The Trend Towards Bamboo Flooring

Though bamboo is technically a grass, it makes excellent flooring material, being harder than most hardwoods! Bamboo floors have been measured at higher strengths than maple and oak and are more flexible, which is the perfect combination for a long lasting floor. Bamboo is also naturally resistant to moisture since it is a tropical plant and will repel stains for use in kitchens.

In addition to its strength and resiliency, people are also flocking to bamboo floors for their unique look. Bamboo floors have a very distinctive, striking look since they are a finished grass. They have a system of “nodes” that creates spectacular darkening bands that are a one of a kind look. Bamboo flooring is available in its natural lighter color and can also be finished into a darker color to match any existing décor and your furniture.

Like hardwoods, bamboo floors are cut into planks so you can vary the length and width of a cut to achieve another look. Create a wide open space with long, wide cuts, or create striking patterns with short, thin cuts.

Today’s hot topic is environmental protection which fits perfectly with bamboo flooring. Bamboo is harvested as a grass, rather than an entire tree, so a bamboo plant will produce the needed grass without having to be cut down. Bamboo also reaches maturity in five years, so it is a renewable resource.

Get in on today’s hottest trend, strong resilient bamboo floors to complement any style home.

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Green Home Market Expected to Skyrocket

Sustainable construction, now that the luster of trendiness has worn off, continues to make inroads as a remodeling market segment with serious growth potential. Findings to support this notion were released Thursday at the National Association of Home Builders’ International Builders’ Show in Orlando, in the form the results of McGraw-Hill Construction’s new Green Home Builders and Remodelers Study. Green homes comprised 17% of the overall residential construction market in 2011 and are expected to grow to between 29% and 38% of the market by 2016, according to the study. This means that, by value, the growth will equal fully a five-fold increase, growing from $17 billion in 2011 to $87-$114 billion in 2016, based on the five-year forecast for overall residential construction.

According to the study, construction industry professionals report an even steeper increase in green home remodeling; 34% of remodelers expect to be doing mostly green work by 2016, a 150% increase over 2011 activity levels. Many home builders have shifted to the remodeling market due to the drastic drop in new home construction. In fact, 62% of the builders who do both new and remodeling work verified that the economy has increased their renovation work.

“The housing market is critical to the U.S. economy,” said Harvey M. Bernstein, VP of Industry Insights and Alliances, McGraw-Hill Construction, “and the results of our study show that despite the drastic downturn in housing starts since 2008, green has grown significantly as a share of activity– indicating that the green market is becoming an important part of our overall economic landscape.”

The green home building study, produced by McGraw-Hill Construction in conjunction with the NAHB and Waste Management, is designed to provide key insights into market opportunities, backed by proprietary research surveys and the power of the Dodge database. The study reveals business benefits afforded by green building, such as a competitive marketing advantage: 46% of builders and remodelers find that “building green” makes it easier to market themselves in a down economy, and an overwhelming 71% of firms that are dedicated to green home building report the same.

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What to Look for When Shopping for Eco-Friendly Furniture

Some considerations to think about when shopping for eco-friendly furniture, discussed here, will help you qualify what the terms really mean and what things are important and which are “puffery”.

Furniture and furnishings are the third largest user of wood and wood products, after building and paper, and there is a high transport cost of wood. So, if imported (from Asia especially), wood products will have a high “carbon footprint” for furniture sold in the US. However, there are some choices that you can make as a consumer, and a big one is the source of the lumber used.

In wood furniture and in the wood frames of upholstered furniture—there are two certifying organizations that the manufacturer will tout if they used certified sources. The most stringent is “FSC” (Forestry Stewardship Council) and is used mostly for export lumber and by European lumber suppliers. The same is true for PEFC (Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification). Many domestic (US) lumber mills are smaller and only sell to domestic users and so adhere to and are certified by the SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative) which is less stringent, but still requires much more environmentally friendly practices than non certified sources. The last audit of certified timberland in 2006 showed that less than 16% of US forestland is sustainably certified and virtually no Asian forests are sustainably managed.

The use of fiberboard, particle board and plywood in furniture does save on the amount of lumber that has to be harvested to make the product, and has less lumber waste associated with its manufacture. However, these products may include toxic adhesive components. Many countries are introducing more stringent requirements on the chemicals that can be used in adhesives, but there are still many that do not have any restrictions, and enforcement of the US regulations is difficult and spotty, at best.

