My Wilsonart Experience: Selecting Eco-Friendly Laminate Wood Flooring

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I’ve ranted and raved more than once before about how much I hate living with wall-to-wall carpet. Well, a few months ago, I was contacted by a representative of flooring company Wilsonart to tell me about an innovative green product: their laminate wood flooring. I know what you’re thinking, because I was thinking the same thing. How could laminate flooring possibly be eco-friendly, right? After asking lots of questions, it turns out Wilsonart’s line of laminate flooring is a pretty nice shade of green. It is made in the U.S. with a minimum of 70% pre-consumer recycled content (including sawdust from saw mills, wood chips from log processing and shavings from wood processing) and it is GREENGUARD certified for indoor air quality. This is not a specialty product. ALL of Wilsonart’s laminate flooring is made this way.

Still, I was skeptical about how any laminate flooring would hold up to the rigors of daily life, and I wanted to see it for myself. So Wilsonart has generously offered to install my choice of high-pressure laminate flooring for free in my home (technically my mother’s home). Seems like they’d have to be pretty confident in the performance of their product to be willing to do this.

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Last Friday, my mother and I visited our local Wilsonart supplier, Dalton CarpetOne, to learn more about the product and select the style that we wanted installed in her living room and hallway. After receiving the great news about this opportunity, we had visited the Wilsonart website to get an idea of what was available, and we had a pretty good idea of what we wanted: dark tones that looked as natural and close to real wood as possible. Above, Wilsonart rep Alan Rowell is discussing some options with my mother. Below are the various choices we were considering.

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Our two simple preferences (natural-looking dark wood) made our decision pretty easy. Though many of the choices look amazingly similar to real wood, there were only a handful with the specific tone and color variation that we preferred. Our final choice: Coach House Oak, shown in the very first photo of the post. It has rich chocolate brown tones that glide naturally into black-brown and golden honey tones that make it both sleek and organic-looking — much like real wood floors.

Wilsonart & Sustainability

We spent the bulk of our time talking to Alan about the product and the company’s focus on sustainability as a whole. That focus goes well beyond this laminate product. Alan explained that Wilsonart’s goal is to have zero-waste manufacturing facilities, where everything that comes in goes out in the form of product or packaging or is recycled internally for some other purpose. The company is also encouraging employees to be aware of their energy use, and company policy is to use energy as carefully as possible. Does that warm your heart as much as it does mine?

Cleaning

Wilsonart’s recommended floor cleaning solution is biodegradable and VOC-free. This does NOT, however, mean that it is free of chemicals. I only needed a cursory glance at the ingredients list on the bottle to discover that. I asked if I could use my own natural cleaning products and concoctions. Alan said he’d find out whether any natural cleaning products I prefer to use are OK. I reviewed Better Life cleaning products a few months ago, and I’m still happily using their “Simply Floored” floor cleaner and plan to buy another bottle soon. I’ll let you know the verdict on using an all-natural cleaner like this one.

UPDATE: Here’s some more info directly from Wilsonart on cleaning:

  • Everyday cleaning: Vacuum the floor or use a dry electrostatic cleaner to remove loose dirt and debris. Do NOT use Wet mops or Wipes containing oil, polishes, waxes or detergents such as Swiffer Wet products.
  • Deep cleaning: Use a damp mop using two ounces of Wilsonart Flooring Cleaner (concentrate) diluted in a gallon of warm water and a cotton string or terrycloth mop. Never wash mop head in regular laundry detergent, soap or fabric softener (a residue can build up in the mop head and be transferred to the floor).
  • Spot cleaning: Wilsonart Flooring Cleaner (ready-to-use spray bottle) may be sprayed directly on the floor and wiped with a flat-bottom cotton/terrycloth mop.
  • Preventive maintenance: Wilsonart recommends the use of felt pads on furniture legs and walk-off mats at outside entrances to prevent scratches and preserve the appearance of your floor.

Installation

The product is installed with a snap-and-lock system, meaning that no toxic adhesive is required. Adhesive is recommended for commercial installation, or for rooms where there is likely to be lots of moisture. This product isn’t recommended for bathroom installation, but according to Alan, it’s great in the kitchen. And while you can use an adhesive for installation, the product is guaranteed whether you use it or not.

