Eco Friendly Building Materials for Wood Flooring

Eco Friendly Building Materials for Wood Flooring
Eco Friendly Building Materials for Wood Flooring

From green design to natural mattresses, there are so many steps to building an eco home. With diligence and consciousness, the end result is an energy efficient home with a healthy indoor environment, that has a minimal impact on the earth. By using green construction materials for the foundation and framework, such as eco-friendly cement, and sustainable wood, a new project is off to an environmentally-friendly start.
Eco-Friendly Cement for a Green Foundation

With a new green home, start the foundation with eco-friendly cement. Substituting with this sustainable product is easy and cost-effective. As is often the case with green construction materials, it is also much more practical, being of a higher quality than regular cement.

Eco-friendly cement is made from a blend of regular cement and fly ash. Fly ash is the residue of coal-fired electrical plants. By making practical use of this industrial byproduct, waste is used to enhance a material, rather than being added to the waste stream. Approximately one-third of all fly ash produced in the United States is made into recycled concrete.

How does this eco-friendly material perform? Fly ash concrete is stronger than regular concrete. It is easy to work with, requires less water, and is less permeable, because of the way the fly ash reacts with the plastic properties of the concrete. With no health risks, according to the EPA, improved quality and durability, and comparable installation and cost, using fly ash concrete is beneficial for the environment, and for the home owner.
Innovative Sustainable Building Materials — Faswall Blocks

Faswall blocks are another efficient, eco-friendly product. They are created from eighty-five percent sawdust, and fifteen percent cement. Wood waste is recycled into a sustainable building material. The wood is ground, mineralized, and then bound with concrete. The result is an extremely durable building block, which acts as a natural source of insulation. It is soundproof, resistant to pests, fire, and mold. As Faswall absorbs and releases water vapor, thereby preventing moisture build-up, it is great for humid environments.

Green Construction with Rastra

Rastra is a recently developed green construction material. First manufactured in Austria in 1972, it is known as the original Composite Insulating Concrete Foam. Rastra is made from eighty-five percent polystyrene plastic and fifteen percent cement.

This material is similar to Faswall in that it is soundproof, and resistant to water damage, fire, wind, and pests. It improves the energy efficiency of a home by providing insulation, and by outlasting conventional materials. Rastra is structurally reinforced with steel and concrete. Because of its high degree of practicality, it is becoming increasingly popular in both residential and commercial building.
Building with Sustainable Wood

Wood is still a very popular material for framework. Ninety percent of new homes in the United States are built with wood framing. Although not as eco-friendly as recycled building materials, using wood from sustainable forests is a great way to make a new home as green as possible.

To buy sustainable wood, look for certification from a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) accredited organization, such as the SmartWood Program, or the Rainforest Alliance. The FSC considers wood to be sustainable if the forest environment itself is protected, including the soil and the wildlife, if the use of chemicals and the practice of genetic engineering is limited, and if fair-labor practices are followed.
Hardwood floors are beautiful, long lasting and permanent hard floorings, just as they are integral parts of residential and commercial building interiors. The renewed interest and craze by many professionals in the real estate or interior design business, or by simple homeowners, stems from the fact that hardwood floors are obtained from natural eco-friendly materials. Besides the the fact people now have a vast range of hardwood floor materials to choose from, the prices for natural wood floor materials have become affordable and within the reach of a great number of home owners.

Asides from the fact that hardwood floors are eco-friendly and visibly exotic, they possess a warm glow that ages gracefully. Over the years, they will develop a pleasing patina, as long as they are treated with loving care.
Reasons Why Consumers Choose Hardwood Floors Over Other Floor Finishes

Considering such decisive factors as longevity, durability, beauty and maintenanc, choosing hardwood floors is a great option. And even though the style of interior design or decoration is important, hardwood floors can be chosen to fit any period or style of interior design.

