Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

One of the most basic mantras in green living is "reduce, reuse, recycle". Reduce the amount of stuff you use and waste you produce . Reuse as much as you can. Recycle what you can't reuse.

I've been doing my best on this project to do those things, as well as use green building techniques and materials where possible. But it's all relative. If I were really green, I wouldn't be building this addition in the first place, since it's taking gobs of resources relative to a lot of things in the world. Better than most building projects in the U.S., but far from perfect.

Even the green materials are relative. Take the bamboo flooring. It's great, right? We love it, it's durable, it's beautiful, and bamboo grows to a useable size in 3 to 5 years. It even uses low-VOC adhesives to glue the stalks together into a useful width for flooring. What's not to like? Well, for one thing, most of it used for flooring, cabinets, etc. in the U.S. is grown in China. Great, that's where it's native, right? Well, it takes resources to ship it half way around the world. At best it came into the Port of Oakland. Then it was shipped to EcoTimber in Hayward. Then it was shipped most of the way to our house in Oakland. Then hauled up the hill. There, I removed it from the cardboard boxes, and removed the foam insulation between alternate boards (to keep it from scuffing itself in transit), and nailed it into place.

And I got a reminder on the reduce, reuse, recycle mantra recently. From our neighbor's cat, Fritz, of all, er, people. A while back Edis and I hauled a bunch of non-recyclable stuff to the transfer station in Berkeley, and yesterday I moved the rest of the drywall into the dining room, so there's not mounds of stuff in the carport like there used to be. But there's still some junk there: an old tarp; some scraps of wood that have been re-used several times; some trimmings from various bushes in the yard. Fritz decided to forgo the 'recycle' step on some of the lumber scraps in favor of 'reuse'. Cats are pretty darn good at making themselves comfortable, so who can blame him?

Monday, September 25, 2006

Movin' On In

We moved in to the bedroom Saturday, and spent a restful first night in the addition. There's no bathroom yet, and we have to go out on to the deck to get to the rest of the house, but it's a major milestone.

We woke up to a beautiful sunrise, first the earth shadow visible in the sky, then the first light hitting the fog down over the bay. With a tree-lined view, birds chirping, and no other sounds to be heard, it was like waking up in the mountains. Ah...

Thursday, September 21, 2006

We're Not Alone...

Apparently I'm not alone in blogging about my home improvement project. There's an article over at CNN about all sorts of people who blog about their projects, including one guy who's been posting since 1999. Not that it was called blogging then, but still.

With the help of my neighbor Jon, I carried the new front door down from the carport. Being solid wood (unlike our uninsulated, hollow-core existing front door), and for a 2x6 framed wall, it was plenty heavy. After trimming cruft off the edge of the opening, I managed to get it in to place and plumb and square. Yay! I did some other minor stuff today including cleaning up the hallway and new part of the dining room, but the door was the big milestone.


As you can see in the last picture, the bedroom is almost done. I just need to touch up the paint on the baseboard and we're ready to go. That's Rosie inspecting my work and enjoying the sunshine from all the new windows.

I did all the taping and mudding, and the texturing (which was fun, but messy). Katarina did a lot of the painting, and our neighbor Cynthia helped out, too.

We used low odor, no-VOC (volatile organic compounds; part of the stuff that makes smog and makes paints and solvents smell bad and bad for you) that we got at EcoHome Improvement in Berkeley. Great stuff to work with compared to normal latex paint.

I also got the bamboo flooring there, though that was shipped most of the way from EcoTimber in Hayward. I say most of the way because the shipping company they used refused to come up the hill; the driver was worried about damaging his truck on the trees. I think he must just be a bad driver, because there have been bigger trucks than his up Colton and Snake to our neighborhood. I can understand for some of those tiny, twisty streets in upper Rockridge (where I'd be worried about the ability of a fire engine to get through, too), but no go. So I had to load down the VW with a bunch of bamboo flooring after meeting him in the village, and slowly wind my way up the hill.

Friday, September 01, 2006


I'm glad August is over. You may have noticed a lack of posts lately. Well, yeah. So here's the thing about that...

Much of August has been spent with family in various activities. Santa Barbara with Katarina's side of the family, Twain Harte and the Bay Area with my side, the usual mixture of non-profit work, media for church, et al, and well, work on the addition hasn't been blazingly fast. As much as I love my family, I'm not a big people person, so I'm glad it's over for now.

But work has been progressing. Katarina and I are painting the bedroom now. It's all primed, and the ceiling is painted. The no VOC, low odor paints, in yummy colors have been a joy to work with. I promise to post more pictures soon.