27 Apr

Eco Friendly or Green Remodelling – Kitchen Cabinets, Construction

Posted by Norman F

green kitchen, eco-friendly kitchen

It is spring and many people including us are interested in remodeling. Our last project was in our kitchen, here are some lessons we learned.

Green Construction

recycled wood for remodeling the Green way

The trend is to consider green practices when constructing a new building or when remodeling your kitchen, bathroom or home.

In 2014, California will require major changes in building codes. These are the biggest changes since the rules were created in 1978. These rules apply to new construction and major building renovation. Among the new requirements are:

  • Buildings will have to be 25% to 30% more energy efficient
  • $2290 in additional costs may be needed achieve the new requirements
  • Office buildings will have to allow more natural light, reduce lighting, and lessen air conditioning use
  • Homes will need improved insulation and whole house fans
  • Roofs will have to be more reflective, utilizing coatings and material

These standards are important much of the nation watches California and incorporates its changes into their building codes.

California 2011 Green Building Requirements

As of January 1, 2011, California is requiring more green aspects to new commercial buildings. CALGreen mandates reducing water use, diverting construction waste from landfills, and rewards bike storage, non-toxic paint, and solar energy. The code is established to reduce construction waste, make buildings more efficient in the use of materials and energy, and reduce environmental impact during and after construction.

Here are some useful green construction resources:

  • Build It Green has some very good guidelines and checklists for Green Construction, remodeling and building new homes.  They are a non-profit dedicated to help all of us out even though they focus on California.  They have extensive lists of building material recommendations and sources.
    Also very useful is the Green Product Directory for construction supplies and suppliers. They also have a list of Certified Professionals that have completed training.
  • Advanced house framing techniques for new homes, require half the wood of the past.
  • Build it Green NYC has information on low cost salvage and surplus building materials.

Using salvaged or reclaimed items helps cut down on resource utilization.

  • DiggersList is a Craigslist for home improvement.
  • TheStoneBroker helps you find countertop remnants at discount prices.
  • Heritage Salvage in Petaluma sells reclaimed building materials.
  • Driftwood Salvage in Palo Alto sells surplus construction items.
  • Urban Ore in Berkeley sells surplus items.
  • List of other San Francisco Bay Area Salvage yards.
  • CalMAX – California Materials Exchange – One business’s trash is another business’s treasure.
  • Green Demolitions – A Connecticut based recycler and dealer for kitchens and home items.
  • Handmadetile – Creates custom made tiles to match existing tiles color and shape.

Remember to donate your spare items after your remodel back to these salvage yards.

Green Insulation – Recycled Denim Insulation

water heater with insulation

Insulation helps control how much heat is absorbed in summer in your home, and how much is lost during winter. Many homes built before the 1970s have little or no insulation. Insulation is made from various materials and is rated in terms of a R-Value which measures the insulation’s resistance to heat transfer. A higher value is better. R-30 is about 7 inches thick, R-19 is about 6 inches thick.

The attic should be insulated to R-30, R-19 on exterior walls and lower floors, ducts and connectors to R-6. A priority is the attic, just adding insulation there will save you money on your energy bills and make your home more comfortable. Check your attic for presence of insulation and thickness level. You can remove an outlet box in the wall to see if there is any insulation.

Most insulation was made with carcinogenic formaldehyde in the past. Here is some green insulation for your home improvement projects. The primary raw material use in  Bonded Logic’s UltraTouch denim insulation is post-industrial recycled denim. This is all the scrap and waste material from the manufacturing process of blue jeans and other cotton based textiles.  It is treated with a non-toxic borate solution so it is mold resistant.

Installation may also qualify for the Federal Tax Credit for Energy Efficiency.

Their ultra touch R-13 denim insulation product costs about $60 for a 16in OC stud spacing. 10 batts per bag.  It is pricier than traditional insulation but much more green.

Other alternatives include spray foam such as Icynene or recycled paper cellulose such as GreenFiber.

Johns Manville now has a line of certified Formaldehyde free fiber glass home insulation.  Major industry is listening!

More tips in Ways to Save Energy, Money on your power bill.
Free Green Home Plans

green home

Building a new home? FreeGreen has free energy efficient, healthy new house plans for free. You need to join their community to access the plans. Architects usually charge upto 15% of the cost of a home for plans.

Of course it’s probably far more eco friendly and green to buy an existing home given all the resources needed to build a new one, not to mention the current housing crisis.

Green Kitchen Remodeling Tips

Here are some of the attributes we looked for when selecting eco friend kitchen cabinets earlier this year:

  1. FSC certified Wood or wood from a responsibly farm source.  I actually spoke to the wood mill to understand where our wood was coming from.  Lyptus and Bamboo are rapidly making in roads.
  2. Water based finish to minimize VOC emissions.  There were issues on finish durability in the past, but quality seems to have improved.
  3. Water based glues to minimize VOC emissions.
  4. Marine grade plywood or non MDF Medium Density Fiberboard particle board cabinet box. Also to prevent off-gassing emissions from formaldehyde, etc. Interlam and Topan make MDF without formaldehyde.
  5. As local as possible a supplier to minimize transport costs and fuel use.

