During a remodel, it’s important to not only think about the new materials going into your home but where the old materials will end up.

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Q: I’m going to be remodeling soon. How can I make my home more eco-friendly during a remodel?

A: It’s absolutely possible to make eco-friendly choices during a remodel — but it takes careful planning. Remodeling fundamentally uses a lot of resources and creates a lot of waste. To counter that, you should work with reputable professionals who can suggest appropriate methods and materials for making your home healthier.

It’s important to not only think about the new materials going into your home but where the old materials will end up. From thoughtful deconstruction, to repurposing and reusing, to choosing certified products, you always have eco-friendly options during your remodel.

The first thing to note: There’s a difference between demolition and deconstruction. Demolition is the action or process of forcefully tearing down, whereas deconstruction is the dismantling of something into its constituent parts. The latter provides an opportunity for items to be reused or repurposed. There are plenty of salvage building stores around the Seattle area, such as Ballard Reuse or Second Use, that will resell your old cabinets or lights. One homeowner’s old clawfoot tub is another’s vintage treasure.

When talking with a contractor before your remodel begins, insist that your space be thoughtfully deconstructed. Also ask about your contractor’s recycling policy. Recycling services in the Seattle metro area are abundant, and recycling doesn’t necessarily cost the contractor any more than taking debris to a landfill. It’s one of the single smartest choices you can make during your remodel, and it’s in the hands of your builder.

Second, there’s an ever-growing selection of eco-friendly appliances, materials and furnishings. Thinking about new countertops? Consider recycled glass or butcher blocks made with certified lumber. In need of a new refrigerator? Look for the Energy Star label, or choose one with a top-mount freezer and no ice maker if you want higher efficiency. Building a new deck? Use sustainably forested wood or TREX decking, which is 95 percent recycled wood and plastic film.

The point is, there’s a more eco-friendly solution for almost everything inside and outside the home. Enlist the help of a knowledgeable contractor, or spend some time at stores such as Green Home Solutions that provide a showroom setting for green building options.

When it comes to smart remodeling, there are really two things to remember: buy smart and use less. Walls and cabinets require forests, tile and counters require stone quarries, plumbing and other fixtures require metal foundries. The smaller your space, the more economical it will be in price and usage of natural resources.

Be aware of the products you or your contractor are purchasing and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Your research will pay off in dividends on the environment. You can also reduce your energy bill by insulating properly and purchasing efficient appliances. It can be as simple as installing dimmer or motion-activated light switches, which allow you to use less light and therefore less electricity.

Just because you’re not building a new home doesn’t mean you can’t be eco-friendly. Great options are out there for the choosing.


Emma Zimmerman is the marketing specialist at Model Remodel in Seattle and a member of the Master Builders Association (MBA) of King and Snohomish Counties, and HomeWork is the group’sweekly column. If you have a home improvement, remodeling or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of the MBA’s more than 2,800 members, write to homework@mbaks.com.