Posts Tagged ‘green renovation’

Greener Yet Stylish Ways to Renovate Your Kitchen

June 23rd, 2014

This is a guest post by Robert Kramer.

The modern kitchen is a very high-tech, power-hungry part of the household, but that doesn’t mean that it has to hurt the environment. As our homes improve and the world around us suffers, people are turning to greener solutions for modern living – from solar powered showers to composting – and things are no different in the kitchen. If you’re looking to renovate your kitchen then you don’t have to substitute style or function just to create a greener environment; this article will show you how to improve your kitchen and help the environment at the same time.

Counter Tops

Don’t worry, green countertops have nothing to do with color, but rather they indicate a product that has been created using sustainable materials and has been bound using non-toxic glues. A common misconception is that the standard of these are often on the poor side, that not only do they look cheap but they feel it as well. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Many of these products are painstakingly designed and made, ensuring that only the finest, sustainable materials have been used, and more often than not they are more durable than many of the standard countertops you can buy from your local DIY store.

A great example of this are the products produced by Green Building Supply, a company that specializes in creating highly durable and naturally beautiful countertops made from recycled glass, paper, wood and other materials.

A reclaimed and beautifully designed shelf made and sold by Squak Mountain Stone

A reclaimed and beautifully designed shelf made and sold by Squak Mountain Stone

Kitchen Sinks

Although selecting kitchen sinks of the right style is important, there are a number of options which offer sustainable use of materials.

Antique and rustic sinks are very much the “in” thing, so when selecting the design you can pick from a huge variety of refurbished sinks that suit this style. These are generally made from recycled materials, with everything from glass, ceramics and metals being used to craft the perfect environmentally friendly sink for your kitchen. Concrete sinks – from ceramic cement, which creates less carbon emissions than its age-old counterpart – are also becoming increasing popular and are easy to source, available to buy from companies such Just Manufacturing.

These aren’t just specialist manufacturers either, even the big manufacturers are following suit, and wherever you are in the world your local DIY will stock an assortment of eco-friendly cabinets, flooring, appliances, sinks and countertops. It is taking some of them longer to catch up than others, but the industry is moving at a very quick pace and many shops can provide the products that you need.

Cabinets

Green kitchen cabinets, just like countertops, are ones that have been created using sustainable and non environmentally toxic materials. Cabinets made with chipboard are commonly found in modern kitchens, but these are cheaply made and will need to be replaced or fixed (due to warping) on a regular basis. Chipboard is made using an industrial strength solvent that contains formaldehyde. This breaks down over time and is gradually released into the atmosphere, making these products as toxic as they are ineffective.

Low VOC Plywood (which stands for Volatile Organic Compound) provides a cleaner and stronger solution. As the name suggests, these materials release very small amounts of gas compared to chipboard and other woods, and they are also very durable.

Kitchen cabinets can be bought secondhand and refurbished, or they can be crafted by experts who specialize in turning old and recycled materials into new and exciting products.

Flooring

The flooring is one of the most important parts of a kitchen renovation and yet the one that many people overlook. You’re going to spend a lot of time traipsing across it and cleaning it, so you want something that looks good but is also highly durable. Linoleum is made from renewable sources and can provide a good addition to a green kitchen, but it can also be difficult to clean and require a lot of maintenance. It is prone to stains from spillages which can also warp the material, so any spilled liquids need to be mopped up quickly to prevent the linoleum from swelling.

Cork is another good choice, but it needs to be regularly treated to make sure that it stays in tip-top condition throughout the life of your kitchen. If it is not treated every few years then moisture and general wear and tear can destroy it.

floor

Treated and varnished cork floor.

Kitchen Appliances

Once the basics are done then you need to work on filling your kitchen with all of the essentials. All kitchen appliances will use a certain amount of energy, but these days you can choose from a huge number of energy efficient options.

You should always look out for the energy star rating when buying an appliance, this will tell you how much energy it consumes. The better the rating, the less energy it will use. A good rule of thumb to follow when buying new appliances for a green kitchen is that the newer they are, the more energy efficient they are likely to be. Older appliances use a lot of energy and create a hefty carbon footprint, but manufacturers are constantly devising new technologies and new ways to reduce the energy output.

appliances

A guide to the power in your home, courtesy of: http://sustain.indiana.edu/

The options are there for a completely green approach to your kitchen renovation.

