GreenGuard Gold certification is the most useful of all the healthy product certifications out there for certifying products low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
GreenGuard has two levels of certification that measure VOC levels in products. GreenGuard allows – 500 μg/m3 total VOCs. GreenGuard Gold allows – 220 μg/m3 total VOCs.
For reference, the average house has a total VOC level of about 200 μg/m3, and the outdoor or “background rate” is about 1/10th of that (20 μg/m3).
What Does GreenGuard Gold Certified Indicate for Formaldehyde Levels?
If you look through the individual levels of VOCs and their limits you can dig in even deeper.
The formaldehyde level allowed in GreenGuard Gold certified products is extremely low – just 9 μg/m3 or 7.3 ppb (parts per billion).
I have a post that contains a reference level table for formaldehyde. Outdoor urban air contains 1.5- 47 ppb. GreenGuard Gold formaldehyde levels are lower than the outdoor air in many places.
Formaldehyde levels allowed with standard GreenGuard are significantly higher at 50 ppb (parts per billion) or 61.3 μg/m3 (Compared to GreenGuard Gold 0.0073 ppm).
This post lists out GreenGuard Gold certified flooring products in each category. I also make recommendations for each type of flooring and what to look for to reduce toxins in ways that go beyond this certification.
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1. GreenGuard Gold Laminate Flooring
The only real chemical of concern in laminate flooring is formaldehyde, and just about all laminate flooring is made with a formaldehyde binder in the HDF core except for one brand. This is one type of flooring where GreenGuard Gold is extremely helpful to make sure it’s very low formaldehyde (no more than 0.0073 parts per million).
Laminate Flooring Brands that are Certified GreenGuard Gold Include:
- Duravana from LL Flooring looks like your typical laminate but the core seemed a little different to me so I asked the company about it. The core has polystyrene added to it (it also contains the usual wood fiber and melamine-urea-formaldehyde) which makes it more inherently waterproof than other brands. It does not have more offgassing than other brands.
- Swiss Krono USA
- Traffic Master, A&A and MSI from Home Depot
- AquaGuard Laminate from Floor and Decor
- Optimax from Floor and Decor (this might be a hybrid of wood fiber and plastic, the company won’t confirm that)
- Evoke Surge
- Shaw Laminate is GreenGuard (not Greenguard Gold)
- Pergo used to have GreenGuard Gold certification before they were bought out by Mohawk. I don’t think the glues have likely changed, Mohawk simply doesn’t use GreenGuard. Judging from the samples I received, I would guess that they use the standard glue.
- RevWood from Mohawk is the only formaldehyde-free laminate flooring. The VOCs are listed as 9 ug/m3 which is extremely low and would qualify for GreenGuard Gold based on that test.
My article on laminate flooring goes over the ingredients used in this type of flooring and the additives of the different brands.
2. GreenGuard Gold Engineered Wood Flooring
With engineered wood, I personally would not look for a certification but instead I would choose a floor based on the construction type. A solid slat core has the least amount of offgassing, followed closely by plywood. I would choose these over the MDF or HDF core which offgasses significantly more.
I would also generally go with a water-based finish which won’t have any offgassing over an oil-based finish unless you know the oil-based finish is natural and/or suitable for you.
The article on engineered wood goes over brands by construction type.
GreenGuard Gold Engineered Wood Flooring Brands:
- Shaw Engineered wood – especially good are the Shaw lines with a plywood core like Shaw Castlewood used to be GreenGuard Children and Schools which is not Gold but now it seems they are only Greenguard (not Gold).
