Many products are claiming low or 0% VOC’s but what does all this mean? Should you be concerned about 'VOC exposure'?
What are VOC’s?
VOC’s (Volatile organic compounds) are the chemical substances (including both man made and naturally occurring chemical compounds) that evaporate into the air from certain solids or liquids as they dry at room temperatures.
‘Organic’ refers to the chemical make up of the ingredients/ components and ‘Volatile’ refers to its evaporation into the air, making them easy to inhale.
Where are these VOC’s?
These organic chemicals are used in many household products. This includes products such as paints, varnishes, cleaning products and many other household consumables.
All of these products can release VOC’s while you are using them, and, to some degree, even when they are stored. Exposure to many VOC’s are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors.
How are we exposed to these VOC’s?
Chemicals can enter our bodies through either breathing, touching or swallowing. This is known as exposure. Differences in age, health conditions, gender and level of exposure to other chemicals all affect potential effects of exposure to VOC’s. When it comes to VOC’s, effects to one’s health depends on the level of chemical toxicity, the amount of chemicals present in the air and how long the air is inhaled.
Why are they hazardous? Products that contain VOC’s, release hazardous vapours that not only affect humans and animals but also the environment. These VOC’s have varying health effects, some being short term and long term. Excessive exposure can cause allergic reactions, breathing and eye issues. Harmful VOC’s typically may not be acutely toxic for humans but have compounding long-term health effects.
Additionally, the gasses emitted affect the atmosphere, contributing to our current greenhouse gases issues.
Did you know that up to half of the dry weight of wood is carbon that’s been absorbed from the atmosphere by trees as they were growing!? Since the start of the Industrial Revolution there has been a sharp increase in greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere- mainly from carbon dioxide, burning fossil fuels and changes to land use.
Greenhouse gases work in much the same way as the glass in a greenhouse. It lets light in and keeps the heat from escaping, providing warmth for the plants inside. In a similar way, when the Sun's energy reaches the Earth’s surface, some radiates back into space, and some is trapped in the atmosphere, keeping our planet warm enough for life to flourish.”
From the classic look of straight planks laid with vintage colour finishes typically found in villas and bungalows, through to bespoke patterns and lighter tones, engineered timber flooring is being used to create a vast range of styles.
At the moment, the classic look is popular, Di Legno Flooring says. “This includes the 16th Century-inspired chevron and herringbone patterns. In contrast to that, but equally as sought after, are the more modern Scandinavian styles, which generally makes use of lighter palettes and rustic inspired brush effects. All of these styles are featuring more comprehensively in interior designs, being used on both walls and ceilings creating standout elements in the design.”
“We can achieve virtually anything the designer requests,” Alan says. “Lately, we have done a range of projects with bespoke finishes of herringbone, chevron and mosaic parquet patterns.
“In terms of colour, the possibilities are practically endless. Flooring can be finished in polyurethanes, a large selection of oil finishes, or reaction colours, which is a blend of treatment and colour that creates a two-tone depth to the final colour finish. This can be used to age or create a much more unique floor finish.”
Oil finishes are the most sought after product of late, Alan says, due to their health benefits and ease of care and maintenance. “If you want a floor that gets better with age, and is easy to refresh yourself, oils are the way to go.”
Proparq is 100% Italian-made engineered timber flooring, and has both site-finished and pre-finished products available to order. “We are really proud to bring this product into the market because it’s formaldehyde, solvent and radiation free and is sourced from sustainable forests.
“There is growing interest among New Zealand consumers in keeping things as healthy, organic and sustainable as possible. While there are less expensive options available, they don’t always adhere to stringent standards and may have toxic chemicals, formaldehyde, radiation and higher levels of VOCs.”
Explore what's possible with Engineered Oak Flooring by viewing some of our completed projects here.
Solid Timber vs Engineered Flooring
Engineered timber flooring is particularly popular because it is indistinguishable from solid timber, but offers a host of benefits solid timber doesn’t. Those include increased stability, which means it won’t cup, tent, shrink or expand. “And because it has a layer of real timber on top, you can't tell the difference between engineered and solid timber. So it’s a win-win – better stability and durability while looks-wise, the two products are the same.”
