Four Steps to a Smart Green Remodel
Want to incorporate green components into your remodel? Here are 4 steps to get you started.
Making a remodeled house more energy efficient should be a top priority, and coming up with a plan begins with an energy audit. The beauty of this relatively inexpensive battery of scientific tests is that it will pinpoint and measure a house’s energy deficiencies. A detailed inspection will uncover air leaks, equipment inefficiencies, inadequate insulation and other structural shortcomings that together add up to a drafty, uncomfortable and ultimately wasteful house.
Energy audits range from unscientific walk-throughs taking a few hours to more detailed examinations aided by diagnostic equipment. Utilities may provide them for free.
An energy audit becomes a roadmap for smart repairs and helps organize improvements into sensible order. When renovations are to take place in stages, as the budget allows, an energy audit ensures the most pressing problems are taken care of first.
Step 2: Draw up a Plan
Remodels range from simple to complex, but none should begin without a plan that outlines the scope and timing of the project along with a budget. When nothing more than fresh paint and new weather-stripping is in the cards, a plan might amount to no more than a punch list jotted on the back of an envelope. But substantial changes need more substantial planning.
Among the many considerations is how different parts of a project relate to each other. Green building is a systems approach, meaning that mechanical and structural parts of the house are considered together. If, for example, a remodeling project includes changes to heating ducts or wiring, is there an impact on the air barrier? A plan anticipates these questions.
Planning is even more important when a remodeling project is to take place in stages: some this year, a little bit the next and completion well into the future. Money and convenience usually drive these decisions, and there’s nothing wrong with tackling big jobs incrementally. But the object should be an orderly progression from start to finish, and no backing up to fix work that had been done out of order or, in hindsight, incorrectly.
Step 3: Set priorities
Focusing on obvious problems is understandable, even when they are cosmetic. There are only so many times someone can look at 30-year-old vinyl flooring or a pink bathroom vanity without wanting to tear it out. Setting priorities is one way of making sure genuinely important issues are dealt with first, and lesser problems given the attention they really deserve.
First in line should be repairs to the basic structure of the house, especially those related to weather-tightness and structural stability. Roof leaks, cracked and bulging foundation walls, and rotten framing are the kinds of problems that should be corrected before anything else happens. Taking care of these repairs may not pack the same psychic thrill as, say, laying a new hardwood floor or buying new kitchen cabinets. Even so, structure comes first.
Next are improvements that make the house more energy efficient. Starting with simple improvements that don’t take much time or money can pay off immediately. Those would include tightening up with caulk, expanding foam sealant, and weather-stripping. Adding more insulation to an open attic is relatively inexpensive and can be done quickly. More extensive changes, such as a new boiler or a wholesale window replacement, cost more and take longer.
Step 4: Dig in
With an energy audit, a strategic plan and a set of priorities in place it’s time to start. Well, almost. Two things to consider before reaching for the wrecking bar are what to do with job site waste, and keeping the work area safe.
Construction generates waste, but much of it can be recycled. With some advanced planning, recycling receptacles or staging areas can be arranged for the glass, plastic, cardboard, drywall and wood debris that inevitably accompany a major house overhaul. Some materials will have to be discarded, but keeping that to a minimum will help lower disposal costs while making the project less disruptive to the environment.
Glickman has Green Certified individuals on staff who can help guide you on the right green remodeling plan for you.