Friday, January 18, 2008

Going Green

Here’s a very simple lesson I recently learned in doing things green. It also involved saving me a lot of money! Always a good thing! I needed an interior door replaced. It was an odd size so I knew it might have to be custom ordered. One day last week I finally figured out that I might have to hire someone to go off Island to find me the right sized door. That very day I was stopping by Granny’s Attic to drop off some clothes I had outgrown, (at my age you know
w h i c h way I outgrew them). I happened to glance over to their housewares area and what did I see? Doors. Lots of doors.

I called a handyman friend of mine and said, “Can’t we just recycle a used door?” He said that maybe we could if he found one that fit. He called me later that day to tell me that he found a door that was exactly the size we needed and it still had all the hardware on it and was in excellent shape! “How much?” I asked. He laughed, “four bucks.” What a deal! He painted it to match the rest of the room and it now is hanging proudly.

Saving money is good but being able to reuse appliances, home furnishings, and building materials saves natural resources and is also doing your part to help save the Earth. There are several used building supply places in the Seattle and Tacoma area in addition to our own Granny’s. All it takes is a little time.

Built Green is a recognized program of the Seattle King County Master Builders Association. They certify green building and remodeling. They also do training and promote the use of environmentally sound design and construction. If you check out the Built Green handbook for contractors you will see that they recommend resources for the reuse and recycling of building materials, deconstruction debris and site preparation materials. They offer resources for places that accept almost everything for recycle. If you want to find that list go to their website at and check out their resource library or go to the construction recycling directory at When doing a construction project or remodel project, participating contractors get bonus points toward green certification for recycling and re-using materials. The certification plan includes obvious stuff like sinks and light fixtures, but also gives credit for roofing material, sheetrock, metal, and cardboard. They also get points for reusing materials in the new project. I recently toured a home for sale that had been remodeled entirely with recycled material. It was stunning! Beautiful glass tiles in the bathrooms and kitchen counter tops, recycled Mexican floor tiles, wood flooring, railings, lighting fixtures, cabinets and some one of a kind items like hand made ceramic sinks. It was all the more beautiful because no trees were cut, no oil and gas burned for materials to travel from other places, and no factory toxic waste created from the manufacturing of goods. Think about it folks, it’s worth the effort.

Q: We had an inspection before we bought our home several months ago during the nice weather.

The inspector said everything under the house looked OK. I looked under the house the other day to be sure we have insulation on the pipes and found about 8” of water under there. Should we call the inspector and find out what he thinks, or call the company and say that he did a bad job?

A: First, read the fine print in your inspection contract. Many of the companies have disclaimers that state that they are not responsible for issues that come up later if they were not visible during the inspection.

For example, if you have carpenter ants you might not know it in the winter when they are in hibernation. Unless there’s evidence of past damage or pest activity, the inspector can’t be held liable when the ants show up in the spring.

Look at his comments about the crawl space. Did he mention water staining on the foundation? If it is a basement, did he see watermarks up the walls? If it’s a post and pier system, was there rot on the posts that would indicate sitting water?

If this problem has been present in the past, I’d expect to see evidence of it under the house. If there is nothing in the report, you might go under there yourself and see if there is any indication of staining from sitting water. If so, the inspector failed to note it. Some inspection companies have a warranty on their inspection and they may be liable.

You may have a totally new problem that’s a result of something that has changed on your property or a neighboring property. Have you worked on the driveway, dug a pond, or rearranged the soil near the house? Have you or a neighbor done anything that could change the slope of the property?

Most inspection companies I work with are happy to come out and take another look if they think they made a mistake. Call them to check it out.

A Homeowner's New Year's Resolutions for 2008

1. I will clean the gutters at least twice a year.
2. I will remember to get the furnace cleaned and serviced before next fall.
3. I will go under the house (or find someone to do it) to make sure I have no major pest infestations or water in the crawl space.
4. I will check to be sure my decks and porches have no rot and are clean, slip-free, and safe to walk-on.
5. I will look for plumbing leaks and have them fixed quickly so that they don't rot out the floor.
6. I will have my roof cleaned in the spring, not by pressure washing, to preserve and extend its life.
7. I will deal with drainage problems before they rot the house.
8. I will train all family members to always use the fans in the bathroom to prevent mold and mildew.
9. I will keep bushes and plants cut back at least a foot from the house to keep them from rotting the siding.
10. I will have the chimney cleaned in the fall.
11. I will do everything I can to protect my home and its value by maintaining its systems in good working order.
12. I will plan upgrades to my home that make it more energy efficient so that it save me money and helps to save our planet!