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Sarah Susanka's Green Remodeling Tips


We’re delighted to have architect and author Sarah Susanka as a guest of Marvin Windows and Doors at this year’s Remodeling Show. Here are some tips from Sarah’s latest book, “Not So Big Remodeling,” written with Marc Vassallo.

1. One is Better Than None. When undergoing a remodeling project, include as many green upgrades as the budget allows. If the prospect of many upgrades seems overwhelming, just pick one and do it well. Every improvement makes a difference to the long-term sustainability of the structure.

2. Waste Not, Want Not. Reuse as many of the original components from the existing house as is reasonable. There are often interesting ways to repurpose materials, such as using wall studs to extend the eaves or grinding up old stucco for the driveway base.

3. Mind Your Materials. Choose paints and varnishes that are free from harmful VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) and formaldehyde. Look for engineered wood products and FSC-certified woods (Forestry Stewardship Council). Marvin offers FSC-certified wood windows.

4. Give Your House a Check-up. Obtain an energy audit from a home energy expert to identify problem areas and streamline the process of improving the home’s energy efficiency. This alone can save hundreds of dollars a year.

5. Seal Leaks. Have the existing HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system checked by a qualified contractor. Replace substandard ductwork and seal all ductwork in unconditioned spaces.

6. Improve Efficiency. Increase efficiency and lower energy bills by using double or triple-paned windows with a coating known as “low E.” Choose efficient HVAC equipment and EnergyStar rated appliances.

7. Increase Insulation. Attics and crawl spaces are common culprits for substandard insulation. There are many insulation options to choose from, such as sprayed-in, closed-cell, no-VOC foam insulation.

8. Use the Roof. Extend the roof overhangs to protect the exterior from weather and shade the house from the high summer sun. Consider adding a solar hot water system or a photovoltaic array.