Green Remodeling For People Who Don’t Like Green Remodeing
Remodeling is a losing game. When you remodel a house, you impose yourself on the environment in several ways. Green remodeling tries to mitigate those things you do to harm the environment. This guide presents the main tenets of green remodeling–for people who may not necessarily care about green remodeling.
Even if you follow these simple steps, you will go a long ways towards making sure that your renovations have a lower impact on the environment than with ordinary remodeling methods.
1. Fix Rather Than Toss (Because Fix Isn’t a Dirty Word)
This seems to be an almost forgotten art. Remember when dad or grandpa spent hours in his shop tinkering with a electric wall heater or refurbishing an interior door? Well, maybe not, but people did do these kinds of things in the past! So, the most important thing you can do is to repair or rehabilitate existing materials.
Manufacturers of building products have a vested interest in seeing homeowners demolish existing elements of their house and replacing them with new drywall, plywood, windows, doors, carpeting, floor, and so on.
2. Recycle Demolished Materials (It’s Just a Little Extra Effort)
We recycle aluminum cans and plastic bottles, so why not shingles and vinyl siding? That’s the argument, anyway. It hasn’t quite worked out that way, and the practice of recycling building materials has been slow to catch on. If it’s not cost-effective to recycle consumer materials, it’s even less so with building materials. But times are changing. Materials that can be recycled or reused include:
- Wood flooring in good shape.
- Wood framing materials.
Many materials cannot be recycled or are “tough sells” when it comes to reuse:
- Laminate countertops like Formica.
- Laminate or vinyl flooring.
- Carpet that shows any kind of use will not find many “reuse” takers. Even good carpeting is a tough sell.
3. Buy Green Materials (Hey, It Isn’t So Hard)
Buying green or eco-friendly building materials means two things: materials which are free of harmful substances, and materials which come from sustainable sources.
- Formaldehyde-Free. Formaldehyde is found in many building materials, namely pressed fiberboard (i.e., particleboard, MDF, etc.) and plywood. Look for materials that advertise as being free of formaldehyde, or avoid them entirely.
- Low VOC. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are found in paints, lacquers, and paint strippers. VOCs are basically like “indoor smog.” While the emitted gas is not visible, it is toxic and can have short-term as well as long-term health effects.
- Sustainable Materials. This can include both recycled materials or new materials that come from renewable resources. Plastic decking made from recycled products is an example of the former; bamboo flooring (vs. hardwoods) is an example of the latter. Drywall sucks up an incredible amount of energy during the manufacturing process. Drywall products like EcoRock greatly minimize energy waste during production.
4. Institute Green Procedures (It’s Easy To Avoid Waste)
Remember what we said at the beginning, about remodeling being inherently “not green”? We’re not just talking about building materials; we’re also talking about the actual process of remodeling.
Spend a day watching new home construction, addition-building, or a major remodeling project, and you will see waste galore. Gas-powered generators run all day long (even when they aren’t being used); trucks are continually driving back and forth from the job site to supply houses for more materials; heating and cooling are turned on in additions that have open windows and doors; and on and on. Whether it’s you doing the remodeling or someone else, try to:
- Buy all building materials in one trip. Lowe’s, The Home Depot, and most large home improvement stores, as well as many local hardware stores or lumber yards, will deliver large quantities of building materials for a surprisingly low cost. With a little planning, you can have that nice orange Home Depot truck deliver your building materials—instead of you making 50 trips yourself to do the same thing.
- Avoid energy waste. Turn off generators when they are not being used; close windows and doors when HVAC is on; avoid turning up heat to “dry” the tile mortar or wall paint (take an extra day to let it dry, if possible); etc.
5. Hire a Green Remodel Contractor (Why Not?)
The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) has established the Green Certified Professional (GCP) designation that, as they put it, will “promote the highest standards of green remodeling through credentialing of remodeling professionals.”
Remodeling contractors interested in certification must have 5 years in the remodeling industry and complete 16 hours of Green or Sustainable Remodeling/Building continuing education hours.
It’s a pricey certification (the test costs $550, minimum), but this is all for the good: if a contractor has taken the time and effort to do this, he is probably serious about providing homeowners with green remodeling practices.