12/26/2013 09:00 EST | Updated 02/25/2014 05:59 EST

Primed to purchase new flooring? More to consider than esthetics, says designer

VICTORIA - Flooring is one of the largest purchases homeowners can make for their space, but interior designers want people to think about more than just esthetics — they want them to consider potential health effects as well.

As an eco designer, JC Scott has seen the change in the market with regards to the health and environmental impact of flooring.

"In some states like California, where they are on the leading edge of the environmental movement for North America, there are regulations about the toxicity of flooring," says Scott, principal designer at JC Scott Eco Designs in Victoria. "We're not so good here in Canada, but because California is such a big market, more and more people are responding to their demands."

According to Scott, many flooring manufacturers in the U.S. are abiding by Green Guard standards, which regulates the volatile organic compounds (VOC) allowed to be in a product.

Like many designers, Scott goes through a process of determining what the needs of the homeowner are before recommending products for their home. And because of his background in eco design, he always considers the impact a product will have on the indoor air quality.

"Allergies are becoming a huge concern with flooring," he says. "It is really what drove California to start regulations because of the health care costs associated with it. I always recommend to homeowners to look at Green Guard as a basic starting point when shopping for flooring.

"Flooring is huge in so many ways," he adds. "A homeowner needs to look at a product in terms of the look, colour, reflectivity, and increasingly, the health and environmental aspects. For a lot of people who have older floorings, it can be one of the most toxic things in a home."

With the growing concern about how flooring can affect overall health, many designers and homeowners are choosing to return to natural materials, which have lower VOCs.

There is an increased interest in wool, both as an area rug and for overall flooring, says Scott.

"Cork is quite popular today and it can be done in many different ways, " he says. "I quite like what is called cork plank flooring. It has a very unique and beautiful look."

Wood flooring continues to be a popular choice, particularly a product called engineered wood plank. Scott says it has more stability than traditional wood flooring and can be easily installed by a homeowner.

A European flooring trend towards tile and stone is also starting to appear in North America as many homeowners have in-floor heating which avoids cold stone and tile floors.

For homeowners interested in resilient flooring like linoleum, Scott says he's seeing a return to its original composition.

"Marmoleum is being used more because it is one of the most ecologically friendly products because it is effectively dust-free with no VOCs and are made from renewable resources," says Scott. "It also rates highly on indoor air quality and the longevity scale."