A common misconception about engineered timber flooring is that it can’t be re-finished. “However, that’s not the case. Engineered timber can be resanded three or four times, so the aesthetic can be changed every few years.”
Site Finished or Pre-Finished Boards?
Once you’ve decided on engineered timber flooring though, the options don’t stop there. And it’s in these detailed choices where it’s important to think carefully about the functionality and aesthetic you want to create. The first, and perhaps most obvious choice, is whether to specify finished or prefinished boards.
“Unfinished timber is laid on your floor and then finished on site,” Alan says. “That involves sanding, staining and coating, which means more time is needed on site, however with this option the colour is completely customisable.”
Pre-finished timber, in comparison, is installed as a finished product, which reduces the time on site significantly. “While it isn’t completely customisable, there is a large selection of timbers and colours to choose from.”
The grade of timber chosen is the next clear choice to make, but these only matter in regards to aesthetic rather than functionality – with no difference in how each grade will perform. “There are three grades of timber to choose from: prime grade, natural grade and rustic grade,” Alan says.
“Rustic is the most affordable option, with the cost going up from there and prime being the most expensive option. Overall, the price varies typically about $10 – $35 per square metre between the three grades.
Once these two choices have been made, it comes down to the finishes.
Floor Appearance and Look
The most common – brushed and bevelled finishes – are often used together. A brushed finish is one that is achieved with the timber being brushed with a wire brush to remove the soft parts of the grain and create a textured finish. Bevelling is a separate detail used to highlight where one board ends and another begins. “It is where the edge of the timber has been rounded so you can see a defined end to each board. Square edge, on the other hand, is another option where the edges of the planks meet perfectly creating a seamless flow. These, again, are purely cosmetic and don’t change the way the floor will perform.”
Floor Finish: Oil or Polyurethane
The next choice relates to how the floor will be treated; with oil or polyurethane. Oil is increasing in popularity because of its natural qualities and matt finish. “Polyurethane is available in matt, satin matt and gloss, but even with the matt finish, when the light hits it you still see a slight sheen,” Alan says.
The other main difference between the two finishes is that oil improves with age. “What puts a lot of people off oil is the misconception that it is high maintenance. It does require a moisturising cleaning solution to be mopped on every four to six weeks, but other than that, there is no additional maintenance.”
Oil is also easier to touch up, but at the same time is easier to mark than polyurethane. “If it does get scratched or marked though, it can easily be touched up. Polyurethane doesn’t mark as easily but if it does get scratched, there are limited ways to patch it up and the only way to get rid of some scratches is to sand it back and re-coat the whole floor. Polyurethane also starts off at its best and slowly deteriorates.”
Oil - unlike polyurethane, penetrates the timber so you are walking on the timber itself, while polyurethane is a coating that sits on top of the timber rather than soaking into it. “Because of this, it has a smoother feel than oil, but really, it’s up to what people prefer and how they will use it.”
For hard-use areas or situations where dogs or children are involved, Alan recommends the unfinished brushed and bevelled boards with an oil finish because it is easily repairable if it is marked or scratched. “The texture created by the brushed and bevelled look also makes it difficult to see any imperfections, and the oil finish enables easy touch ups, whereas with polyurethane, once it’s scratched you’re stuck with those marks until you’re ready to re-do the entire floor.”
In wet areas, engineered timber can be, and is often being, installed in rooms such as laundries and bathrooms. “While it can be installed in these areas, it must be noted that due to the wet environment, the flooring can be prone to some movement.”
Want more information or a quotation? Contact us to discuss your flooring ideas!
Article Written by ArchiPro on behalf of Di Legno Flooring.
Although formaldehyde occurs naturally in the world and is found in many commonly consumed foods like apples, mushrooms and some meat products, does not mean that it’s safe when used as part of timber treatments.
“Its status is more complicated than that. And that’s where the trouble starts. Even at low levels, formaldehyde can irritate the eyes, nose, throat and skin or trigger an attack in asthma sufferers. Timber workers’ exposure to very high levels of formaldehyde over many years has been linked to rare nose and throat cancer and leukaemia.”
