The Remodeling Corner

Janet Cook

April 22 is Earth Day, a time to consider ways to be a better steward of our planet’s resources. Choosing to do home remodeling instead of new construction is a great way to be “green.” Green Remodeling has the goals to make the home more energy efficient, with healthier indoor air. Green Remodeling projects on average can reduce a home’s consumption of energy by 25% to 40% or more! Imagine how it would feel knowing your home didn’t waste energy or water, was economical to live in, required less maintenance, and would be more valuable when it is time to sell.

The first step may be an energy audit to analyze the integrity of the building envelope. Temperature-sensitive equipment can detect missing insulation behind walls, leaking outlets, and poorly-functioning windows or doors. Choosing dual-pane, low-E coated windows greatly improves insulation over single-pane windows, and future buyers will value this. Besides a well-insulated home making a big difference, Energy Star rated efficient appliances (AC, refrigerator, stove, dryer) and lighting (including ample natural light) and passive solar heating also make a sizable improvement in utility bills.

A great concern for our health is the quality of the indoor air. We may not smell it, but the chemicals in paint, finishes, wood, fabrics (upholstery, carpets), plastics, and adhesives are continually off-gassing what are called VOCs, volatile organic compounds. VOCs indoors are measured to be up to 10 times higher as compared to outdoors. Indoor pollution can cause headaches, fatigue, eye and nose irritation, sore throat, skin eruptions, weight gain, joint pain, and asthma. To breathe better quality air, specify no VOC paint, formaldehyde-free cabinets, Green-Guard certified insulation and drywall, natural flooring, and the use of low VOC adhesives or caulk in your home. The Environmental Working Group has put together a home guide on what to specify for healthier home remodeling products.

Another resource to conserve is water. Having a slow leak adds up over time. Put a small amount of food coloring in the tank of a toilet. It should not transfer into the bowl until there is a flush. Choose WaterSense Certified toilets, showerhead, and faucets, checking reviews or professional recommendations. The concept of a dual-flush toilet may be nice, but if you have to flush several times to get all the contents out of the bowl, it defeats the purpose.

Other ways to lessen the impact on the environment is deconstructing and donating usable materials to Habitat for Humanity Restore or recycling materials. If you have cabinets in good condition, you can freshen and update the style with new doors and have the boxes refaced to match. Choosing green products may cost more, e.g., choosing a wool rug over a synthetic one, but they will be a healthier, longer-lasting, durable choice.

Happy Green home remodeling!

Janet Cook, Certified Aging in Place Specialist, President of Cook Remodeling (celebrating their 42nd year), invites you to check out their website,, for more ideas and photos.