Tatami mats are made with all natural vegetable plant by-products. The wara or rice straws are the remaining rice reeds after the rice grain has been harvested and stripped. They are bound and stitched together by cotton strings and the bottom is covered with paper. No trees are cut down to manufacture a tatami mat except perhaps for the paper underlay. Simply put, it takes on average about 80 years for oak or maple trees to mature before they are ready to be processed for flooring, while it takes only one season to grow a rice paddy field to grow food and manufacture the tatami mats with. Sustainability issues for trees can become very significant. While hardwood flooring may withstand significant wear and tear compared to the tatami mat covering, it is usual in Japan to reuse the internal straw padding by changing their covering once every 15-20 years. The straw padding may last for 30 years or more and has no added chemicals when discarded back into the earth.
A note on Vinyl Flooring, Wood Laminates and Adhesives
Tatami mats manufactured today are made the same way as they have been for hundreds of years - stitching. When placed inside a home, all a homeowner or interior decorator does is place it on the subfloor. With vinyl flooring, glue plays a significant role and it is important to note that most adhesives emit dangerous gases because they contain plastic resins. While respective governments may issue minimum safety emissions standards, these standards are NOT uniform and residents living in homes with significant industrial strength adhesives will be exposed to potential health hazards.
Laminate flooring is essentially several layers of decorative paper [high resolution photographic image of natural wood flooring] impregnated with special resins pressed together under intense pressure to form a highly wear resistant composite material. Most consists of a moisture resistant layer under a layer of HDF (high density fiberboard). High density fiberboard, HDF, is basically a high-density, moisture-resistant fiber panel made of wood residues (sawdust, shavings and wood chips) from wood processing factories. This ligneous material is grounded into a pulp to which a melamine-urea-formaldehyde resin is added. This pulp is then dried and pressed into panels. Installing vinyl flooring onto a floating floor system usually requires more adhesives.
Tatami mats are natural flooring solutions that avoids adhesives and other necessary engineered chemicals. Tatami Imports Inc. believes that traditional Japanese tatami mats are not only better, it is safer and healthier.