This week I have been having engineered wood flooring installed, with a 1/2 in. cork subfloor installed to help reduce sound transmission between upstairs and downstairs.

I bought a tester off of Amazon to make sure my floors don't offgas high levels of formaldehyde:


To my surprise, while my wood floors are fine, the cork subfloor was registering HCHO levels on the meter higher than 0.1 mg/m^3 -- the threshold between 'very good air' and 'somewhat pollute' on this unit. Since I couldn't find any information online on the company that produced this cork product (Portofino) I asked my flooring guy to rip out the cork he had already installed (glued down) and start over with new much more expensive cork that I called the manufacturer and confirmed does NOT contain formaldehyde. (They said it uses polyurethane as a binding agent.) This product is "Acousticork" and you can read about it here:


Thing is, today when I get home (with Acousticork installed) and turn on my meter, it goes OFF THE CHARTS on both the HCHO rating and the TVOC rating. Whereas previously I had gotten values around 0.14 mg/m^3, the air in my home when I got home was around 5.4 mg/m^3!!

I opened the windows, and eventually it decreased below 0.1. The if I place the air detector directly on a sheet of Acousticork, it goes over 1.4 mg/m^3.

This leads me to one of three conclusions. Either:

a) My meter is not measuring Formaldehyde at all, but rather some safe substance that this cork product emits,

b) The company selling Acousticork lied to me and it WAS made with Formaldehyde, or

c) I am using the meter incorrectly.

I realize I could try to find a company that does formaldehyde testing, and have my cork tested to see if it's (b). If so, I could presumably try to sue the company to get enough $$ to have my floor replaced.

But in the mean time, I thought I'd see if anyone knows anything about these testers, or about cork subflooring products. Specifically, is there something about cork subfloor that could cause a formaldehyde tester to incorrectly show formaldehyde emissions when there are none?

  • 2
    Are you certain that your flooring guy hasn't been using a glue containing formaldehyde? Wave your meter near a pot of fresh glue and see what it tells you. – brhans Jan 13 '18 at 13:50
  • brhans -- I held the meter over a freshly-opened container to glue before he started laying the cork. Nothing. But if I put the meter over 3 sheets of cork (unused -- no glue) it goes higher quickly. The company, however, has said they put "no added formaldehyde" in their product. – Vern Jensen Jan 15 '18 at 5:41
  • 1
    According to this page, "Phenol formaldehyde is not toxic and may be used in place of urea formaldehyde", "Most all flooring, bamboo or otherwise, naturally contains some amount of formaldehyde." and "Some manufacturers now offer flooring with no added urea formaldehyde." - so it may be possible that your meter responds equally to both and it's registering the non-toxic one ... – brhans Jan 15 '18 at 12:21

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