There are 5.4 million people with asthma in the UK, which means asthma affects one in every 11 people and one in five households. If you’re renovating or planning the finishing touches to a new build like I did, you have an ideal opportunity to consider laying a healthy floor. I must admit I did have my mum nagging me about this and it seems that house dust on the floor and dust mites in carpets are considered to be the biggest triggers for allergy and asthma flare ups.
This is something that spans all ages – from babies to the elderly. The simple solution is to find a floor surface that can be dusted using no harmful chemicals, with minimal effort, so that you don’t mind doing it regularly and one that doesn’t give off any synthetic fumes such as VOCs.
…And that looks good too.
When you think of furnishing a home for someone who is elderly or for young families, the first thing that you imagine is wall to wall carpet. It seems logical: it’s cosy, there are no rugs to trip over and it can be vacuumed. But looking at the NHS website
Carpets are the largest reservoir of dust in the home. They contain hair and skin cells, food debris, dirt and insects. A home with floorboards is believed to have a tenth of the dust of one with wall-to-wall fitted carpets.
Oak floors look fantastic and this was my choice. The flooring was laid on a plywood base which had been screwed down well, the solid wood engineered planks were quick to lay: sanded and sealed with a waterbased lacquer in a day.
There is so much variety with hardwood floors and the current fashion for a chevron pattern is just fantastic, it’s modern, it’s vintage, it’s got character. Looks just as good with new planks as recycled ones and perfect styling for open plan living spaces.
When selecting wood flooring do look for sustainable woods and suppliers who source certified timber products and production.
2. Cork Flooring
Cork floors do not absorb dust and are resistant to bacteria and fungus. They do not cause allergies nor pose a risk to asthma sufferers. Adhesives and finishing products used in the manufacturing of cork floors are formaldehyde-free and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) emissions are not detectable.
Cork tiles are great for bathrooms and kitchens as they are a warm surface and if you buy them as sealed tiles they are easy to install. In a steamy bathroom they can be a slip hazard so don’t forget the bathmat. Cork contains a waxy substance called suberin, this repels water making the tiles resistant to mould – as well as repelling insects!
In a kitchen the water resistant lacquer and sealed edges mean it can easily be wiped down, without the need for underfloor heating to take away the cold.
Cork is an eco-friendly low-carbon flooring that is warm, comfortable to walk on, easy to install and maintain and has sound insulation properties. The inside of a piece of cork is made up of millions of tiny air filled chambers, this also provides some cushioning- in a kitchen it would give some support to elderly people who tire easily when they stand.
One of the best things about this material is how soft and yielding it feels beneath your feet.
- Protectors should be installed under chair and table legs.
- When using furniture with wheels, the floor must have additional protection using mats.
- Heavy furniture should have felt pads or non-staining glides or casters.
- Steel wool or abrasives must not be used on the floor.
- A quality doormat at the entrance should be used to help protect the cork floor from outside grit and sand.
- Adequate protection should be taken when moving appliances or large pieces of furniture around the floor.
- Cork, as a natural product, may change colour when exposed to direct sunlight. Use blinds or curtains to minimize the effect.
I think Marmoleum is fantastic, it’s a non- allergenic product made from natural raw materials and has a hard wearing top coating that protects the surface appearance for years. You can buy it in tiles or from a roll, it comes in fantastic range of modern and classic colours and will make any room look instantly stylish.
This stuff is so popular I don’t need to introduce it, it’s a great surface, hard wearing, easy to install and comes in so many fantastic looks. Do however, be careful read the labels and check the supplier’s website looking for information on VOC emissions or formaldehyde used in the planks, glue or underlay.
5. Wool and Natural Carpet
The floorboard option is not always the best for an elderly person’s home and we installed carpet on the stairs, it does minimise slips and trips. Rugs by the sofa or bedside do make standing up easier. Firstly, buy anti slip matting for rugs and don’t lay rugs them in hallways where tripping can be a real hazard.
Look out for 100% wool carpets without finishes on them and a natural backing such as jute, Green Label Plus is the mark of the carpet industry voluntary testing for low chemical emissions. Check the underlay too and go of the most natural option you can find.
The great thing about wood, cork, bamboo or laminate floors is that a damp microfibre mop on a hard surface floor really does the trick…and let’s face it it’s a lot easier than getting the vacuum cleaner out. But for a deep down clean or for rugs and carpets you do need to use a vacuum cleaner. Look out for vacuums with a HEPA filter or a double dust bag filter. A HEPA – High Efficiency Particulate Air Filter is a pad that helps reduce the amount of dust particles that escape out of the back air vent, look out for the energy labels and it will help you find one that is suitable.
There is so much choice that you can create a home that’s adapted to you and your needs and don’t you have to compromise on style.
For more information and advice about living with asthma click this link to the NHS website, or Google Asthma UK or the British Lung Foundation.