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Cover story: Going green in small ways
Question of the Day
“Reclaimed wood is considered green if it comes from local sources,” Mr. Subaran said. “We recently used a reclaimed chestnut piece from a local barn, then had a local millworker sand and clear-coat the wood. Our clients like the look of something aged, with the knots more defined and even some old nail holes.”
Mr. Subaran said that depending on the type of wood and how it was treated in the past, some wood counters can be self-healing, with fibers that come back together if it is scratched.
Products such as IceStone and Terrazzo, made of recycled glass, have the highest content of recycled materials for counters, but Mr. Subaran said they are costly. The contemporary style of those counter materials is less popular in the Washington area than quartz products, which also include recycled content.
“Caesarstone, Silestone and Cambria counters have recycled granite, quartz and resins, but some brands have more recycled content than others,” Mr. Subaran said. “They are all big sellers and are comparable to granite in terms of maintenance. Cambria is made in the U.S. and … recently added a line of new colors that look more natural.”
All three products have various green designations from different organizations. Mr. Subaran said finding granite from a local source, such as Virginia Mist granite, can be sustainable because of its proximity to this area. Vermont marble, which is 2½ times denser than Italian marble, is also becoming more popular for local kitchens.
Ms. Wolfe said remnants of granite or marble from local kitchen or bath remodeling projects can be refinished and used for other projects, such as a bathroom vanity.
“It won’t always cost less to use a stone remnant because the product still has to be refinished, but it is better for the environment to use the stone,” Ms. Wolfe said.
In addition to choosing sustainable materials for the kitchen, Ms. Wolfe said homeowners can choose responsibly forested hardwood flooring, typically red oak or white oak, which is harvested by foresters with a plan for regrowth.
“Bamboo is a green product for flooring simply because it grows so quickly, but some of the other exotic woods are not as green because they must be shipped around the world,” Ms. Wolfe said. “We also use recycled wood for kitchen cabinets, bathroom vanities and for trim around doors and windows. When we use tiles, we try to use tiles made from recycled materials as much as possible.”
Another interesting product Ms. Wolfe uses is recycled rubber flooring for the basement.
“It looks just like wood but it is 100 percent recycled and extremely durable,” Ms. Wolfe said. “The kids can Rollerblade on it without ruining the floor.”
Ms. Wolfe said she prefers the term “thoughtful building” to “green building” because even when something is labeled “green,” it may have been shipped from far away or it may not be made of recycled materials.
“It’s just like in the grocery store. You need to take the time to read the labels and find the complete information before you can choose the right product,” Ms. Wolfe said.
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