January 4, 2013

The house we bought in September 2010 had several different flooring materials:  wood, vinyl tiles, linoleum and carpet.  We were confident that the white oak in the living room and the dining room would refinish nicely and wanted to have Marmoleum in the bathrooms.  The other rooms were unknown.  As the deconstruction progressed we saw that the other rooms had fir floors.  Taylor, our general contractor, convinced us that we should attempt to refinish the original fir floor before deciding to replace it with new wood or cover them up with Marmoleum.  Well, he was right.  The refinished floors are beautiful!

During the deconstruction phase (December 2011) asbestos abatement specialists came in to remove materials containing asbestos, including 9-inch vinyl tiles in various rooms.  Then the floors were covered with cardboard paper while construction went on for the next several months.  As the project neared the finish stage the floors were sanded 4 times:  twice using medium grit sanding material (60 and 80) then twice again using fine grit sanding material (120 and 150).  The numbers refer to the CAMI grit designation.  Then waterborne wood floor finish called Bona Mega was used to finish the floor, applying and drying 3 times.  This product is GREENGUARD certified for indoor air quality.

Living Room

Before:  Living room floor was in decent shape.  There were some termite damage on the south east corner and some staining from prior floor covering.

After:  Termite damaged pieces were replaced with new white oak that blended well.  Wood was sanded and stained.

Dining Room

Before:  The floor in the dining room was also white oak and in decent shape.

After:  Dining room floor was sanded and stained.


Before:  The kitchen floor was a light pink and brown vinyl tile.

During Construction:  This is what the kitchen floor looked like after the tile was removed and mastic scraped off.  At this stage it was difficult for us to imagine what the refinished floor would look like.

After:  The fir floor under the tile sanded down nicely and works well with the cherry cabinets.  Amazing!


Before:  The mudroom floor was the same type of light pink and brown vinyl tile that covered the kitchen.

After:  The fir floor under the tile was sanded down and stained.  Few pieces that were badly stained were replaced.  The result is a “distressed wood” look that is popular with homeowners.  We were told by the floor subcontractor that people pay extra money to get the distressed look!

Middle Bedroom

Before:  The middle bedroom had a linoleum floor.

After:  The fir below the linoleum refinished beautifully.

South Bedroom

Before:  The south bedroom had light brown carpet.

After:  The fir floor under the carpet has the distressed look after sanding and refinishing. Note the closet opening is wider now and you can see evidence of the smaller opening on the floor.

Master Bedroom

Before:  This room had a very colorful vinyl tile.

After:  The floor under the colorful vinyl tile was also the old tight-grained fir that refinished nicely.

Master Bathroom

Before:  The master bathroom was covered in white vinyl tile.  Termites had a feast in this bathroom and a good portion of floor had to be replaced.

During Construction:  The floor of the master bathroom was badly termite eaten.  In fact, we saw some live termites in this area.  Most of the floor in the master bathroom was replaced.

After:  We selected Marmoleum (this is a linoleum product brand name from Forbo) to cover the bathroom floors.  Marmoleum is made out of renewable, sustainable materials.  This is another material you can buy at GreenSpace in Santa Cruz.

If you’re interested in learning about other flooring material, I invite you to take a look at Green Remodel Forum.

Kitchenette => Master Closet

Before:  The kitchenette was covered in brown vinyl sheet flooring.

After:  The kitchenette will become the master closet.  The fir floor under the linoleum refinished nicely.


Before:  The hallway floor was covered in red and brown vinyl tiles.

During Construction:  This is what the hallway floor looked like after the tile and the mastic was removed.

After:  Like other rooms the fir floor was sanded and stained after the vinyl tiles were removed.  There were few damaged areas that needed replacement.  It was quite fortunate that our contractor was had old fir he removed from another job that could be re-used to patch the floor in the hallway.

Hallway Bathroom

Before:  The hallway bathroom had a white linoleum floor.

After:  We used a white Marmoleum to cover the hallway bathroom floor.

Reuse and Recycle

January 30, 2012

I want to roll back the calendar a couple of months to share some thoughts on re-use, recycle and diverting waste from landfill.  You know, it takes resource and energy to make “stuff” whether it be kitchen appliance, table, chair, television, clothing, etc.  When we throw stuff away because it is broken, old or got replaced with a newer model the stuff becomes trash taking up space in a landfill.  On both ends of the lifecycle of “stuff” there are some cost and some limits.  Natural resources are limited and the space for storing our trash is limited too.  In fact, when I look at our utility bill from our local municipality the largest component of the bill is for garbage — It costs more to have my garbage hauled away than the cost of clean water and sewer service!

By the way, in chapter 7 of Scott Huler’s book, On The Grid, you can satisfy your curiosity on what happens to the trash and recycling material after they are picked up by the garbage truck.  If are really curious about systemic impact of the stuff we consume I invite you to take a look at The Story Of Stuff.

So, if we can maximize the use of our stuff or lengthen its life we can avoid taking up space in the trash dump site and also reduce the demand on natural resources.  Makes sense, right?  This means re-use of stuff is good and recycling of stuff is good.  Reuse means that the stuff gets a new life under a new owner.  For example, the cute antique O’Keefe and Merritt gas oven/stove has a new life in someone else’s kitchen rather than going to a landfill.  Recycle means that the item is processed and transformed to another useful item.  For example, some of the wood removed in the deconstruction of the house will be mulched and will begin its new life on someone’s landscape.

Again, reuse is good, recycle is good and we want to avoid sending stuff to the landfill.  [end of rant, thanks for your patience]  Below are some examples of reuse and recycle of of stuff in our project.

The non-profit organization, Furniture for Families, took our dining room table, chairs, bed, dresser, television and microwave oven.  This all volunteer furniture bank provides qualified clients who are referred to them by caseworkers from social service agencies familiar with the specific needs of the clients.

Dining Room Table and Chairs

We gave away the washer and dryer to someone we knew that had a broken one.  Listing the items for $5 each on Craigslist was quite effective in getting the refrigerator and gas oven/stove sold and hauled in a couple of days.  The toaster was donated to Goodwill.

Refrigerator and Antique Oven/Stove
Window and Door
One of the people who came to take a look at the antique gas oven/stove, an antiques dealer, didn’t like the stove.  But he ended up buying the front door, window and the desk.  You just never know what they’re interested in.

Front door

Some of the lead weight removed from the double hung windows went to our Passive House air sealing consultant, Terry Nordbye, for use in one of his projects.

Lead weights from double-hung windows

The recycled wood is mulched at the dump. The reclaimed wood is still on site in the form of skip sheathing that we can use for this project or others.  All the interior trim was salvaged and is now in the shed.

Wood for mulching

The crew of Santa Cruz Green Builders did a terrific job of deconstruction and separating various items to be recycled.  Huge dumpsters were delivered to the job site.  The summary from the receipt from the city of Santa Cruz shows 82.6% recycle/reuse percentage by volume.  Details in cubic yards are:

Recycle/Reuse  (95 cubic yards)
20 concrete and plaster recycled
42 clean wood recycled
4   metal
3   sheetrock recycled
3   concrete rubble reused
20 dirt reused at another site
3  wood reclaimed

Garbage (20 cubic yards)
20 painted wood (cannot be recycled) and garbage

Wood for recycling

Salvage Company
Whole House Building Supply and Salvage runs a pretty neat operation where they offer 3 different options for helping you give your stuff a new life.  It’s a good source for reuse items.