- LL Flooring: AquaSeal, Virginia Mill Works, Bellawood Artisan, Builder’s Pride (you can use the filters on the left hand side to select the core type of solid slat or plywood which are lower in offgassing than MDF)
- LifeScapes and Woodland Reserve from Floor and Decor
- Pioneer Millworks
- Kentwood Floors
- Johnson Hardwood
- Craft Floor
The following brands use a solid slat core which is lower in offgassing than plywood or HDF though these are not GreenGuard certified:
- Tesoro Coastal Lowlands – White Oak, Hickory, Maple, Walnut
- Tesoro Great Southern Woods
- Tesoro Great Northern Woods
- Mirage Hardwood Trubalance
3. Green Guard Gold Luxury Vinyl Plank (LVP) Flooring
Almost all LVP flooring has the same basic composition of a vinyl top layer and an SPC core (stone + vinyl + plasticizer) or WPC core (wood or plastic + vinyl), and often a plastic foam-based underlayment. The offgassing of most brands, whether certified or not, is extremely minimal and close to zero VOC. The major concern with vinyl is the effect on the environment and the plasticizers which are not considered in GreenGuard Gold.
I would choose the brand based on construction type not certifications personally – choosing SPC core over WPC or vinyl core (vinyl core has no wood or stone) and avoiding cork underlayment if you really want to go extremely low VOC (it is the only underlayment that has significant offgassing).
The following brands are certified GreenGuard Gold:
- LL Flooring Coreluxe Rigid Vinyl Plank (what most companies call Luxury Vinyl Plank)
- COREtec Pro
- Floor and Decor DuraLux and NuCore
- Provenza MaxCore
- Flexco Natural Elements Luxury Vinyl Tile
- Traffic Master, LifeProof, Home Decorators Collection, & MSI Luxury Vinyl Plank from Home Depot
- SmartCore from Lowes
- Evoke Rigid Core and Luxury Vinyl
Proximity Mills has a 0-VOC LVP.
4. GreenGuard Gold Hybrid Flooring (Wood Top + Vinyl Core)
This type of flooring has a real wood layer on top and an SPC (vinyl + limestone) core. I have not seen any significant differences between brands. I would go with any brand with this construction – the offgassing is extremely minimal.
The following brands are certified GreenGuard Gold:
- Aqua Guard Hybrid (listed under engineered hardwood on their website) from Floor and Decor
- OptiWood from Home Depot
- Raintree Waterproof Hardwood
5. GreenGuard Gold Cork Flooring
Amorim Cork is GreenGuard Gold and is the only brand of cork I would go with if you want a very low-VOC product, as most cork flooring brands have significant offgassing.
6. GreenGuard Gold Bamboo Flooring
A solid strand bamboo floor, pictured right, has various strands of bamboo glued together into one solid piece. It can be made with various glues.
Engineered bamboo (pictured left) is a flooring that has a top layer of bamboo over a plywood, SPC, or HDF core. SPC is “stone polymer composite”, a composite of vinyl, limestone and plasticizer. HDF is high density fibreboard – a mix of wood fibre and formaldehyde. I would avoid the HDF (or MDF) cores if you want to stay really low VOC.
The following brands are GreenGuard Gold certified:
- LL Flooring AquaGuard Bamboo (real bamboo top with SPC core)
- LL Flooring ReNature (real bamboo top with MDF core)
- Home Legend (bamboo with an SPC core, with an HDF core, and solid strand). They say they have GreenGuard Children and Schools which is an old certification that no longer exists but it is the same VOC levels and the Gold level now.
- Floor and Decor EcoForest (solid strand bamboo) and AquaGuard (HDF core bamboo).
- Wellmade engineered bamboo (with SPC core)
- Home Depot’s OptiWood Bamboo (SPC core)
Solid Bamboo Flooring from Home Decorators Collection, Home Depot is GreenGuard, not GreenGuard Gold.
Floor and Decor Eucalyptus Engineered wood (with plywood core) is GreenGuard Gold.
GreenGuard Gold Certified Carpet?
There are no carpet brands that are GreenGuard Gold Certified as of the writing of this article.
Interface Carpet Tiles has some documents saying they are GreenGuard Gold, and they are listed on the UL website, but now the company website says “All Interface flooring and adhesives are third-party certified for low VOC emissions in compliance with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) 01350 Standard. This is the standard used by certifications like GREENGUARD Gold.”
Corinne Segura is a Building Biologist Practitioner with 8 years of experience helping others create healthy homes.
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