budgeting · home + garden

How to Keep a House Project Sustainable

How to Keep a House Project Sustainable

When we set out to re-do our bathroom, our dual goals were to keep our house project sustainable for both our wallets and the environment.  We wanted to keep the cost down and be as easy on the environment as we could. It worked and the end result was better than we expected.

We had been meaning to re-do our bathroom. Years ago, we painted every surface (including the floor) in the bathroom when we had a newborn and a 2-year old. Painting was all we could really accomplish during nap-times and thought the bathroom project would be next on our 100-year old house to-do list. We finally got around to the project 13- years later and we’re putting the final touches on this much needed, long anticipated bathroom project right now.

Simple ways to keep your home improvement projects sustainable for your wallet

1. Reuse –By not replacing your fixtures with new ones, you’re saving not only money but also space in a land-fill. Consider buying used fixtures as an alternative to new.

2. Shop local – This allowed us to have a personal connection with store employees and we were able to do a trade to get items we needed. Big box retailers don’t have that option.

3. Do the work yourself – Get a book from your local library on home improvement and read up or find a how to video that will show and explain what’s involved.

4. Borrow tools – Not everyone needs to own the same tools. Check with neighbors or friends rather than buying a new one yourself. Another option is a tool lending library, which many communities are starting.

5. Do not disturb – Walls, ceilings, and old flooring which in old houses like ours, are known to contain lead dust and other contaminants. Consider patching and painting or laying new flooring on top of old rather than releasing these particles into your home. Fixing and repairing rather than ripping out generate less project waste.

We kept the basic layout and fixtures of our bathroom but replaced our sink with a new one. Our “new” sink came from an estate sale leftover free pile. With a little elbow grease and new plumbing fittings, it’s working as well as a new one, has more character, and makes for a good story. We also replaced the flooring but didn’t remove the old. Instead, we installed new sub-flooring and laid Marmoleum tiles over that.

How to Keep a House Project Sustainable

With the project starting to wrap up, our efforts turned to getting rid of the waste while keeping our commitment to once-a-month garbage collection. Our goal was to not generate any additional waste from our household due to the project. There are ways to avoid the dreaded construction dumpster by not automatically putting everything into the trash and considering these alternatives:

Simple ways to keep your home improvement project waste to a minimum

1. List items on Craig’s list, Freecycle or Krrb – don’t be shy about putting something out there. It’s a cliché but it is true – one person’s junk is another person’s treasure.

2. Find local shops that accept and resell fixtures – an antique store or vintage shop may accept your items, give you a store credit or perhaps even pay you cash.

3. Wood recycling companies, scrap metal, and architectural salvage are other establishments not to overlook.

How to Keep a House Project Sustainable

Do the research where you live and make the extra effort to donate your old fixtures or unwanted items that can be re-used. Above all, don’t forget that reduce, reuse, recycle can be applied not only to your life but to your home improvement projects as well.

Read the article here at Kaia Magazine – Sustainable Living in Real Life

Want to read all about the bathroom re-do project?
Bathroom Project Part 1
Bathroom Project Part 2
Bathroom Project Part 3
Bathroom Project Part 4
Bathroom Project Part 5
Goodbye Bathroom
Finding Inspiration for a Bathroom Re-Do
All the sources for the project can be found here