Q My aunt wants to rip out her old wooden kitchen cabinets and replace them with new ones. Habitat for Humanity won't take them. Is there any organization that will?
A This is a question I get a lot. Not about your aunt's cupboards (which I'm sure are lovely), but what do with reno rejects that Habitat for Humanity won't take.
First of all, if you're gutting a room and haven't asked Habitat for Humanity's ReStores to take your old sink, doors or chandeliers, you should. ReStores are like thrift shops for the renovating set, filled with second-hand goods, building contractor donations and more. They're also excellent spots to drop off old tools and stuff you've yanked out of your home.
The thing is, Habitat does have basic criteria for those donations. They have to be sellable, in good condition (no water damage, chunks missing and the like). ReStore prefers that fixtures like cupboards, which can be pretty dated and wacky-looking, be under 15 years old. Best to call or e-mail before hauling your stuff there. (See www.habitat.ca for ReStore locations and contact info.) If they like what they see, they'll give you a charitable receipt for your renovation donation.
But what happens if the ReStore people decide they ain't interested? Well, you can try Home Again Recycling Depot (416-467-4663) and J. Gizuk & Son Wrecking (416-504-5010). But, again, they're looking for saleable goods. If they all say no, your options are pretty slim, Jim, especially since Toronto doesn't recycle wood products or building materials sad but true. But the city is hoping to get reuse depots up and running to collect goods like this that could be dissassembled and recycled. Stay tuned.
If the cupboards aren't in total tatters, try taking some digital photos and posting them on Freecycle.org. Hey, you never know, someone might think your aunt's retro style is just swell, especially if they're free.
No takers? Unless you can find a new and ingenious use for the materials (like, say sawing the cupboard doors into frames and popping some art in the middle), you might just have to leave them at the curb and hope someone else sees some beauty in them before the garbage truck shows up.
Q Do you have any suggestions for eco siding?
A There comes a time in every building's life when a major overhaul is needed and a paint job just won't do the trick. If you're looking to re-side your home, there are dozens of options to choose from, but which are actually green?
For one, forget vinyl. It may be the most popular material around for siding, but it's also made with the most scorned plastic of all: PVC. The full lifecycle cost of manufacturing this stuff just isn't worth it, even though it's probably your cheapest bet.
If you're looking for something comparable, polypropylene (PP) is a somewhat better option. PP doesn't have the same bad rap that PVC does, although it's still made from petroleum-based plastic. It's said to be more durable than vinyl and can be moulded to look like wood or brick shingles. (Nailite makes some.) I couldn't find a brand that had any recycled content.
Solid wood siding shingles can be a sustainable (though higher-maintenance) option, but only if you find a brand that gets its wood through the Forest Stewardship Council. Quebec-based Maibec sells quality spruce siding made with some FSC-certified content. But if you want 100 per cent certified wood, you'll have to special-order it (www.maibec.com). By the way, it comes with a 50-year warrantee.
Reclaimed wood siding is made from high-quality timber salvaged from the inside of old barns and other buildings. (Don't worry, they're not giving you the weathered exterior stuff). Vintage Woodcraft in Elora sells some (www.vintagewoodcraft.com).
Old-fashioned aluminum or steel can be really energy-intensive to make and polluting to mine, but most of the new stuff is high in recycled content. Plus, it can be recycled should someone choose to tear it down in 50 years.
Traditional stucco lasts a hell of a long time and is very low-maintenance, but, again, cement is an extremely energy-intensive material (and synthetic petrochemical-based stuccos can be dodgy upkeep-wise, so I'd stay away). Fire-, insect-, weather- and mould- resistant fibre-cement siding (a mix of cement, sand and up to 10 per cent wood fibres) isn't a bad compromise. Look for those that use recycled wood fibres and fly ash over plain cement.
Brick and stone are beautiful but also involve digging up the landscape. In the same price range, you could invest in &159:ber-eco, slickly designed Rainscreen by PaperStone, made of 50 per cent post-consumer paper and FSC-certified wood (www.paperstoneproducts.com).
The only siding that comes approved by Energy Star is manufactured by Cedar Ridge. It has an R-value (or insulating value) four times that of most other sidings (which only have an R-value of one). Trouble is, it's impossible to find in Canada. Sorry!
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