Author Topic: Advice on cheap, long lasting, environmentally friendly renovations  (Read 1303 times)

Ecky

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Hi all,

My wife and I have owned our first home for a little over a year. We bought one that needed a lot of work, and even after a year we still have a lot ahead of us.

One thing I've come to appreciate is when materials can be safely burned, composted or recycled, rather than go into a landfill. There were a few old outbuildings I finished deconstructed which I was very appreciative to have been able to burn in their entirety, whereas other things have ended up in landfill, and the experience has made me better appreciate the entire lifecycle of things.

Two items which are on my list this summer:

1) We have a mostly covered deck on one side of the house, perhaps 12' x 25', which is severely rotten in some places. We could remove the deck, but it probably adds value to the house to have one. Let's say we replace it. Regular dimensional lumber will not last without a coating, and most impact end-of-life disposal. Pressure treated or composite would last much longer but definitely ends up in a landfill. We have a local sawmill which will sell us locally sourced rough cut hemlock for less than half the price per area of untreated dimensional, but my guess is it could be a splinter hazard and will still need to be protected. We could go with the hemlock and perhaps rent a large sander? What would a mustache do?

2) The house has an old block chimney on the front, which is painted a horrific teal color. It likely wasn't pretty to begin with. I removed the oil boiler that was using it, so now the chimney serves no useful purpose other than to fill the gap in the roof that would exist if I pulled it off the house.

I've considered removing the chimney, or painting it again and hoping the old paint does not flake off, bricking over it (more costly) or perhaps a veneer. Best to remove it, or improve it?

We'll be doing the siding around it this summer. It's going to be lap siding, in this color:

https://www.benjaminmoore.com/en-us/color-overview/find-your-color/color/CSP-535/approaching-storm?color=CSP-535

Apologies for the poor picture, it's all I had on my phone at the time of posting.


mozar

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I would buy the hemlock and seal it with one of those big box store stains that last 3 to 5 years. When you are ready for disposal it will biodegrade faster than a plastic treatment or pressure treatment.  And you can just pull out the rotting boards and replace each one.

seattlecyclone

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Do you actually want a deck for yourselves or are you mainly concerned with resale value? If the deck is primarily for the benefit of the next owner, why not wait to install it until shortly before they buy the place? That would be better for the environment than installing it now and letting half its useful life elapse before anyone gets much use out of it.

Ecky

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Do you actually want a deck for yourselves or are you mainly concerned with resale value? If the deck is primarily for the benefit of the next owner, why not wait to install it until shortly before they buy the place? That would be better for the environment than installing it now and letting half its useful life elapse before anyone gets much use out of it.

Hard to say. We've had the house for a year and some change now, and have spent basically the entire time working on it. I haven't yet taken an afternoon to just sit on the deck - which is covered almost entirely by a metal roof.

The plan is to try to finish the major exterior renovations by the end of autumn this year, and then to spend the next 3-4 years just picking at things at our own pace.

PMG

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Not an expert, but Iíd take that chimney down before you side so you can cover it. The roof can be filled in.

An old chimney through a roof will leak eventually. And if itís no longer needed, not likely to be needed and not likely to be safe anymore taking it down is the best option in my opinion. Patching in the roof wonít be ideal, but also shouldnít be too difficult to get water tight.


AnnaGrowsAMustache

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Why would you not just replace the rotted parts of the deck with new treated decking timber and coat it all? If you look after it, none of the thing needs to get into a landfill anytime in the next decade.

Anything long lasting is environmentally friendly in my book. You're using it forever without it going to landfill??? Besides which, there are always uses for things. I've ended up with loads of linoleum pieces after pulling up a whole lot. They've all ended up being reused in one way or another, no landfill involved. The last bit I just used to weather proof a kennel roof, and then painted it a purty roofy sort of colour with an old test pot. I've used a crap load of old carpet on brick garden pathways in winter so they don't get slippy. It's half rotted by summer and goes on compost heap. I've used old sheets of crappy translucent sort corrugated fibreglass-y stuff that I got out of a construction bin down the road to make the roof for my greenhouse. No idea what it is but it was definitely going to the dump. Got a whole bunch of broken breeze block type things from same bin and they've made a very tidy garden edge - the broken side of each brick is buried.