Furniture also uses almost 1/3 of the polyurethane foam that is made worldwide, and it is wholly petrochemical based. Some upholstery manufacturers are now using “bio-foam” which has some level of soy-based foam as a component. Complete soy foam does not yet have the durability and resilience needed, but the foam manufacturers are working to increase that percentage and make progress each year.

Fabrics used in furniture also have an eco-friendly component available. Certified organic textiles such as cotton are grown with no pesticides and herbicides, but still require a great deal of water to sustain the long growing cycle, and requires a more limited climate to thrive. Nonetheless, cotton accounts for more than 90% of the “natural fiber” market.

Some alternatives to cotton that are eco-friendly are linen, bamboo, hemp, abaca, wool and silk. The plant fibers are all “rapid renewal” grasses and have much shorter growing seasons and wider climate ranges than cotton. The drawbacks to some, like bamboo, is that harsh chemicals are required to release the fibers. Linen (flax) and hemp have been used for ages for fabric and so have more environmentally friendly methods of fiber release for weaving.

None of the eco-friendly choices are black and white; there are land use conversion issues with materials like bamboo and even wool, where forests are cleared for plantations or pastures. Deforestation is an issue with lumber harvesting and the renewal process. Sustainably managed forests can take decades to renew, and some forests are replanted with only one species, so bio-diversity is affected.

This information will help you become a more knowledgeable consumer and your choices can be made with conscious thought, rather than with little understanding of the complexities involved.

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Making Efficient Use of Your Air Conditioner

If you cool your home or apartment with an air conditioning unit, here are a few tips that will help you make more efficient use of the appliance, resulting in lower energy costs and more efficient disbursement of the cool air.

 Don’t make the mistake of buying a bigger unit with the impression that bigger will automatically be better.  In fact, a room air conditioner that is too big for the area it is supposed to control will perform less efficiently.  Cooling units work better if they are operated for longer periods of time than if they are switched on and off continuously.  In fact, longer run times allow air conditioners to better control the room temperature.

 Also:

 Change your air filter.  Dealing with indoor air quality most effectively means filtering or cleaning all the air in your home.

 Don’t try to offset your home’s temperature by drastically lowering your thermostat.  The less difference between the indoor and outdoor temperatures, the lower your overall cooling bill will be. 

 Using an interior fan in conjunction with your air condition will spread the cooled air more effectively through your home without greatly increasing the energy usage levels.

 Avoid placing lamps or television sets near your air conditioning thermostat, as it will sense the heat produced by these appliances, leading the unit to run longer than necessary, and at lower efficiency.

 If you have access to the part of the air conditioning unit that is placed outdoors, consider planting trees or shrubs to shade it, but be careful not to block the airflow.  A unit operating in the shade uses as much as ten percent less electricity than one operating in the direct sun.

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5 Investments to Save You Money & Keep You Warm This Winter

efficient-glassWe all know that times are hard, and one of our biggest expenses is likely to be keeping warm this winter. Here are our top 5 tips for making your home as energy efficient as possible.

Energy Efficient Windows

Many people believe that if they have double glazing then they have the most energy efficient windows around. Whilst this may be the case, there are many types of double glazing and the differences in real energy efficiency can be staggering.

Older double glazing tends to be less efficient, as nowadays all windows are tested and certified for efficiency, which wasn’t the case in the early days of double glazing. A-rated windows are the most efficient – however only when correctly installed. If you have older double glazing then it is possible that a significantly more efficient option is now available.

Back in the early days of double glazing, aluminium frames were popular – however these frames themselves were inefficient as aluminium is a good conductor of heat. The lessons here have been learned and it has now become common practice for frames to have an insulated core.

Many suppliers and installers of double glazing would be happy to give you a ‘check up’ to discuss your glazing options and ensure that you have the most efficient setup.

Doors

Just as your windows are designed for efficiency, doors have also been revolutionized over recent years. Not only are glazed doors now more efficient thanks to the developments in double glazing, meaning that glazed doors are more efficient – but wooden or composite doors have also been designed with energy efficiency as a priority.

All that has been learned about window casements and using thermal breakers and insulated cores has been applied to the door industry. Many door manufacturers also produce doors to police preferred security specifications.

As with windows, the most efficient doors also need to be installed correctly – to ensure that there is minimal room for draughts

Dens

There was a time not too long ago when dens were no-go areas once the days started getting shorter. These days however, with efficient glass, heat reflecting roofs and energy efficient double or triple glazing, conservatories can be all year round resources. If you are finding your conservatory to be uncomfortable – perhaps it is time to get energy efficient.

Draft exclusion

Drafts can quickly make any home uncomfortable. Even with the most efficient windows and doors, you will still be cold if they are not installed correctly or if they have become loose and drafty with use.