Choosing hardwood flooring over many other hard floor finishes presents one with a unique look of a natural material which will measure up to any taste or to any different condition.
Traditional Installations Of Hardwood Floors

Traditionally, hardwood floors were normally made from soft and semi-soft woods. During installation, the hardwood floor strips were laid butt-jointed.

If one happens to come across very old buildings with ancient but preserved hardwood floors, one may notice that the floor boards are twisted and shrunken with age. In buildings where central heating or central cooling have been introduced, the resulting gaps between the natural wood floor boards is quite noticeable. These gaps tend to gather dirt and dust.
Modern Installations Of Hardwood Floors

Today, hardwood floors are generally installed using the tongue-and-groove installation system, and no builder ‘worth his salt’ uses the butt-joint system anymore.

Simply laying the hardwood floor looks quite pleasing; however, to get a smooth and lustrous surface, after installation, hardwood floors needs to be sanded carefully but firmly with a power sanding tool. After that process is completed, the finished hardwood floor must be sealed with a high grade wood sealant.
Painting An Old Natural Wood Floor

Hardwood floors, contrary to popular opinion, can be painted. If an old floor installed with hardwood need to be refurbished and painted, it is advisable to first strip off old paint, if any. It’s also good to ensure that all grease, dirt, oils and polish is thoroughly removed from old hardwood floors before embarking on painting works. This preparation allows the new paint to bond perfectly with the natural wood.

To paint hardwood floors, it is advisable to use yacht paint or a good quality floor paint. Using either of the two products will guarantee a longer lasting hardwood floor surface. However, the harder the natural wood used, the better and longer will the years of use be.
Staining Hardwood Floors

As with painting, staining hardwood floors requires adequate preparation, and they must be dirt, grease and oil free. The hardwood floor is then stained with the desired pigment. There is a chance to get creative with choice of pigmentation when planning to stain natural wood floors.

After colouring, the finished floor must be treated with a good quality sealant. This will keep in the colour for year come and retain the warm lustre of stained hardwood floors.
Protecting Natural Wood Floors

With hardwood flooring, it is virtually impossible not to walk or tread on the floor with dirty, dusty or sandy footwear. This is one of the major reasons why the use of hardwoods is preferred to the use of softwoods for hardwood floors.

Exposed areas of the floor that get heavy feet traffic should be protected using area rugs or runner rugs. It is imperative that these rugs or any other soft floor furnishings must have a non-slip backing to prevent the rug from slipping or sliding out of place.

Furniture pieces must have protective ‘feet’ in order to avoid unsightly damages to beautiful hardwood floors. It must be noted that plastic furniture or furniture items with plastic ‘feet’ is damaging to hardwood floors, and therefore must not be placed on lacquered wood flooring. Avoiding plastic backed soft floor furnishings such as rugs is also wise.
The Final Decision – Choosing Natural Wood Flooring

Hardwood floors are like timeless pieces of classic art. They never go out of style. The eventual choice of using hardwood flooring will depend on various factors, and after dreaming about a perfect hardwood floor, the bottom line and determining factors will be the cost and available finances required to carry out the task.

And though not cheap, some hardwood floors are affordable, and the cost effectiveness lies in the fact that it will be there for decades, looking good, and with minimal maintenance works.

Hardwood floors are best used in areas of the home such as thr following:

Living and dining areas
Covered patios

In commercial interiors, hardwood flooring can be used in many areas, such as the

Hotel lobbies and corridors
Recreational centres

Whether one desires oak, cherry, teak or the currently popular bamboo hardwood floors, the result must be a great blend between these unique natural elements of wood and their aesthetic use in interior décor works.

Whatever the case may be, the choice of using natural hardwood floors is something one will enjoy tremendously, and live with happily for many, many years.

Top Remodeling Trends for Home Owners

Top Remodeling Trends for Home Owners
Top Remodeling Trends for Home Owners

Home improvement tips abound for homeowners, primarily due to the fact that eventually every homeowner wants to make improvements to their home. Unfortunately not all remodeling projects increase a home’s property value; this is why homeowners must consider the financial risks involved in remodeling. This is especially important for those who are considering selling their home within a year after project completion.