That's my version of eco friendly. It's less about what the material actually is and more about actively reusing stuff myself. I have zero confidence in recycling programmes. I have a lot of confidence in buying pet food in plastic containers that are the perfect size for the freezer, and for storing small nuts/bolts/nails/buttons.....

Greystache

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I built a deck about 20 years ago using treated lumber for the joists and untreated douglas fir 2x6 for the deck and railings. I stained it every 3 to 5 years but I still had to replace a lot of deck boards due to rot and termites. I recently replaced all of the deck boards with composite material to eliminate future maintenance. I'm getting too old for this shit.  Here is some advice/lessons learned from 20 years with a wood deck. Part of my problems with rot and termites was due to construction.  If I were going to do it again, I would use a waterproof flashing on top of the floor joists. The treated joists never rotted, but they held moisture and the fir deck stayed wet too long. Almost all of the rot in the deck took place at joints where two deck boards butted together and attached to the joist.  I would have also used a more suitable wood. Redwood or cedar probably would have performed better. I have no experience with the material you are thinking of using. One other thing. Regardless of what kind of wood you use, make sure it is dry. I used relatively green wood for the deck boards and it shrank  A LOT.

Ecky

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Why would you not just replace the rotted parts of the deck with new treated decking timber and coat it all? If you look after it, none of the thing needs to get into a landfill anytime in the next decade.

Anything long lasting is environmentally friendly in my book. You're using it forever without it going to landfill??? Besides which, there are always uses for things. I've ended up with loads of linoleum pieces after pulling up a whole lot. They've all ended up being reused in one way or another, no landfill involved. The last bit I just used to weather proof a kennel roof, and then painted it a purty roofy sort of colour with an old test pot. I've used a crap load of old carpet on brick garden pathways in winter so they don't get slippy. It's half rotted by summer and goes on compost heap. I've used old sheets of crappy translucent sort corrugated fibreglass-y stuff that I got out of a construction bin down the road to make the roof for my greenhouse. No idea what it is but it was definitely going to the dump. Got a whole bunch of broken breeze block type things from same bin and they've made a very tidy garden edge - the broken side of each brick is buried.

That's my version of eco friendly. It's less about what the material actually is and more about actively reusing stuff myself. I have zero confidence in recycling programmes. I have a lot of confidence in buying pet food in plastic containers that are the perfect size for the freezer, and for storing small nuts/bolts/nails/buttons.....


Here's what I have to work with:










The deck bows into a shallow "V" in the middle. I haven't yet looked at the supports underneath to see how this happened.


I'm very skeptical of composting carpet, considering most of it is made of plastic.
« Last Edit: May 02, 2020, 09:32:27 AM by Ecky »

Ecky

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I built a deck about 20 years ago using treated lumber for the joists and untreated douglas fir 2x6 for the deck and railings. I stained it every 3 to 5 years but I still had to replace a lot of deck boards due to rot and termites. I recently replaced all of the deck boards with composite material to eliminate future maintenance. I'm getting too old for this shit.  Here is some advice/lessons learned from 20 years with a wood deck. Part of my problems with rot and termites was due to construction.  If I were going to do it again, I would use a waterproof flashing on top of the floor joists. The treated joists never rotted, but they held moisture and the fir deck stayed wet too long. Almost all of the rot in the deck took place at joints where two deck boards butted together and attached to the joist.  I would have also used a more suitable wood. Redwood or cedar probably would have performed better. I have no experience with the material you are thinking of using. One other thing. Regardless of what kind of wood you use, make sure it is dry. I used relatively green wood for the deck boards and it shrank  A LOT.

My deck is mostly covered. I'm thinking when I rebuild it, I'll make it a little smaller so all of it is covered by the roof.

Great tip on the flashing. Anything else we can do to keep moisture from being held there?

mozar

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I would replace that piece with the hole. Sand the surface rot and fill with bondo. Wash it off (no powerwash). Fix the support in the middle. Then re stain or whatever you want to do with the surface. I think it looks overwhelming because it's so dirty.

