Standing on a Carbon Sink

Installing a Douglas Fir plank floor

This might just look like a new wood floor to you, but it's also a carbon sink. In our search to replace our heavily worn carpet and vinyl flooring we looked at many options, finally deciding on locally harvested and milled Douglas Fir. I've always liked the feel and look of tongue & groove wood floors and this was a reasonably priced, local option for us.

In researching flooring there is almost too much information to review. Nearly every flooring supplier has some green/eco claims (sometimes believable) for their product. We decided on a Douglas Fir plank floor because it's a local product, it should be long wearing and we like the look. The wood is harvested near Pecos, then milled in Las Vegas, NM before being trucked to our home in Santa Fe. That's about 120 miles from tree to installed floor! Of course, wood also sequesters carbon, specifically 212.9 kg/m^3 (13.29 lb/ft^3) for Southern Rocky Mountains Softwood.

While this wasn't a quick DIY project it wasn't very difficult - with two people and the right tools! Thanks to my good friends I was able to borrow an air compressor, floor nailer, finish nail gun, table saw and a power miter saw which were indispensable. Even more valuable was my friend David, who spent most of a holiday weekend nailing down flooring with me. Once the wood was installed it was comparatively relaxing to waltz across the floors with a rented orbital floor sander. I then finished the floor with low-ish VOC stain and lower VOC water-based polyurethane. I'm still working on the baseboards and other finishing touches, but the floors do look great.

Douglas Fir isn't a hardwood and it will dent if you drop something on it (like I already have) nor is it as quick to install as prefinished planks, but I think it was worth the effort. The wood is also harvested so that it reduces the chances of high-intensity fires in fire-prone forests. I'm sure there are easier ways to sequester carbon, but this method also gives you something beautiful to stand on.

More Info:

Carbon Sequestration in Wood and Paper Products

Wikipedia - Sustainable Flooring

Old Wood LLC

Burned-Area Emergency Response Team Implements All Rehabilitation for Tres Lagunas Fire

NM Forest Conservation Regulation

EcoDaddyo - A Long Road to Recycling Carpet

EcoDaddyo - Sustainable Local Lumber