When my green home was still but a dream, and I realized that it would be too expensive to retrofit my present house, the next step was to find a house that was a good candidate for a green remodeling project.
That was just the beginning of the adventure that is the subject of this website. I had no idea at the time what a challenge that would be!
That means different things to different people; for me, it was:
Some people prefer building green from the ground up, but for me, a truly green home meant recycling an existing house; that way, I could save all kinds of resources from being taken from their environment.
So I shopped around until I found a suitable house – one that was about the right size, at the right price and in the right place – and when I found it, I bought it. Here is a picture of my future green home, just as I saw it on a cloudy January day:
My house, as it looked when I found it.
Remember: This is a "Before" picture!
But what was it that made that house more appropriate for my green rehab project than others I had seen?
The decision was easy for me because I was buying a small house for the purpose of turning it into my green home, for myself.
In order to achieve the energy efficiency target that I was aiming for, it was necessary to execute an extreme green makeover of the type discussed in these pages.
Anything less just would not give results anything near satisfactory.
According to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), when it comes to Canadian (read: temperate climate) post-World War II residential houses, the maximum energy efficiency gain possible after carrying out all recommended normal upgrades and activities such as insulation, elimination of air leaks, furnace upgrades, etc., is only 41 %. I needed better numbers than that, what with the threats of climate change and ever-increasing energy prices.
To give you an idea of what I'm dealing with, here's my own rustic rendition of the ground floor layout of the existing building.
Click to enlarge.
The house footprint is a mere 925 square feet (about 86 square meters).
To have seven rooms in such a small space seems ludicrous nowadays, but the working-class folks who built those small houses in the 50s were grateful to have their own place to raise their families. As the families grew, new additions were built to accommodate the increased needs.
Click to enlarge.
As you can see, my green home's layout underwent a major redesign! A staircase has been eliminated, another has been moved, walls have been knocked out, etc.
Later, I made a few more changes: the main entrance moved to the side of the dining area, a closet was added near the entrance, the exercise area was moved to where the new main entrance was to be. Minor stuff.
You don't have to be an architect to draw a floor plan. I even created my own squared paper on the computer!
I find it easier to work in feet because one foot is the right measure for one square, which is an easy scale for most people. But I've indicated the metric equivalents.
Is your house a family home full of period details and sentimental value? Hopefully your budget will allow you to keep it. Obviously, you will have to decide what's important for you. However, leaving all emotions aside, this is stilla real estate project, and you will have to decide if it makes sense for you to invest X amount in Y house. List your own priorities, and proceed accordingly.
These are your options:
You don't have to build from scratch in order to achieve your green dream home! You can turn a fixer-upper into just about anything you want. (New homes are not covered in this site.)
Obviously, there aren't too many places where houses cost as little as $10,000! (And of course you may need a bigger house than I did.) If in your area average home prices are $100,000, or $500,000, "handyman specials" will be priced accordingly.
So, depending on where you live, or want to live, a bargain will be whatever a bargain is in that area. You're in the best position to find out.
In environmental terms, you've already made the right decision by choosing to rehabilitate an existing house instead of building a new one.
According to the online newsletter Environmental Building News' "Checklist for Low-Cost Green Design and Construction Practices",
When we renovate older buildings instead of building new, we generally save significant quantities of materials and energy, thus benefiting the environment.
Can you think of anything more satisfying to recycle than a house?
My green rehab is simply an example of what I, as a homeowner, found was best for me.
You can do it too!
And you will find a lot of help right here in these pages. (Including what NOT to do!)
I took the chance of not having an inspection done by an outside expert. It didn't seem to make sense to pay someone $500 for inspecting a $10,000 house, just to have him tell me what I could observe with the naked eye - so I decided to rely on my own judgment and experience, with the help of a home inspection checklist.
For details and the results of my inspection, and to download a copy of the checklist, visit my Home Inspection page:
If you want to see all the "before" photos, go to the Photo Album:
|"LIKE" THIS SITE!|
clicked to your site and found a great wealth of information. I'm about
the least tool oriented person there is around, but I'm passionate
about many of the topics you write about. And I find the writing to be
very well done and informative even for a non-handy person like me. Well
Prague, Czech Republic
I would just like to thank you for maintaining this resource. It's essential that information about environmental issues are easily and broadly accessible.
Thank you so much for sharing your exquisitely well-told stories! I have spent the last 2 hours reading the whole saga, and I appreciate all of the detail that went into your decision making. I hope you are enjoying your green home with cozy surroundings and energy efficiency.
Thank you for taking the time to write down your experiences. It is truly a valuable service.
Thanks for all the info on this site, it is very thorough.
Very well documented and I appreciate the work and the effort you have put into this.
Hey! Just wanted to compliment you on
your site! I'm a new, first time homeowner, with a dirt crawlspace and
have searched for hours on how to set it up.
Living here in Montreal, and the conditions aren't easy on a house and this site sure helped to answer some questions.
Thank you for displaying your work and experience!
Have to say I absolutely love your site. Really complete, well thought out, and has me clicking from page to page...
I just wanted to say I love your site! Well done!
Love your web site. You are an inspiration to me. I am 66 and I want to build a small green home on my land. [...] Your green home looks beautiful. I wish you luck in all your endeavors!
A few years ago, I bought this fixer-upper for $10,000.
It had been vacant for six years, had no water supply, needed a new roof, and was likely to conceal an unsuspected number of nasty flaws.
Don't believe me? See these "Before" pictures.
My intention was to turn it into as "green" as home as I could, within my physical, financial, and geographical limits – and to share this adventure with you, step-by-step and dollar-by-dollar.
I'm not quite finished, but I do have a few "After" pictures to show.
If you want to follow me on this exciting adventure, you can subscribe to this site by RSS feed -- see the box below the navigation bar on the left.