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Sustainable Home Remodeling – Cork Floors and Zero VOC Paint

October 10, 2009 2 comments

Railing After Sustainable Remodeling ProjectIt is amazing what new flooring and paint can do to update your home.  And if you are concerned about the health of your family and that of the planet, it is nice to know that these days you can easily source eco-friendly paint and flooring materials.

In our first post for this Sustainable Home Remodeling Series, we pondered aloud whether a sustainable remodeling project could bring a 1970 split level home from decidedly dated to hip and comfortable.  Check out the before and after pictures below and let us know what you think.  If you like what you see, we’ve got more specifics on the cork and paint at the end of this post.  You may also find our post on DIY floating floor installation to be useful.

Living Room Before:
Living Room Before Sustainable Remodeling Project

Living Room After:
Living Room After Sustainable Remodeling Project

Family Room Before:
Family Room After Sustainable Remodeling Project

Family Room After:
Family Room After Sustainable Remodeling Project

Materials List

Living Room:

Family Room:

  • Westhollow “Baffin” floating cork floor – $2.49/s.f. on sale when we bought it from e-tailer iFloor
  • Benjamin Moore Natura Zero VOC paint, Grasshopper and Agave Walls and Fireplace Accent – $49/gallon
  • More of the leftover Benjamin Moore Eco Spec Low VOC paint, Super White Trim and Fireplace

Railing:

We don’t have a good before shot of the railing pictured at the top of the post, but we included it because it gives a good visual impression of the power of Benjamin Moore’s Affinity color deck.

The Affinity deck, available at Benjamin Moore retailers, is a work of genius in that any color you pick from the 144-color deck will work with any other color in the deck.  For color-challenged folks like me and Lara, it takes a lot of the stress out of paint color selection.  I refer to it as Grr-Animals for paint.  We used the Kasbah (plum) and Rattan (khaki) colors in Natura on the railing blocks for some color pops, and also threw in the orange color that was left over from a friend’s recent painting project.

Alright, that’s it on the updates to our 1970 home for now.  We’re working on finishing up the kitchen and bathrooms.  When we do, we’ll be posting about bamboo cabinets and vanities and the nicest concrete countertops you’ve ever seen being custom-made by the guys at Concrete Visions.

In the mean time, if you’ve got some painting to do, think about paint that will keep your family from breathing volatile organic compounds.  And if you’ve got flooring to replace, consider rapidly renewing, warm and naturally antimicrobial cork.

And if you are thinking of buying a home in the near future, this should give you hope that without a lot of investment, it’s possible to refresh an average, older home without much more than paint, and perhaps updated flooring like we have shown here. The Green Team Real Estate is especially experienced with helping clients find homes such as these that they can get into affordably and make their own. Get in touch with us if you need to find an agent for your Northern Colorado home purchase.  We are ready to help!

Carpet Recycling Reclamation Center

September 17, 2009 1 comment

Used Carpet UnloadingIt took much longer than the week I mentioned in my first post on this topic, but I finally got to the carpet recycling center to drop off the carpet we recently ripped out of our home.  On the way there, I was thinking myself a fool to make a 140 mile round trip in Rambo (our tired but trusty ’95 Dodge Ram) to recycle carpet…for a fee no less.  I uttered this thought aloud to Mary Johnson, President of Colorado Reclamation Systems, upon arrival at her Denver facility.

Mary’s answer caught me by surprise.  “Well, there are a lot of fools like you then.”  She added that they routinely see folks from Ft. Collins and even further away, which is why they are working on the details of opening additional collection facilities in Ft. Collins and elsewhere around the state.  I was pleasantly surprised.

As her friendly team unloaded our used carpet from Rambo for me, Mary proceeded to give me a tour to illustrate their process that currently prevents 30,000 to 50,000 lbs. of carpet per day from clogging local landfills.  They’ve already diverted over 2-million pounds of carpet in their first summer of operation!

Used Carpet Ready for Processing

First, the carpet and foam pad is queued up near the unloading area and sorted.  All of the foam pad will get recycled into new pad.  Decent carpet gets separated from the nasty stuff.  The former will eventually go into new carpet of recycled content.  The latter will get incinerated for power generation.