SunnyDays

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Re: Advice on cheap, long lasting, environmentally friendly renovations
« Reply #10 on: May 02, 2020, 10:31:25 AM »
Why do you want/need a deck that's barely above ground level?  Take it out and replace it with patio/paving stones, which last forever.  Depending on your climate, you might have to excavate and put in limestone and/or sand, but then it's maintenance free for decades.  If your need a transition from the door level, you can put in a small wood step or even cover it in brick etc to reduce the maintenance on it.  Give away the deck boards or find some other use for them yourself.

mozar

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Re: Advice on cheap, long lasting, environmentally friendly renovations
« Reply #11 on: May 02, 2020, 12:30:08 PM »
If you are going to do SunnyDays advice make sure it's permeable. When my deck is fully worn out I will replace it with paving stones.

Fishindude

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Re: Advice on cheap, long lasting, environmentally friendly renovations
« Reply #12 on: May 02, 2020, 12:39:30 PM »
We took our old unused chimney down when we did a big exterior upgrade, new siding, roof, etc.
Modern furnaces and water heaters don't need the masonry chimney.

We've got a big treated lumber wood deck on the back of our home that we use a lot.   It's over 25 years old and still holding up fine, just need to stain or seal it every other year which isn't huge or expensive undertaking.   You can get a lot of use and enjoyment out of a nice deck, I'd rebuild it.

AnnaGrowsAMustache

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Re: Advice on cheap, long lasting, environmentally friendly renovations
« Reply #13 on: May 02, 2020, 01:33:40 PM »
Why would you not just replace the rotted parts of the deck with new treated decking timber and coat it all? If you look after it, none of the thing needs to get into a landfill anytime in the next decade.

Anything long lasting is environmentally friendly in my book. You're using it forever without it going to landfill??? Besides which, there are always uses for things. I've ended up with loads of linoleum pieces after pulling up a whole lot. They've all ended up being reused in one way or another, no landfill involved. The last bit I just used to weather proof a kennel roof, and then painted it a purty roofy sort of colour with an old test pot. I've used a crap load of old carpet on brick garden pathways in winter so they don't get slippy. It's half rotted by summer and goes on compost heap. I've used old sheets of crappy translucent sort corrugated fibreglass-y stuff that I got out of a construction bin down the road to make the roof for my greenhouse. No idea what it is but it was definitely going to the dump. Got a whole bunch of broken breeze block type things from same bin and they've made a very tidy garden edge - the broken side of each brick is buried.

That's my version of eco friendly. It's less about what the material actually is and more about actively reusing stuff myself. I have zero confidence in recycling programmes. I have a lot of confidence in buying pet food in plastic containers that are the perfect size for the freezer, and for storing small nuts/bolts/nails/buttons.....


Here's what I have to work with:










The deck bows into a shallow "V" in the middle. I haven't yet looked at the supports underneath to see how this happened.


I'm very skeptical of composting carpet, considering most of it is made of plastic.

This carpet was wool with a sisal type backing. There's probably some glue and stuff in it, but it's all broken down into fibrous bits now. This particular compost goes on garden areas that aren't vege garden, because it's got walnut leaves in it and the green veg seems sensitive to that. If there are any toxins in it still from the carpet, they can continue to break down in the soil around the hedging. Either way, greatly preferable to it going to landfill a year ago. The cat also enjoyed clawing it while it was on the paths, and the chickens enjoyed tearing up the edges. And I didn't break an ankle on a slimy brick path. Great benefit was had from this old carpet!

That's a gorgeous deck, or will be. Sounds like you have support issues. Figure out where the middle supports are and prise up a few boards around them to have a look. You can definitely replace supports on an existing deck. I would water blast the deck and see how much of the damage is actually just dirt, flaking paint etc. I think quite a bit of it will be. Then you prise out the broken and rotted boards, and replace them. And repaint the whole thing using a very high grade paint that's designed for outdoor decking. As long as you  keep it clean, you won't have to do much it for ages.