We also relocated many of our old cabinets to our kitchen and donated everything else for use in a local church.

Some cabinets including mines are KCMA certified, but frankly their rules are not very aggressive in the area of eco friendliness. (Emissions etc)  It is more of a cabinet industry association.

When we began our search in early 2007, we were educating stores on what green cabinetry was.  The main sources used to be boutique local small craftsmen shops. Today, we see firms advertising ‘Green’ cabinets. HGTV has a video on this are.

Also considered cabinet refacing. You replace the doors and a veneer is placed over your existing cabinets. This is much cheaper than replacing the cabinets. New drawer pulls and handles will also update your kitchen’s look. You will reuse the ‘guts’ of your cabinets, so they need to be in good shape for this option. Some companies have options to also replace drawers.

Eco Friendly, Green Coconut Palm Wood

Coconut Palm wood is an eco friendly and green flooring alternative to bamboo. It is a by product of coconut production and has even received FSC certification. Beware of shady manufacturers.

Smith and Fong bamboo flooring

Smith and Fong makes palmwood flooring and palmwood plywood. We have flooring from this company and find it top rate.

When installing flooring, try to avoid gluing it down if possible. If you need to use glue, use a low or no VOC glue.

Lumber Liquidators Chinese Flooring with Formaldehyde

In 2015 Lumber Liquidators was busted for selling Chinese-made laminate flooring containing dangerous and illegal levels of the chemical formaldehyde, a known cancer causing chemical. It was exposed in a 60 Minutes TV piece.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that people exposed to certain types of Lumber Liquidators’ laminate flooring were three times more likely to get cancer than the agency had previously predicted.

Lumber Liquidators agreed to pay more than $13 million in February 2016 for illegally importing hardwood flooring after the company pleaded guilty to environmental crimes last year. Lumber Liquidators pleaded guilty to environmental crimes in October 2015.

Formaldehyde levels can vary widely from homes. On average, there are less than 50 micrograms of formaldehyde per cubic meter of air. The analysis found the amount of formaldehyde released by the new Lumber Liquidators’ flooring could increase that level by as much as another 930 micrograms — an 18-fold increase.

Such levels can cause nose and throat irritation for many people. For asthmatic children, it can increase the chances that breathing problems will require hospitalization.

Growing Bamboo in your Yard

Bamboo Forest

Wouldn’t it be interesting to have bamboo in your backyard? It is environmentally friendly, grows fast, and can make for a nice property line wall. You can also use it for other projects. I did some research that made me realize that it is more than most people can handle.

The problem is that bamboo spreads relentlessly, is almost indestructible, and its roots are like steel. People have to setup physical barriers like metal flashing to prevent its spread. I think I’ll stick to bamboo flooring..

Fireclay Tile – Recycled materials and Sustainable manufacturing

Fireclay Tile is a tile company that utilizes Recycled materials and Sustainable manufacturing to produce high-quality ceramic and glass tile. They are based in based in San Jose, CA and make most products in the USA.

They recycle everything from glass bottles to porcelain toilets, vanities, and bathtubs are recycled into beautiful ceramic tile. They use a lead-free glaze and proved that recycled does not mean you have to compromise on aesthetics.

Eco Friendly, Green Zero VOC Wood Stains

Bio shield no voc wood stain

As part of our remodeling, we need to stain a new door and some replacement wood flooring, to fix damaged areas. Our contractor usually uses Minwax products. The normal one they use has 500 g/L of VOC. Even their low voc versions contain a maximum VOC of 250 g/L. Way too high. We went looking for something more ECO friendly with zero or low VOCs for better indoor air quality. Amazon sells this wood stain for less than our local hardware store.

We found Bioshield Aqua Resin Wood Colors #33 that is a solvent-free water-based, Zero VOC, low-drip, resilient wood stain finish for interior and exterior applications. Colors are limited but you can always mix them. It is available at several ECO oriented stores in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Moving from 500 g/L to Zero VOC is a huge improvement.

We are trying to stain and air out items in the garage or outdoors to further reduce indoor emissions. It took about 3 days for the smell to go away.


We hope these tips can help make your remodeling more green and eco friendly. This will help the environment but also help your health by reducing chemicals in your home.

Posted on April 27th, 2015
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One Response to “Eco Friendly or Green Remodelling – Kitchen Cabinets, Construction”

  1. Installing Granite Countertops, Green, Low VOC Adhesive, Indoor air quality, no voc, zero voc, Richlite Countertops | Easy Eco Blog Says:

    […] Eco Friendly or Green Kitchen Cabinets […]

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