Its not just specialist manufacturers supporting the movement, even the big manufacturers are following suit. Although a movement like this takes time to filter through, wherever you are in the world your local DIY will likely stock an assortment of eco-friendly cabinets, flooring, appliances, sinks and countertops.

To a greener, susustainable home!

Post written by Robert Jacob an interior renovation enthusiast who loves to blog about tips and ideas.

A “Green” Kitchen Renovation

September 9th, 2013

 

Kitchen "before"

Kitchen “before”

The current version of our kitchen in our new-to-us 1928 house has a Band-Aid solution going on — you can tell that they were going to get to the kitchen eventually, but they ran out of time, money or patience (renovations will do that to you).  They put nice handles and hinges on the original cupboards and bought top of the line appliances. Somewhere along the way, someone ripped up the original linoleum flooring to expose and stain the beautiful original pine sub-floor. But they left the pantry in, which takes up about a third of the kitchen. There is also a significant functional problem, if you’re a cook like I am, which is that the kitchen has zero counter space, so prep work is a challenge at best. I often use the stove as a counter — not a particularly safe idea!

Pantry and doorway to diningroom.

Pantry and doorway to diningroom.

 

Pantry - notice small window

Pantry – notice small window

In the grand scheme of things, I suppose that not renovating  is likely the greenest thing I can do. It would create no waste and use no new materials. It would also mean that I’d have to put up with a sub-standard set-up. Besides, renovating the kitchen means I will be employing local trades to make cabinets, refinish the floor, do the electrical and plumbing work, etc. We are putting money into the local economy and improving the value of our home (I can hear my husband’s eyes rolling).

Patio doors and wonderful radiator that is being saved.

Patio doors and wonderful radiator that is being saved.

Here are the areas I’m addressing:

 

That's it for counter space, plus the microwave sat beside the fridge.

That’s it for counter space, plus the microwave sat beside the fridge.

1. Footprint and design: As I’ve mentioned in numerous posts, design is the most important part of any successful renovation. A thoughtful design will produce a functional space that will last well into the future. I spent a lot of time with my kitchen designer, making sure the design was what we needed. Surprisingly, the final design kept the layout similar to what it currently is, except that we added significant counter space by putting in an island, and more natural light by taking down the pantry and exposing a window. However, the sink, stove and fridge will all remain within a few feet of their current locations, which also keeps construction costs down too.

2. Waste generation (both during the renovation and once the kitchen is completed): My goal is to avoid landfill wherever possible. That involves recycling what can’t be reused, and finding homes for what can be reused.

3. Material Selection other than cabinets: I am looking to use materials that are as locally made as possible, from companies that have sustainability practices in place. My goal is to support local companies to support the local economy and keep transportation miles low. But I will also be choosing materials that have a significant amount of recycled material in them and/or can be recycled at end of life. All paints, sealants and adhesives will be low or zero VOC, and water and/or plant-based where possible.

4. Cabinet selection: admittedly, this is not easy. There are so many pros and cons to choosing the right type of kitchen cabinets it’s not even funny. Do you go with No Urea Formaldehyde Added Medium Density Fibreboard (NAUF MDF), local FSC (Forestry Stewardship Council Certified) solid wood, local FSC Plywood or engineered wood, wood alternatives such as wheat board, soy board or sugarcane board? What about metal? Or some combination thereof. You see what I mean? There are no real measuring sticks to choose something that is “better” than the next.

5. Lighting: The kitchen is probably the one area I can justify the expense of LED lighting. In the winter the lights are on all the time, especially when it also doubles as my office. All undermount lighting will be LED strips, and I will replace the overhead 50W halogen potlights with equivalent LED lights. To give you an example of the difference, I installed 8 LED potlights in the living room (formerly no overhead lighting at all). Each light uses 4 Watts of electricity — so 32 Watts altogether. If I had used halogen, it would have been 400 Watts, and the bulbs would have needed constant enough replacement.

6. Indoor Air Quality: this is an area to consider both during construction and after completion. We will get an overhead vent as I haven’t been impressed with the in-stove vent that came with the stove. For one thing, it sucks the gas flame towards it at the back of the stove, so I’m sure we’re even less efficient than a gas stove is already (only 40% of the energy produced by a gas stove ends up cooking the food). For another, it doesn’t even seem to capture the front burners.  I should change out the gas stove as well, but I can’t get rid of such a good quality (Thermador) appliance. I will have to wait for it to wear out.  I’ve also requested low and zero VOC adhesives and paints.

So, there you go, my adventure for the next….month (?). That’s wishful thinking, isn’t it?

 

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