Edit to add that you really need to use materials that are appropriate for the purpose. If you want timber to survive outdoors, use treated timber that's suitable for that. BTW there's a recycled plastic product that's produced in boards and mimics wood that you can use. That will literally last forever and needs no maintenance. Pretty sure it's called Modwood.

I'm not sure if your goal is to use a material that will fully break down with no toxins, in which case you will have to do constant maintenance as it .... breaks down, or is your goal to use a material that won't break down easily (and therefore won't need replacing and go to landfill) and require little maintenance. Those are quite different goals.
« Last Edit: May 02, 2020, 01:46:08 PM by AnnaGrowsAMustache »

SunnyDays

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Re: Advice on cheap, long lasting, environmentally friendly renovations
« Reply #14 on: May 02, 2020, 02:56:58 PM »
If you have to continually maintain a deck by treating it, then it will not be environmentally friendly due to the products used during itís life and possibly at the end of itís life, if you have to dispose of wood that has absorbed countless treatments.  (By the way, burning anything may be cheap, but itís not environmentally friendly.). If you want a long lasting deck that needs no treatment, then use cedar.  Outrageously expensive though.

Ecky

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Re: Advice on cheap, long lasting, environmentally friendly renovations
« Reply #15 on: May 02, 2020, 04:13:08 PM »
I would replace that piece with the hole. Sand the surface rot and fill with bondo. Wash it off (no powerwash). Fix the support in the middle. Then re stain or whatever you want to do with the surface. I think it looks overwhelming because it's so dirty.

I'd say a minimum of 50% of it needs to be replaced, it's soft and spongy when walked on. Quite a bit can be dug into with bare fingers. That's a good point though, we may be able to save a couple of pieces of it. At the very least they could be repurposed.

Something to note, this is in Vermont. Most winters the snow drifts roll in across the deck (often more than 36" high) and even when we shovel, the deck boards can expect to be continually wet and experience freeze/thaw for a minimum of 3-4 months / year.


Why do you want/need a deck that's barely above ground level?  Take it out and replace it with patio/paving stones, which last forever.  Depending on your climate, you might have to excavate and put in limestone and/or sand, but then it's maintenance free for decades.  If your need a transition from the door level, you can put in a small wood step or even cover it in brick etc to reduce the maintenance on it.  Give away the deck boards or find some other use for them yourself.

That's certainly an idea, and I'll run it past my wife. The drop from door to ground is around 36" and the ground isn't level however, so we'd need to buttress the area and get some fill, and build a few steps down with a railing. But, as you say, this will last forever.


We took our old unused chimney down when we did a big exterior upgrade, new siding, roof, etc.
Modern furnaces and water heaters don't need the masonry chimney.

We've got a big treated lumber wood deck on the back of our home that we use a lot.   It's over 25 years old and still holding up fine, just need to stain or seal it every other year which isn't huge or expensive undertaking.   You can get a lot of use and enjoyment out of a nice deck, I'd rebuild it.

Thanks for the tip! What was involved with the chimney removal? Approximately how much did it cost, and how much were you able to do yourself?


That's a gorgeous deck, or will be. Sounds like you have support issues. Figure out where the middle supports are and prise up a few boards around them to have a look. You can definitely replace supports on an existing deck. I would water blast the deck and see how much of the damage is actually just dirt, flaking paint etc. I think quite a bit of it will be. Then you prise out the broken and rotted boards, and replace them. And repaint the whole thing using a very high grade paint that's designed for outdoor decking. As long as you  keep it clean, you won't have to do much it for ages.

Edit to add that you really need to use materials that are appropriate for the purpose. If you want timber to survive outdoors, use treated timber that's suitable for that. BTW there's a recycled plastic product that's produced in boards and mimics wood that you can use. That will literally last forever and needs no maintenance. Pretty sure it's called Modwood.

I'm not sure if your goal is to use a material that will fully break down with no toxins, in which case you will have to do constant maintenance as it .... breaks down, or is your goal to use a material that won't break down easily (and therefore won't need replacing and go to landfill) and require little maintenance. Those are quite different goals.

