to recycle is absolutely insane and I shouldn’t do it. Then the angel on my other shoulder piped up, commenting that part of my commitment is to go beyond what “normal, sane people” would do so that I can make inroads and make it easier for those normal, sane people to take the same actions.

So now I have to re-roll the carpets in accordance with Carpet Recyclers’ instructions, and then take my road trip before it rains again. I think I will take the padding to the local company to demonstrate that there is local demand for carpet and pad recycling.

Posted September 29, 2010 by mayakey in conscious living, home, mission

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Flooring Choice #1: Carpet   2 comments

The first decision in the replacing-the-flooring journey was the easy one: wall-to-wall carpeting in the bedrooms. Both my husband and I much prefer the feel of carpet rather than hard flooring under our feet when we get out of bed. We want that area of the house to be soft and padded, with good acoustic dampening, and cozy looking/feeling. An area rug is just not satisfactory in the bedroom. We originally also planned on putting wall-to-wall carpeting in the living room but the floor plan and traffic patterns in this house made us re-think that decision and decide to stick with carpet in the bedrooms only.

We are going to be installing a wool carpet on a natural hemp/cotton backing with rubber adhesive and jute secondary backing made by Earth Weave. I’ve seen plenty of mentions lately about carpet made from recycled plastic as a green choice but had no desire to go that route. The recycled plastic carpet is a wonderful idea from the standpoint of reducing waste to the landfill/incinerator and putting that “waste” material to good use, but those carpets are otherwise pretty much the same as conventional carpet. By that I mean offgassing of the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) used in the backing and the chemical waste from making the carpet. Also, at the end of it’s life the recycled carpet has to go to a landfill or incinerator, whereas our wool carpet is biodegradable.

Wool carpet has some additional benefits that other forms of carpeting don’t have. I have the first on good authorities, but we’ll have to see about the other to over the next few years.

  • Wool is naturally flame retardant. (super bonus for bedrooms!)
  • Apparently wool is easier to keep clean than synthetic carpets because the inherent crimp of the fibers keeps dirt and spills at the surface longer than relatively straight synthetic fibers.
  • Apparently the texture lasts longer in wool than synthetic carpets because the crimp is inherent to the fibers.

Carpet does have cons, but they can be moderated a bit. I mentioned some of the cons in my post about removing the old flooring from the house.

Con #1: Carpet traps particulate matter and contributes to poor indoor air quality.

For this reason carpet is not a good choice for high traffic areas. The more traffic, the more particulate matter gets tracked in, ground into the carpeting, and kicked back up into the air. In this case, the bedrooms are not near any of the entrances to the house and can be considered low traffic. (the living room and hallway are at the front entrance though, that’s why we decided against carpet there) Additionally, we sort-of have a “shoes off at the door” policy in our house that at least reduces how much dirt gets tracked around. In my Human Exposure class in grad school we learned just how dramatically different the air quality is (based on particulate matter) in a house with a shoes-off policy compared to one where shoes are allowed throughout the house. Thirdly, we (meaning my husband) have a standard practice of vacuuming the carpeting every week already, so we should be able to keep our new carpet from getting too dusty/dirty and worsening our indoor air quality.

Con #2: “Conventional” carpet offgasses VOCs, which contribute to poor indoor air quality.

So we are buying a “chemical-free” wool carpet. Conventional carpet uses VOCs in dyes, glues, and stain protection, but we are buying an undyed wool carpet with hemp/cotton and jute backings and rubber adhesive. No VOCs, no problem. We will be using a pure wool carpet pad. Again, no VOCs, no problem. It’s a bit more expensive but we can afford it (barely) so we get to go for the ideal.

Posted July 16, 2010 by mayakey in environment, home, shopping

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Bare Floors, For Now   5 comments

At the end of the week last week we finally closed on our house. And what was the first order of business? Ripping out the old carpet.

When we started our house hunting we knew that we would be replacing any flooring other than tile or hardwood, so it was one of the things that we considered when deciding how much we would offer on a given house. We didn’t look at houses that were flipped so that we were less likely to be in a situation of ripping out new flooring (that would have been such a waste). The age of the flooring would have little to do with my desire to replace it.

Here are my reasons for removing the existing flooring:

  1. Carpet traps particulate matter and as a result may harbor residual concentrations of heavy metals, pesticides, or other chemicals of concern. Without knowledge of what the previous owners may have tracked into the house, I have no way of knowing what my future baby may be exposed to when crawling around the house.
  2. “Conventional” carpeting offgasses volatile organic compounds (VOCs), many of which are toxic and/or carcinogenic (guess what that new carpet smell is). I don’t really know how long carpet continues to offgass. When I did some internet research a while back for a friend I found somewhere that it takes approximately 10 years for the carpet and carpet pad to finish offgassing; and I found somewhere else that carpet and carpet pad never stop offgassing because by the time the materials of construction have stopped offgassing they have started to break down, which releases more VOCs into the air. I don’t know what the truth is and I don’t care; I prefer to just avoid “conventional” carpet altogether.
  3. Vinyl linoleum is PVC and laminate flooring may contain formaldehyde. (See my Making Scones post about PVC; I should just do a post about PVC so that linking is easier) Both of those compounds have potential indoor air issues due to offgassing. Absolutely got to go. I would like make our house as PVC-free as possible (The windows may well have vinyl frames, and that is the one source of vinyl that I don’t anticipate removing right now since the windows are otherwise good windows.)
  4. Carpet can also provide shelter for unwelcome bugs, like chiggers. I had a friend who had a chigger problem that even repeated bug bombing couldn’t eliminate. I don’t want to bug bomb the house since we will soon start a family, so the carpet has got to go.
  5. Old carpet is just gross.

Our new house, thankfully has tile on approximately 1/3 of the floor area, including the two bathrooms, so that makes our job a little easier. Number 3 above is moot since there is no linoleum or laminate flooring. And number 4 above becomes more important because the house has been vacant (of humans anyway) for two years.

When I first started pulling up the carpet, I was second guessing myself vigorously. The carpet was still in good shape, and so I worried that I was making the wrong decision. But after finding a few stains and dirty spots I regained my conviction. There is now a pile of rolled up carpet and carpet pad segments waiting for transport to the carpet recycler (more on that later). Some of the formerly carpeted rooms are now just showing the concrete slab, and some have this horrible plastic-looking fake parquet flooring that is well glued to the concrete. As much as I would like to remove it, I think that may be pushing the limits of the practically doable.

Posted July 6, 2010 by mayakey in home

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