c0080 BC-FEA-Homes-GreenRemod 11-17 1050

Options for a ’green’ kitchen remodel

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AP Real Estate Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) — In any home remodeling project, the kitchen typically gets more than its share of attention and the budget, and even more so when it comes to an environmentally-friendly overhaul.


From countertops, to cabinetry and electricity chugging appliances, options to greenify your kitchen abound.

Before diving into a full-home green renovation, however, experts suggest leaving the kitchen for last.

For one, sealing windows, upgrading the home heating system and insulation can have more of an impact on energy efficiency than anything done in the kitchen.

Another reason: money.

On a square-foot basis, kitchen remodels can easily end up eating much of the renovation budget because homeowners often focus on the kitchen too much and overspend, says Sid Davis, author of "Your Eco-Friendly Home: Buying, Building or Remodeling GREEN."

"Most people tackle the kitchen first because it’s an emotional thing," Davis says. "Going strictly from an environmental standpoint, it should be lower on the list."

Every remodeling project is unique, but experts say, in general, it’s a good idea to begin the kitchen makeover by tackling the cabinets first, then countertops, then the flooring and then the appliances.

When it comes to cabinetry, choose wood that is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, which means it comes from a well-managed forest, or other materials, like bamboo, which are considered environmentally sustainable.


"What you really want to avoid is any type of processed wood that is laid with formaldehyde," says Los Angeles-based interior designer Alison Shoemaker.

Other alternatives for processed wood are wheat board fiber, a material made from wheat straw, and Kirei board, which is made from the stalks of the sorghum plant, and has a distinct, knotty look.

Try to go with materials produced locally to reduce transportation costs.

If you’re replacing the existing countertops, experts recommend installing a solid surface material rather than tile that requires grout, which is harder to clean.

One example is CaesarStone, which is made of quartz and recycled materials. It’s also nonporous, which helps stave off bacteria, Shoemaker says.

Recycled glass and concrete are other good options.

If you go with wood or butcher block, know what the source of the wood is and make sure it is formaldehyde free.

Experts differ on whether granite is truly a green alternative because of the energy and resources consumed in extracting it from the ground and in transporting it to its final destination.


While water conservation is important, getting a low-flow fixture for the kitchen sink isn’t crucial, as the amount of water used in a kitchen is typically far less compared to the bathroom or for landscaping.

Kitchens offer a wider variety of flooring options than perhaps any other room in a house.

A decidedly non-green option is vinyl flooring. Experts suggest going instead with tile, linoleum, laminate or sustainable woods such as bamboo. Cork is an increasingly popular alternative.

If the kitchen is on a slab, consider stripping the floor down to the concrete. While chefs may find the floor less forgiving on their legs and dropped dishes, experts say it’s better for the environment.

"The best thing to do is not use any material at all," says John Lee, managing partner for Lee Capital Partners in Santa Monica, Calif., which builds LEED-certfied homes.

Concrete floors can be finished using an acid stain, he says.

For new construction, opt for concrete mixed with fly ash — a glasslike powder emitted by coal-fired electric power plants — which replaces Portland cement, the key ingredient in regular concrete.

When it comes to appliances, Energy Star-rated models are must in any green-conscious kitchen remodel. Replace any that are older than 10 years old. (Before doing so, look on your utility bill and on to find out about possible rebate programs and tax incentives.)


Experts recommend using a dishwasher, because most people waste more water by hand-washing dishes.

Don’t forget to include a vented range hood to help move air over the stove out of the house. Merely recycling the air through a filter or pushing it to the garage or the attic won’t do, Davis says.

"Somewhere along the line when you remodel your kitchen you’ve got to put that at the very top (of the list)," Davis says.

As in other rooms, the kitchen should be painted with paints that have zero or low levels of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs.

Because of the moisture in kitchens, mold can be an issue. For remodels that involve tearing down walls and adding new ones, Lee recommends going with mold-resistant, paper-free drywall.

The kitchen layout should let as much natural light in as possible, so the more window space the better. Otherwise, replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent or LEDs.

How much a green kitchen remodel will cost depends greatly on the size of the kitchen and what types of materials you use, but if you’re planning to replace everything, expect the biggest variable cost factor will be the countertop and cabinets.

Davis says many people get carried away and find themselves overbudget when they can save a lot of money and have less of an impact on the environment by refurbishing what they have whenever possible instead of replacing everything.


Wood cabinets can be cleaned up with lemon oil, or sanded and restained or painted, then adorned with new hardware to give them a new look. Or one can lay tile themselves to resurface countertops and backsplashes, for example.

"You don’t have to spend a lot of money on making the kitchen really stand out," Davis says.

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