I'll try to save what I can, but I get the impression the pictures haven't communicated just how bad it is. On the house itself, we're replacing all of the siding because in many places the paint is all that's holding it together. In many spots the sheathing underneath is damaged, and in some further cases we're replacing the insulation under that. As for keeping it clean, our climate is pretty hard on things. We can expect the outer edges to be under a layer of ice for several months each year, and experience continual freeze-thaw cycles.

As for our goal, we haven't really decided, and all options are on the table.

A little more context: There were several 60+ year old out-buildings on the property that were made of clean wood, which we've been using in our fire pit most nights. The wood burns clean and it's nice to sit near. One other structure on the property was painted at one point, I doubt it's old enough that the paint flakes on the ground around it contain lead, but we dug up as much of that as we could and disposed of it properly. Maybe I just don't know enough about the life cycle of things yet, but we live out in the sticks, and people here generally compost their food scraps, burn their clean wood scraps, repurpose or recycle most everything else, and only a small percent goes into a landfill - and anything that does, we've driving it there and paying by the pound, even for a kitchen trash bag. I suppose I was hoping to hear that we might be able to apply some kind of plant oil or wax to boards from our local sawmill; that it would be enough to keep them intact for a while; and that when they did rot, they could go in the fire pit as well.

If you have to continually maintain a deck by treating it, then it will not be environmentally friendly due to the products used during itís life and possibly at the end of itís life, if you have to dispose of wood that has absorbed countless treatments.  (By the way, burning anything may be cheap, but itís not environmentally friendly.). If you want a long lasting deck that needs no treatment, then use cedar.  Outrageously expensive though.

Possibly the answer IS pressure treated, or plastic, if it will last 5-10x as long. Cedar is unfortunately out of the budget.

Our overall plan for this house is not for it to be our forever home. We may have our first child here, but it's a first home and we're likely to move on in ~4-6 years. It was within our budget, we're willing to put in some sweat equity, and our mortgage is very little more than it would have cost to rent a 1 bedroom apartment. Ideally whatever we lay down for decking will still look good in 4-6 years, and when the time comes to be replaced, it will have a lower environmental impact.

AnnaGrowsAMustache

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Re: Advice on cheap, long lasting, environmentally friendly renovations
« Reply #16 on: May 02, 2020, 07:49:29 PM »
I guess my point is that you're kind of asking for a unicorn. You can absolutely get cheap, environmentally friendly products..... but they typically won't be long lasting unless treated with something not environmentally friendly. You can get long lasting, environmentally products, like hard wood or cedar..... but they typically won't be cheap. I don't know just how much cedar and hardwoods are sustainable, also, don't they take a very long time to grow?

My take on eco/sustainable is long lasting and reusable. And I'm here, so also value for money. My options for this deck would be
- recycled product like Modwood, not cheap, won't break down, is recycled and will last forever with minimal upkeep
- recycled product like second hand treated timber. Cheap, will last with care, contains toxins but is actively being recycled
- possibly pavers and stone as a last resort. I love a deck. Not cheap, can be reused and reused, will last forever.

MayDay

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Re: Advice on cheap, long lasting, environmentally friendly renovations
« Reply #17 on: May 03, 2020, 06:05:29 AM »
I live in a cold area (MN) and have done a deck refinish. Refinishing that deck was hell. I swore never again. I am now patio for life.

If the deck is repairable that's one thing (that's why we refinished ours). But in the shape yours is, I'd rip it out, flatten the ground, and build 3-4 steps down to it (no need to raise the ground), and build a patio.


Sibley

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Re: Advice on cheap, long lasting, environmentally friendly renovations
« Reply #18 on: May 03, 2020, 08:00:25 PM »
You ever hear "Pick two: cheap, fast, good"?

Same concept.

Model96

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Re: Advice on cheap, long lasting, environmentally friendly renovations
« Reply #19 on: May 03, 2020, 08:20:39 PM »
I would get underneath if possible and check the condition of supports, bearers and joists. Peel up a few rotten boards if you can't get underneath. If there's just a few supports and joists to replace then I would just repair those and replace all of the decking planks with H3 treated and repaint. Cheap, easy, fast and least wasteful compared to removing and replacing the whole thing especially if you don't plan to stay there forever. Repair and re-use beats recycle every time!