What is Coir?
Coir is actually the fibre from the husk of the coconut and it is probably the oldest form of natural plant covering for floors, with its use dating back for centuries. It is incredibly strong and durable and is thus a great alternative to sisal and other softer forms of natural flooring, for areas that receive high wear and tear.
The husk is taken from coconut palms that grow along the inner waterways and lakes of India, in particular Kerala. This is first soaked in fresh water for several months and then beaten to soften the cellulose fibres. Because these fibres are short and hard, they are spun by hand rather than by a machine. This hard ‘yarn’ is then called “kayar” and it is used to make doormats, ropes, sacks and floor coverings. Coir has a unique texture which produces a warm look that can’t be achieved with modern synthetic materials.
Coir as Flooring
Coir makes ideal flooring, especially in areas that receive high traffic as it is very resistant to wear and tear. It is a great alternative to carpet and also to other natural plant coverings that are too fine to withstand heavy wear. Coir can be used as carpets but also as rugs and mats, which are very strong and tightly woven. It is a strong but coarse fibre and probably isn’t the best material for areas where comfort under-foot is a consideration.
Coir carpet can be installed throughout the entire house, just like traditional carpet, but it is not advisable to install it in bathrooms and kitchens, as it is vulnerable to excessive moisture. Like all natural flooring, it is best not to attempt DIY but to find a professional floor layer who is experienced in laying this type of flooring. Coir can be installed directly to the floor but an adhesive underlay is highly recommended as it will help the coir carpet last longer; it’ll be easier to remove when the time comes to replace it; if it is good quality, it will help to hide any unevenness in your floor and it will also provide both heat and sound insulation, thereby reducing energy bills and noise pollution. Essentially – combines with the use of high quality underlay and with due care, coir wears the same as high quality carpets
Because coir is a “natural” product with an expected rustic look, it is very minimally processed – unlike synthetic floor coverings which often have many chemicals added to create particular colours and effects. Unfortunately, these chemicals also create the perfect conditions for rapid wear whereas coir, in its natural state, retains its inherent strength and durability. Coir is resistant to insects, in particular, carpet moth damage, as the natural oils inherent in the fibres repel insects. Coir is very low maintenance, although regular vacuuming is recommended.
Coir is very similar to timber, so it will expand and contract with higher and lower humidity, respectively. This must be accounted for when laying coir flooring and also in considering the structure and dimensions of a room, as well as its usage. Although coir is generally very durable, if it is continually exposed to strong sunlight, in conditions of heat and low humidity, then its fibres can become brittle and thus weakened. Although it is a good alternative to traditional carpet in many respects, coir may not be comfortable to sit on for long periods.
What is Jute?
Jute is the fibrous inner bark from the stalk of a giant tropical herb, named Cochorus, which is a member of the Linden family and is closely related to hemp. Jute is also known as Hessian in Europe.
As it is one of the cheapest natural fibres and lagging only behind cotton in the amount produced, jute is used in a huge variety of things. Its main use is as cloth for wrapping bales of raw cotton and also for making sacks and coarse cloth. These plants are grown in southern India and other hot, damp regions of Asia and after the harvest, the stems are tied into bunches and then soaked in water for two to three weeks to soften them.
Known as the ‘golden fibre’ jute is one of the longest and most used natural fibre for various textile applications. The fibres are softened by pounding them with wooden mallets and then dried in the sun. Finally, they are spun into a yarn with a silky luster and a variety of natural shades. This makes jute one of the softest natural fibres although its fine-stranded nature means that it is generally more suitable to delicate fabrics and areas of light traffic.
Jute is probably the most environmentally-friendly fibre you can find, from its seed to its expired fibre – even this can be recycled more than once. It is a true sustainable and renewable resource as it is incredibly easy to grow and re-grow, with plants being grown in 4-6 months. This rapid cycle means that it can replenish itself more easily without the need to plant more trees – and it also doesn’t need as much space or energy to grow as trees do.
Jute flooring has many advantages. It is completely natural and so less likely to trigger skin irritations. Jute carpet will be incredibly soft under foot, so its great for snug areas like bedrooms or living rooms. Other advantages include its anti-static properties, its low thermal conductivity and acoustic insulation properties. Jute is also fire-resistant due to its inherent structure and its natural oils – it might catch fire but it will not stay lit for long.