Financial investment considerations rank high on the list of home improvement tips, because there are many variables affecting home property values. Regardless of the home remodeling project, a homeowner should never expect a dollar-for-dollar return. The monetary returns for every dollar spent ranges anywhere from zero to approximately 90 percent. This is the difficult point for every homeowner, because there is no standard formula for calculating return on investment for home remodeling.

Although there are many factors to consider for monetary return on any home improvement, the following provides a guideline.

Converting Existing Space – for example converting an attic into a bedroom or finishing a basement. These projects tend to bring a better return than adding a new family room onto the home. This is primarily due to the costs of adding a foundation, exterior siding or bricks, extending a roof, and more. These items already exist when converting a current space.

Where the Water is Located – remodeling a bathroom or kitchen typically bring a greater return on investment than any other room in a home.

Quality of Materials – financial investment in higher quality materials typically brings returns on the higher end for every dollar invested. Purchasing sinks, appliances, and cabinets with dings and dents or plastic materials for interior remodeling may save money up front; however, these cheap items may actually reduce the value of a home. Quality counts!

Home Repairs – such as reroofing a home, adding new paint to the exterior or interior rooms typically do not increase the value of a home. These items are considered traditional home maintenance items.

Swimming Pools – are not a good investment, because most people do not want them in their yards due to the high cost of upkeep and cleaning requirements.

Theme Rooms – if resell is in the future, remodeling a room into a tribute for a favorite football team or movie is not a good idea. Potential buyers are only willing to accept these tributes if they can cheaply and quickly remodel the room to fit their life style.

Issues with Remodeling: Four Questions to Ask Before Beginning

The following are important questions that require serious answers prior to making the financial investment a home improvement project.

Reselling soon? – if an improvement project is being considered to improve a home’s value, then expensive remodeling projects should be avoided. If planning to sell a home within the next year, the financial investment will never be recouped.

What is the resale value of neighborhood homes? – research is required to determine the resale value of homes within the neighborhood. The average resale value is what can be reasonably expected, which is then subtracted by amount remaining on a mortgage. This difference, minus amount of profit expected, is the amount that home improvements must not exceed.

Features desired? – do not add too many features to a home that do not already exist in neighborhood homes. For example add a family room if other homes in the neighborhood have one. Another example is upgrading to two bathrooms or to three bedrooms to match these homes. Upgrading to four bathrooms and four bedrooms, when everyone else has one or two bathrooms and two bedrooms is not a good return on investment.

Do it yourself? – remodeling takes time, skills, and adjustments to daily routine. This is especially true when remodeling a kitchen or bathroom, while maintaining fulltime employment. Many times it is quicker and less costly to have a qualified handyman or licensed contractor complete the project. Regardless of which path is taken, knowing what exactly is wanted is essential to success.

Home improvement projects must take into consideration financial investment and the projects affect on property value. Every homeowner considering a remodeling project must also think about the return on investment in dollars. No project will bring a dollar-for-dollar return on every dollar spent on renovation.

If a homeowner plans on staying in their home for many years, then return on investment and property value are not as important as other factors when selling soon. Regardless of selling soon or many years from now, most of these issues and remodeling factors still apply.

Homebuilders are constantly being challenged by changing business trends and climate cycles. Small businesses struggle to find ways to cut costs, increase profitability and provide the best customer service. The bottom line is to find a common ground between consumer demands and determine what services to provide. In the past year, there has been a significant change in trends – people are still unemployed, home values are down and new home starts are down.
The Kitchen is a Culinary Laboratory

With the growing trend of food cooking shows and classes, consumers have expressed a growing interest in the culinary arts. On one hand, basic cooking at home is the most efficient way to save money, especially if it can be done fast, cheap, and “where the heart is”. Consumers see these appliances not only as an investment, but also as an improved resell value in the home.