Loading the Used Carpet Baler
Once sorted, the carpet and pad are delivered to a Bobcat operator who loads it into a baling machine.

Baled Used Carpet Handling

Another handling machine operator then moves the bales over to stacks at the loading dock.

Baled Used Carpet Ready for Loading

And finally, a forklift operator loads the bales onto outbound trucks. 

So where does it all go?  The pad and decent carpet is shipped to the southeast part of the country where it will be manufactured into new product.  The grungy carpet currently goes to an plant in Tulsa, where it is converted to power by incineration. 

Mary added that CRS is working with a cement manufacturer in Florence, CO to get permitted for burning waste carpet as an alternative to coal in the cement making process.  In addition to cutting down on coal consumption, fuel consumption and carbon emissions would be reduced due to the shorter haul.

Once unloaded, I paid $25 for CRS to handle 252 lbs of carpet ($0.10/lb) and was on my way (they do not charge for recycling foam pad).  And as I drove back to Ft. Collins, I pondered the good and not so good aspects of this little journey. 

It is very good that there is enough demand for recycling carpet and sufficient reward for reclamation businesses to do so that companies like CRS are able to expand and make the process more efficient.  It is also good that the economics at the household level, once carpet recycling sites are more broadly available, are not much different than those for dumping at the landfill (It cost me $25 to dispose in this responsible manner vs. what would have been a $16 tipping fee at our local landfill which is also subsidized by our property taxes).  The participation of carpet manufacturers in Carpet America Recovery Effort, whose website you can use to locate a carpet recycling center in your area, is also a good thing.

As for all of the fuel consumption, carbon emissions and soot and particulate output related to recycling, remanufacture and incineration…well, not so good. 

Which leads me to a couple of final thoughts.  First, if you have used carpet to get rid of, by all means recycle it. 

Second, when you replace that used carpet, do so with a harder, healthier alternative.  Consider cork flooring, which is beautiful, warm and comfortable underfoot, naturally hypoallergenic, easy to clean, and a pretty easy DIY project to install.  Or go with wood flooring from Forest Stewarship Council (FSC) or reclaimed sources (beetle kill pine in our region, for example).  Any of these products will outlast several carpet and pad replacements, making them gentler on the environment outside your home as they improve the environment inside of it.

Home Energy Audit – What’s It All About?

August 27, 2009 1 comment

Welcome to another installment of our Sustainable Home Remodeling Series where we are documenting our efforts to “green update” our dated 1970 split-level home .  In this post, we’ll show you key elements of a home energy audit and talk about the general value of having one performed for your home.

We worked with Energy Logic who sent out one of their Professional Energy Raters, Byron Burns, to evaluate our home’s energy performance. 

Byron started his audit by conducting a general inspection of the home’s exterior, interior and mechanicals to look for obvious energy efficiency issues and opportunities to improve home performance.

 [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FIrvSSpKB_E]

Next, Byron performed a blower door test to determine where the house leaks hot air in the winter and cool air in the summer.

 [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1h_bqQLRN2w]

Then he tested the performance of our furnace and duct work.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HELjgGTbhhY]

The cost of a home energy audit can vary quite a bit depending upon the specific scope of services and size of your home.  We paid $325 for Energy Logic’s audit of our home and believe this to be money very well spent.  We now have a detailed report that provides clear, prioritized guidance for our efforts to make our home more energy efficient, which we know will decrease our operational costs and increase our comfort while we own the home.  We are also confident that having solid documentation of improvements to our home’s energy efficiency will increase its resale value when we put it on the market in a few years.

Watch for future posts on this topic.  We’ll be digging deeper into the Energy Logic report and discussing the HERS® score for our home in its current state, tracking our implementation of energy efficiency improvement projects, and conducting follow-up testing to determine our post-improvements HERS® score.

Landfill Diversion via Carpet Recycling

August 26, 2009 4 comments

HPIM1064Chances are good that at some point in time you have refreshed the flooring in your home.  In doing so, you probably generated loads of carpet and pad to be hauled off.  Whether you removed the carpet yourself, or had a contractor do it for you, it most likely went to your local landfill in which case you paid for its disposal, directly or indirectly.