Drafts are easily defeated with the aid of foam tape around doors and windows, or brush strips for a more permanent fix. Drafts should be prevented from all exterior doors and windows, as well as doors which lead to often unused or unheated rooms or hallways. Loft hatches should also be draught proofed to ensure that warm air remains in the habitable section of your home and doesn’t all escape through the roof.

Insulation

Insulation is key to keeping your house warm in winter and cool in summer. Some forms of insulation will have been added during the construction of your home, but extra insulation such as in the loft, or under the floor will help you keep warm this winter.
Courtesy of EzineArticles.com

Asbestos Testing: What You Need To Know

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Asbestos Testing: What you need to knowWas your house built before the 1980s?  Are you planning to purchase an older house?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, you should consult with an asbestos testing professional.

Because it is an excellent fire-resistant insulator, asbestos was added to a variety of building materials and other products before the health hazards it presented were recognized.  Left undisturbed, it does not pose an immediate problem, but construction, remodeling or damage can release its toxins.  In older dwellings and other buildings, it is regularly found in basements and attics and around steam pipes, water pipes, furnaces and boilers.

There are a few methods used to test for this dangerous substance.  Professional testers will take samples of material they believe to contain asbestos and these are sent to a lab for detection.  If the test confirms the presence of asbestos, you may need to hire an abatement professional to remove it.  Broken materials should be removed as soon as possible.  An abatement contractor will make sure the material is safely disposed of once it has been taken away.

Under no circumstances should homeowners take samples or handle infected materials themselves.  They may contain harmful fibers that can lodge in the lining of the lungs or other parts of the body, and can cause scarring of the lungs and mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer.

If you have even the slightest concern or doubt about the presence of asbestos in your home, contact an asbestos testing professional and arrange a consultation without delay.

10 Ways to Lower Your Carbon Footprint

What Is A Carbon Footprint?

carbon footprint is a measure of how much carbon gas is emitted into the environment. Studies show that these types of carbon emissions have a potentially negative impact on the environment, contributing to global warming and climate change.

Most of us would like to do the right thing for the environment.

Here are 10 ways you can lower your carbon footprint:

  1. For starters, use the Energy Star Home Energy Yardstick to compare your home’s energy efficiency and get recommendations for energy-saving home improvements.home energy yardstick
  2. Add insulation. Additional insulation is one of the top ways to make a home more energy efficient, as it protects against air loss and saves money on utility bills.
  3. Replace your windows with double-pain, low-E glass. This is an expensive upgrade, but over time saves a considerable amount in energy costs.
  4. Use energy-efficient appliances. Newer, more modern appliances are designed with efficiency to lessen harmful effects on the environment. If your appliances are more than ten years old, consider upgrading to Energy Star rated models.
  5. Change your driving habits. Cars are one of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions. Carpool, bicycle, walk, and learn to consolidate your errands so that you are behind the wheel less often.
  6. Eat less beef. Raising cattle is a costly venture and cattle produce a lot of methane gas. Land is cleared of trees to create grazing land for cattle, and trees are important in reducing greenhouse gas.
  7. Look for ways to conserve water. Install a low-flow showerhead. In your yard or garden, incorporate landscape designs that minimize water consumption. Be more mindful of every time you turn on a tap, and don’t allow it to run longer than necessary.
  8. Buy and shop locally. Purchase products that have minimal packaging.
  9. Unplug unused appliances that could be drawing a current even when not in use. Replace standard light bulbs and use compact fluorescent (CFL) light bulbs instead.
  10. Recycle and re-use, everything from shopping bags to scrap lumber.

It really isn’t difficult to make a few choices to have a more energy efficient, eco-friendly lifestyle. By living green, you will feel better, live more comfortably, and be doing the right thing for the environment.

Remodeling Tips For The Eco-Conscious!

Green remodeling tips for your homeWhether you’re ready to save the planet, or simply practice more eco-friendly habits, it’s easy to implement green and sustainable products into your home renovation projects.

Here are just a few material considerations to research before getting started on your kitchen or bath renovation.

Counter Tops

Bamboo is a very sustainable material.  It reaches maturity within five years, and regenerates from its original root system, never needing replanting.

Wood is a wonderful material for butcher-block counter tops and flooring.

Concrete countertops are increasingly popular in contemporary settings. They are considered greenest when locally fabricated and when mixed with cement alternatives and recycled aggregates.

Quartz surfaces are easily maintained and have an endless lifecycle.  Additionally, they are available in a wide variety of colors.

Flooring

Hardwoods and Bamboos are a favorite flooring choice for the eco- conscious homeowner. If the material is FSC certified or reclaimed then it is considered to be an environmentally responsible product.

Marmoleum or Linoleum tile is constructed of Linseed oil, jute, limestone and other natural components that collectively provide for an incredibly strong and durable flooring product.

Cork is not only sustainable and renewable (like bamboo), but is extremely soft and comfortable under foot.

Wool carpeting is naturally stain-resistant, highly durable and free of any chemical additives – only the natural oils in the sheep’s wool. With regular maintenance, it can last up to 50 years and, once discarded, is biodegradable.

Cabinetry

Kitchen cabinetry can easily be refaced or repainted with low or zero VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) paints and products. If however they no longer fit into your renovation plans, then consider re-using them somewhere else in your home or donate them to your local Habitat For Humanity Re-Store.

FSC and sustainable woods that are formaldehyde free – and finished with a low VOC sealant – are a green alternative to recycling your old cabinets. Another wonderful material to consider is a veneered wheat board composite. The straw fibers are combined with a formaldehyde free resin and then painted with low or zero VOC paints.

Solid core passage doors are also available in wheat straw and FSC certified woods. They, too, are formaldehyde free.

Finally, when it comes to the finishing touches and furnishing your home, look for environmentally sustainable and eco-chic pieces. Do some online research and you’ll find the resources are endless.

What Are Sustainable Building Materials?

cork-flooringResearch suggests that one of the biggest causes of carbon emissions into the environment is the home. Through the use of non-environmentally friendly building materials in the construction of central heating and electrical systems, most homes contribute to the problem of carbon emissions, which, with the total number of homes across the world, equates to one big problem. This is why the “go green” movement is catching on with regard to our homes. Sustainable building materials are becoming an increasingly popular choice, and “green” energy such as solar or wind power is being used with greater frequency.

Using locally sourced materials is an excellent start, as there are far less fuel and transportation costs involved. Recycled materials are much kinder to the environment. Scrap yards and salvage yards are great places to seek out second-hand or recycled items and building materials.

A large amount of wood gets used in house construction. Instead of using hard wood produced from trees such as oak, which take a long time to grow and do not grow again once cut, bamboo is a great alternative. It re-grows quickly and takes only a year to produce a harvestable amount. Bamboo is a very dense and durable material that, if maintained well, will stay strong and looking good for many years.

Cork is another eco-friendly and sustainable material. It is stripped away from the tree trunks of cork oak trees without having to fell the tree. Like bamboo, it grows back year after year. Cork flooring is a great alternative to hard wood floors and looks attractive, besides. Cork is also fire-resistant by nature.

When it comes to insulation, ask your local home improvement store for choices that are made of recycled or recyclable material.

Finally, when investigating water heating methods, consider a tankless water heater that switches on only when a hot tap is turned. By not keeping a tank of water heated all day and night, you will save on fuel bills and reduce your carbon footprint. Solar panels are another good way of creating heat in the home. Although the initial outlay is large, there will be considerable energy savings over time.

By using appropriate, recycled or locally sourced materials, you can go a long way towards lowering emissions and keeping your energy costs down.

Cold Cathode Lighting: Innovative and Affordable

cathode-lightingOne tends to think of cathode lighting as something primarily used in businesses and commercial buildings, but there are many advantages to consider for installing it in your home, as well.

It’s a great energy saver; unlike regular lights, cathodes don’t use extra power from being switched on and off. Once the tube begins to heat up, the resistance to current flow begins to drop, resulting in it steadily requiring lower voltage to continue working. This can save as much as ninety percent energy, compared to standard light bulbs.

Cold cathode lights don’t get hot. They can be as much as five times brighter than neon lighting, and they have one of the longest lives of any type of lighting available, up to 50,000 hours.

Available in a wide range of colors and sizes, cathode lighting is ideal for many locations, and are increasingly seen in stores, hospitals, galleries and libraries. They are used to best effect in alcoves where indirect lighting is preferable. Their increasing fluid and flexible designs help draw attention to the special features and furnishings in a room.

The improvements in the design of cathode lighting fixtures make them available in smaller and sleeker shapes than traditional fluorescents. With a long life expectation, no flickering to distract or annoy, high brightness and a flexible nature, cold cathodes are innovative and creative.

Moreover, they are totally recyclable once they have come to the end of their lighting life.

All good reasons to consider making a shift to utilizing cathode lighting in your home!

Courtesy of ArticleCity.com