Green Restoration Compromises

By: Conrad Neuf , Contributing Writer
In: Old House Musings, Green Renovations, In The News, Old Houses

I think that most of us involved in the restoration of our old houses are environmentally responsible. If I go to my local lumberyard to place an order, and the salesperson tells me that he can give me the entire order in Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified lumber for the same price as regular lumber, I of course will choose the FSC certified lumber. If he tells me the FSC certified lumber will be $200 more, I might hesitate for a second to consider my budget, but will then give him the okay. But what if he tells me the FSC certified lumber will be $1000 more? That hesitation would last longer than a second.

Thankfully, green technology has advanced enough that going green has become more budget friendly, and we aren’t faced with costly decisions as frequently as in the past. But, they do still occur from time to time. While I am doing my old house restoration, and it’s an ongoing project, I want to be true to my home’s character and history, I want to be environmentally responsible, but I also want to work within my budget, and sometimes I have to decide which is more important for various phases of the restoration.

Green Restoration in Hampton, Virginia

I read about a family doing a green restoration of their American Four Square home, built in 1924. Much of the initial restoration involved making the old house more energy efficient. Areas of air infiltration were closed off, insulation was added, and the old boiler was removed and replaced with a high-efficiency system. These were fairly easy decisions–they were green, they fit the budget, and they didn’t take away from the character of the home. But then something had to be done with the windows, and a compromise had to be made. Wood-framed replacement windows are expensive for a large house. I know because I’ve installed them in many homes over the years. Vinyl windows are budget friendly and energy efficient, but often don’t blend with an old house’s character. This family decided to go with storm windows, which might detract from the home’s look a bit when they’re in place, but were a good compromise.

North of the Border: Old House Makes Being Green the Priority

A Canadian family purchased a 100-year-old farmhouse in 1982, and after spending a Canadian winter in it, decided the old house’s energy efficiency was the number one priority. Over the years, they restored the home, and went green before most people knew what green was. While they remained true to the old house’s character where they could, going green and being energy efficient won out when a decision had to be made. The wooden exterior doors were replaced with steel, and the wood siding with vinyl. The old house still looks great, though. I’m sure a Canadian winter would make energy efficiency a priority for anyone.

Connecticut Green Restoration Decisions

I’ve been following the green restoration of an old Connecticut farmhouse, too. It was built in 1902, but sat vacant from 1975 until it was recently purchased. The homeowner decided she was going to try adhering to the three goals I mentioned: Be true to the old house’s character, do a green restoration, and stay on budget. She’s been doing a great job so far, and after seeing what the old house looked like when she purchased it, I’m anxious to see how it looks when finished. She blogs about her green restoration of Sheepdog Hollow every week.


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  1. 7 Responses  to “Green Restoration Compromises”

  2. Aug 29, 2011
    everything should be green these days, let us help mother earth"';
  3. Aug 29, 2011
    going green is always the best thing to do. it helps the environment a lot.*'*
  4. Aug 29, 2011
    everyone should Go Green so that we can help the environment.*'.
  5. Grant
    Aug 29, 2011
    It is difficult to be environmentally friendly in any facet of life right now, or eat healthy conveniently, it is always a bit more pricey. When given the choice of saving money when we really need to (now) and being environmentally friendly, it is hard to give that up.
  6. Aug 29, 2011
    We're renovating a 110 year old home in Ann Arbor. Our goal is become the OLDEST NET ZERO HOUSE IN AMERICA. Despite the many challenges, we've been able to restore the historic integrity of the home and make it extraordinarily energy efficient and comfortable. You can see our live energy use on our website www.Greenovation.TV. We were able to accomplish these exceptional savings by first tackling the low hanging fruit of weather sealing and insulating the home. We're able to go even further by using geothermal heating, a/c and hot water, motion sensor light switches and very efficient lighting. We can tighten up our historic windows by replacing our sash weights with sash balances, filling the empty frame with insulation, and adding well-sealed low-E storm windows. This allows us to save our wonderful windows, save money and prevent conditioned air from leaving the home. Once we reduce our consumption as much as possible, we will install solar PV and produce as much energy as we consume. Stay tuned and please, please feel free to contact me if you need any advice on your home.
  7. Nathan
    Aug 29, 2011
    It's very inspiring to know that more and more people are adopting green living. Another great green restoration for every home is with the use of window tints. While most window films are for reducing solar heat gain in the summer, low-e films both block summer heat and improve winter heat retention. Reputable site such as www.TintBuyer.com informs consumers about the relevant facts on window tints such as type of tints, quotations and will help you locate the best professional tinter near your area. Window tints are cost-effective, energy-efficient and definitely eco-friendly.
  8. Jeremy
    Aug 29, 2011
    Much like eating cheap food, there are many hidden costs associated with non-sustainable building materials. Yes, you might save some money in the short term purchase, but eventually SOMEONE is going to pay the price.