It’s known that the youngest and oldest members of our communities are the most vulnerable to the effects of formaldehyde, as well as those suffering from respiratory problems. “The World Health Organisation considers formaldehyde to be a human carcinogen, so reducing your formaldehyde exposure where possible is the best thing for your health.”
The issue is, we don’t always know where our timber comes from or if it has been treated with this toxin, or any other dangerous chemicals. “If the timber in your home isn’t certified, there is no way of knowing what chemicals are coming into your home,” Alan of Di Legno Flooring says.
Di Legno specialises in engineered timber flooring, and focuses particularly on ensuring the timbers they use are free of formaldehyde and other chemicals. “It goes further than just avoiding these toxins though, it’s about ensuring the wood we use is sustainable,” Alan says. All timber used in Di Legno’s products is sourced from sustainably managed plantations and is certified.
A sustainable forest is a forest that is carefully managed so as trees are felled, they are replaced with seedlings that eventually grow into mature trees. It is a carefully and skillfully managed system; the forest is a working environment, producing wood products such as wood pulp for the paper and card industries, and wood-based materials for furniture manufacturers and the construction industry. In a well managed forest, great care is taken to ensure the safety of wildlife and to preserve the natural environment.”
In order to ensure their timber comes from forests such as these and is free from toxins, Di Legno ensures all material they use is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified. FSC is one of the most trusted global sustainability markers for timber.
“FSC addresses issues such as illegal logging, deforestation and global warming,” Alan says. Using FSC certified product signifies that the timber comes from responsible sources – environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable.”
Di Legno chose to head in this sustainable direction with their products not only because of the environmental benefits, but as a result of the rising need for specific products to be used within the home because of allergy sufferers. “So many people have allergies so the less allergens in the air the better in this day and age,” Alan says. “And we know some of the chemicals used in non-certified timber have serious side effects, such as nose and throat cancer.”
How is Engineered Flooring Different From Solid Timber Flooring?
Solid timber flooring is exactly that; 100% hardwood from the top to the bottom of the plank. Engineered Flooring is made from layers of ply or birch-wood that are bonded together in a cross-grained arrangement. These boards then have a top layer of solid hardwood (around 3-6mm). The mm's used for the top layer is dependent on the board's width and can vary between brands.
Engineered flooring is becoming increasingly popular as it looks just as good as solid wood flooring but holds more benefits than solid timber flooring ever has.
What are the Benefits of Engineered Wood Flooring?
Can I Get More Sands From Solid or Engineered Flooring?
The tongue and groove joint connects together when the flooring is laid. The re-sandable part of solid flooring is measured from the top surface of the flooring to the top of the tongue and groove. This is the same with engineered flooring.
Whether you are sanding solid or engineered flooring, you can only sand down to the tongue and groove joint. The thicker the hardwood layer on your engineered board, the more re-sands you will get. However, bear in mind that the thicker your top layer, the higher the cost.
Can Anyone Install My Engineered Flooring?
We recommend that a qualified flooring installer lay your flooring for you.
European and French Oak Flooring. What's the Difference?
This refers to the source of the timber as well as where the engineered flooring has been produced.
Proparq's French Oak flooring is 100% Made in Italy. The engineered core is made from Marine Grade Russian Birch and the hardwood top layer is made of French Oak, both of which are sourced from sustainable forests. Proparq products are proudly formaldehyde and solvent free, and have been cultivated from radiation free zones, which basically means that there won't be unseen chemical leaching into your home when laid. This makes it a very healthy choice for flooring in your home.
Speak to us about the healthier floor colours and finishes, if this is something you would like to achieve in your project.
Are you considering the possibility of timber flooring for your new or renovated home? We would be happy to talk and provide you with some expert advice.
Contact your Exclusive Auckland suppliers of Italian Made Proparq Engineered Oak Flooring today on 094145467 or email sales at dilegno.co.nz.
Have more questions about the best timber flooring for you? Visit our showroom in Rosedale, Auckland or send us an email!