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Remodeling Green – 5 Tips You Wish You Heard Before you Started

Some say that remodeling green is an incredibly joyful adventure.  Some feel that planning, choosing, and fighting with one’s spouse over the colors and materials is more painful than waxing ears.  Whatever your position is, these tips will make your experience more enjoyable.  Most of this advice comes from experience or friends in the community.

When remodeling green, avoid making these mistakes:

1.  Getting excited about eco-chic materials first and busting your budget.  It’s hard to resist starting with items like recycled glass countertops  or FSC  certified cabinets but do focus on upgrading you home’s energy efficiency first.  Start with things like water tightening you walls, insulation, windows, furnace and solar water heater.  If you have money left, go for the updates that make your nest more fun and cozy.

2.  Going overboard on upgrades for the neighborhood.  Significantly over-improving only feels good until you’re trying to sell your home.  If you only knew how often an overpriced home simply sits on the market because the homeowners are trying to recoup their fortune that they spent on remodeling…  Depending on the price range, few buyers will likely pay extra $30,000 – $50,000 above neighborhood market price, even if your home is a model of energy efficiency.

3.  Failing to take a holistic approach.  Often, when you change your home’s one component, it affects all others.  For example, if you improve your insulation and incorporate passive solar to heat your house, you can downsize your furnace and air conditioner sizes.  (Applicable if you’re replacing them anyways.)  Also, making your home air tight means you may have an issue with indoor air quality.  Make sure it’s addressed with an additional mechanical ventilation system.

4.  Neglecting gutters and downspouts.  If you hang out with property inspectors enough as I do, you’ll notice one of the first things they check for is whether the gutters and downsputs are in good condition and whether water is routed away from the house’s foundation.  Water seeping into your crawlspace invites moisture and mold.  Neither of them are good friends to live with.  Mold can ruin your new updates and rot your mood instantly.

5.  Disregarding the source of your materials.  If you are concerned about your carbon footprint or pollution, consider the distance your materials had to travel and the energy they took to produce.  For example, bamboo floors produced in China will have a different carbon footprint then the ones manufactured in South America.  Recycled glass granite tops produced in Berkley will have a different footprint than the ones transported all the way from New York.  There is a store in the area that specializes in sustainable and toxin free products.  It’s The Green Pika  in Santa Clara.  If you visit, ask Joanne about the source of the products she has on display.  She’s wonderfully knowledgeable about all this.

If you have the cash, there has not been a better time to remodel.  There is an abundance of green products on the market today that can make our homes more comfortable and safer.  Experience shows choosing green is fun but it’s important to do one’s homework.

P.S.  If you have had some expience with green remodeling, sustainable materials and have some advice, please share it in the comments.

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Gina March 2, 2010, 2:23 pm

    Thanks for the invitation. Yes indeed I’ve been greening my little home for the past two years, and you’re so right about everything, especially about staying within your budget.

    Here are a few more points to consider: 1) Rooms with low ceilings are a lot cheaper to heat; 2) If windows are still good, adding interior storms may be all you need (in addition to tons of caulk!); 3) Take full advantage of the solar possibilities of your home; 4) Reuse everything you can.

    If you’d care to have a look, I’ve been documenting my project at http://www.my-green-home-project.com The house is more advanced than the site shows. I moved in last September and I’m spending my first winter in it — it’s every bit as energy efficient as I hoped.

  • Michele with Boa Constructor March 20, 2010, 7:31 pm

    What a relief to see the interest in eco-logical homes increasing.
    We, Boa Constructor Building and Design, are a design and build company specializing in “green” building remodeling and new construction. We have a couple of events coming up in Santa Cruz.

    First is a talk from 12-1 at the Coconut Groves’ Home Expo Event Saturday March 28th. Educator Kristin Sullivan and i will be doing a talk on sustainability in buildings. She is a great and lively person, we designed and built her solar straw bale home in Capitola in 2000. It’s pictured on the cover of Ann V. Edminsters new book ” Energy Free Homes for a Small Planet”. More details of the home are on our website.

    Next is an Earth day event Saturday April 17th at San Lorenzo Park, by the river in Santa Cruz. It’s a fun yearly event by Ecology Action with great activities, education and food for the whole family. Boa Constructor and Janine from clay, bones and stones will be doing a demonstration of earthen plaster on a straw bale bamboo sculpture, everyone is invited to hands on experience creating a colorful earthen plastered bale sculpture. It’s a lot of fun. Janine’s work was just featured several times in Natural Home Magazines last issue.

    I am happy to be networking with folks such as you and look forward to projects that help conserve out resources and make our environments more comfortable and beautiful.

    Please let me know if you’s like to tour the Sullivans’ Capitola home; they offer monthly tours.

    Thanks,
    Michele
    831 334 1147
    Boa Constructor Building and Design

  • Jay Banks July 14, 2010, 10:57 am

    I can agree with the statement, that many homebuyers rather prefer houses they are a model of energy efficiency than any others (the final decision is mostly made by price, anyway). Nevertheless they count with lower energy bills in the future and also they are very concern about eco-living in these days.

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