Saturday, November 28, 2009

Saving THOUSANDS on our "green" remodel!

When we bought this really cool 4-acre property, it happened to have a house on it.  When we fell in love, it was an affair with the land and not the house sitting upon it.  Built in the 1970's, she shimmered with avocado and brown with the southward front of the house faded at least 3 shades lighter than the back.  Come inside and small, divided rooms with only 7'10" ceilings hugged you tightly in it's maze.  The kitchen, useable, but the busy Harvest Gold linoleum flooring was layered with cream faux brick linoleum and layered again with white faux wood Pergo... then there was the wood paneling, blue countertops, brown cabinets, oh my!  It was livable though, that was the main thing.
Well, until we started to cut into some of the walls to open up some of the rooms... mold.  We knew there was some in the attic, above one of the bathrooms (a common occurance when venting wasn't installed properly, and treatable), but then, the little black orbs of toxic fuzz slowly but quickly surrounded us the more walls we took out.  SIGH.   We thought she was just a cosmetic remodel, but she was so much more.
We made the decision to just try to do as much now as possible so we would only have to live in a construction zone for a little while and then be done with it.  Plus, we needed to open up more walls and tear out other materials to be sure there was not any more mold.  We decided that this was an opportunity to try to choose as many green or sustainable goods we could afford, and decided to do all of the work that the law/code allows us to do ourselves!  Here are some of the materials we chose:

American Clay - for many of the main floor walls and ceilings: I haven't started in on this yet, but have bought most of the materials!  Since it is an Earth Plaster, made from mud and natural ingredients, it emits Negative Ions.  This is not bad, it's GOOD!  Nature around us emits negative ions and it helps improve our mood and well being.  Things like electronics and solid surfaces emit positive ions, that naturally don't get along with us!  It also helps breathe, and in a way, filter the air!  SO, it has physical-health, mental-health and aesthetic appeal all in one!  It is also made in the USA.  Pictured is the American Clay on a wall (not our wall, but I love those beams!)

Low and No VOC paint - for the other areas in the house = no icky fumes to make us ill!  Using this in the kids rooms and basement.

Soy-based expandable foam - to fill air gaps and cracks - we got a big multi-pack from Costco, but when we needed more, they no longer had them and we had to go to Home Depot to get more.  This stuff is awesome for making your home more air-tight and energy efficient, and it naturally resists mold!

Concrobium Mold Control - We chose this to spray on the mold areas because it has no VOCs, no bleach, no ammonia, and is eco-friendly.  I was able to do this job!

FSC Certified Myrtlewood Flooring - We are lucky enough to live in one of only two areas in the world where the Myrtlewwod thrives - on the Oregon coast/Northern Californian coast, and in the Holy Land, on the other side of the Earth!  It sounds like a rare wood that needs to be protected, but in those areas, the tree grows like a weed and is considered one of the most sustainable woods (not as fast as Bamboo though!) and is FSC certified.  Also, since it was locally harvested and milled, we are supporting our local economy.  I was able to score an AWESOME deal from Slice Recovery for $3.55/sq ft, which is compareable in price to Oak, but it is harder, and a lot more beautiful - each board is different and has a broad color range!  Usually, Myrtlewood is usually $6 - $12 per sq. ft., so buying directly from the mill saved us over $1,000 right there (no middle man, no transportation and no markup!).  My husband laid the floor himself (the flooring was milled to have a tongue and groove) and then finished it himself, saving us literally thousands of dollars more on that project alone!  It is GORGEOUS!

Energy Efficient Windows - We were going to leave the windows, but we realized that when you stand next to one, you could just feel the cold air coming in.  Plus, some of the windows had lost their seal, so had condensation between the layers.  So, we decided to just go ahead and replace them all!  We should be able to claim the tax credit for that, so the cost doesn't sting so bad.  This is another job my husband did himself, saving us hundreds!  We recycled the old sliding door and a couple of the old windows for use in our chicken coop, and the others he gave away on Craigslist, so they didn't get thrown out.

