One of the goals of the Green on Gift home is to minimize the amount of construction waste sent to the landfill. This has taken different forms throughout construction. To widen the master closet we had to move a structurally unnecessary beam. That beam found new life as the header for the closet opening (photos below). Other times, we simply used curbside recycling for construction material boxes and beverage containers.
Originally the wall between the hallway linen closet and master closet contained a structural beam. This beam was overkill for the structural requirements of this location.
The small hallway linen closet and master bedroom closet were combined to create one larger closet.
To help reduce costs and get a better understanding of how the home was constructed, I opted to gut the house with myself and a cadre of great friends. We were able to peel back the layers to see how it was updated over the years, revealing a lot of shoddy craftsmanship and lessons in what not to do when renovating a home. Since the previous owner used the house as a low-cost rental, the maintenance and updates over the years were poorly implemented, to say the least.
My favorite example of this is the living room window. One of the great mysteries of the house is odd shape of the windows; they almost seem like afterthoughts, and the sizing isn’t consistent within the home. These non-standard sizes require custom windows, which the previous owner clearly did not want to pay for. Instead they simply installed one that was too small for the opening and blocked off the top with plywood and spray foam (photo below). In addition to looking cheap, this is not a durable solution since the spray foam will degrade over time from exposure to sunlight and rain.
Instead of ordering a custom replacement window, the previous owner installed one much too small for the opening and blocked off the top with plywood and spray foam (right window in photo).
Renovating a neglected 1940’s era home into a green showcase within strict budget constraints is a challenge, but I have never been one to shy away from challenges. I recognized early on that I would have to make some compromises, but have eagerly identified cost effective improvements that would increase the performance of this house as much as possible. The mechanical systems are one example of my current compromises. While I would love to install new high-efficiency HVAC and water heating, the existing equipment is less than 10 years old and in reasonably good condition, making it difficult to justify replacing them. I can easily do so later when they reach the end of their useful lives, or in the unlikely event that I acquire and need to dispose of large sums of money. For now, however, it is more important to improve the structure of the house through insulation and air sealing, as those improvements are more difficult and costly to retrofit than upgrades in mechanical equipment. Read more
What happens when a green building expert renovates a small home on a tight budget? Abe Kruger, cofounder and principal at SK Collaborative, has set out to answer this question!
The Green on Gift home will showcase green products and strategies. Sawhorse, the premiere green renovation firm in Atlanta, has been selected as the general contractor. The whole renovation process will be publicized here, in articles online and in print publications, and videos.
Please contact Abe Kruger to get involved with the project.