Monday, February 14, 2011

I ♥ Our Basement

On this holiday of Cupids and hearts, I have an unusual proclamation: I love our family’s basement. (Wonder if Hallmark makes a card for that…)

Over the years our basement has been a haven. It’s a storage space for zillions of accumulated toys. It’s a toddler-safe playroom, site of countless Nerf gun wars – and an excellent place for children to hang out when Mom is close to losing her mind from the noise and craziness while attempting to make dinner.

But after a while, the carpeting in this much-loved, much-used space was in desperate need of replacement. Will’s asthma moved the project up on the priority list and also made it more daunting as we searched for the perfect carpet replacement.

Everywhere I looked for information about asthma and carpet, carpet removal topped the list of things to do in the home. But just like everything else in life, we had to find a balance. With two school-age boys and a toddler in the house, the idea of installing a hardwood or hard-surface floor (vinyl or tile) was not appealing. Yes, a hardwood floor would be durable and easy to clean, but who wants to roll around on a hard floor when it’s time to wrestle? Or play with blocks on a cold surface?

Low VOCs. When I first walked into the flooring store I thought the sales guy was going to take one look at my list of demands and walk away. First off, we wanted something with low VOCs (volatile organic compounds). (James T. Li, MD, an asthma and allergy specialist with the Mayo Clinic, says “synthetic flooring initially releases gasses known as VOCs that can worsen asthma.”) It had to be easy to clean, and the overall basement-floor scheme had to involve hard-surface flooring in at least some of the rooms. I wanted something that would fit into our budget that was also environmentally friendly. Oh yeah, and it had to be comfy to crawl around on.

Turns out, there are hundreds of options on the market. I was pleasantly surprised to find so many low-VOC options. I learned that low-allergen and Earth-friendly often go hand in hand. Budget-wise – not always. If we went with the hard-surface flooring all over the basement (family room, bathroom, laundry room) we would almost triple the cost when you factored in the cost of an area rug to warm things up. Just not in the cards. Countless trips to the showroom later, after lugging sample after sample home, we found our perfect solution: a low-VOC, easy-to-clean carpet in the play area and a beautiful bamboo floor everywhere else.

Dust trappers. Figuring out flooring options was only half the battle when we realized we had to sort through toys and get them up off the floor (where they would trap dust and allergens). We opted for floor-to-ceiling shelves of large, clear plastic bins with lids for sorting and storing the cars, trains, games, stuffed animals (I think it’s probably time to freeze them once again), blocks and, of course, the Nerf guns. 

I can now honestly say I love our basement. Making dinner is slightly less chaotic and the boys are happy to have their playroom back. No wheezing and sneezing from Will when he plays down there, either. Nerf gun war anyone?

From AANMA’s website: Remove carpeting if possible and replace with vinyl, tile or hardwood flooring. If it’s not possible to remove carpeting, vacuum thoroughly every week with a HEPA-equipped vacuum cleaner.