This past weekend, Lara and I ripped carpeting and pad out of our house in preparation for the new floating cork floor we will be laying soon.  I don’t care how often you vacuum and shampoo your carpeting, when you get up close and personal with it to remove it after a few years in place, it is just plain disgusting.  In our case, we bought this house six years ago and until we moved in two months ago, rented it to folks with pets.  Needless to say, the carpet and pad we were handling went well beyond disgusting and into the nasty realm.

Earlier today, I walked out my front door to the view that you see in the picture above.  Our local construction materials salvage yard, ReSource, has helped us out immensely with landfill diversion during our remodeling project by accepting things like cabinets, light fixtures and old appliances.  However, I had asked around and searched a fair bit for carpet recycling options when we started our project, without success.  Still, the thought of driving carpet to the landfill and dumping it again was really bothering me. 

So I turned to google again, entered “recycling carpet” (without Ft. Collins in the search line this time), and hit upon a website I had not seen before by CARE (Carpet America Recovery Effort) .  CARE is a joint effort by the carpet industry and the government to encourage carpet and pad recycling and minimize the quantity of waste carpet going into our landfills.  You gotta believe that sustainable living and sustainable business practices are really starting to catch on when an older industry like carpet manufacturing gets proactive about it’s full product lifecycle.  Kudos to the carpet manufacturers!

Once on the CARE site, I clicked on the icon to find a carpet reclamation partner in my area and wound up chatting with Kristi at Colorado Reclamation Systems.  They’ve been operating for about three months now and have been swamped with folks who would rather recycle carpet than landfill it. 

To make a potentially long story short for now, I’ll be driving to CRS’s  facility some time next week to recycle our nasty old carpet.  They are in Denver so it is a bit of a haul.  But as their website points out, carpet makes up between 3% and 5% of the waste stream in our landfills, so it’s a drive well worth it.  I’ll post again after I visit CRS with more information about their operations, fees and potential plans to expand collection to other parts of Colorado.

Sustainable Home Remodeling Series – Intro

July 24, 2009 1 comment

3000 Phoenix Exterior 2003Is it possible to make a 1970 split level house cool by today’s standards?  Lara and I are foolish enough to try, with a green twist.  After all, doing so puts the walk in two things that we’re doing a lot of talking about – 1) that eco-friendly remodeling of an existing home is a relatively low-impact way to create a green dream home, and 2) that greenlording with a green exit strategy can be a smart approach to real estate investment.

We’ve just moved into the 4 bedroom, 2 bath 1900 square foot home pictured above.  We bought it in 2003 from the original owners as an investment property.  It is quite dated, and a bit tenant-worn after six years as a rental, but it has as they say “great bones”.  And the yard has mature peach, cherry and plum trees, as well as grape vines.  To put all of this fruit to good use, we’ll be calling on our friends Jana and Steve and their wine-making talents for payback for the cork floor labor they got out of me earlier this year :). 

There’s not much about this place that doesn’t need updating – nope, it’s all as dated as this kitchen.  So we’ll have lots of eco-friendly home projects to blog about in this series.  3000 Phoenix Kitchen 2003

Here is a sampling of the projects we have on deck…

  • new bamboo cabinets in the kitchen and vanities in the bathrooms.
  • replacing worn carpet with rapidly renewable flooring throughout.
  • sourcing and installing the most eco-friendly concrete countertops we’ve heard of to date.
  • re-painting the entire inside of the house with low or no VOC paint.
  • energy efficiency improvements guided by a professional energy audit.
  • a sprinkler system audit and corresponding xeriscaping to reduce lawn watering requirements.
  • installing water-conserving fixtures throughout.

We hope you’ll grab our feed, follow along and maybe even learn a bit from our experiences, if not our mistakes!

Oh, one last thought about the timing of things.  We’ll be completing and blogging about these green remodeling projects as quickly as our day jobs permit, but we may take a slower road toward our green exit of this home than originally anticipated.  We’re confident it is going to be a pretty cool and comfortable greened-up home to live in.