After twelve years of bragging about our 625 square foot home, we are increasing our living space by 190 feet. We’re not adding on, but remodeling the attached garage, which held recycling, bikes, and weird pieces of junk scavenged from the side of the road because it “could be useful someday”, into a dining room. After years of curtailing our social life to summer gatherings in the backyard and a few friends in winter who were willing to balance dinner plates on their laps in the living room, we are going to have a real place to eat in the winter! Company during the Rainy Season! A home for my mother’s dining room table, which is in Tennessee right now. It’s pretty exciting.
I tried to be a model green builder. I did research. We found a set of French Doors from Habitat for Humanity for 85$-- double paned and excellent condition (I feel a little guilty, but they are getting our extra insulation as a donation…) and Mark Meyer built a beautiful frame around them. Light now reaches all the way into the back of the space. The flooring came from the old Highland View Middle School stage—fir with some paint splashed in it—that I’ll refinish this summer. A little of the framing wood came from the old garage door and our road-side collection, but the majority is new. Some is even—gasp—pressure treated. We bought the materials from infdependent local businesses, no Home Depot in our house. We insulated the entire space better than the rest of the house but we used standard fiberglass insulation. Every time I picked up a “green remodeling” book, hoping to find an examination of the carbon footprint of fiberglass insulation vs. recycled blue jeans or some other material, all I found was—a “green building” was well-insulated, and it didn’t really matter what you used in the long run. They used spray foam in the cracks. They weren’t into eco-trends; they saved energy by patching leaks. I saved a bunch of the drywall scraps to use as canvases for art projects and signs and a few larger pieces will go to Habitat. We’ll use some of the wood scraps in the fireplace. There’s really not much going to the landfill. I’ll use low VOC paint, even though I love the smell of paint.
Is it a “model green remodel”? We would have used no resources if we hadn’t done it—stayed smaller and balanced plates, so it is hard to say. At what point does the desire to eat real food at a real table with a group of friends, to have a neighborhood association meeting around the table so people can take notes easily, to sit in a light filled space on a grey Oregon day take precedence over our carbon footprint? We all make choices.