Flooring Made in China vs. Flooring Made in North America and Europe

flooring made in china, made in north america

Flooring Made in China vs. Flooring Made in North America and Europe

When it comes to flooring, there are plenty of options. From plush carpet and ultra modern tile to sleek hardwood or vinyl, one can customize the look of their home from the ground up.

And while material, colour and installation are important factors to take into consideration, the origins of the product (whether it is from a local or overseas manufacturer) is certainly worth pausing over. This especially rings true for those who want their floors to last for the long haul. Aside from longevity, the health of one’s family and the environment at large also come into play.

The truth is, flooring purchased overseas may save you money, but there’s the risk paying a high price in the long run. Due to differing regulations and standards, one might not realize exactly what it is they are paying for – even when it’s a locally based company you’re dealing with.

Take Lumber Liquidators for example. The U.S company has been linked to numerous health and safety violations, as reported by 60 minutes back in March of 2015. The story alleged the laminate-flooring material sold by the company didn’t meet emission standards for the dangerous cancer-causing chemical – formaldehyde.

Formaldehyde is an industrial chemical used to make other chemicals and different types of products, such as: home furnishings, household cleaners, paints, textiles, landscape and yard products, medicinal and personal care products, and pesticides.

As a result of the story, a U.S. senator called on federal agencies to investigate, and the company’s stock plunged due to the negative coverage.

So, why do companies continue to purchase the materials from China? And, why do consumers still continue to support them? Great question!

Lumber Liquidators linked to Health and Safety Violations

The truth is that some of the unsafe manufacturing practises used in overseas countries allow a larger amount of goods to be produced at a lower cost, making them more desirable – or attainable – to some consumers.

In addition to the lower price tag, many consumers are in the dark about the serious health and safety issues involving products purchased overseas.

So, before making final flooring selection, let’s compare flooring in China vs. flooring made in North America and Europe.

The Flooring Cost Factor

Having quickly positioned themselves in the Canadian and American market, China is one of the world’s biggest producers of wood flooring. While flooring imported from China may be on the cheaper side compared to competitors in the U.S and Europe, the old adage of ‘you get what you pay for’ certainly rings true.

Because government regulations in overseas countries differ from those in North America, standards for safe, quality flooring are not the same as in Europe or North America.

Those purchasing overseas flooring cannot be guaranteed the product has not been chemically treated or that it is free of contaminants that can be harmful to one’s health.

In fact, tests done by the Hardwood Plywood and Veneer Association found high levels of formaldehyde in flooring that was made in China and sold in North America. The chemical is a known cancer-causing agent, and is used as glue when manufacturing laminate and engineered wood floors.

False figures wave red flags

When Lumber Liquidators was investigated,  it was reported that most of the U.S company’s laminate flooring has been made in China, which may fail to meet health and safety standards.

“Lumber Liquidators insists its Chinese-made laminate flooring is safe, but it doesn’t appear that way based on what we learned from our own reporting…”

On their website, Lumber Liquidators promises all of their flooring “meets or exceeds rigorous emission standards” and they say “we not only comply with laws, we exceed them.”

As a consumer, one is likely to take that information at face-value. However, the news report claims their statement is in fact false.

While every box of laminate flooring Lumber Liquidators sells carries this label – stating its CARB Phase 2 Compliant, the Chinese-made laminate flooring that is selling nationwide from this company contains high levels of formaldehyde.

“We sent the samples for testing at two certified labs. It turns out of the 31 samples of Chinese- made laminate flooring, only one was compliant with formaldehyde emissions standards. Some were of 13X the California limit. Both labs told us they had never seen formaldehyde levels that high.”

According to the Global Community Monitor, Formaldehyde Emissions From Chinese-Made Flooring Far Exceed Emissions From Products Made in the U.S. or Europe.

This chart shows the results of performing the same test to measure formaldehyde emissions for Lumber Liquidators laminate products made in the U.S. and Europe (blue bars), and those made in China (red bars).

“We tested 25 such samples, representing 11 different Lumber Liquidators products. The average emission level of the U.S. samples is shown as 1.0x, with samples ranging from 70 percent of that level to 1.3 times that level. In contrast, Lumber Liquidators laminate products produced in China emitted average exposures over three times those of the U.S. products, ranging from almost twice to more than five times the U.S. average. Even the lowest-emitting Chinese sample had formaldehyde emissions nearly 50% higher than the worst sample produced in the U.S. or Europe.”

Note: Europeans test methodology is based on the Perforator Test Method, which measures the formaldehyde levels inside the wood specimen.

Poor Product Quality

Another problem that arises from discrepancies in standards is poor product quality. With overseas producers using different – and sometimes unregulated – manufacturing practises, flooring goods may be cheaply made and fall apart easily. There is nothing more disappointing than purchasing an item, only to later have it break due to faulty design and production.

Additionally, if labelling standards are unregulated or unmonitored, consumers may receive something other than what they’ve paid for. Whether it be a cheap imitation of the product they selected – or a different material altogether – consumers may not learn the truth until the opened package is in their hands.

In China, factories have been known to pay-off the inspector to allow for more products to be shipped out, including those that are unsafe and faulty. Even if the client is not directly involved in the corruption, that does not help the consumer in the end.

Final Thoughts on the Flooring You Can Buy

Just as with the food we ingest, it’s important to know where our household products come from and how they were made. Choosing to purchase flooring from reputable sources in countries with strict regulations will help ensure a healthier home and body. While the alternative may be less expensive or maybe even more convenient in the short term, the potential health effects could have long-term impacts that are just not worth the price.

1Comment
  • Mark J Kristan
    Posted at 19:56h, 10 April Reply

    I appreciate blogs like this one, I really do, anything to improve awareness on the part of the masses can only be a good thing. The problem is that I, personally, am no further ahead than before I read this. I buy things manufactured in first world countries for a myriad of reasons, a potential health factor certainly could be high among my reasons for doing so. When it comes to flooring products, I have no doubt that the cheapest stuff is made in somewhere like China, using substandard labour practices, and probably is a lesser product that what is produced in North America or Europe in many ways. My problem is that I do not really know how to avoid this (I could buy more expensive flooring but I wouldn’t know that I am actually getting a better product – “you get what you pay for’ tends to be a good guiding principle, but there are just no guarantees here). Just like FrankenFood (aka, GMO) I want governments to stop siding with big business, baed somewhere else, and provide me with information I can use; not only is the country of origin details not exactly front and centre, it seems to me that the laws are such that governments allow flooring manufacturers to make it pretty much impossible for consumers to fins out those details. I spend more on goods manufactured in first world countries to the extend that I can afford to do so, but in the case of flooring, even if I could afford to “buy Canadian”, I don’t think I”d be able to figure out how to do so, thanks to the politicians be bought and paid for by big business – Corporate Fascism at its finest.

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