Did you know that doing an eco-friendly whole house remodel has more than just environmental benefits? They’re also healthier for occupants (from using non-toxic materials), they save money through things like water and energy-efficiency, and they even sell for more when you’re ready to move on. According to Sopher Sparn Architects, from 2008 to 2013, eco-friendly houses sold for a whopping 23% more than conventional homes! Still, doing an eco-friendly whole house remodel isn’t as easy as telling your contractor, “Make it green.” Here are the top 10 tips for getting the job done right.
#1 Look into rebates, tax breaks, and potential grants.
Believe it or not, federal, state, and local governments want you to go green. Here’s a sampling of what’s out there:
- Federal Income Tax Credits for Energy Efficiency provides funding for energy-efficient home improvements, including water heaters, furnaces and boilers, heat pumps, air conditioners, building insulation, windows, doors, roofs, and more.
- The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) is a nationwide database that categorizes incentives by state. The site makes it super easy to find incentives for renewables and efficiency upgrades in all areas of the United States.
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency links to many of the sources of funding for green building that are available nationally and at the state and local levels.
#2 Do an energy audit.
Temperature control accounts for 48% of home energy use, so understanding where things could be tightened up and made more efficient is super important. Sure it’s not sexy and likely won’t add much to the appearance of your home, but making your home more efficient is better for your bank account and for the planet. An energy auditor will often use infrared thermography to find the spots in your home that are not insulated well enough. They’ll also use a blower door to assess how much air leakage you have throughout the home. Additionally, they test to make sure your home is well ventilated and test for any gas line leaks. We highly recommend you have this done, because what’s the sense in installing all of the most energy-efficient appliances throughout your home if you’re just wasting energy through all the leaks that weren’t repaired?
#3 Explore all of the innovative product options.
The eco-friendly home building and remodeling industry is exploding these days, which means there are innovations beyond imagination. Want to make a statement wall? Try a wallcovering composed of upcycled leather belts. Concerned about indoor air quality? Use paints that absorb pollutants. Want to be uber water-efficient? Get a shower that recycles water. Save time by perusing our site! We’ve spent the time to curate amazing products, so you can save time to take care of all of life’s other demands. You don’t need to research every last product necessary for your remodeling project, but the more informed you are before you meet with a contractor, the better chance you have of getting what you truly want.
#4 Be strategic about space.
Many people want to add some square footage to their home, but consider how much space you really need. An eco-friendly remodel strives to create less waste, and use fewer materials and resources throughout the project. Take a look at your existing square footage and try to think of remodeling in ways that will create more dual-purpose spaces. Look at the wide array of tiny homes online because their space-saving hacks are amazing. Choose some that might work in your home, too. Remember that if you do decide to go bigger, that’s more space that needs to be heated and cooled.
When you’re remodeling a home there’s one big word that controls everything – BUDGET. Everyone has one. No matter how large or small, there’s always a magic number that has to be kept to. Steps one through four should set you up to be in a good position for making these decisions. Write a list of your “must-haves,” things you could compromise on, and things that could get dropped if absolutely necessary. If you want to be extra prepared for your journey, you could prioritize those lists, too. Is it square footage you’re after? All new energy-efficient appliances? Do you want to get off the grid? Think hard about this BEFORE you meet with a contractor. No matter how big that budget is, there’s hardly a remodeling project that’s been done where the homeowners get everything they wanted.
#6 Find an eco-contractor.
These whole house remodeling projects can take some time, so the contractor and you need to be a good fit. Meet with several and spend some time with them. Do they share your values? Have they done a number of eco-friendly home remodels? Do they have a good general knowledge of environmentally-friendly products? Also, you need to share a vision on the project. If you have a hard time communicating when you first meet, that just means more difficulty when your remodel hits a snag. The contractor is there to create what your vision of the perfect eco-friendly whole house remodel. Take your time to find one that you feel can see that vision as clearly as you can.
#7 Recycle what you can.
It’s not easy to keep waste down when you’re doing a big remodel, but there are ways to keep a little more out of the landfill. The easiest thing to do is to donate everything that could be useful to someone else. Kitchen cabinets, countertops, sinks, faucets, vanities, light fixtures, carpet, and even tile can be used by someone else doing their own home project. You can list these items on a local free market website or Craigslist, or donate them to a salvage store like Habitat for Humanity Restore. You can also contact a local construction and demolition recycling service. “C&D recycling services say they rescue hundreds of tons of construction waste each year, so you can see how that can add up,” says Bryn Huntpalmer. “Some companies may even provide sorting receptacles for you to use onsite, and will often offer free hauling for larger items. “
#8 Reuse what you can.
Incorporating antique, repurposed, and reclaimed materials is a wonderful way to make your renovation unique – along with being earth-friendly. An old light fixture from an antique shop, wooden beams from a barn, and ancient reclaimed wood floors would all add a ton of character to the house and also give the remodel an interesting backstory. You can also find creative ways to repurpose some things that are already in the house. Updating a brick fireplace to a more contemporary-looking tile? Use the bricks as a garden path.
#9 Buy local.
It’s not going to be possible or practical to find everything for your remodel right in your own hometown, but anything that you can find there cuts down on shipping (which means less fuel, less energy use, and less of an environmental impact). Ask your contractor about local artisans. Maybe your tile could be made by someone who fires them in their own kiln right in your hometown. Or a metal sculptor could design some copper sinks for in the bathroom. Again, these types of things give your home a story, a lot of personality, and a smaller eco-footprint.
#10 Plan ahead.
Since you probably won’t be able to tackle all the eco-friendly features you’d want in your dream green home, plan ahead to be better prepared for the day you can incorporate more. “Think you might like to add solar before the federal tax credit expires? Plan for it now. Pondering an electric car? Install a circuit for a charging station just in case. Think you can live without air-conditioning but might want it when you can afford it? Plan for that too,” says Certified Graduate Remodeler Anne Higuera. “You may even have a second phase planned. Make sure all the engineering and mechanical systems for that next phase are in place and ready to go. Photos are critical when you go this route. Take multiple photos with a measuring tape in the picture before covering these provisions for your future project.”
Not everything related to your eco-friendly home remodel is going to be the kind of change that invokes big wows when the job is done. The high-efficiency windows and insulation that are keeping the heat in during the winter don’t look all that impressive to guests, but you can feel good knowing you’re making a big impact as far as the environment goes. What will invoke big wows are the one-of-a-kind reclaimed pieces and amazingly brilliant, new eco-materials. And all of it together will create a house you’re always happy to call home.