Home remodelers are rushing to take advantage of providing the most specialized service to these eager home chefs. Consumers are craving products on scales that have never been seen before, for products from famous chefs like, Emeril, Rachel Ray, Glada, Paula Dean and Bobby Flay.
The Restroom a Necessity

Many realtors expressed that the most profitable room in a home to remodel before selling a home on the market is the bathroom. The state of a bathroom can make or break a deal by the buyer. At the same time, consumers are surprisingly driven to remodel their bathrooms more then ever before. Whirlpool bathtubs, saunas and new tiles were some of the hottest trends. Now people want the bare necessities to create the highest possible resale value.

In the current economy the majority of consumers are not spending money on luxury items they are spending money on improvements that will improve their quality of living as well as their pocket book. The Energy Tax Credits available through the Department of Energy are an added incentive for homeowners. They have encouraged consumers to be kind to the environment by replacing with energy saving products which start showing savings the day they are installed.

Window companies like Allgood Home Products and Air Tight Home Products state that consumers are also concerned about their increasing their homes value. Products like windows and doors not only improve the homes curb appeal but also provide homeowners with return on their initial investment.

Consumers are more concerned about conserving energy and saving money. Windows are their most popular items, above roofing, doors, gutters and insulation. They emphasize that consumers seek a good return on their investments that generate the best energy efficiency, a credit on their taxes and therefore providing a greater resell value.

As people spend more time at home in a recessionary environment, they are more likely to perform maintenance themselves then hiring someone to make installations for them. Bob Schiflett, at Aquatic Garden Designs, said the most growing trend that he noticed in the past year was that people wanted to install their own water fountains than paying extra for labor costs. Even though the same amount of people demand water fountains installed in their homes, people have more time to spend installing new improvements themselves, than paying a professional to do it.

David Nelsen, with The Lawnkeeper in Ohio, said sees a growing trend in longer service contracts in lawn maintenance services. “Since people are staying home, more people are demanding their grass cut and bushes trimmed on a more regular basis. Instead of leaving on a vacation and neglecting their lawn, they are staying home and paying someone else to upkeep their lawn.”
A Vacation at Home

Consumer spending is the largest component of the Gross National Product. People are constantly spending hard-earned dollars on home improvements from a new sink to planning mulch designs and home efficiencies to conserve resources. Trends are constantly changing as consumers are driven to purchase tax credit incentive products and installing features on their own. The new trend of creating a “staycation”, is staying closer to home.

Reducing Home Renovation Cost Through Selection of Countertop Types

Reducing Home Renovation Cost Through Selection of Countertop Types
Reducing Home Renovation Cost Through Selection of Countertop Types

Finding the perfect kitchen countertop for the most used room in a home can be a challenge. Countertops must be durable, stain-resistant, easy to clean, and improve a kitchen’s overall appearance. Although it may seem impossible at times to find the right countertop, a little research and visiting a few kitchen showrooms will identify the right type and style.
Natural Stone: Counter Tops that Bring Nature into the Kitchen

Natural stone is often the countertop of choice for many kitchen installations. It is very expensive; however, provides a look that is warm and elegant. There are several types of natural stone materials that are used in kitchens.

Granite – this stone has a crystalline structure, containing tiny pits or spaces between the various mineral crystals. It also contains natural fissures that appear to be cracks, but they are not structural defects and do not impair the material’s function or durability.

Marble – this stone has been around for years and is quite expensive. Because of its expense, marble is typically used in specific areas of a kitchen such as a baking preparation area.

Soapstone – this stone is non-porous dark-gray material. This means it does not stain easily and not affected by chemicals or acids. This stone requires regular treatment with mineral oil to avoid stains.

Pyrolave – this stone is constructed from natural lava rock from the volcanic flows from Volvic in France. Pyrolave creates the ultimate luxurious worktop surface, requiring no special maintenance. This stone is impervious to stains and scratches.