Jute does have some disadvantages, namely that its strength rapidly deteriorates in the presence of moisture or certain atmospheric conditions, such as acidic conditions. It is not ideal for humid climates as not only does it lose its strength and durability but will also become more prone to microbial attack. Great care must be taken not to get jute flooring wet as it watermarks easier than other natural carpets and is not recommended for areas such as kitchens or bathrooms, nor for areas which endure high wear and tear like passageways and staircases.
What is Seagrass?
Seagrass flooring is made by weaving a yarn spun from the dried leaves of the seagrass plant which grows in many shallow coastal waters around the world. It is not a true grass but the leaves are long, flat and blade-like so the name has stuck.
Seagrass occurs naturally nearly all round the world, wherever there are temperate coastal shallows. Up until the early 20th century it was a popular material for insulating houses as the dried blades have air holes embedded within them. This makes them a good barrier against sound and helps to keep heat in. In coastal areas of Europe seagrass was a popular thatching material as well. Most of the seagrass used in carpets in the UK comes from paddy fields in China so it is not redoing the area of the naturally occurring seagrass beds.
Flooring products made from seagrass are usually backed with latex to keep the whole product natural and so it is suitable for houses where families want to lower the potentially harmful emissions from man-made carpet and other materials.
Just like any other woven product, seagrass flooring is available in a number of different patterns designs and fine or coarse weaves. Seagrass is only available in its natural colour; this can be greenish or golden depending on when it was harvested. It has a waxy, rustic and pleasing look once laid.
When looking at seagrass as a flooring material there are a number of things that need to be taken into consideration. The first is to make sure that it can cope with the use that you will put it to. It is usually rated as suitable for medium domestic use but should not be used in kitchens or bathrooms. Although seagrass can be used on stairs, it does secrete a natural oil which can get a little bit slippery.
Seagrass is a durable product, although certain things such as the castors on office chairs can dig into the carpet and ruin it. We would recommend invest in chair mats which provide a large surface that chairs can roll on to protect the seagrass flooring. Other furniture on castors, such as sofas, should be alright so long as they aren’t moved as often, but it might be worthwhile buying some castor cups just to be on the safe side. These will spread the weight of the castor over a wider area and reduce the depth of any sunken areas.
What is Sisal?
Sisal is a natural fibre extracted from the leaves of the Agave Sisalana, a succulent plant closely related to the plant which brings us tequila, grows in dry, desert climates such as the plains of Mexico and other parts of the New World.
Since sisal has grown in popularity for use in a variety of products, dedicated sisal farms have been established, especially in Africa and Brazil. Sisal is truly an eco-friendly option as not only is it a sustainable resource but it is also grown with minimal – if any – pesticides and herbicides, thus further reducing damage to the environment.
The fibres are from the leaves can be used in their coarse, raw state – which is more inflexible – or blended with other fibres, such as wool, to produce a softer material. Much of the raw, coarser fibres are used in the cordage industry, to make ropes and twine as sisal has in incredible durability and strength as well as the ability to stretch. In particular, its resistance to deterioration in seawater makes it ideal for use in ropes and twines for the marine industry. It is also widely used in agriculture and general industrial use. The finer, higher-grade fibre is spun into yarns and used in to provide an eco-friendly alternative to traditional carpets.
Not only is sisal sustainable and 100% biodegradable, it carries many other advantages as well. It is extremely hardwearing and strong – one of the toughest in the natural plant fibre flooring ranges – and is also anti-static, due to its natural fibres helping to control the humidity in the atmosphere. This is a great bonus for any office settings with computers and also means that the flooring is less likely to attract dirt.
Its strength and durability means sisal can be used throughout a household even in high-traffic areas such as hallways and staircases. Sisal, unlike other natural plant fibres is amendable to dying. It is also malleable enough to be woven into slick, tight and decorative weaves. Sisal carpet also can be cut and bound into rugs and runners.
Some people think that sisal can be quite coarse underfoot, however it does soften with regular use and vacuuming. It is important to bear in mind that sisal carpets can watermark, although this only occurs if a large quantity of liquid is spilled on it and is left to soak into the carpet. We would always recommend getting sisal carpet applied with the Intec Stain treatment we offer.
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