Green Kitchen Cabinets are Your Old Kitchen Cabinets

Scott Gibson

Green building is all about using less energy and fewer natural resources and making buying decisions that are better for our health and the health of the planet.

Consumers have plenty of green options these days, and that's a good thing. But this wealth of offerings can obscure the fact that green doesn't always mean buying new stuff. Just as important is the idea of getting greener by reusing and restoring what we already have.

Green Remodeling for Your Kitchen - Cabinets are Key

With that in mind, a green kitchen remodel might include cabinet restoration instead of cabinet replacement. Restoring old cabinets causes fewer environmental problems than buying new, no matter how environmentally friendly new cabinets might be. There's less to haul to the landfill, fewer raw materials to mine or harvest, and much lower manufacturing costs.

An added bonus: restoration should cost less than buying new.

There's no point in trying to salvage cabinets with serious structural problems. You really should replace poorly made cabinets built with low quality materials. If you aren't sure about your cabinets, you can contact a cabinet refacer for an opinion. But assuming cabinets look tired but are otherwise in good condition, you can bring them back to life either by repainting or refacing in wood veneer.

Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Repainting is the least expensive, and least disruptive, option and it's a job most homeowners can do themselves. The process amounts to removing the doors and all door and drawer hardware, cleaning surfaces thoroughly, filling any dings and dents, and then priming and painting.

When you buy the paint, look for a low volatile organic compound (low-VOC) or VOC-free formula. VOCs are chemical solvents whose fumes you shouldn't be inhaling. Most big paint manufacturers now offer latex paints with very low VOC content.

Refacing Kitchen Cabinets

Like the look of natural wood better than paint? There's a green solution here, too. Refacing existing cabinets with veneer uses far fewer resources than buying new ones, and the end result can be just as handsome.

Veneer is available in many types of wood--cherry, oak, birch, maple, hickory, and a variety of more exotic species. You can order it with one side treated with a pressure-sensitive or heat-sensitive glue, which allows a kitchen refacer to put a new layer of wood over the old quickly.

Although you can revive the cabinet boxes with veneer, new cabinet doors and new drawer fronts may still be in the cards. They can be made locally or ordered to match the veneer used in the rest of the kitchen.

Refacing cabinets is beyond the skills of most homeowners, but finding a reasonably priced local remodeler who specializes in the technique shouldn't be difficult - and you can bank your savings into a high interest savings account.

Whether you repaint or reface old cabinets, new door and drawer hardware and new countertops can complete the restoration. Countertops can upgrade both the look and functionality of the kitchen, and there are plenty of green options including a variety of attractive composites made with recycled materials, such as glass and even paper.

Thanks in part to the attention green building is winning in the marketplace, we now can recycle everything from aluminum cans and plastic jugs to compact fluorescent light bulbs and batteries. Just think of a cabinet restoration as recycling on a larger scale.



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