Oct 9, 2012 3:00 PM  PST

GreenPointers: Countertops, Backsplashes, and Shower Surrounds

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Can the Right Tree Add
Value to Your Home?

GreenPoint Rate encourages planting shade trees to cut down on air conditioning costs. Large trees keep direct sun off the roof, walls and windows in the summer, and provide an attractive and valuable landscape year-round.

This article has some good suggestions for choosing the right one for your property.

If your landscaping already includes shade trees, they will qualify for points toward a GreenPoint Rating. Find out more about the benefits of a green label.

How to Repair Laminate

This Old House has an excellent how-to video on repairing laminate counters.

Refurbishing what you already have is always the greenest option and should be considered before you begin any remodeling project.

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Full of pointers on how to make your remodel green, healthier, and more comfortable, this guide will help get you started.

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Countertops, Backsplashes,
and Shower Surrounds

Our series of GreenPointers provide helpful tips for a healthier, greener home in a variety of topics. Today's topic is countertops, backsplashes, and shower surrounds.

If you're thinking of replacing kitchen countertops and backsplashes, a vanity top, or a shower surround, you have many attractive, functional and green options to choose from. Recycled glass and ceramic tiles are available in a rainbow of colors. Other appealing options include terrazzo-like materials that blend recycled glass and concrete, and natural fiber composites derived from rapidly renewable or recycled resources.

Green Pointers

To help get you started on finding durable, healthy and environmentally preferable options, here are some things to keep in mind:
Step 1


  Before tearing out an old countertop, backsplash or shower surround, evaluate your options for sprucing it up or repairing it. Reusing what you've got saves energy, natural resources and water compared to buying newly manufactured products. It can save you a lot of money too.

If your countertop, backsplash or shower tiles look grungy because of cracked or stained grout, you can repair the grout yourself or hire a tile contractor. Wood countertops can be sanded and resealed. And sometimes other changes in the room, such as a fresh coat of paint on cabinets or walls, can make the adjacent countertop or shower surround look nearly new again.

Step 2


  Green countertop options include solid surfacing materials and tiles made with recycled content; salvaged stone and ceramic tile; reclaimed or FSC-certified wood; and bamboo. Not all materials are suitable for wet locations such as shower surrounds.

And buy local when you can. Products fabricated locally (preferably from locally harvested or locally manufactured materials) offer many environmental, economic and social benefits such as helping keep jobs in your community and reducing transportation energy use.
Step 3


  Conventional caulks, construction adhesives and sealants can offgas toxic compounds for months. Low-VOC products are a healthier choice. They have lower emissions of toxic gases such as aromatic hydrocarbons or other petroleum solvents that contribute to indoor and outdoor air pollution. When installing countertops and tiles, use caulks, adhesives and sealants that have a volatile organic compound (VOC) concentration of 70 grams per liter or less.

Also pay attention to what goes underneath the countertops. Particleboard or medium density fiberboard (MDF) is often used as a substrate underneath a tile, stone or laminate surface. These composite wood materials used to be made with high levels of formaldehyde, a carcinogen. However, new regulations in California limit formaldehyde levels in pressed wood products manufactured or sold in the state.


Read the complete countertops, backsplashes, and
shower surrounds GreenPointers.

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