Green Finishing Materials North Pole AK
North Pole, AK
The Finishing Touch
When it comes to building green, it's not only how you start but also how you finish. Whether you're building a new home or remodeling an existing one, you can choose from an ever-growing list of innovative finish materials that are practical, attractive and environmentally friendly.
These new types of finish materials are essentially engineered wood products manufactured from various organic materials. Plant-based panel products such as Kirei Board, Durapalm and Dakota Burl, for example, are made with sorghum stalks, coconut palm lumber and sunflower seed husks, respectively. They are durable, easy to maintain and look great when incorporated into almost any home d©cor.
Also available are eco-friendly particleboard and medium-density fiberboard (MDF), which are made with waste products left over from the manufacture of lumber and plywood. Unlike traditional particleboard or MDF, these composite materials are constructed with glues and finishes that do not contain urea formaldehyde or emit toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the indoor environment. Examples include PureKor, SkyBlend, Medite II and Medex.
Sustainable engineered-wood finish materials are ideal for use as flooring, countertops, wall paneling, cabinetry and architectural millwork, or in place of traditional plywood, particleboard, oriented strand board (OSB) or MDF. Some of these eco-friendly alternatives are sold factory-finished and ready for installation. Others are available in standard dimensions and a range of thicknesses, and can be cut to size for incorporation into new-build or renovation projects.
Not only do these materials provide options to homeowners who want to make their homes greener, but they also are affordable, contribute to healthier indoor environments and can give your home a natural yet elegant look. Here's a closer look at the products that can give your home a green finish.
Photos Courtesy Durapalm
An engineered-wood panel product, Kirei Board is made from the stalks of the sorghum plant, which is a type of grass raised for grain. Although sorghum is grown around the world, the plant material used to make Kirei Board is grown in northern China.
After harvest, leftover stalks, which are usually burned or thrown into landfills, are instead reclaimed and heat-pressed with poplar wood bonding layers and a non-toxic water-based adhesive to form strong, lightweight boards. The factory that manufactures Kirei Board uses low-energy processes with minimal wastewater and air emissions. Located in the center of the agricultural area where the sorghum is grown, the factory is bringing a new source of revenue to farmers of the region, notes the company.
Kirei Board, which can be sealed, painted, stained or varnished, has a dramatic grain that can add a unique look to any home. You can use it for cabinets, countertops, wall paneling, furniture and stair treads.
Plantation-grown coconut palms found abundantly in Southeast Asia provide 100 percent of the lumber used to make Durapalm flooring and plywood. The coconut palms, which grow to approximately 12 inches in diameter, produce nuts for more than 100 years. As the palms grow taller, however, the nutrients from the base cannot reach the nuts as efficiently as in younger palms, diminishing production, so taller palms are felled and replaced with younger producers.
These felled palms, which frequently went unused, are now reclaimed to make Durapalm. The development of a secondary use for felled palms provides an added cash return to area farmers, notes Smith & Fong, the manufacturer of Durapalm.
Coconut palms are soft and light-colored at the core, and harder and darker-colored at the perimeter. Only the hard, dark palm of the perimeter is used to make Durapalm, which gives the material a smooth look and a durable surface. It is laminated with non-toxic adhesives and comes in plywood panels that can be worked like wood into furniture, cabinetry, decorative wall panels and architectural millwork. It's also available as unfinished or prefinished tongue-and-groove floor planks.
A bio-based composite material, Dakota Burl is made from waste sunflower seed husks that are formed into a unique decorative material resembling traditional burled wood. Its natural yellow and brown tones are complemented by the black outlines of the seed husks, creating a distinctive random pattern that runs thoughout the material.
Very little energy is used to dry the seed hulls, notes the manufacturer, and no outgassing solvents are added during the manufacturing process.
Dakota Burl can be left natural or stained, and can be cut, sanded or routed with standard woodworking tools. It can be used for cabinetry, interior table surfaces, horizontal and vertical surfaces, furniture and architectural applications (but not kitchen or bath countertops).
Another composite material from the same company that makes Dakota Burl, Biofiber Wheat is manufactured from wheat straw, a rapidly renewable resource that is in ample supply, notes the manufacturer. Also produced without the addition of outgassing solvents, the composite panel has a smooth surface and a consistent core with no voids. The high-density surface is highly resistant to impacts and dents, unlike many types of wood products.