Like all kitchen countertop materials, natural stone has its pros and cons that include:

Pros – natural stone is smooth, extremely hard, durable, and resistant to scratches. It is also bacteria, heat, and water resistant. Natural stone is excellent for baking preparation.

Cons – natural stone is expensive, can discolor, and chipped or broken if abused. It is impossible to hide seams and must be resealed every two to three years with normal use. An important con is that showroom color may not match installed color.

Solid Surface Counters: Engineered Stone and Man-Made Materials

Solid surfaces are typically man-made from acrylic or plastic material which is colored by resins. This countertop material has a uniform appearance, along with consistent patterns and colors. Final counter installations match showroom examples.

Corian – this counter materials can be refinished and minor cuts or scratches can be removed. There are three types of Corian finishes: matte/satin, semi-gloss and high-gloss.

Compac Marmol and Quartz – these counter materials inhibit the growth of bacteria. They both have exceptional hardness and resistance to impact. They are ideal for heavily trafficked and well used kitchen.

Quartz – this is engineered stone that is a non-porous material, made from a mixture of 93 percent quartz and 7 percent resin binders and pigments. It has the strength of granite; however, it is more flexible and easier to handle. This material is easy to maintain compared to natural stone and does not require regular sealing. Quartz counters have seams, although not pronounced.

Like all kitchen countertop materials, solid surface materials have their own pros and cons that include:

Pros – solid surface countertops are smooth, durable, no visible seams, heat resistant, water resistant, and scratches can be sanded out.

Cons – must be professionally installed, along with being expensive and having limited color options.

Tile Countertops: Custom and Personalized

Tile countertops are heat resistant and attractive. They come in several shapes, sizes, and colors that can be manufactured or handcrafted for an artisanal look.

Porcelain – these tiles are extremely dense because they are made from clays with low water absorption. They are known for durability that can even rival granite’s durability.

Ceramic – this tile is made from pressed clay. It includes mosaics and ranges from half-inch to three-inch pieces. It’s the softest tile and easily chipped.

Stone – these tiles, typically 12 inches square, that are typically made from granite or marble.

Concrete – these tiles offer a newer, highly durable surface that can be colored to match any kitchen décor. Concrete tiles are typically 24 inches and come in standard countertop depths. Concrete tiles come as basic tiles and are about half the price of a concrete countertop.

Like all kitchen countertop material, tile has its own pros and cons that include:

Pros – durable, heat resistant, good to do-it-yourself, and available in many colors.

Cons – countertop is uneven, grout lines are hard to clean, and easily chipped or cracked.

Countertop designs are wide and varied. This extensive variety ensures that when remodeling a kitchen, there are countertops for everyone. Regardless of the material, and design selected; it is important to compliment the kitchen’s cabinet style and kitchen floors. When considering interior home remodeling, upgrading kitchen counters can increase a home’s value.

One of the biggest factors that may stop a homeowner from undergoing a kitchen renovation is the cost. Cabinets, appliances, granite countertops, tile and installation; of all these items can add up to more money than a homeowner truly feels comfortable investing. While a large portion of the kitchen renovation should be left to professionals there are several do-it-yourself components that can help lower the kitchen renovation cost.
Be Completely Prepared

One of the fastest ways for a kitchen renovation to begin growing outside of the budget is the items that the homeowner was unaware existed and their costs. Small things like a kitchen backsplash, a larger kitchen sink, or even the moving of a kitchen sink to another area of the kitchen, can turn into more money than the homeowner bargained for. To be completely prepared before approaching a kitchen designer or a contractor check off the following list.

Look at photographs of kitchens, note items that are desired and keep a running list. This list should include faucet styles and finishes, countertop materials, whether or not to include a backsplash or a kitchen island
Take all the measurements of the kitchen, including counters, floor space and wall space. Measure from at least three heights on every wall to get an accurate plan, and find the center line for the plumbing in the sink
Visit the NKBA website and learn how to create a working triangle in the kitchen
Map out a working triangle around the current position of the kitchen sink

Become the General Contractor

While it will mean a little more effort and time, the savings can add up if the homeowner takes control of the project from day one. Being the general contractor of the job does not mean needing to design and install each component of the kitchen, but it does require some extra work.

