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Where/how/what does one start to renovate an older house using 'green' methods?


One starts by deciding what renovations need to be done. Which rooms need the most work? Which problems can be temporarily repaired until the reno is done, and which need to be fully repaired right away?

Planning is the "start" point of the project.

"Green methods" when it comes to construction/renovation simply means using environmentally-friendly materials. A trip to most hardware stores will provide you with enviro-friendly products to replace a lot of your common materials, but not for everything. Here's some things that they may not carry (but you can ask for):

-Reclaimed lumber: This is actually more or less an "expert-level" material, as it comes from many sources and the type of reclaimed lumber that is available may not actually be suitable for your project (some reclaimed materials are weakened by age or exposure to water). Ask a lot of questions and get the opinion of someone who has used the product before. Find the product in the yellow pages under "building supplies" or "construction materials" or ask about it at the hardware store. The same also applies for recycled/reclaimed bricks.

-Recycled paint: This is actually becoming more readily available. "Recycled" probably isn't the right term because it's actually left-over paint from the manufacturer (and sometimes from consumers). They take leftover paint, tint it in a variety of colors, and sell it again. http://www.boomerangpaint.com/ Here's the best known brand. It's got the added benefit of being usually pretty cheap! Ask anyplace that sells paints, and they may be able to order some.

-Environmentally-friendly decking: Rather than explain this, here's an article which explains a few products in this family. http://greenliving.lovetoknow.com/Environmentally_Friendly_Decking Keep in mind that there are other brand names as well. Again, you can get these solutions by ordering them at the hardware store.

-Bamboo products: These are gaining ground. Mostly in stores you'll see wall-covering or flooring options. But there are other bamboo products such as bamboo "lumber." There's even a bamboo plywood-substitute. Keep in mind that these products may be expensive and they may take time to arrive when ordered. Also check your local building and fire codes when using bamboo products in the structure. You can ask about these at the hardware store.

That's just the beginning, there are lots of other options. Here's my final thoughts:

1. Your home's energy efficiency starts with good insulation and proper ventilation. Seal up any drafts, replace or repair old doors, upgrade your windows, etc. Install a roof-ridge vent such as Omniroll (ask at hardware store) if you are doing any shingling. Have an energy consultant come in and do an evaluation. In MANY areas, your power or gas company may provide this service for free! To give you an idea of the potential savings; We saved roughly $200 over the course of a single year. How? The only thing we did was replace the door sweep and weather stripping on the door leading to our cold garage.

2. Contact a green contractor and ask questions. Some will be happy to consult over a cup of coffee, others will charge an hourly rate to share their knowledge. In the same way, you can also visit a salesperson at your hardware store and ask what products they can bring in for you. If you go at a slow time of day or make an appointment, they'll probably invite you into their office and give you an hour or two and lots of pamphlets/catalogues to look over.

3. Some things are pretty "green" already: Cork flooring (warm and sustainable) is a good example of this. Some bricks and landscaping pavers or blocks use a lot of recycled or reclaimed ingredients. Many exterior siding products also use a good percentage of recycled ingredients.

Good luck!