Monday, January 26, 2009

#38 Green Remodeling? Use Renewable Resources!

This is perhaps the toughest part of green remodeling if you are trying to do it with spending as little money as possible.  But I'm here to tell you that it is possible to find great "green" products new for good prices.  It just takes flexibility and a little time to search.
First- decide what your requirements are for your project.  Measurements, durability, colors.

Second- determine what types of materials you would like to use.  Something recycled?  Something made of a renewable resource?

Third- research, reasearch, reasearch.  We would not have been able to do ours without the internet.

Fourth- shop shop shop!

Here's my example.  We wanted to replace our kitchen countertops.  We had an ugly color peeling-off laminate counter.  We wanted something classy but not too expensive.   We also wanted it to be durable, waterproof, heat proof, and environmentally friendly.  We looked first into granite.    Not-so-green.  There was an option for a granite cover-up counter that we liked (it meant we wouldn't have to rip out the old one) but very expensive.  Then we found out about Eco-top and Paperstone products.  Made of 100% post-consumer recycled paper.  Awesome!  Was it in our budget?  Not really.  However, when we were at EcoHaus in Portland looking at some, the guy says, "We have these pieces in the back room that are an odd color and we haven't been able to sell them."  Bingo!  They happened to be just the amount that we needed for our kitchen, and at a fraction of the cost.  And in brown tones that I was using anyway.  
 Lucky for me, my husband is handy and was able to cut and install them.  Even with the purchase of some new tools, our eco-friendly countertops cost us only about $900.   And I think they look great.  Other things we did were a cork floor, purchased from a builder's liquidator, and a recycled glass tile backsplash.

Pros:  Less depletion of the earth's resources.  In the case of these countertops, they are fully recyclable as well as made from recycled paper.   

Cons:  Some eco-friendly materials are not as durable (such as our cork floor, but I still like it.)  It takes work to find these types of materials on a limited budget.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

#37 Green Remodeling? Reclaimed Materials!

Okay, so you've  used everything that you could from your own demolition.  Now it's time to start building.  Do you head to the nearest retailers and pick out what you want?  For some things that may be warranted (like drywall) but really the best thing to do first is to check for reclaimed materials that work.  One way is to use Craig's list (the Craig's list people should be paying me for how much I promote their site.)  Another way is to find a Habitat Re-store, or another place like it.  My new favorite place to go to shop for stuff for our remodeling projects is The Rebuilding Center in Portland.  They take all the stuff out of houses that are being torn down and sell it for reuse, as well as create really fun furniture out of reclaimed wood.  Our latest finds there were a drinking fountain for our mud room and an old lighting fixture that we will fix up for the new bathroom.  
Our latest and greatest Craig's list finds were some beautiful travertine tile for bathroom floor and vanity, and a solid granite tub surround that was taken out of a luxury hotel suite (only $200!)

Pros: Reusing stuff prevents it from filling the landfills (The Rebuilding Centers slogan is "Just because it's called a landfill, doesn't mean you have to fill it.")  It is much cheaper than buying new.

Cons: It requires greater flexibility and you may not be able to find exactly what you want.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

#36 Green Remodeling?--- Reuse what you can.

Remodeling is not really green. In most cases, things left the way they are is the greenest route. That old vinyl floor does the least damage left right where it is. Left alone, less goes to the landfill and less products need to be produced. That being said, realistically there is a lot of value in aesthetic appeal and better function. My husband and I constantly have a project going in our home. We are doing it for our comfort and for the resale value of our house. Built in the 1950's and poorly maintained, there is much to be done. 
There are a number of ways that we are seeking to make our remodeling projects as green as possible. The first thing that we do is reuse anything that is possibly reusable when we take it out. Our project this year is converting a room (formerly a bedroom?-- we used it mainly for storage) into a master bathroom and a mudroom. There was a decent set of built-in cabinets and shelves. The cabinets became toy cabinets in the basement, and the shelves moved to the storage/work room for organizing tools.

Any wood that we tear out that is not stained or painted becomes firewood, and decent wood pieces will be turned into something else useful (the wood paneling will become shelves in our shed.) If you can't find a use for it, freecycle or Craig'slist it and see if there is anyone out there who can use it.

Pros: Less trips to the landfill, less in the landfill, and the stuff can fill a need if you will be creative with it.

Cons: There will always be some stuff that just cannot be reused.  Sometimes it takes a little more work to get things out so that they are in usable form (today my husband was complaining about how long it was taking to get the paneling out of the old closet he was tearing out.)