Plan out the kitchen triangle and get estimates on the design from cabinet makers
Purchase all materials required. Visit plumbing tile showrooms and ask to see odd lots, returns and seconds to purchase materials for less
Hire the tile installer, electrician and plumber directly and coordinate their arrivals
Visit a granite quarry to find the lowest cost granite countertops
Oversee each step of the kitchen renovation from the ordering of the cabinets to the final install; coordinate the efforts of the various installers

Do-it-Yourself Finishing

When the cabinets, counters and floors have all been installed and the plumbing and appliances hooked up, why not do the finish work and save the final installation? The following tasks can be done over a few weekends time, and their final completion will not hinder the use of the kitchen.

Difference Between Reclaimed and New Pine Flooring

Difference Between Reclaimed and New Pine Flooring
Difference Between Reclaimed and New Pine Flooring

Homeowners looking for green flooring options for their home, as well as homeowners restoring an older home may want to consider a pine floor. Available in narrow or wide plank flooring, new or reclaimed wood, pine floors have choices for homeowners looking for authentic, durable hardwood floors.
Types of Pine Floors Available

There are several types and categories of pine floors available on the market today. Those who are looking at green flooring options can choose from two types of reclaimed wood flooring in pine.

River reclaimed pine flooring is heartwood which has never been used in a floor setting before. Trees that were felled for lumber and shipped via river drives occasionally did not make it to the saw mill, sinking to the bottom of the river instead. The logs lay there until fairly recently, when they were reclaimed and fashioned in hardwood floor planks.

River reclaimed pine floors have a patina that is not available in other floors, as the pine has been soaking for years at the bottoms of rivers. River reclaimed pine floors are not available in abundant supply, which helps drive their desirability.

Reclaimed heartwood pine floors are old pine planks reclaimed from old farmhouses and office buildings. Sanded and refinished, these wide plank floor boards are made almost entirely of heartwood, and are extremely durable. Reclaimed flooring makes an attractive green flooring option for some homeowners, as these floors are given a second life with no new trees felled for the purpose.

New pine floors are available in heartwood, heartwood and sapwood mixtures and vertical cut planks. The more sapwood mixed into the wood planks, the more knots and character the floors will have, while vertical cut planks are much harder and more durable, making them ideal for high traffic areas of the home.

Pine floor boards are typically available in wide planks, although vertical cut planks and high sap wood content planks are available in 4” widths as well. This helps give pine floors additional versatility, making them perfect for any room of the home.
Characteristics of Pine Floors

In addition to character and history, pine floors can add a unique beauty to the home. Wide plank floors, when highly polished have less interruption between the planks, giving them a high gloss finish that enriches the floor. Installed in the traditional fashion, these planks will show their nail holes as well as knots and the rings from the trees they were taken from. No two floors laid with pine flooring, therefore can ever be quite the same.
Maintenance and Care of Pine Floors

While pine floors are durable, having been used in farmhouses and New Englander style homes for centuries, they are among the softer hardwoods. Heavy use or traffic over pine floors can wear away at their surface and finish, sometimes in an uneven manner. Therefore pine floors may require refinishing on a regular basis to help maintain their beauty.

To extend the life of the finish of a pine floor, use gentle cleaning detergents and a soft cloth to avoid scratching the floor or etching the finish. Avoid household cleansers with lemon or other acids to avoid eating into the finish of the floor.

Pine floors have a rich beauty and history. Whether installing reclaimed floor planks, or new hardwood floors, pine will give a rich, unique look to any room of the house. Consider the use of a pine floor for green flooring, or restoration needs and bring beauty and history to the home.