Energy Efficient Appliances and NO microwave! - My family is in the appliance business, so luckily, we got these for very cheap and my husband is knowledgeable to install them all.  We also decided to get rid of the microwave so we can stop exposing ourselves to the harmful affects of the radiation, that we have been told is "safe", but I'm not so sure!  We have selected some of the most energy-efficient, Energy-Star rated models of refrigerator, garage freezer, dishwasher and washer.  The old appliances were still functional, so we gave them away (I would rather they go to a new home than to add to the dump - some parts can be recycled like the metal, but other parts would end up in the landfill).

RTA Cabinets - These were not really a "green" purchase, BUT they saved us lots of GREEN!  "RTA" stands for Ready To Assemble - sort of like at Ikea, where they arrive in boxes and you have to put the doors and sides together and assemble the drawers and hinges, etc.  My sister in law came over and helped me to assemble them and they only took about a day to complete a full kitchen's worth of cabinets!  It was literally 1/8th the cost it would have cost for similar quality custom cabinets, and was even cheaper than those in-stock, plain-looking ones at Home Depot!  I bought mine from The Cabinet Barn online.  I would have rather supported a local company, but no one could touch the price, and they agreed to FREE delivery!  We are on a strict budget, and I am so happy with what we got for the money - they really look custom!  Pictured are the ones we got, but that's not our kitchen!

Dual-Flush toilet and low-flow Bath faucets - Look for the Water Sense logo on the box.  Although we have our own well and are able to tap into our own water source, we still felt it was a good idea to buy these plumbing goods. It will also cut down just a smidge on energy use because the pump uses electricity to run.  We also have a septic, so it also cuts down on the water that just goes down unnecessarily.  Water is good in a way, to help dissolve the other waste, but not in large quantities, and I still don't like the idea of it wasting down the drain.  These were also items hubby installed himself.

Recycled Chicken Coop - Many of the materials we used for our chicken coop were recycled from tearing out old items from the house!  We used two of the old windows and the old sliding glass door (our chickens have a nice view and lots of light!) as well as some 2x4's and 2 plywood sheets and some hardware.  We did still have to buy a lot of materials, but at least we were able to salvage some!  Much of the materials we took out of the house were too moldy and rotting to reuse like that.  There was also some random metal fencing material that was left in the shed that we were able to use for part of the outside part of the coop - score!  We got some more at Coastal Farm & Ranch when they had their Labor Day Sale.  We tried looking on craigslist, but there wasn't any when we needed it.

Craigslist - we were able to give away and sell most of the things we took out of the house, keeping them in circulation instead of sending them to the dump.  We did have to take a couple loads to the dump, but most was organic-type material or recycleable like wood and metal.  What do you do with old drywall?  We had to take that to the dump because I didn't know what to do with it?!!  We were also able to find some things on craigslist, like a very nice, solid oak entertainment system that also had a bench with cushion that I am using as my food storage/pantry setup in the garage.  It was a very nice, solid piece of custom furniture (and really really heavy to move!!!), so I was excited about that find!  I don't care for the honey color, but I painted the bench black and rubbed the edges to look antique (the bench I brought into the kitchen to make a bankette seat for the breakfast table (I've always wanted one of those!)

We also did our own tile in the bathroom, which saved over a thousand dollars in labor - did you know that it only costs about a hundred or two to buy the materials?  A pro would charge you about $1800 - $2200 to do that same tile job!  That's crazy!  Watch some tutorials on You Tube, the DIY network online and on cable TV, and go to other online resources to get familiar with how it's done.  Do a practice round on a piece of plywood first, so you are comfortable with how it's done before you start in on the real job!  We didn't choose a "green" tile for cost reasons - we bought the porcelain-ceramic that looks like limestone.

Have you attempted a remodel, small or large?  What kind of wisdom or tips can you bestow, or what kind of products did you use that you liked?!

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