Wear & Tear

This is the part that I was most concerned about, but everyone has assured me that I need not worry. I will see for myself once the product is installed, but Wilsonart does have a “puppy test” that shows how durable it is for pets, and it is also designed to withstand the antics of kids who will walk across it wearing soccer cleats without a care in the world or drop heavy books on it without thinking twice. Candi, my mom’s dog, isn’t really allowed in the living room because she sheds so much, but I’ll let you know how it holds up. Alan did point out a great difference between real wood and laminate while we were shopping. He pointed out an area of the store’s floor that was covered in real wood. There were lots of heel marks, scratches and nicks in the wood. But the Wilsonart laminate, which was on a high-traffic area right outside an office used by all the store’s employees, was completely free of nicks and scratches even though it had been installed at the same time as the real wood. It was a compelling observation, unless you like real wood because it wears beautiful over time.

The Next Step

Once we made our choice, we set up an appointment for a representative of Dalton CarpetOne to come out and measure our room. On Tuesday, the room and hallway were measured, and the entire process took only about 20 minutes. Now, I’m just waiting to schedule the installation. I can’t wait!

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Why It’s Green:

  • Made of a minimum of 70% pre-consumer recycled content
  • GREENGUARD certified for indoor air quality
  • Made in the U.S.

Price: $3.89-5.09/square foot. Find a local retailer by entering your zip code in the top right corner of the Wilsonart home page.

(review)


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8 comments… add one

  • Kimberly Smith July 17, 2009, 6:47 am

    We have Wilsonart flooring, Nouveau Walnut, throughout most of our home. First we installed it in our study and dining room – Wow what a difference it made from carpet. It looked beautiful. After being pleased with it we decided to take the leap and install in our living room and hallway and partial bath area. We have two dogs, an 18 pound and 35 pound, which stay pretty much indoors. We were told not to get hard wood because pets would destroy the flooring and that Wilsonart would hold up to the pet traffic. They were not kidding. We’ve had our floor for over a year now and the dogs run throughout the house and guess what – no scratches and no marks. The partial in the bathroom is also wonderful. We had it glued because of the possible water that could come from the sink. The girls have dropped toothpaste on it and it just wipes up clean with a damp cloth. Overall the floor is easy to clean. Just invest in a Swiffer Vac to get up pet hair and dust. Good as the day it was installed. We’ve been so happy with Wilsonart flooring that we are now adding it to the girl’s bedrooms. Oh, by the way my daughter found her old tap shoes and was banging them on the floor in the hallway – no damage. Wilsonart flooring is truly a great product.

  • jennae July 17, 2009, 8:46 am

    @Kimberly That’s awesome to hear! We’re definitely thinking about installing it in the kitchen next, but we wanted to see how it would perform in a high-traffic area like the living room first. I’m glad to hear that it has done so well for you, even with kids and pets!

  • Adrian August 4, 2009, 9:49 am

    Hi jennae,
    Please bear in mind that although a laminate floor may suffer less from nicks and scratches, if you do happen to damage the surface in some way e.g. drop a hot pan, leave hot hair tongs on the floor (yes one of our customers did do this!!!), with a real floor, you can just sand out the damage and reapply a finish whereas with laminate, you’ll have to replace the affected area.
    Great site by the way – I’ll be subscribing to your feed!
    Adrian

  • jennae August 4, 2009, 11:57 am

    @Adrian You make a good point. Hopefully, we won’t face any of those problems. A real wood floor is certainly desirable, but for me, it would have to be made of reclaimed and/or FSC-certified wood and installed with no adhesives. With all these criteria, a real hardwood floor might be out of reach, price wise, for a lot of people. What I like about Wilsonart is that it is an affordable hard surface option that still offers many green features.

    The beauty of the fact that green is becoming such a mainstream concept is that products are becoming available in a wide variety of price points and levels of greenness, which makes them more accessible to the masses. Thanks for your input!

  • Leah February 10, 2011, 6:05 pm

    I wanted to find out more about Wilsonart laminate flooring, but when I went to their website I learned that they have gone out of business as of December 3, 2010. They are still honoring warranties.

  • Anela September 15, 2011, 3:18 pm

    Hey Jennae,

    We’ve just installed Wilsonart in our living room a couple months ago and so far we love it! I’m in the process of trying to find a good floor cleaner that’s safe and eco-friendly to use on our floor. Are you still using the “simply floored” by Better life? Has it been ok to use on the wilsonart? Thanks!

  • Andy Banks October 27, 2011, 4:41 am

    Thanks for posting. A very informative and interesting read.
    We all need to use as much eco-friendly materials in our homes as possible.
    Andy Banks recently posted { Simple Water Conservation Tips for your Home }

  • Olya April 20, 2012, 4:13 pm

    Somehow, I would have thought that a search for an eco-friendly floor would have brought straight to real wood flooring. What made you consider laminate in the first place? (before learning that this particular laminate flooring was a good one)
    Olya recently posted { Coswick Presented New Products at Buildex 2012 in Moscow }

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