Ren­o­vat­ing doesn’t have to be waste­ful

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - HOMES - MIKE HOLMES

REN­O­VAT­ING is a form of re­cy­cling: It’s about find­ing new pur­pose for old rooms and build­ings, and ex­tend­ing their use­ful­ness. But, of course, ev­ery ren­o­va­tion also in­volves a lot of waste. It also in­volves choices about what you can do with that waste.

Con­struc­tion waste is a by-prod­uct of ren­o­va­tion that can be re­duced.

More than half the waste from the build­ing in­dus­try — and that’s more than 100 mil­lion tons a year — is from ren­o­va­tion and de­mo­li­tion. Only a small per­cent­age (less than a quar­ter) is be­ing re­cy­cled. There are fa­cil­i­ties (not enough of them yet) that man­age de­mo­li­tion waste: They grind it, chip it, and shred it, keep­ing it out of land­fills and mak­ing it into fuel pel­lets or in­cor­po­rat­ing it into new prod­ucts.

The first step you need to take is to plan and min­i­mize waste on the ren­o­va­tion site. There are ways you and your con­trac­tor can do that:

Sal­vage what you can and send it to re­use cen­tres: ap­pli­ances, win­dows and doors, wood trim, floor­ing, cab­i­nets, plumb­ing and elec­tri­cal fix­tures. Old­growth tim­ber and true-di­men­sional lum­ber that you’d find in a home built early last cen­tury can be valu­able.

De­con­struct in­stead of de­mol­ish. De­con­struc­tion is ba­si­cally ‘ un­build­ing’ the house, in re­verse or­der. That way it’s eas­ier to sort ma­te­ri­als for re­use.

Sep­a­rate out con­struc­tion waste — dry­wall, wood, metal, glass, con­crete, ma­sonry and as­phalt paving —on-site. Sep­a­rat­ing out mixed con­struc­tion and de­mo­li­tion waste can be done at land­fills and re­cy­cling fa­cil­i­ties, but it’s more en­ergy-ef­fi­cient to do it on-site.

Re­cy­cling, even though it’s bet­ter for the en­vi­ron­ment, usu­ally costs more in the short term. And we all seem to think in the short term, cer­tainly when it comes to a ren­o­va­tion bud­get. So, if it’s cheaper to pay the tip­ping fee at a land­fill, a lot of builders and contractors will do that rather than re­cy­cle. And very few home­own­ers will even ask what’s hap­pen­ing to their waste, let alone pay ex­tra to en­sure it’s be­ing han­dled in the best way.

We need to find ways to di­vert waste from the land­fills. It’s the law in most places around the coun­try — as it should be.

We need to stop planned ob­so­les­cence. Your house should out­last you, the way cen­tury homes did, and the way new homes have been built in the last decade prob­a­bly won’t.

Part of the prob­lem is fashion: Peo­ple buy a home that’s per­fectly good, but the style of the cupboards or floor­ing isn’t to their taste, so out it all comes. And out it all goes to the land­fill. That’s fool­ish, to my mind. And it’s waste­ful. At the very least, those items can be reused.

But it’s also about where you put your money in a ren­o­va­tion. We all think about the sur­face and the fin­ishes, and that’s where the bud­get goes. We’ll put down a new floor on a weak or de­te­ri­o­rated sub­floor and, within a short time, it fails. We’ll fin­ish a base­ment with­out en­sur­ing it’s wa­ter­tight, or with­out cre­at­ing a ther­mal break and, within a short time, we’ve got mould and it fails. The list goes on.

Ren­o­va­tions give us a chance to up- grade homes to be more en­vi­ron­men­tally ef­fi­cient. In­stalling bet­ter in­su­la­tion, more ef­fi­cient ap­pli­ances and im­proved wa­ter-con­ser­va­tion de­vices doesn’t just cut the in­di­vid­ual build­ing owner’s monthly ex­penses; it also cuts down on the waste of pre­cious re­sources.

Part of the so­lu­tion to the prob­lem is to build bet­ter in the first place. We need to stop us­ing build­ing ma­te­ri­als we know will mould and rot within years. We need to stop us­ing tech­niques that have proved time and again to cre­ate con­den­sa­tion that leads to mould.

Hav­ing to re­build poorly built struc­tures is waste­ful. I’m for dura­bil­ity, and do­ing it right the first time means build­ing struc­tures to last. That usu­ally means build­ing above min­i­mum code. It means choos­ing more durable build­ing ma­te­ri­als and it means us­ing stronger build­ing tech­niques.

And we should avoid the use of ma­te­ri­als that are not re­cy­clable. As­phalt roof­ing shin­gles are a great ex­am­ple: Mil­lions of tons of used shin­gles are dumped ev­ery year into land­fills be­cause of re-roof­ing. You’ve got to have a roof in good shape, but you’ll be lucky to get 10 years out of even top-grade as­phalt shin­gles. And most peo­ple don’t buy the best (short-term think­ing again), so they don’t last as long, and the house needs a new roof that much sooner. Do the math.

I would rec­om­mend you choose a dif­fer­ent roof­ing ma­te­rial. Metal roofs have a much longer life and are re­cy­clable. But at the least, let’s re­cover the waste shin­gles. As­phalt shin­gles can be re­cov­ered and shred­ded and added to roads and bik­ing trails. They can be added to con­crete as an ag­gre­gate.

They may be banned one day soon from mu­nic­i­pal land­fills. They should be di­verted, but the re­cy­cling fa­cil­i­ties that do so aren’t avail­able ev­ery­where in the coun­try. We need to cre­ate more in­cen­tives for busi­nesses that di­vert, re­cover and re­use as­phalt shin­gles and other con­struc­tion waste. That’s a real way ren­o­va­tion can re­cy­cle.

— Canwest News Ser­vice


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