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Home Renovations

Think of a sustainable home and you're likely to think of a sleek new architect designed building with all the new efficiency gadgets. But making changes in our behaviour and smart alterations to existing homes, is a much better environmental choice than building from scratch. And just because a building is given a five star eco rating, doesn't mean that people will use it that way - it's all about what we do within our home. If you grow some of your own food and support local food producers, your probably already miles ahead of houses that produce all their own energy and water, as food is by far the biggest part of our ecological footprint.

So, healthy and eco-friendly renovations is the name of the game at the moment! It's fantastic to see more green home renovation products becoming available. But separating products which are marketed as healthy and environmentally friendly, from those which live up to their promises, and then actually being able to find those products locally is quite a challenge. We hope our ideas and local resource list is helpful for you!

Renovations%20Kitchen.jpgSo far we’ve:

  • Removed the carpet to expose the floorboards, which will be polished with a natural linseed based wood oil. Floorboards don’t hold pollutants and allergens like carpet, new carpets and their glue often contain a number of harmful chemicals, and floorboards are easy to clean – no vacuum required!
  • Reused materials where possible – wall panelling is being used as veneer, tiles will be given a new life in mosaics, concrete from the driveway will be cut up and used as garden paths.
  • Opened up the wall between the kitchen and the lounge room to improve social activity around the preparation of vibrant, healthy food.
The Total Environment Centre has produced a great  'Safer Solutions Guide to Renovations' at . There's also a fantastic manual for renovating and building sustainable homes at

Reader Comments (3)

Hi! A friend of yours passed on your website to me when I mentioned I had just bought a house and wanted to renovate without being too environmentally unfriendly. My husband and I have just bought our first home, a 50s fibro house in Brisbane.

I wondered if you had any issues with asbestos removal or lead paint, or old wiring/plumbing issues when you were renovating the inside of your house, and how did you handle that?

And this is a stupid question (but if I don't ask, I won't know!), but how do you tell if your floorboards require oiling and how do you use the oil? We have polished floorboards but I have no idea about maintainace, or even if there is already a laquer of some sort on the boards.

I look forward to following your progress - best of luck with it! - and thanks for all the links to products you are providing as you go along.

November 9, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

Hi Jamie! Thanks for your post, glad you have found our links helpful! Great to hear you have bought your first home (congratulations!) and are thinking about eco friendly renovations – and what’s best for the environment is best for human health too, so it’s a win win!

Our house is a 50’s fibro house as well, so we’ve faced similar problems with asbestos, old wiring and dodgy DIY jobs that had been done in the past. We also had no knowledge whatsoever with home renovations, so we’ve asked many a question which may seem stupid, but it’s the only way to learn!

We have asbestos everywhere- in the kitchen, bathroom, roof, and all around the outside of the house. It’s fine to stay in place, but if you want to renovate you do need to be careful, but you can do it yourself. You only need to get a licensed asbestos removalists if you’re dealing with more than 200 square metres of it, or you don’t want to deal with it at all! I was really wary of dealing with the asbestos at first, but if you take the precautions, it really is fine.

When we renovated the kitchen, we followed the guidelines from Basically it involved dressing up in a white suit, wearing a face mask, wetting the sheets, breaking pieces of the asbestos off slowly, wrapping them into parcels with black builders plastic and tape (don’t make the bundles too heavy – we learnt that the hard way!), cleaning everything up and bundling up the cleaning rags, and taking it all to a tip that has a special asbestos removal section (you have to pay a lot to dispose of it as it’s illegal to dispose of it like normal rubbish).

We thought our wiring would be okay, but on closer inspection it was really dodgy and the whole house needed rewiring.
We didn’t have any particular issues with lead paint, but again it’s something you need to be careful with. We always were cautious to minimise dust creation in our renovations, and tried to minimise disturbance and wear dust masks. About half of the walls in the house were in good condition and had been painted recently, so we just painted straight over them with Biopaints. The other walls we took down (those old horse hair plaster walls weigh a tonne!), and replaced them with new gyprock.

As for floorboards, ours we under carpet and had never had any finishes applied. We had a sander in to sand the floors (some things are worth paying a professional for! We had heard many a horror story of DIY floor sanding gone wrong!). Then we applied a Livos Ardvos Wood Oil, a linseed based oil from The Natural Paint Place. We applied three coats, wiping it on, and then off again 20 mins later. It gives a nice matt honey finish, not a glossy finish like most polyurethane finishes.

If you’re walking around on the floor boards in your house, they’d have some kind of finish on them. Most floors have polyurethane finishes on them which makes them quite shiny. Maintenance wise, they just get recoated when they are looking really worn – and that could be between 5 to 20 years or more depending on the traffic in the area and what you consider worn! You’d have to sand the floors and remove the polyurethane to put a natural oil finish on, so it could absorb in. But from then, for maintenance you can just touch up small patches by sanding the area lightly and rubbing on a little oil where needed, which you can’t do with a polyurethane.

Best of luck!

November 10, 2007 | Registered CommenterHappyEarth

Thanks very much for your detailed response! :) I'm looking forward to following your progress by reading this blog.


November 25, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

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