Green Building Interior Finishes

greenbuildingBuilding Professionals

Green Interiors Resource

Choosing the right interior finishes has a huge impact on indoor air quality and consequently the health of the inhabitants. Many popular products and finishes are made with dangerous chemicals that can off gas for years in a home. Contractors and interior designers have the opportunity to help their clients choose finishes that are environmentally friendly and won’t cause health problems. Here are some key considerations:


  • Toxicity – Some common building products emit unpleasant and even dangerous fumes that can persist long after homeowners have moved in.
  • Durability – Building materials that hold up to the rigors of family life are worth the investment over the long term.
  • Resource conservation – Reusing salvaged materials or choosing products that have been made with recycled material means fewer resources have to be committed to making something new.
  • Sustainability – As with other building materials, floor and wall covering come from a variety of sources. The best choices are products that are renewable.

See Chapter 15 on Interior Finishes in the Green from the Ground Up book for more details or contact us about training.

Green Interiors’ Transition Guide

Use paint, adhesives and caulks that have low or no VOC

  • Volatile organic compounds are chemicals that can trigger a whole host of illnesses.
  • Carefully read the labels provided to see what chemicals are used in the product. Become familiar with chemicals that have adverse side affects.
  • These products should be available at your local home store.

Look for the Green Label Plus or recycled content carpet

  • Carpet and carpet backing contains chemicals that can affect the immune system. Carpets can now be made from recycled plastics, natural backing and new materials.
  • Look for carpeting with low VOC emissions certified by the Green Label Plus program by the EPA and the Carpet and Rug Institute
  • Carpeting should be minimized as it holds dust, dander and moisture.

Install FSC certified wood floors

  • FSC wood comes from sustainably managed forests.
  • A wide range of flooring products are now available from FSC managed forests
  • FSC wood is not available everywhere. If you cannot get it locally, be sure to let your home-store that you are interested in having them stock FSC flooring.

Green from the Ground Up Best Practices

  • Establish an effective interior air barrier.
  • If available, choose drywall whose core is made with residue that’s taken from air scrubbers at coal-fired power plants.
  • Choose low-VOC or no-VOC paints, caulks, and adhesives as well as water-based finishes rather than solvent-based products.
  • Avoid wood products that use urea-formaldehyde as a binder.
  • Use wood products made with renewable or recycled content.
  • Consider the distance that building products must be shipped and choose those produced locally or regionally over those that come from overseas.
  • Specify the wood that’s certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.
  • If carpet is used as a floor covering, favor natural materials such as wool or sisal but avoid products that contain styrene butadiene latex binders and wool that must be fumigated when it enters the country.