The material has a fine fiber pattern and golden yellow hues, and it can be stained. Use it for cabinetry, furniture and interior architectural applications.
A laminated bamboo product from the same company that makes Durapalm, Plyboo is bamboo plywood made from rapidly renewable plantation-grown tiger bamboo, which grows to a height of about 40 feet and matures in five to six years. The bamboo, which is cut off near the ground so the plants can re-grow from the same roots, is grown in managed forests in China.
To make Plyboo, strips of bamboo are kiln-dried, sanded and laminated edge-to-edge to create a single-ply panel. Panels are then laminated together to create multiple bamboo plywood. Emissions-free adhesives are used during the lamination processes.
Available in amber or dark tones or a mix of both, Plyboo can be cut and sanded using conventional woodworking equipment. Applications include furniture, cabinetry, countertops and architectural paneling. Kiln-dried flooring planks, available prefinished in dark or honey tones, are twice as hard as red oak. Because they are made of a low-resin, open-grained material, they take stains and finishes well.
Can paper be as tough as stone? It can if it's PaperStone, a composite surface material made from post-consumer recycled paper, which is mixed with a proprietary 100-percent water-based, non-petrochemical resin made from cashew nuts. Use of this specially formulated binding agent, which is produced at the company's own resin plant, results in a finished product that has no detectable formaldehyde.
The dense, hard composite material is highly durable, as well as water-resistant, stain-resistant and heat-resistant to 350 degrees. Though it resembles soapstone in appearance, the sheets cut, shape and sand with standard woodworking power tools. It is suitable for use as countertops, floor tiles, tabletops and wall coverings. PaperStone is available in slabs composed of 50
percent post-consumer recycled
content or with 100-percent post-consumer recycled fibers, certified as sustainable by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
A premium-grade, medium-density fiberboard, PureKor Platinum Grade MDF is the world's only composite panel that is both free of urea formaldehyde and certified by the FSC. It is made with 100-percent softwood fibers and a special exterior grade resin that provides a high degree of moisture resistance.
Compared to the hardwood fibers used in some brands of MDF, softwood fibers are longer in length, making PureKor stronger and easier to finish, notes the manufacturer. The long fibers lay flat and can be painted, stained or laminated easily without creating any of the surface "fuzzying" that occurs on hardwood panels, eliminating the need for follow-up filing, sanding and repainting.
In addition, the highly refined fiber maintains a uniform density throughout the panel core, so PureKor can be molded and shaped into intricate profiles and designs. The material is suitable for use as countertops, cabinet doors, shelving, tables, furniture, sculptured paneling, lamp stands and moldings.
Another environmentally friendly particleboard is SkyBlend, which is made with recycled wood fibers from post-industrial waste Western softwoods. During the manufacturing process, the wood fibers are mixed with a binder that contains no urea formaldehyde. SkyBlend can be used in place of traditional particleboard for shelving, countertops, furniture, fixtures and millwork. It is available raw, painted with a UV coating or factory laminated.
A bit of background: Particleboard has been used in the United States since the early 1960s as a way of recycling waste wood fiber from lumber and plywood mills. What is different about SkyBlend and other products of this type is the composition of the resin binder used to glue the fibers together. SkyBlend eliminates the urea formaldehyde in the binder, which results in a substantial reduction in formaldehyde emissions.
Medite II and Medex
These MDF panels are made from 100-percent post-industrial wood residuals and contain no added formaldehyde in any form. Medite II can be used in place of solid wood or sanded plywood for cabinets, paneling, molding, architectural woodwork and other non-structural interior applications where moisture is not present.
Medex, on the other hand, is suitable for use in areas where moisture is present - as a countertop with a sink, for instance, or in other areas of the home where humidity is high, such as in bathrooms or laundry rooms. Like Medite II, Medex has no added formaldehyde.
Both panels have the same emissions levels as solid wood, and feature consistent cores that enable them to be shaped and routed. They also accept laminates, paints and other liquid coatings well. They're among the growing number of eco-friendly, non-toxic engineered wood finishing products available to today's savvy homeowners.