There is a huge range in tile: ceramic, porcelain, slate, glass, even recycled rubber. During production, porcelain and ceramic tiles are baked with a glaze that seals their surfaces, making them impermeable and inhospitable to dust mites.
Tiles are easily mopped or wiped clean and can last lifetimes – some Ancient Roman tile work still looks pretty good millennia later. When installing tiles, Bisbee says it’s important to use a VOC-free silicone sealer on the grout to ensure that it won’t absorb mildew, mold or dirt.
You might not miss carpet in the bedroom, but it’s not as easy to say goodbye to the plush on the stairs. Bare wood staircases are known to be a slipping hazard. But what if you don’t want carpet? Unfortunately, for the pile-eschewing, your best option is not the most attractive: it amounts to either sticking down the sandpaper-coated tape from the hardware store on your stairs or buying a natural rubber stair tread.
For the sandpaper-coated tape, Bisbee recommends putting one strip near the edge of each tread and another piece about half-an-inch back from the first strip. If you can stand a bit of carpet, he suggests a short-napped runner: “That’s a compromise a lot of people make.”
Most carpets are tested for toxic emissions and there are non-toxic alternatives such as PET carpet, which is made of resins from recycled plastic pop bottles. Bisbee warns not to forget about choosing the right underpad as it, too, can be a source of VOC emissions. He recommends a wool carpet cushion underneath or a carpet pad of non-allergenic foam, and lots of vacuuming with a HEPA filter.