“Green” Renovations

My family are doing some renovations to our house right now. Since the best advice is to “write what you know”, this column is about our kitchen renovation.

The main point of the renovation we are doing is to add insulation to our 1930 house – moving the house from R10 to R24. We tear apart the walls from the inside to insulate – as opposed to what many people do, which is insulating from the outside. This is a project that has happened in stages, starting about 8 years ago. We do the bulk of the work ourselves.

We’ve progressed around the house room by room, and have nearly completed the house. Since we save the hardest for last, we are now working on the kitchen.

The “not so green” part is that there wasn’t really anything wrong with the kitchen (except uninsulated walls). The cupboards, countertops and flooring are about 30 years old. All were showing wear and not fashionable, but still functional.

I suppose the greenest thing we could have done was to take out the cupboards, insulate the walls, then put the cupboards back. However, we figured that we’d update while we had things ripped apart, and we hope to add a bit of functionality to the layout. Habitat for Humanity now has the old cupboards to sell at their ReStore. The flooring will go to landfill.

To do 2/3 of our main floor, we’ve had 3, 6-yard bins of demolition material hauled to landfill. Most of it is lathe (thin, splintery, wooden strips), plaster, and lumber. The wood is full of nails so it can’t go to the City’s compost depots. We might have been able to separate out the wood and take it to Loraas for recycling, but we didn’t figure out the logistics of that.

One concern with cupboards and flooring (and furniture) is Volatile Organic Compounds. VOCs are basically things that create odor – both good and bad. In flooring and cupboards, VOCs are chemicals in glues and paints that evaporate over time. Some VOCs are not healthy to breath over the long term. We asked the suppliers about VOCs in the cupboards and flooring, and were told that they were low in the materials we ordered. For a future renovation, maybe we would ask for more detail than that, and do some independent research.

We will be installing new lighting, which will of course be LED, ENERGY STAR® certified lighting. We felt we needed a bit more lighting in two areas of the kitchen. When we went to look for fixtures, the supplier tried to talk us into putting in much more lighting. We thought about it, but couldn’t see a reason for over-lighting the space. Instead, we are adding lighting just in the areas where we felt there was a need.

We don’t plan to replace any of the appliances until they need replacing. That is an environmentally friendly action that is motivated more by finances than ethics. It means that our appliances won’t match the décor in the kitchen for a few years. When we do replace them, we will choose ENERGY STAR rated appliances. We’ll choose a smallish fridge which suits the needs of the 3 people who live in our house. And we’ll choose a self-cleaning oven, since they are better insulated so operate more efficiently than others. We may also choose an induction cooktop because they are more efficient than other electric cooktops.

I’m quite excited about the countertop we plan to buy. It is Eco by Cosentino, and made of recycled glass, porcelain, etc set in a corn based resin. It comes in various colors and patterns that look like stone. When cooking, I’ll likely spend time staring at the countertop trying to guess what each piece was in a previous life.

Angie Bugg manages energy conservation projects for the Saskatchewan Environmental Society, and is an active member of McClure United Church. You can contact her at angieb@environmentalsociety.ca “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it.” (Psalm 24:1)

Angie Bugg manages energy conservation projects for the Saskatchewan Environmental Society, and is an active member of McClure United Church. You can contact her at angieb@environmentalsociety.ca
“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it.” (Psalm 24:1)

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