A quick guide on what to look for when you buy flooring
As a consumer, it’s scary to think you may not be able to trust a company that’s selling you something. That thought is made scarier when it’s a large purchase – and then made even scarier when that large purchase could be dangerous to you or your family.
Over recent years, there have been a few news stories about types of hardwood flooring that were emitting a dangerous amount of toxic chemicals into unknowing purchasers’ homes. The subject of these news stories were big, well-known companies. Places most people would not think to question the safety or integrity of the products they were buying.
While you’re shopping for hardwood flooring, you’ll likely come across a few acronyms and industry standards that may not mean much to you, yet. Throughout our blog series, we’ll help explain common acronyms and standards so you can be a more informed shopper.
One frequently used acronym is CARB. California Air quality and Resource Board (CARB) is an appointed group in California that seeks to set the standards for emissions for different chemicals released through all sorts of activities. Mostly CARB focuses on emissions from the transportation industry like cars and trucks.
If a product has any kind of chemical emission, chances are good CARB regulates it. No other state has its own standard, so everybody pretty much figures that if it’s good enough for California, it’ll be good enough for everywhere else.
CARB sets the standard for the outgassing of manufactured wood products like flooring and furniture. Outgassing happens anytime a chemical is use in a manufacturing process. In the hardwood flooring industry, that usually means the glue. Industrial-strength glues, like the type used in engineered flooring, can outgas for a short amount of time after the flooring has been manufactured. CARB will outline how much outgassing is considered safe and acceptable, and if a product meets those requirements it can be labeled “CARB Compliant.”
Pretty straightforward right?
In August of 2015, 60 Minutes did an extensive investigative report which accused Lumber Liquidators of selling Chinese made flooring that, while labeled CARB Compliant, exceeded the CARB set legal limit for formaldehyde – a known carcinogen – by as much as 20 times according to independent lab tests. In some cases, the flooring tested so high for formaldehyde that the lab technicians thought the results couldn’t be right, and their machines might be broken.
The news story can be found here.
Further investigation according to the report revealed that some overseas manufacturers were willing to put a CARB Compliant sticker on something if asked, but didn’t really care if that sticker was telling the truth or not.
The result of the report has lead to several class action lawsuits, most of which are still ongoing as of this writing.
What does that mean for you? Well if a manufacturer in the United States or Canada was forging CARB documentation to sell unsafe products you can bet they would be subject to US law and they would not be able to operate much longer. Unfortunately in this case, not every country has the same manufacturing standards and guidelines that the United States does.
To further solidify that point, all of the US made flooring samples sold by Lumber Liquidators tested to be within the legal limits of chemical emissions.
Before you buy any flooring check where the flooring is made. Sometimes if you buy online you have to do some digging before you can finally find the true country of origin – and sometimes websites won’t even disclose that (which to us seems like a weird thing to hide).
Responsible flooring manufactured in the US isn’t always more expensive than its overseas counterparts. But even if it was, we think investing in your home by buying something that is high quality and safe is worthwhile.