Monday, August 17, 2009

Decks without deforesting!

Hello out there! I've been a busy builder this last week, I've been consulting with a number of new clients on projects ranging from room additions to bathroom remodels to options for decking. That being said, its been awhile since I've had the time to contribute to my blog.

Anyway, I'm back and excited about decking again! Since I've gone green people have asked me how I feel about building decks and until now, I haven't had a definitive answer. Redwood, cedar and ipe are all wonderful, naturally weather and pest resistant traditional decking materials that, while gorgeous, are being deforested worldwide at an alarming rate.

The plastics industry has tried to offer some alternatives such as composite decking and PVC decking that look-like and can be handled like wood. Unfortunately, these products just don't hold up when tested against the elements or standard "green" principles. First of all, plastics crack, warp and get extremely hot in warm weather. As composite materials weather, the wood fibers in them collect moisture and mold that discolor the decking. Furthermore, since composite decking is a combination of plastic and wood material, they to date are non-recyclable. Once the deck is no longer useful the deck cannot be disposed of. PVC isn't much better, since a portion of the material has to be virgin oil products and the process of manufacturing holds such a heavy carbon footprint.

And let's be honest, plastics just don't have the natural beauty of wood decking.

However, all hope is not lost! Let me introduce... BAMBOO DECKING!

This stuff is awesome! Bamboo is a rapidly renewable natural resource. Bamboo is already being used to replace hardwood floors, paneling, wall coverings, carpets, cloth, etc. and so forth. And now bamboo decking is available that has many of the same properties as redwood, cedar and ipe with the natural beauty unavailable by plastic alternatives. And it feels good under your feet!

Bamboo decking is sold by the linear foot and is made by compressing bamboo fibers into a denser board form and sealed with a soy-based oil for added protection. The glues used to bind the fibers contain no urea formaldehydes, resulting in a product that does not "gas-off" toxins as it dries out. Oh, and did I mention it costs about the same as traditional deck surfaces?

All in all, this is my new favorite for decking. I'd suggest you try it on your next project. This is what I'll be using for my backyard.

Here's a link of the outfit in San Diego that carries it:

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Green Concrete? (Part 2)

As promised, I'm back with more thoughts on Green concrete mixes. While it's not a perfect green solution, at least the industry is attempting to focus on the enormous carbon footprint that the production of concrete represents. Following are some pros and cons to current concrete mixes attempting to provide more responsible products:

  1. Removes fly ash (captured coal industry pollutants) from landfills
  2. Needs less water than standard concrete mixes
  3. Requires less quarrying of virgin materials
  4. Creates an extremely high density concrete
  1. Health affects are not known
  2. May attribute to radon build-up in homes & release toxins into interiors
  3. Takes longer to set up than standard concrete
  4. No environmental standards for these products have been developed yet
While there are some big drawbacks for the uses of Green concrete mixes, all is not lost. I would recommend using this concrete whenever possible for projects that are outside. Retaining walls, pathways, fence posts, etc.. This way, the possible health concerns can be mitigated while finding a way to trap these coal byproducts in something other than landfills. Let's give a shout out to the cement guys for trying and the encouragement to keep it up! In the meantime, if you have an immediate product, Quickrete has a ready-mix Green concrete (1101-63) with 50% recycled content you can ask for. Contact Quickrete for a supplier near you at: