Furniture & Design
Friday, May 8th, 2015
There are many ways that we can make the most out of the resources that we have. Constructing new buildings and new homes takes up a tremendous amount of energy. And with that high level of energy use comes a greater carbon footprint. Many people are rightly obsessed with finding new ways to build and, in the process, save energy both in the construction phase and in the make a more energy efficient home. Nature has provided some pretty amazing and useful materials. Pioneers and experts are combining these materials and techniques to make the most out of sustainable building materials.
Sustainable building materials make the most out of what nature has to offer. The materials employed in sustainable building are durable, easy to work with, come with environmental benefits and are renewable. Unlike many other building materials currently used, sustainable building materials are more in line with the Earth’s natural ecology and cycles. Ultimately, these impressive building materials have too much to offer to ignore.
Bamboo-Lightweight, Super Strong and Versatile
There is no shortage of sustainable building materials. One of the first materials that we will look at is bamboo. Bamboo is not a tree, but is, in fact, a type of grass. It has some rather impressive properties. First bamboo is lightweight, flexible and strong. Increasingly bamboo is being used in construction and with great results. Bamboo has a compression strength that is superior to that of brick and rather surprisingly even concrete. Add to this the fact that bamboo has a tensile strength roughly equal to steel, and you have a tremendous building material. Perhaps the greatest single surprise regarding bamboo is that it isn’t used in construction even more often!
In addition to being strong and durable, bamboo also grows very quickly. Some species of bamboo can grow a couple of feet in a single day. Once bamboo starts growing, it grows very, very rapidly, which helps to make bamboo an excellent sustainable building material.
The Wonders of Cork
Cork is another simply amazing building material. The majority of cork is produced either in Portugal or Spain. Part of why cork is considered to be a very sustainable building material is that cork trees are not cut down, but instead their bark is stripped to make cork. The end product is a very impressive one.
Cork is good for far more than wine bottles, as cork is lightweight, very strong and has acoustic and thermal insulation properties. Insects and rodents will generally not eat cork, and it is highly resistant to moisture and mold. It is no accident that cork is used to keep liquids in bottles, whether it is wine, olive oil or other liquids.
Additionally, cork is naturally flame-retardants, meaning that highly toxic flame retardant compounds do not need to be added. These factors combine to make cork a truly exceptional insulation product. Currently, cork is being used for insulation across Europe, but the impressive properties of cork will likely make it a key insulation, flooring and sound insulation product in the coming decades.
When it comes to inexpensive and renewable building materials, rammed earth has much to offer. Rammed earth structures have a long history as they date back to 5000 BCE and can be found all across the world. Their construction involves compressing a damp mixture of materials, typically clay, sand and gravel into a mould. From there, the shapes are built into larger structures.
Rammed earth may not have the strength and durability of other materials such as concrete, but the price is very tough to beat. It is also possible to mix rammed earth with concrete to produce a very durable building material.
There are also energy saving benefits to rammed earth. Rammed earth has a high thermal mass, and that means it can absorb heat during the day and release it at night. Overall, rammed earth buildings can help to cut, often dramatically, heating and cooling costs.
The energy efficient nature, low cost and sustainability of rammed earth buildings means that rammed earth may very well have a bright future. Combing rammed earth with solar power could prove to be one of the future’s great building combinations.
Papercrete, Straw-Bale Construction and Reclaimed Building Materials
Other notable sustainable building materials include Papercrete, straw bale construction and reclaimed materials, ranging from reclaimed wood to reclaimed stone and brick. All of these materials are quite sustainable.
Papercrete combines re-pulped paper fiber with Portland cement or clay. The end result is a partially recycled material that can be made into a durable building material. The reason that Papercrete has drawn a lot attention is that it is lightweight, has a high R-value and is durable.
Straw-bale construction, much like rammed earth, has much to offer. Straw-bale construction goes back centuries and is an inexpensive and sustainable building material.
The future is bright for sustainable building materials. They are renewable, take less energy to work with and come with an array of energy saving benefits. In a future where climate change and energy consumption are likely to be at the forefront of everyone’s minds, from builders and homeowners to policy makers, we can expect to hear more about this impressive natural wonders.
Saturday, May 2nd, 2015
The doors that go into your house are one of the most important home-related purchases that you can ever make. Most of us don’t think too much about our doors until something goes wrong, of course. Yet, the right kinds of doors add value, security and beauty to our lives. Selecting wood doors for your home has many different components, and ignoring any of them can result in complications and problems in the long run.
So can you find the perfect wood door for your home? Definitely and, with the help of this article, you’ll love your final results.
Investing in Wood
Wood doors are so common because they last. Metal security doors have become popular, and they have their benefits, but they also have their drawbacks. On the top of the list is the fact that metal doors usually lack the charm and beauty of wood. Another problem is that once a metal door is dinged (and metal doors do tend to get dinged or caved in) they instantly look cheap. Even a high-end metal door with a small ding looks cheap. However, because people expect some degree of imperfection from wood, it can weather life’s little problems with greater ease. People often even find the imperfections in wood to be quite charming or even beautiful!
Opting for a wood door also means that you have a door that is far easier to repair. Scratches and even small missing pieces can be repaired with relative ease. Yet, the same cannot be stated for metal doors. A wooden door can, for example, be sanded, refinished, stained, painted and repaired in a range of ways. Your options, on the other hand, with a metal door are dramatically limited by comparison.
Sizing Issues Shouldn’t Be Ignored
The old saying, “Measure twice and cut once,” is certainly good advice. When you are selecting wood doors, be certain to know exactly what size you need. Getting the wrong size door can be a major hassle and one you want to avoid!
Matching the Style of Your Home
If you are thinking, “any old door will do,” think again. Your home is an investment and one of the most commonly viewed items in your entire home is a door, especially your front door. One of the first things that people notice about your home is the door that they use to enter. If your front door doesn’t match with the rest of your home, everyone will notice it. For this reason, it is prudent to take the design, look and feel of your home into whatever wood door you select.
You can also do a whole lot with interesting and innovative doorknobs. If you have an older home, look for a vintage door and lighting store in your area. They may be able to advise you on the best knobs to match the period during which your home was built.
The older your home, the greater the potential challenge when it comes to selecting a wood door, as modern doors often don’t match the look and feel of older homes. What should you do if you have an older home and are in need of new doors? If preserving the look and feel of your home is important, you may want to venture online and try to find doors from your home’s time period. It might take a little research but restoration companies specialize in giving a second life to old wood doors. By investing in reclaimed wood doors, you are lowering your carbon footprint, investing in a tiny piece of history and helping to preserve your home’s original look and appeal.
Interior Door Options
Not all interior door options will work for all situations. There are many different options, ranging from French doors and swinging doors to sliding doors and bi-fold doors. Panel doors and flush doors are extremely popular and often make up the bulk of interior doors that one sees in most homes.
Exterior Door Options
When it comes to exterior door options, there are many choices ranging form steel and fiberglass doors to solid wood and engineered wood. Many people buy engineered wood exterior doors not realizing that they are not, in fact, getting a solid wood door.
Engineered wood is not built to last, but is instead assembled from layers of low-quality wood that mixed with chemicals and then compressed together. In short, this is not a product that will last, as it wasn’t built to last. It was designed to look good and be cheap, but it is not a high quality product. This is especially true when compared to a solid wood door.
A solid wood exterior door is a must. Solid wood exterior doors will outlast engineered wood and can be easily repaired if damaged. If you want a door that provides security and looks great at the same time, then your best choice is always going to be wood!
A Wood Door Is Durable, Looks Great and Will Prove an Excellent Investment
A wood door will stand the test of time. You will not have to worry about replacing a wood door after a couple of years. You will also not have to worry about your wood door looking cheap after it takes a couple of hits, which is all too common with metal doors.
Solid wood is always a smart investment and one that you will not regret. It might cost more upfront, but in the end you’ll save money. Why replace a door when you can install a solid and reliable wood door instead?
Saturday, April 25th, 2015
You might be thinking, “I’m no woodworking expert,” but you don’t have to be knowledgeable to create your own useful, DIY woodworking projects. There is no need to be intimidated. After all, DIY woodworking projects can be fun even if you are a novice. (That stated, however, it is always important to practice proper safety such as only operating equipment that you understand, working in a safe and well-lit environment and avoiding distractions.)
We are going to look at a few DIY woodworking projects that we know you’ll love. Don’t worry whether you are an expert or this is your first DIY woodworking project, you’ll find our ideas to be easy and simple!
Should You Buy Plans?
When it comes to DIY woodworking projects one of the first decisions that you’ll have to make is whether or not you should buy plans. Buying plans largely comes down to how complex of a woodworking job you are planning on tackling. The DIY projects we’re suggesting in this article are easy projects. Keep in mind that there are plenty of free plans online regardless of DIY project complexity, so look around!
1. Stumped Where to Begin? We Have You Covered with the Stump Table
Want to make a super-easy and super-cheap side table? Then you might want to head over to a slightly unexpected place in the form of Home Depot. The Home Depot community has great plans for a Stump Table that requires very little know how and money. Simply drill three holes, screw on some legs and you have yourself an instant, dirt cheap table that will last for years and years. This is one of those ideas that will leave you saying, “Why didn’t I think of this and why don’t I already have a couple of these tables?” You’ll find the Stump Table is a great addition for your guest room, garage or even your living room. Learn more about the cheap and versatile Stump Table by visiting http://ext.homedepot.com/community/blog/diy-decor-tree-stump-side-table.
Whether or not you want to paint or finish the Stump Table is up to you. Either way this project won’t take long and as long as you can safely handle a drill you should be good to go!
2. Feeling Artistic? You’ll Love the Openwork Cube Pendant Light
If you were thinking that DIY projects meant clunky, then think again. A good deal of creativity and inspiration went into the creation of the Openwork Cube Pendant Light. This light looks like a million bucks but is, in fact, about as inexpensive as our Stump Table.
The skill level on this one is pretty low, but you’ll need a little more patience than with the Stump Table. The cool geometric design looks far more complicated than it really is. All you need are a few pieces of wood and a little time on your hands and you’ll be ready to create a real work of art. Perhaps the best thing about the Openwork Cube Pendant Light is that it is one of those DIY projects that not only looks expensive, but also looks difficult to do. Your family and friends will think that you’re developing a whole new side of yourself with this clever little project.
Check out an easy step-by-step guide at Vintage Revivals http://www.vintagerevivals.com/2012/03/openwork-cube-pendant-light.html
Don’t be afraid to pretend that this project was a hard one. It will be our little secret!
3. You, Yes You, Can Make Your Own Unique Headboard
Have you always wanted a very unique, cool and impressive looking headboard, but just didn’t want to pay those huge prices? A striking looking headboard can be an expensive purchase, but we have uncovered a DIY Pallet Headboard from the people at This Old House that is worth the time and effort.
So what will you need? You will, of course, need a pallet to get things started. Pallets can be pretty inexpensive and surprisingly tough as they are meant to take a lot of abuse. In just a few hours on a Saturday, you can use this idea to totally transform your bedroom and do it for just dollars! http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/photos/0,,20672101_21278317,00.html
The process begins with sanding and painting. From there, we move on to measuring and finding studs in the wall for mounting. You can also see other ideas from these creative minds, such as a DIY Mud Bench with Herringbone Wall by visiting www.theroosterandthehen.com.
More Creative Pallet Ideas
Bob Villa also has his own ideas for inexpensive pallet ideas. He suggests taking pallets and repurposing them into a range of different kids of useful household items from sectional sofas to desks and even kitchen islands. You can see more about Villa’s ideas on what to do with the humble but very durable pallet by visiting his site, which outlines five easy DIY projects for beginners. http://www.bobvila.com/articles/5-things-to-do-with-shipping-pallets/
Follow Bob’s advice and you’ll be making daybeds and even a desk for almost free. Here is a link for an inexpensive desk that Bob found on Instructables. http://www.instructables.com/id/Pallet-desk/ (Don’t let this one fool you as it is actually easier than it appears at first glance!)
These easy and fast DIY woodworking projects show that you don’t have to be a woodworking expert or experienced carpenter to make something useful and beautiful. Great DIY woodworking projects have been outlined for you on the Internet and the free price tag is impossible to beat!
Sunday, April 19th, 2015
If you are like most people you probably don’t give too much thought to where your furniture comes from, its origins or how it was made. Let’s face it, the hectic nature of living day-to-day life often means that you just lack the time and energy to think about how your products are made, by whom and out of what kind of materials.
However, the simple fact is that how your furniture is made can impact not just the health of local ecosystems, but your health as well. There are also other concerns, such are you really getting a good value for your dollar? In this article, we will turn our attention to the origins of furniture and why those origins should be of concern to you!
One of the most commonly overlooked factors in furniture is value. Cheap furniture is usually cheap for a reason, and that reason is that cheap furniture just doesn’t last. Furniture that is made out of real wood is highly durable and will last for many years to come. However, the overwhelming majority of cheap furniture is not made out of wood. Instead, cheap furniture is usually made out of MDF.
MDF is, simply stated, something that you don’t want in your house and is a poor investment. The reason is that MDF is essentially nothing more than wood fragments and sawdust held together with glues and binders that are usually chemical in their origins. These chemicals degas and usually do so for many years. MDF furniture contributes to poor indoor air quality as it degases a range of harmful and even cancer causing chemicals into the air.
Not only does MDF potentially harm your health, but it is also a poor investment. Sawdust and wood fragments held together with chemical binders and glues probably doesn’t sound too tough to you, does it? Facts are that the low quality and inexpensive furniture available in most of the big box stores are not built to last. Instead, this furniture is built to be cheap and look good. Sadly, this furniture will not stand the test of time like real wood. Not only do you have to buy new furniture in a just a few years, but you also have to invest the time to find that furniture and put it together. If you want the best value for your furniture dollar then avoid low quality furniture and opt for solid wood furniture instead!
Factor Three-Your Carbon Footprint
Usually low quality furniture made from the poorest materials possible are created in overseas factories that are often several thousand miles away from their final destination. The end result is something of an environmental disaster. The “cheap” furniture that you buy at a local big box distributor has usually been placed on transport ship and shipped across the ocean. The unpleasant fact of the matter is that the cheap furniture you may have purchased has been created using polluting and environmentally damaging chemicals that make their way into the water supply. It takes a lot of energy to get your low quality furniture across an ocean and that harms the environment a great deal. Large transport ships are amazing polluters. If you want to lower your carbon footprint then it makes sense to buy locally as much as possible.
Factor Four-Does Your Furniture Stimulate the Regional Economy?
Buying locally also stimulates your local economy. Buying real wood furniture from regional manufacturer, even if that manufacturer is on the other side of the country, is far less polluting than buying furniture from overseas. Plus, it also is much better for the economy. Real wood furniture made in the United States lowers your carbon footprint while stimulating the economy. As an added bonus you also benefit financially, as you receive a higher quality product that will stand the test of time.
Factor Five-True, Real and Lasting Beauty
The inexpensive furniture sold in most big box stores is an illusion. There is an illusion of quality and durability, but real wood furniture is different; real wood furniture is the real thing. MDF and other low quality furniture is just pretending to be what wood actually is. Opt for real wood furniture and you will get what you pay for and more.
Real wood has a lasting and real beauty that MDF and other low grade furniture can’t hope to match. When you opt for the knockoff wood furniture sold by big stores, you are losing money in the long run. You are also losing the substantial beauty that real wood furniture can provide. Are you better off having less furniture than furniture that isn’t built to stand the test of time? In a word, “Yes!”
Factor Six-The Social Factor
The bottom line is that where your furniture is made and how matters. Many foreign manufacturers pay pennies an hour and expose workers to harmful work conditions. By refusing to support such labor and business practices you are making an important statement with your dollar. In time, businesses will notice and respond accordingly! Buying locally eliminates the concern while you benefit by receiving a higher quality product. Buying real wood furniture is, in the end, the best choice possible. You’ll have furniture that will look great and provide you with superior functionality for years to come!
We always get what we pay for and with furniture we all want something that is real and reliable. Real wood furniture is just that, real.
Sunday, April 12th, 2015
Don’t you just love wood? One of the greatest things about this material is that it works so very well in all kinds of interior design. Wood is so versatile and can be used in so many ways that it is no wonder that designers often call on wood to “dress up” all kinds of home. The simple fact is that versatile wood can provide warmth to a home that is difficult to make any other way. Here are seven great tips for integrating wood into your next interior design project!
Wood and Interior Design Tip One-Furniture
When it comes to using wood for your interior design projects, one of the simplest steps is to opt for wood furniture. You have plenty of furniture options, but none are able to beat wood for its overall warmth and appeal.
Absolutely nothing has the charm and character of wood. Wood transforms a room like no other material and its versatility means that pretty much any room can benefit from the incorporation of wood furniture. A well chosen piece in a room can completely transform the environment and take it from dull to classy and warm.
Wood and Interior Design Tip Two-Using Wood in Unexpected Places
Wood really shines when it appears in unexpected places. A great example of this fact is to use wood in the bathroom. Wood used a material in your bathroom, such as in your cabinets or vanity, can be a real eye-opener. People no longer expect to see wood as often in the bathroom, but wood cabinets and vanities can look stunning, especially when coupled with wood flooring.
Wood flooring in the bathroom may present a challenge due to moisture and other factors, but it can be done. Cork flooring, for example, looks great but cork is also very water resistant, super tough and is an exceptional sound absorbing material. So look around your home for areas that one might not expect to find wood and give wood furniture, flooring or other ideas a try!
Wood and Interior Design Tip Three-Wood Instead of Drywall
The never-ending versatility of wood, in part, helps to explain its eternal charm. Another way to put wood to use in your interior design is to switch out drywall for wood paneling instead. Wood has many advantages over drywall, especially for those who are chemically sensitive or want to cultivate a rustic look.
Many people have discovered that wood can work quite well, for example, in bathrooms. Instead of tiling on walls, intrepid home and business owners are opting for wood instead and the results can be visually striking.
Of course, it is necessary to treat wood in your bathrooms with something like an acrylic finish to help combat moisture, but the results are worth the effort. If you want to make a striking statement, then wood in your bathroom provides an excellent option.
Wood and Interior Design Tip Four-Wood in the Kitchen
In recent decades, the trend has been away from materials such as wood in the kitchen. However, wood in the kitchen has been making a comeback. Wood butcher-block countertops look warm and rich. If you want a very natural look in your kitchen, then wood butcher block might be the way to go. And it’s durable and can stand up to wear and tear just as well as many other countertop materials.
Wood and Interior Design Tip Five-Using Wood for Contrast
Wood contrasts nicely with other materials. If you home is more modern, you may find that adding wood either in the form of wood furniture or other additions can work to provide a good deal of unexpected contrast. The fact that there are many different types of wood and stains available means that you can likely find the perfect fit for any room.
Wood and Interior Design Tip Six-Use Woods Colors and Textures to Your Advantage
Since wood comes from all sorts of trees, it is possible to get all kinds of looks, colors, textures and patterns. As a result, wood can be used in a virtually endless number of ways in interior design. Many homeowners and interior designers turn to wood due to its exceptional versatility. Whether you want to add more or less color or texture to a room, wood can get the job done.
Wood furniture, wood flooring and wood paneling can be mixed and matched together in an endless number of ways. The end results can range anywhere from shocking to subtle.
Wood and Interior Design Tip Seven-Cultivate a Vintage Look
No way around it, if you want to cultivate a vintage look, then wood is one of your top options. Wood is an ancient building material and as such resonates in a way that modern building materials can’t match. If you want charm, warmth, elegance and a touch of nostalgia, then it’s impossible to beat wood!
Seven Tips for Interior Design Results
By using these tips, you can easily incorporate wood into your interior design and make a big impact. Interior design should be fun, and the versatility of wood helps to provide endless fun design options. Try contrasting different types of wood against one another in your design.
Also, remember that a few well placed pieces of wood furniture can work to instantly transform almost any room. In our technological society, wood still endures. Wood has stood the test of time as a design material because it is tough, beautiful and extremely versatile. What more could anyone ask for from a building material?
Sunday, April 5th, 2015
Keeping your furniture clean is important if you want your furniture to last. Poorly maintained furniture just won’t stand up to the test of time. While it is important to clean your furniture from time to time, it is also vital that you do so in a green and safe way. Many furniture cleaning options can be harmful to both people and the environment. So let’s take a look at how to get your furniture clean without all the harmful chemicals.
Now you might be thinking that dusting is pretty basic and in one way you are right, but not all dusting is created equally. Dusting furniture is a good idea. But when it is done the wrong way, dusting can actually release a lot of potentially hazardous dust into the air. The solution? If you have very dusty furniture, for example, furniture that has been in storage for years, consider dusting first with a damp cloth and then washing that cloth. Dust often contains potentially harmful compounds that settle on furniture. These compounds can range from flame retardant chemicals found in furniture to toxic compounds from electronics. This fact also underscores the importance of frequently vacuuming and dusting.
Two- Vacuum with HEPA Filter
Another prudent step is to use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter. Many vacuum cleaners have a range of attachments. Some vacuum cleaners earn higher marks than others for the power and effectiveness of their attachments. Two HEPA vacuum cleaner models that have highly functional attachments are Dyson and Shark. A vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter and good attachments can work wonders for not just keeping furniture clean, but for also tackling those hard to reach spots throughout your home.
One very common mistake that people make with HEPA filter vacuums is that they forget to clean their filters. Poorly maintained vacuum filters can actually release more contamination into the air than they capture, so clean your filters often!
Three- Use Oils Rather than Furniture Polish
Furniture polish can help your furniture look great, but it can also harm your health. Many furniture polishes are really little more than low-grade chemical mixtures. Pets, children, adults and the planet as a whole can suffer from exposure to these products. The solution is to skip these products and opt for something more environmentally friendly.
A little oil can go a long way in maintaining your furniture. One of the best options is jojoba oil, but linseed oil also works very well. Adding a few drops of lemon to olive oil is another option that many people like. What furniture polish could be easier than this one? After all, most people have both lemons and olive oil in the kitchen somewhere. If you don’t, they are both inexpensive and easy to buy.
There is no reason to opt for expensive and potentially toxic furniture polishes when a simple and fast fix like lemon juice and olive oil is readily available. Not only do these mixtures work but also you can make them in only a few moments. Using this mixture is as simply as putting a little olive oil and lemon on a cloth and polishing the furniture.
Just remember to test a small area first and see how you like the results before jumping in and cleaning all of your furniture. Also different woods may respond differently to different oils. So just because one option works well for one wood that doesn’t mean it’s a great pick for all your furniture.
It is not your imagination that many furniture polish options smell simply horrible. Keep these harmful compounds out of your body by using natural polishing options. You won’t regret it!
So far we’ve focused on green cleaning options for wood furniture. The needs of wood furniture are far different than upholstered furniture. Upholstered furniture presents a unique challenge in a variety of ways. One problem is that most modern upholstered furniture is stuffed with stuffing that has been treated with dangerous flame retardant chemicals. Your best option is to phase out this kind of furniture for a safer option, such as wood, or a non-flame retardant option as soon as possible.
What About Upholstery?
With that stated, there are some important dos and don’ts where green cleaning of upholster furniture is concerned. First, many carpet cleaning services offer upholstery cleaning. Unfortunately, the majority of these services use chemicals to clean both carpets and furniture and should be avoided. A second point to consider is that by opting for a green upholstering cleaning option, you can avoid consider chemical exposure.
Vacuuming your furniture often, even weekly is a great place to start. All the pointers we’ve mentioned in this article that apply to vacuuming your wood furniture with an attachment apply to vacuuming your upholstered furniture as well. Stains can be treated with soap and water or hydrogen peroxide if they are more stubborn. A little elbow grease, patience and hydrogen peroxide will go a long way in treating stains.
These tips will help you clean your furniture is a safe and green fashion. Green cleaning methods are not just safer for you and your family, but also for your furniture as well. Over time, harsh chemicals may damage your furniture. But the mixtures and green cleaning approaches covered in this article will likely do no harm to your furniture whatsoever. If you want to save money, protect your health and help the planet all at the same time, then follow these tips!
Saturday, March 28th, 2015
Congratulations if you are moving into an older home. It is important to realize that there are some major differences between moving into a newer home as compared to moving into an older home. Simply stated, the two types of homes are very different and ignoring those differences can be costly. Old homes enjoy a charm that is often missing from more modern construction and that charm is almost impossible to replicate. With that stated, it is also true that older homes can have some substantial challenges and concerns. In this article we will look at five of the most important things you should know before moving into an old home.
Old Home Factor Number One-Lead
Lead paint is no longer used, but it can be an issue for old homes. Ignoring lead paint when remodeling or moving into a home, especially if you have children, is one of the worst life decisions that a person can make. Lead is a heavy metal and it can be very dangerous, again especially for children. Lead has made its way into homes via lead paint as well as lead pipes. Under normal circumstances lead paint is the greater of the concerns.
Before moving into a new home or undertaking construction projects that involve painted areas, it is important to perform a lead test. If you discover that you do, in fact, have lead in your home, then you’ll need to consult with a reputable and proven lead expert. Simply stated, lead is no joke and any contractor to acts in a caviler manner about lead is one that you shouldn’t trust. The statement, “Lead isn’t that big of a deal,” should be a serious red flag!
Old Home Factor Number Two-Repairs
Even a well maintained old home is likely to be in the need of some repairs and some old homes need more work than others. So don’t be surprised if you encounter ongoing issues and have to keep your plumber on speed dial.
On the flipside of the coin, old homes are often enjoyed superior construction to their new home counterparts. There are several reasons behind this fact. At the top of the list is the fact that older homes are more likely to have been built using old growth wood. Old growth wood is tougher and tends to last and last.
New lumber might be just fine but it doesn’t compare to the durability of old growth wood. Old growth wood is hard to come by, and that is part of the reason that old homes are often very sought after.
Old Home Factor Number Three-Heating and Cooling
Many people who move into an older home are shocked to discover that their old home can be expensive to heat and cool. Even worse, some old homes may seem nearly impossible to cool off especially on the second floor.
There are two main reasons for this situation. The first reason is that old homes often are lacking in roof insulation, wall insulation or both. Old homes did not have modern insulation and you can really notice this when temperatures get very hot or very cold. The second factor in the old home heating and cooling problem is that many old homes don’t have the proper ductwork installed or have underpowered HVAC systems. All of these problems can be fixed, but the costs certainly can add up! It’s something to think about before you purchase an old home, especially if you live in an area that can get very hot or extremely cold.
Old Home Factor Number Four-The Roof
Old homes have seen a lot and weathered a lot. As a result, an older home’s roof might be in need of some care and attention. A roof will usually last longer than the stated lifespan, but that stated it is also common for homeowners to forgo roof repairs due to the expense. You may discover that your old home has serious roofing issues, and that can be both costly and aggravating. Finding a good roofer can be tricky, as there are lots of roofing companies and they run the quality spectrum.
Old Home Factor Number Five-Foundational Issues
Yes, old homes are great, but foundational issues are never great. If you are considering buying an old home or already own one, it is important to keep an eye on your foundation. A major foundational issue can considerably reduce your home’s value. There are many repairs that you can look the other way on but foundational issues are not on the list. A foundational issue must be addressed immediately!
So periodically check your basement and monitor any cracks or leaks. Water damage is serious damage and has to be treated as such. Water can damage foundations and leave you with a tremendous headache. The good news is that by maintaining your basement and taking preventative measures you can prevent substantial headaches in the future.
Older Homes Have an Undeniable Warmth, Charm and Appeal
Together these five tips will help you get ready to move into an old home. Older homes tend to be better constructed than their average modern counterpart and that has an array of benefits. In addition, older homes also tend to have a level of charm and sophistication and warmth that many homeowners feel is missing from modern homes.
By investing the time to keep an old home in good shape you can protect your investment for years to come. The durability of many old homes is undeniable.
Sunday, March 22nd, 2015
Let’s face it. Try as you might to get outside more, you likely spend most of your time indoors. Statistics show that Americans spend 90% of their time indoors. That’s exactly why the quality of your air is so important. Unfortunately, when people select the wrong furniture, they can quickly degrade the quality of their indoor air. Once toxic fumes come into your home, they often can’t escape.
The EPA has said that indoor air quality is the fourth greatest threat in terms of pollution. It’s way more polluted, on average, than outdoor air. That’s definitely saying something! And it’s not just your furniture that is harming your air quality; it is everything from plastic items to cleaning products and dry-cleaning chemicals.
Dangers to Even the Smallest Humans
When you think about who is exposed to these toxins, it quickly becomes rather alarming. Many of these chemicals are in products that are even commonly used to create a new baby’s room. For example, crib mattresses are typically loaded with chemicals, and new paint on the wall will commonly contain chemical gases. Baby furniture can be loaded down with harmful compounds like formaldehyde. Busy expecting parents may be fixing up a cute room for their little one not even thinking about all the dangers that lurk beneath the surface.
This point underscores exactly why certifications are so necessary. They will point you in the direction of where you can buy products that are safer for you and your family.
No matter what furniture you may buy, it is offgassing. The point is to find items that aren’t synthetic and offgas hazardous chemicals. Even if your item isn’t synthetic, if it is treated with synthetic chemicals it may have the same issue.
What is the Problem with VOCs?
You probably have heard people mention VOCs before. These off gassed chemicals are linked to birth defects, cancer and issues with the endocrine system. Two commonly used VOCs that come into play with furniture are formaldehyde and flame-retardants.
Poor indoor air quality is a major concern for homeowners and building owners as well. We are lucky that some entities have emerged to promote sustainable efforts and safeguard our environment. In the process, they support families and communities as well as employees and corporations.
You may have seen GREENGUARD certification on items of furniture you’ve bought over the years. What does this mean? GREENGUARD certification is a special assurance that products mean limits for chemical emissions. The products that have been GREENGUARD certified have been screened for more than 10,000 chemicals.
When you buy these items, you do not degrade the healthy of your air quality. While this standard is on furniture, you’ll also see it used on finishes, cleaning products, building materials and even electronics.
If you go to the GREENGUARD website you can even find information about their GREENGUARD Gold Certification. This label is even more in depth and designed for sensitive individuals. For example, it is often used in healthcare facilities and schools.
SCS Global Services
Another certification that you can look for to ensure that your products support a healthy interior environment is SCS Global. This certification not only analyses furniture, furniture and building materials but also floor surfaces and floor adhesives. This company handles “third-party environmental, sustainability and food quality certification, auditing, testing and standards development.”
The SCS Indoor Advantage and SCS Indoor Advantage Gold focus primarily on office furniture. So while SCS isn’t necessarily designed as a certification for furniture in your home, it will cover that which is in your office. If you’re sitting in a brand new office chair for 8 hours a day, you just might want it to be certified.
BIFMA is the trade association for business furniture manufacturers. They publish safety standards on furniture and influence national codes. Their designation is called level® and is described as “the multi-attribute, sustainability standard and third-party certification program for the furniture industry.”
level® not only takes materials and health into account, but also energy us, and social actions of a company. You can find out more about this certification at http://www.bifma.org.
Another indoor air quality certification that has emerged is called Intertek. This organization specializes in testing furniture and measures chemicals, flammability, safety and sustainability. This organization also tests for VOC emissions to make sure that they adhere to ETL Environmental VOC requirements.
Other Air Quality Issues
Even aside from your furniture offgassing, there are yet more issues to be aware of, for example, mold growing on furniture can also be an issue. Since mold spores exist in the air, they can start to grow in moist spots. Once this begins, you can end up with a serious issue.
If you think that your home is susceptible to mold, consider using dehumidifiers. They will reduce your indoor humidity by 30-50 percent. Also try to keep the temperature in your home higher so that mold doesn’t end up as condensation. Also if you keep any furniture outside, be sure to keep it out of shady areas, as that is exactly the conditions where mold thrives.
One general rule of thumb that you can follow is to avoid pressed wood. These types of woods often contain the highest levels of volatile organic compounds. When you do buy new furniture, unpack it and let it air out outdoors.
Are you looking for more specifics about where you can find products that have been certified for air quality? You can easily find a directory of products that are GREENGUARD and ECOLOGO Certified by visiting http://productguide.ulenvironment.com/QuickSearch.aspx.
Saturday, March 7th, 2015
Has that old table or couch seen better days? Do you feel as though it is time to swap out the old and bring in the new? Don’t worry everyone goes through this dilemma, and we’re here to let you know that there are many things that you can do with your old furniture. Let’s take a look at a few of your best options.
Old Wood Furniture Vs. Particleboard Options
When dealing with old furniture and what course of action is the best, the first step is to assess the furniture itself. There are, in fact, times that you will want to get rid of a piece of furniture once and for all. A great example is cheap furniture that was made with MDF or particleboard. This kind of furniture will degas for years, and that means it is harming your indoor air quality. MDF and particleboard are known for emitting harmful gases, such as formaldehyde.
MDF is essentially the lowest quality wood scraps and sawdust mixed with chemicals and glues and then fused together. Some people would even go so far as to state that you are better off with no furniture than this kind of furniture.
Sadly, the odds are excellent that if you buy your furniture from a “big box” retailer, that the furniture you buy will be MDF or a mixture of real wood and MDF. This kind of furniture doesn’t last long, doesn’t hold up well to getting wet and is constantly degassing. You should either toss such furniture into the recycling or donate it. Just remember that odd “new furniture” smell usually indicates that it is a problem.
Now old furniture that is actually made mostly or largely out of wood is a different story. Your second question in what to do with old furniture is, “can I repurpose this furniture?” Quite often a little imagination can go a long way and so does a little Internet research. A quick Internet search can give you countless ideas for what to do with an old chair. If you are a crafty creative person, looking on Pinterest might get a cool project started in the right direction!
Old Furniture, New Life
Most “furniture rescue” projects don’t take a long as you would image. A little outdoor sanding, please wear a mask, and paint or eco-friendly finish can go a very long way towards reclaiming a piece of furniture. So, if you don’t like the way a piece of furniture looks, don’t immediately give up on it! Instead try to refinish it and get it back into action.
Repurposing furniture is largely about imagination and a little motivation. An old cart can be refinished or painted and used in the garage or as a new addition to your bathroom, for example. The possibilities are, in fact, almost as endless as the different furniture items.
For example, do you have an outdoor area such as a backyard fire pit or porch? Maybe what that old chair needs is a weather resistant finish to come roaring back to life. Another idea is to take old wood crates, nail them together then nail on some wooden legs and add a glass or other solid top. This project can be done in a couple of hours, and the end result is a really innovative and interesting reclaimed table! Do you have an old door sitting in your garage or basement? Why not convert it to a table? All you need to do is add legs.
Also take a look around your home and see if you can’t discover a better place for the furniture in question. Quite often, changing the location of a piece of furniture serves to breathe new life into it.
A Clever Gift Idea
If you are looking for a novel gift, then another clever way to repurpose your old furniture is to give it to a friend. Handmade gifts that are also practical and functional are as good as gold and will always be remembered.
There Are Plenty of Ways to Get Your Old Furniture a New Home
Depending on the condition of the furniture, you might be able to sell it on Craigslist or eBay. Craigslist is often a better choice as shipping is taken out of the equation.
There are other options as well such as Freecycle, which can be used to help you find ways to give your furniture away. You could also consider simply posting a picture of the furniture that you’d like to give away on your Facebook page or in a group where you’re a member. It could be just that easy to find an enthusiastic taker.
Enter the Handyman
Worried that you can’t handle reclaiming your furniture on your own? Don’t worry, as there are good options. Find a trusted and proven handy man to do these projects for you. It might cost a little, but you’ll be left with a conversation starter and a piece of real wood furniture for the fraction of the cost of buying new wood furniture or even cheap MDF big box furniture.
Saving your old furniture from the trash heap or even the recycling pile is good for the planet. If the furniture in question is made from real wood, or largely real wood, then it is a true treasure and one that you’ll want to hang onto for years to come!
Real wood lasts and it also has a lower carbon footprint; after all, it does take a great deal of energy to grow a new tree, then cut it down, transport the wood, make it into furniture, ship it to a location and then wait for you to buy it! Making the most out of your existing furniture is definitely a better move.
Friday, February 27th, 2015
Flame retardants can make their way into both cheap and expensive furniture. Price isn’t necessarily an indicator of which furniture does or does not contain flame-retardants. Should you be concerned about flame-retardants in your furniture? In short the answer is a big, “yes!” Flame-retardants have become so ubiquitous that many people don’t even notice that they are included and that is part of the problem. Numerous studies have linked flame-retardants to a range of health problems over the years and the compounds found in flame-retardants can be particularly problematic for children. In this article we will explore why you should avoid flame retardants at all costs. When it comes to purchasing furniture, there are other options.
A Wide Array of Furniture Contains Flame Retardants
All types of furniture can contain flame-retardants. However, the most problematic items are large stuffed furniture items, such as couches and chairs. The stuffing in furniture is often laced with dangerous flame retardant chemicals. If you want to avoid these chemicals, your best option is to opt for wood furniture and then pay special attention to whether or not furniture has been filled with stuffing that contains flame-retardants. Labels such as “all-natural” might not serve as much of a guarantee that a given filling does not have flame-retardants contained within. Additionally, companies may not list whether or not a product does, in fact, have flame-retardants.
When it comes to avoiding flame-retardants in your furniture, it is up to the consumer to ask questions. That stated one of the single best moves you can make is to opt for wooden furniture made by small companies. Smaller companies are usually easier to communicate with and receive direct answers regarding their products. In part, avoiding flame-retardants comes down to being a proactive consumer. While this means a little more effort, the benefit is a much safer product for you and your family.
Are Flame Retardants Dangerous?
Can it be stated that furniture that contains flame-retardants is dangerous or even toxic? At first glance this might seem like a controversial stance. But investigative articles in the Chicago Tribune and documentaries such as Toxic Hot Seat have helped to shine a bright light on the considerable dangers found in flame retardant containing furniture. Read more about this film at http://www.toxichotseatmovie.com.
Not the Best Idea the 1970’s Had to Offer
The idea of putting flame retardants in furniture goes back to the 1970s. Yes, of course, no one wants to experience a house fire. It’s one of the most traumatic issues that a person can experience. The initial concept had good intentions: reduce fires in the home .
However, while the goal was for flame retardants in furniture to reduce home fires, what has been scientifically proven is that flame retardants in furniture provide virtually no benefit. At the same time, they expose people needlessly to toxic compounds.
So what toxic compounds are we referencing? Let’s take a closer look.
Lower IQs, Cancer and More
Flame retardants such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers have been linked to cancer as well as lower IQs in children. In short, they are serious business and avoiding these chemicals is harder than one might imagine. Flame retardant chemical dusts makes its way throughout ones home and can accumulate in the body. In a 2012 study, it was revealed that a shocking 75% of all homes tested were fond to contain flame retardant chemicals of some sort.
PBDEs Found in Everything from Furniture and Foam to Nursing Pillows
The state of California classifies these chemicals as being cancer causing agents. Chemicals, such as TCEP and TDCIPP, were not just used in furniture, but also quite perplexingly in children’s sleepwear until they were banned. It has been found that American children have much higher levels of these toxic chemicals than children in other countries. Studies have found that there are up to 11 different flame retardant chemicals found in children. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, are found in furniture, foam, building insulation, nursing pillows, carpet padding, carpet, children’s car seats, changing table pads and electronics.
The experts are speaking and they are encouraging people to avoid furniture and other items that contain flame retardants. If you see a TB-117 tag on a piece of furniture then it meets California’s Technical Bulletin 117 and that means it contains dangerous toxic chemicals. Polyurethane foam in furniture should also be avoided as it may too contain flame retardants. TB-117 went into effect in 1975, so furniture made before that date is less likely to have flame retardants but it is still possible.
There are steps you can take to avoid flame retardant chemicals. One of the single largest steps is to opt for wooden furniture that is free of flame retardant fillings. Couches and chairs that are filled can contain large amounts of these chemicals. Simply opting for a different kind of furniture is enough to reduce your risk. Vacuuming and mopping frequently is another way to reduce your risk.
Your Best Bet is to Avoid Flame Retardant Furniture and Other Goods
Clearly the issue of flame retardants in furniture and other goods is an extremely serious one. Scientist are alarmed by how flame retardants have entered our homes. So wash your hands and the hands of your children often to reduce exposure and work to eliminate foam padding throughout your home. Flame retardants have been found to damage DNA, increase the risk of cancer, lower IQ, cause memory problems and the list goes on and on. Somehow these incredibly dangerous and harmful chemicals have found their way into furniture as well as baby and children products.