Natural building products such as hemp flooring are gaining in popularity for those who want healthy homes with sustainable eco-friendly building materials. Hemp is a very sustainable crop given the quick growing time and the amount of carbon sequestered in hemp building products. A hemp crop goes from seed to ready-to-harvest in as little as 120 days, which helps preserve forests that are being clear cut to supply softwood lumber to the housing industry. Read more here about other hemp building materials on the market and why they are sustainable.
Hardwood flooring companies will on occasion use wood reclaimed from river beds, recycled barn boards, or renewable building materials such as bamboo, but this hemp flooring from a Tennessee manufacturer - Tennessee Wood Flooring is the first we have come across so far. This is indicative of a growing interest within the green home building community to source more sustainable materials with lower carbon footprints, and with less toxic binders and adhesives.
How hemp flooring is made
This hemp flooring is manufactured by compressing dried raw hemp stalks into 4-foot lengths of 5x5 inch blocks using a soy-based binder, and applying extreme pressure. The blocks are then sliced, and a 3.5mm (1/8th") hemp veneer is pressed on 12mm (1/2" Russian plywood. The result is a very stable 5/8ths-thick engineered tongue and groove flooring. The length of final boards vary, but average about 44 inches long.
The top finish is done with a non-toxic liquid that turns to a solid instantly and does not evaporate like water-based finishes, so more than 99% of the applied layer remains, with only a minor amount of ozone released under UV curing. The curing process is somewhat like a high-powered tanning bed with mercury-based bulbs that emit UVA and UVB light. The result is a formaldehyde-free, zero-VOC durable top coat with an aluminum oxide hardener, so the final product is approximately 25% harder than other hardwood flooring such as hickory or maple.
Where to buy hemp flooring, and how much does it cost?
The company has long been producing similar eco-friendly flooring using the same non-toxic process with reclaimed barn wood and distributes it all across the US and Canada as well as overseas. The production of the hemp flooring is just beginning, and the first products rolled out will have a natural clear matt finish, but the company is exploring various stain colors, and will eventually offer high-sheen options as well. The proposed price for unfinished hemp flooring is $9.99 per square foot, and $10.99 with the UV cured top coat. Sign up for a free Ecohome membership here if you didn't already and we will be letting everyone in our newsletter know when this hemp flooring goes on retail sale.
How to install hemp flooring
Hemp flooring cannot be used as a ‘floating floor', boards must be individually attached. They should be It fastened to a plywood or OSB subfloor with a standard flooring nail gun, or if necessary, be glued down to a concrete slab. Gluing floor boards to concrete is not our favorite method of installation for a couple of reasons – firstly, the lack of a vapor barrier under a concrete slab will draw moisture from the ground and any residual moisture in a new concrete floor that hasn't been left to cure long enough can cause adhesives to fail. There is also the consideration that adding a toxic adhesive to a non-toxic floor board sort of defeats the purpose of investing in a healthier more sustainable option to protect indoor air quality. So if you do plan to glue flooring we recommend sourcing a zero VOC floor adhesive like in this cork flooring DIY installation video.
We love seeing the innovation that is coming out of the home building industry and the shift towards sustainable, natural carbon-storage building materials that preserve natural resources and contribute to healthier indoor air quality in homes. Learn more about how hemp floor boards are produced in the video below.
Now that you know about formaldehyde-free, zero VOC hemp flooring materials, you can learn more about green building materials that are natural, non-toxic and sustainable here:
Find more about green home construction in the Ecohome Green Building Guide pages - also, learn more about the benefits of a free Ecohome Network Membership here.