In Summary:

In a standard two-bedroom apartment, there could be as many as 450 linear feet of baseboard, casings, and other trim.  To minimize the hazardous materials in these applications:

  1. Prefer solid wood with a factory finish whenever possible.
  2. When available, choose solid woods with FSC certification.
  3. If composite woods must be used, prefer those that are formaldehyde-free (NAF) or Ultra-Low Emitting Formaldehyde (ULEF).
  4. Avoid using PVC (polyvinyl chloride) as an alternative baseboard material.

Here’s Why:

Paints, stains, and other coatings designed for millwork can contain chemicals that are hazardous when they’re wet.  Opting for pre-finished trim pieces means that these coatings are applied in a factory setting with controls in place to protect workers and the environment.  In contrast, when these coatings are applied on-site or after installation, these controls are unavailable, and anyone in the area can be exposed.

When selecting the millwork itself, products made from solid wood and a factory finish will avoid the hazards that come with the binders used to glue together composite woods.  Products that carry a certification from FSC (Forest Stewardship Council), have been certified to insure that the lumber was responsibly harvested.  Read more about FSC.

Selecting solid woods avoids formaldehyde emissions that come with the use of composite woods.  Where composite woods must be used, consult HomeFree’s Substrates Stoplight chart to identify which options are most preferable. Selecting solid wood baseboards instead of PVC also avoids the global environmental impacts of using chlorinated plastics.  See the Common Product Profile for Vinyl Wall Base for more information on these hazards.