In the green building community, carpeting has a bad reputation. While hardwood flooring is the honor student who sits in the front of the class, carpeting is the kid in the back row, shooting spitballs and ignoring the teacher.
Does carpeting deserve its bad reputation? Or has it been unfairly maligned?
The case against carpeting
I’ve assembled the seven most common reasons that are used by green building experts to argue against carpeting.
Carpeting absorbs water and can therefore harbor mold. Carpeting is hygroscopic, and once it gets wet, it stays wet for a long time. Since mold needs a damp environment to grow, it loves damp carpeting.
Carpeting harbors dust mites and pet dander. These substances don’t bother everyone, but they can trigger symptoms in people with allergies.
Carpeting lowers indoor air quality (IAQ). This association is vague, but one document explains that the reduction in IAQ is due to “mold spores, dust mites, dirt and other allergy-producing substances” as well as “the synthetic fibers in carpet.” For the record, there is no evidence that dirt causes allergies; in fact, there is considerable evidence that exposure to dirt lowers the chance of allergy development. Most Americans tolerate synthetic fibers, since these fibers are used to make clothing.
According to another source (Green From the Ground Up), carpeting can “off-gas” and collect “chemicals that are tracked in from outdoors.” The book doesn’t provide further details, but it makes sense to conclude that people who spread pesticides on their lawn will probably bring some pesticide residue indoors on the soles of their shoes.
Carpeting is associated with sick building syndrome. The causes of sick building syndrome are in dispute, but some studies have shown a correlation between…